Using variables like player age can give us an advantage when attempting to predict the future of a player. With dynasty leagues growing in popularity, making the correct prediction for a player’s peak is important. In this article, we’ll determine the peak age for an NFL tight end.

Most players in the same position share similar career timelines. By examining the careers of tight ends, we can gain knowledge as to when players at the position should improve or regress. At a position that is infamous for having players need a year or two extra to transition from college to the NFL, we may find that predicting tight end peaks is different than other positions.

You can see what the peak ages are for wide receivers and running backs. We update these studies each offseason with the current trends of active players.

Defining A Peak Tight End Season

To begin the study, we must define a peak season for an NFL tight end. What is the production necessary for a tight end to consider him at the peak of his career?

Last year only the top five tight ends scored more than 170 PPR fantasy points. Generally, scoring 170 PPR fantasy points is a very good tight end season. We’ll use that threshold for our peak season.

Our peak seasons will include all tight end seasons that finished with at least 170 PPR fantasy points since 2000. This gives us a sample size of 138 players. The list below includes all individual tight end seasons to meet the criteria and was generated by Pro Football Reference.

Rob Gronkowski201122NWE16330.920.68
Travis Kelce202233KAN17316.318.61
Travis Kelce202031KAN15312.820.85
Jimmy Graham201327NOR16303.518.97
Mark Andrews202126BAL17301.117.71
Travis Kelce201829KAN16294.618.41
Jimmy Graham201125NOR1629418.38
Zach Ertz201828PHI16280.317.52
Darren Waller202028LVR16278.617.41
Dallas Clark200930IND16271.716.98
Tony Gonzalez200428KAN16270.316.89
Tony Gonzalez200024KAN16267.316.71
Rob Gronkowski201425NWE15266.417.76
Travis Kelce202132KAN16262.816.43
Tony Gonzalez200832KAN16261.816.36
Antonio Gates200525SDG15259.117.27
George Kittle201825SFO16258.716.17
Rob Gronkowski201526NWE15255.617.04
Antonio Gates200424SDG15255.417.03
Travis Kelce201930KAN16254.315.89
Vernon Davis200925SFO16252.515.78
Jason Witten200725DAL16250.515.66
Jason Witten201028DAL16248.215.51
Tony Gonzalez200731KAN16246.215.39
Delanie Walker201531TEN15244.416.29
Jordan Reed201525WAS14244.217.44
Antonio Gates200929SDG16242.715.17
Gary Barnidge201530CLE16237.314.83
Jimmy Graham201226NOR15237.215.81
Tony Gonzalez201236ATL1623414.63
Travis Kelce201728KAN15233.515.57
Jason Witten201230DAL16231.914.49
Jimmy Graham201428NOR16229.914.37
Antonio Gates200727SDG16227.414.21
Rob Gronkowski201728NWE14227.416.24
Greg Olsen201530CAR16227.414.21
Antonio Gates201434SDG16223.113.94
Travis Kelce201627KAN1622313.94
Tony Gonzalez200327KAN16222.613.91
Kellen Winslow200724CLE16222.613.91
George Kittle201926SFO14222.515.89
Eric Ebron201825IND16222.213.89
Martellus Bennett201427CHI16221.613.85
Brent Celek200924PHI16221.113.82
Darren Waller201927OAK1622113.81
Jason Witten200422DAL1622113.81
Greg Olsen201429CAR16220.813.8
Tony Gonzalez201337ATL16218.913.68
Antonio Gates200626SDG16217.413.59
Julius Thomas201325DEN14215.815.41
Zach Ertz201929PHI15215.614.37
T.J. Hockenson202225DET,MIN17215.412.67
Aaron Hernandez201122NWE14214.515.32
Jordan Cameron201325CLE15213.714.25
Vernon Davis201329SFO1521314.2
Tony Gonzalez201135ATL16209.513.09
Kyle Rudolph201627MIN1620913.06
Jason Witten200927DAL1620913.06
Dalton Schultz202125DAL17208.812.28
Greg Olsen201631CAR16207.312.96
Mark Andrews201924BAL15207.213.81
Jason Witten201331DAL16206.112.88
Tony Gonzalez200933ATL16205.712.86
Tony Gonzalez200125KAN16205.212.83
Jason Witten201129DAL16203.212.7
Heath Miller201230PIT15202.613.51
Zach Ertz201727PHI14202.414.46
Jason Witten200826DAL16201.912.62
Todd Heap200525BAL16200.512.53
George Kittle202229SFO15200.513.37
Jeremy Shockey200525NYG15198.113.21
Rob Gronkowski201223NWE1119818
George Kittle202128SFO1419814.14
Kellen Winslow200926TAM16196.112.26
Dallas Clark200829IND15195.813.05
Tony Gonzalez200630KAN1519513
Chris Cooley200725WAS16194.612.16
Kellen Winslow200623CLE16194.512.16
Jared Cook201831OAK16193.612.1
Todd Heap200222BAL16193.412.09
Austin Hooper201925ATL13191.714.75
Tyler Eifert201525CIN13191.514.73
Vernon Davis201026SFO16191.411.96
Heath Miller200927PIT16190.911.93
Brandon Pettigrew201126DET16190.711.92
Greg Olsen201328CAR16190.611.91
Mark Andrews202227BAL15190.512.7
Ben Watson201535NOR16190.511.91
Travis Kelce201526KAN16189.511.84
Jimmy Graham201630SEA16189.311.83
Dallas Clark200728IND15188.512.57
Charles Clay201324MIA16188.411.78
Chris Cooley200523WAS16188.411.78
Antonio Gates201030SDG10188.218.82
Delanie Walker201632TEN15188.112.54
Shannon Sharpe200335DEN1518712.47
Todd Heap200626BAL16185.511.59
Antonio Gates201333SDG16184.211.51
Marcedes Lewis201026JAX1618411.5
Antonio Gates201131SDG13183.814.14
Zach Ertz201626PHI14183.613.11
Brandon Myers201227OAK16183.611.48
Greg Olsen201227CAR16183.311.46
Travis Kelce201425KAN16183.211.45
Alge Crumpler200528ATL16182.711.42
Tony Gonzalez200226KAN16182.311.39
Alge Crumpler200629ATL1618211.38
Zach Ertz202131ARI,PHI17180.710.63
Tony Gonzalez200529KAN16180.511.28
Chris Cooley201028WAS16179.911.24
Vernon Davis201127SFO16179.711.23
Jermichael Finley201124GNB16179.711.23
Visanthe Shiancoe200929MIN16178.611.16
Randy McMichael200425MIA16178.111.13
Shannon Sharpe200032BAL1617811.13
Jason Witten200523DAL16177.711.11
Evan Engram202228JAX17176.910.41
Kyle Pitts202121ATL17176.610.39
Logan Thomas202029WAS16176.611.04
Robert Tonyan202026GNB16176.611.04
Coby Fleener201426IND16176.411.03
Antonio Gates200828SDG16176.411.03
Delanie Walker201430TEN1517611.73
T.J. Hockenson202023DET16175.310.96
Eric Johnson200425SFO16174.510.91
Dustin Keller201127NYJ16174.510.91
Delanie Walker201733TEN16174.510.91
Evan Engram201723NYG15173.611.57
Freddie Jones200026SDG16173.610.85
Brent Celek201126PHI16173.110.82
Tony Gonzalez201034ATL16171.610.73
Jeremy Shockey200222NYG15171.411.43
Rob Gronkowski202132TAM12171.214.27
Cameron Brate201625TAM1517111.4
Jimmy Graham201731SEA1617110.69
Zach Ertz201525PHI15170.311.35
Jeremy Shockey200626NYG15170.311.35
Mark Andrews202025BAL14170.112.15

