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 147 players. The list below includes all individual tight end seasons to meet the criteria and was generated by Pro Football Reference.

Rob Gronkowski330.9201122NWE16330.920.68
Travis Kelce316.3202233KAN17316.318.61
Travis Kelce312.8202031KAN15312.820.85
Jimmy Graham303.5201327NOR16303.518.97
Mark Andrews301.1202126BAL17301.117.71
Travis Kelce294.6201829KAN16294.618.41
Jimmy Graham294201125NOR1629418.38
Zach Ertz280.3201828PHI16280.317.52
Darren Waller278.6202028LVR16278.617.41
Dallas Clark271.7200930IND16271.716.98
Tony Gonzalez270.3200428KAN16270.316.89
Tony Gonzalez267.3200024KAN16267.316.71
Rob Gronkowski266.4201425NWE15266.417.76
Travis Kelce262.8202132KAN16262.816.43
Tony Gonzalez261.8200832KAN16261.816.36
Antonio Gates259.1200525SDG15259.117.27
George Kittle258.7201825SFO16258.716.17
Rob Gronkowski255.6201526NWE15255.617.04
Antonio Gates255.4200424SDG15255.417.03
Travis Kelce254.3201930KAN16254.315.89
Vernon Davis252.5200925SFO16252.515.78
Jason Witten250.5200725DAL16250.515.66
Jason Witten248.2201028DAL16248.215.51
Tony Gonzalez246.2200731KAN16246.215.39
Delanie Walker244.4201531TEN15244.416.29
Jordan Reed244.2201525WAS14244.217.44
Antonio Gates242.7200929SDG16242.715.17
Sam LaPorta239.3202322DET17239.314.08
Gary Barnidge237.3201530CLE16237.314.83
Jimmy Graham237.2201226NOR15237.215.81
Tony Gonzalez234201236ATL1623414.63
Travis Kelce233.5201728KAN15233.515.57
Jason Witten231.9201230DAL16231.914.49
Evan Engram230.3202329JAX17230.313.55
Jimmy Graham229.9201428NOR16229.914.37
Antonio Gates227.4200727SDG16227.414.21
Rob Gronkowski227.4201728NWE14227.416.24
Greg Olsen227.4201530CAR16227.414.21
Antonio Gates223.1201434SDG16223.113.94
Travis Kelce223201627KAN1622313.94
Tony Gonzalez222.6200327KAN16222.613.91
Kellen Winslow222.6200724CLE16222.613.91
George Kittle222.5201926SFO14222.515.89
Eric Ebron222.2201825IND16222.213.89
Martellus Bennett221.6201427CHI16221.613.85
Brent Celek221.1200924PHI16221.113.82
Darren Waller221201927OAK1622113.81
Jason Witten221200422DAL1622113.81
Greg Olsen220.8201429CAR16220.813.8
Travis Kelce219.4202334KAN15219.414.63
T.J. Hockenson219202326MIN1521914.6
Tony Gonzalez218.9201337ATL16218.913.68
Antonio Gates217.4200626SDG16217.413.59
Julius Thomas215.8201325DEN14215.815.41
Zach Ertz215.6201929PHI15215.614.37
T.J. Hockenson215.4202225DET,MIN17215.412.67
Aaron Hernandez214.5201122NWE14214.515.32
Jordan Cameron213.7201325CLE15213.714.25
Vernon Davis213201329SFO1521314.2
Tony Gonzalez209.5201135ATL16209.513.09
Kyle Rudolph209201627MIN1620913.06
Jason Witten209200927DAL1620913.06
Dalton Schultz208.8202125DAL17208.812.28
Greg Olsen207.3201631CAR16207.312.96
Mark Andrews207.2201924BAL15207.213.81
Jason Witten206.1201331DAL16206.112.88
Tony Gonzalez205.7200933ATL16205.712.86
Tony Gonzalez205.2200125KAN16205.212.83
George Kittle203.2202330SFO16203.212.7
Jason Witten203.2201129DAL16203.212.7
Heath Miller202.6201230PIT15202.613.51
Zach Ertz202.4201727PHI14202.414.46
Jason Witten201.9200826DAL16201.912.62
David Njoku201.2202327CLE16201.212.58
Todd Heap200.5200525BAL16200.512.53
George Kittle200.5202229SFO15200.513.37
Jeremy Shockey198.1200525NYG15198.113.21
Rob Gronkowski198201223NWE1119818
George Kittle198202128SFO1419814.14
Kellen Winslow196.1200926TAM16196.112.26
Dallas Clark195.8200829IND15195.813.05
Tony Gonzalez195200630KAN1519513
Chris Cooley194.6200725WAS16194.612.16
Kellen Winslow194.5200623CLE16194.512.16
Jared Cook193.6201831OAK16193.612.1
Todd Heap193.4200222BAL16193.412.09
Austin Hooper191.7201925ATL13191.714.75
Tyler Eifert191.5201525CIN13191.514.73
Vernon Davis191.4201026SFO16191.411.96
Heath Miller190.9200927PIT16190.911.93
Brandon Pettigrew190.7201126DET16190.711.92
Greg Olsen190.6201328CAR16190.611.91
Mark Andrews190.5202227BAL15190.512.7
Ben Watson190.5201535NOR16190.511.91
Travis Kelce189.5201526KAN16189.511.84
Jimmy Graham189.3201630SEA16189.311.83
Dallas Clark188.5200728IND15188.512.57
Charles Clay188.4201324MIA16188.411.78
Chris Cooley188.4200523WAS16188.411.78
Antonio Gates188.2201030SDG10188.218.82
Delanie Walker188.1201632TEN15188.112.54
Shannon Sharpe187200335DEN1518712.47
Todd Heap185.5200626BAL16185.511.59
Antonio Gates184.2201333SDG16184.211.51
Marcedes Lewis184201026JAX1618411.5
Antonio Gates183.8201131SDG13183.814.14
Zach Ertz183.6201626PHI14183.613.11
Brandon Myers183.6201227OAK16183.611.48
Greg Olsen183.3201227CAR16183.311.46
Travis Kelce183.2201425KAN16183.211.45
Alge Crumpler182.7200528ATL16182.711.42
Tony Gonzalez182.3200226KAN16182.311.39
Alge Crumpler182200629ATL1618211.38
Trey McBride181.5202324ARI17181.510.68
Cole Kmet181.1202324CHI17181.110.65
Zach Ertz180.7202131ARI,PHI17180.710.63
Tony Gonzalez180.5200529KAN16180.511.28
Chris Cooley179.9201028WAS16179.911.24
Vernon Davis179.7201127SFO16179.711.23
Jermichael Finley179.7201124GNB16179.711.23
Visanthe Shiancoe178.6200929MIN16178.611.16
Randy McMichael178.1200425MIA16178.111.13
Shannon Sharpe178200032BAL1617811.13
Jason Witten177.7200523DAL16177.711.11
Jake Ferguson177.1202324DAL17177.110.42
Evan Engram176.9202228JAX17176.910.41
Kyle Pitts176.6202121ATL17176.610.39
Logan Thomas176.6202029WAS16176.611.04
Robert Tonyan176.6202026GNB16176.611.04
Coby Fleener176.4201426IND16176.411.03
Antonio Gates176.4200828SDG16176.411.03
Delanie Walker176201430TEN1517611.73
T.J. Hockenson175.3202023DET16175.310.96
Eric Johnson174.5200425SFO16174.510.91
Dustin Keller174.5201127NYJ16174.510.91
Delanie Walker174.5201733TEN16174.510.91
Evan Engram173.6201723NYG15173.611.57
Freddie Jones173.6200026SDG16173.610.85
Brent Celek173.1201126PHI16173.110.82
Tony Gonzalez171.6201034ATL16171.610.73
Jeremy Shockey171.4200222NYG15171.411.43
Rob Gronkowski171.2202132TAM12171.214.27
Cameron Brate171201625TAM1517111.4
Jimmy Graham171201731SEA1617110.69
Zach Ertz170.3201525PHI15170.311.35
Jeremy Shockey170.3200626NYG15170.311.35
Mark Andrews170.1202025BAL14170.112.15

