It looks like an unusually good year for tight ends, with O.J. Howard and David Njoku leading the way. But those who have been burned in the past by the likes of Eric Ebron, Kyle Brady, Rickey Dudley and Johnny Mitchell know the pitfalls of getting too excited about the prospects of a tight end prospect who’s seemingly the next big thing.

A reader in Minnesota pointed out yesterday that Antonio Gates wasn’t drafted at all, and he turned out pretty well.

So let me look at this for a different direction.

Normally on this kind of thing, I’ll trot out a list of the last 20 or 30 tight ends selected in the first round. You look at what they dig, whether they should have been selected in that ground and whatnot. This time, let’s look at it from the other end – who was good, and where did they come from.

I’ve been in the fantasy football game for 30 years, so for this one, I took the tight end numbers for all of those years, separated out the best guys, and then we can see where they were drafted (if at all).

Comparing stats across years is meaningless. The game has changed too much. So for this one, I looked at relative fantasy worth. If a player was the No. 1 tight end (standard scoring) in any given year, I gave him 10 points. If he was the No. 2 tight end, I gave him 9 points. And so on, down to tight ends getting 1 point for finishing 10th at their position in any given year.

If a tight end finished 11th, 15th or 22nd, I gave him a zero for that year. I am interested only in collecting greatness. In typical fantasy leagues, you can find a top-15 tight end on the waiver wire pretty easily.

Totaling up the points, we can then pull out the cream of the crop.

Two of the top 4 were coveted picks – Tony Gonzalez and Keith Jackson were both chosen 13th overall. But none of the others in the top dozen were chosen in the first round. Only two were even chosen in the second round.

It’s in the bottom of the top 20 where the first round really shows up, taken six of the final eight spots. But those are more “very good” tight ends, rather than elite producers like Gonzalez and Gates.

I have the first-round picks in bold.

Of these top 20 tight ends, five of them played their really good ball not with the team that drafted them but with their second franchise. I’ve got them flagged with a black dot.

2000113Tony Gonzalez119
19937192Shannon Sharpe95
2004----Antonio Gates79
1988113Keith Jackson63
2007369Jason Witten61
19945124Ben Coates53
2012395Jimmy Graham46
2011242Rob Gronkowski45
19925135• Brent Jones40
19926158• Jay Novacek38
1999256• Wesley Walls38
19986160• Frank Wycheck37
2002131Todd Heap33
2016131Greg Olsen32
2006235Alge Crumpler31
200916Vernon Davis30
2005114Jeremy Shockey27
1993121Eric Green27
2005381Chris Cooley26
2008124Dallas Clark23

—Ian Allan