The average age of the peak season is 27.49 years old. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the tight end seasons:

The peak is from 25 to 27 years old, as 42.11 percent of the seasons fall within that range. We can expand that peak from 25 to 30 years old, 68.1 percent of the seasons fall within that range.

As you can see from the distribution graph, tight ends generally take a few years to develop. While just 19 total peak seasons took place before a tight end turns 25, 25-year-old tight ends accounted for 24 of the peak seasons.

In addition, more tight ends have achieved a peak season at 31 years old than at 24 years old. We can only speculate the reasoning for that, but clearly, it takes some time for tight ends to develop in the NFL.

There’s a gradual decline that takes place after age 30, but the big drop-off is after the age 31 season. 88.4 percent of the peak seasons take place prior to the age 32 season. The career age timeline of a tight end is similar to a wide receiver.

What does this mean for the 2023 season?

In 2022, Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Evan Engram made the list.

Kelce continues to produce at a historically impressive level. Like Jerry Rice or Tom Brady, he’s more likely the exception to the rule as a statistical anomaly than a player that should be followed for expected production at a specific age. Players like Kelce or Gronk can defy age – but with each year of production, he’s more likely to fall off the following season. Kelce will be 34 this season, 94.9 percent of peak tight end seasons have taken place before turning 34 years old.

Hockenson (26 this upcoming season), Kittle (30), Andrews (28), and Engram (29) all remain safely in their peak age prime. While it’s better to be in the mid-twenties (25-28), it’s unlikely that there’s a huge drop-off in talent.

Rookie Kyle Pitts became the first 21-year-old tight end to make the list. Unfortunately, he was unable to make the list again as a sophomore, only playing 10 games in an injury-shortened season. As a top-tier talent, Pitts should be expected to make his return to this list in the coming seasons.