The average age of the peak season is 27.44 years old. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the tight end seasons:

Tight End Peak Seasons

The peak is from 25 to 27 years old, as 40.8 percent of the seasons fall within that range. We can expand that peak from 24 to 30 years old, 73.5 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 13 total peak seasons took place before a tight end turns 24 (8.8 percent), 25-year-old tight ends accounted for 24 of the peak seasons (16.3 percent).

In addition, more tight ends have achieved a peak season at 30 years old than 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 happened last season?

Despite playing just 15 games at 34 years old, Travis Kelce again scored 200+ PPR fantasy points. It is worth noting this was his lowest output since 2016, so Father Time appears to be catching up to the all-time great.

At just 22 years old, Sam LaPorta led all tight ends in total PPR points. Only Kyle Pitts made the list at 21 years old, but LaPorta joins five other tight ends to hit the threshold at 22. With LaPorta, it certainly appears that we’re watching a superstar in the making. With Pitts, it’s hard not to expect this once-elite prospect to bounce back closer to his lofty expectations.

Trey McBride, Cole Kmet, and Jake Ferguson impressively made the list as 24-year-olds. T.J. Hockenson unfortunately tore his ACL amid an excellent season. Fresh off making the list for the first time, David Njoku remains in his prime entering his age-28 season. Evan Engram (turning 30) and George Kittle (31) are potentially nearing the decline phase.