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 six 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 126 players. The list below includes all individual tight end seasons to meet the criteria and was generated by Pro Football Reference.

Rob Gronkowski201122NWE330.91690132717
Travis Kelce202031KAN312.815105141611
Jimmy Graham201327NOR303.51686121516
Travis Kelce201829KAN294.616103133610
Jimmy Graham201125NOR2941699131011
Zach Ertz201828PHI280.31611611638
Darren Waller202028LVR278.61610711969
Dallas Clark200930IND271.716100110610
Tony Gonzalez200428KAN270.31610212587
Tony Gonzalez200024KAN267.3169312039
Rob Gronkowski201425NWE266.41582112412
Tony Gonzalez200832KAN261.81696105810
Antonio Gates200525SDG259.11589110110
George Kittle201825SFO258.7168813775
Rob Gronkowski201526NWE255.61572117611
Antonio Gates200424SDG255.4158196413
Travis Kelce201930KAN254.3169712295
Vernon Davis200925SFO252.5167896513
Jason Witten200725DAL250.5169611457
Jason Witten201028DAL248.2169410029
Tony Gonzalez200731KAN246.2169911725
Delanie Walker201531TEN244.4159410886
Jordan Reed201525WAS244.2148795211
Antonio Gates200929SDG242.7167911578
Gary Barnidge201530CLE237.3167910439
Jimmy Graham201226NOR237.215859829
Tony Gonzalez201236ATL23416939308
Travis Kelce201728KAN233.5158310388
Jason Witten201230DAL231.91611010393
Jimmy Graham201428NOR229.9168588910
Antonio Gates200727SDG227.416759849
Rob Gronkowski201728NWE227.4146910848
Greg Olsen201530CAR227.4167711047
Antonio Gates201434SDG223.1166982112
Travis Kelce201627KAN223168511254
Tony Gonzalez200327KAN222.6167191610
Kellen Winslow200724CLE222.6168211065
George Kittle201926SFO222.5148510535
Eric Ebron201825IND222.2166675013
Martellus Bennett201427CHI221.616909166
Brent Celek200924PHI221.116769718
Darren Waller201927OAK221169011453
Jason Witten200422DAL22116879806
Greg Olsen201429CAR220.8168410086
Tony Gonzalez201337ATL218.916838598
Antonio Gates200626SDG217.416719249
Julius Thomas201325DEN215.8146578812
Zach Ertz201929PHI215.615889166
Aaron Hernandez201122NWE214.514799107
Jordan Cameron201325CLE213.715809177
Vernon Davis201329SFO213155285013
Tony Gonzalez201135ATL209.516808757
Kyle Rudolph201627MIN20916838407
Jason Witten200927DAL209169410302
Greg Olsen201631CAR207.3168010733
Mark Andrews201924BAL207.2156485210
Jason Witten201331DAL206.116738518
Tony Gonzalez200933ATL205.716838676
Tony Gonzalez200125KAN205.216739176
Jason Witten201129DAL203.216799425
Heath Miller201230PIT202.615718168
Zach Ertz201727PHI202.414748248
Jason Witten200826DAL201.916819524
Todd Heap200525BAL200.516758557
Jeremy Shockey200525NYG198.115658917
Rob Gronkowski201223NWE198115579011
Kellen Winslow200926TAM196.116778845
Dallas Clark200829IND195.815778486
Tony Gonzalez200630KAN19515739005
Chris Cooley200725WAS194.616667868
Kellen Winslow200623CLE194.516898753
Jared Cook201831OAK193.616688966
Todd Heap200222BAL193.416688366
Austin Hooper201925ATL191.713757876
Tyler Eifert201525CIN191.5135261513
Vernon Davis201026SFO191.416569147
Heath Miller200927PIT190.916767896
Brandon Pettigrew201126DET190.716837775
Greg Olsen201328CAR190.616738166
Ben Watson201535NOR190.516748256
Travis Kelce201526KAN189.516728755
Jimmy Graham201630SEA189.316659236
Dallas Clark200728IND188.5155861611
Charles Clay201324MIA188.416697596
Chris Cooley200523WAS188.416717747
Antonio Gates201030SDG188.2105078210
Delanie Walker201632TEN188.115658007
Shannon Sharpe200335DEN18715627708
Todd Heap200626BAL185.516737656
Antonio Gates201333SDG184.216778724
Marcedes Lewis201026JAX184165870010
Antonio Gates201131SDG183.813647787
Zach Ertz201626PHI183.614788164
Brandon Myers201227OAK183.616798064
Greg Olsen201227CAR183.316698435
Travis Kelce201425KAN183.216678625
Alge Crumpler200528ATL182.716658775
Tony Gonzalez200226KAN182.316637737
Alge Crumpler200629ATL18216567808
Tony Gonzalez200529KAN180.516789052
Chris Cooley201028WAS179.916778493
Vernon Davis201127SFO179.716677926
Jermichael Finley201124GNB179.716557678
Visanthe Shiancoe200929MIN178.6165656611
Randy McMichael200425MIA178.116737914
Shannon Sharpe200032BAL17816678105
Jason Witten200523DAL177.716667576
Logan Thomas202029WAS176.616726706
Robert Tonyan202026GNB176.6165258611
Coby Fleener201426IND176.416517748
Antonio Gates200828SDG176.416607048
Delanie Walker201430TEN17615638904
T.J. Hockenson202023DET175.316677236
Eric Johnson200425SFO174.516828252
Dustin Keller201127NYJ174.516658155
Delanie Walker201733TEN174.516748073
Evan Engram201723NYG173.615647226
Freddie Jones200026SDG173.616717665
Brent Celek201126PHI173.116628115
Tony Gonzalez201034ATL171.616706566
Jeremy Shockey200222NYG171.415748942
Cameron Brate201625TAM17115576608
Jimmy Graham201731SEA171165752010
Zach Ertz201525PHI170.315758532
Jeremy Shockey200626NYG170.315666237
Mark Andrews202025BAL170.114587017

The average age of the peak season is 27.43 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 42.9 percent of the seasons fall within that range. We can expand that peak from 25 to 30 years old, 69.1 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 18 total peak seasons took place before a tight end turns 25, 25-year-old tight ends accounted for 22 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. 89.7 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 2021 season?

In 2020, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Robert Tonyan, Logan Thomas, T.J. Hockenson, and Mark Andrews made the list.

Travis Kelce had the second-best tight end season ever last year, scoring 312.8 fantasy points. Kelce is getting up there in age and will be 32 in 2021. Historically tight ends have struggled after turning 32 years old. The good ones, like Kelce, can extend their peaks longer than usual (see Gonzalez, Tony), but in the long run, father time is undefeated.

Logan Thomas had an impressive season but it’s worth noting that he’ll be playing in his age-30 season this year. He’s not a dynasty asset worth chasing.

Speaking of dynasty assets, rookie Kyle Pitts will enter this season as a 21-year-old rookie. The expectations are sky-high, but no 21-year-old tight end ever has topped 170 PPR fantasy points. If his owners grow impatient due to struggling as a rookie, Pitts is a player worth targeting next offseason.