Thursday, July 06, 2023

Iowa Hawkeyes tout two of CBS Sports' top 10 NFL tight ends


Riley Donald 


Peanut butter and jelly. Steak and potatoes. Pancakes and syrup. These all go together just about as well at the Iowa Hawkeyes and tight ends. No one produces NFL-caliber tight ends like the Hawkeyes do.

This production has earned Iowa the rightful ownership of “Tight End U” and for good reason. The pipeline from Iowa City to the NFL is strong and only continues to grow as Sam LaPorta just joined the Detroit Lions.

Two of Iowa’s former tight ends are standouts in the NFL. George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers and T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings are some of the best at the position in the league. Their production has earned them spots inside CBS Sports’ top 10 NFL tight ends ahead of the 2023 season.

Coming in at No. 5 is T.J. Hockenson. The Minnesota Viking seems to have found his home with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and is a big beneficiary of offensive talent around him like Justin Jefferson at receiver helping open things up between the hashes.

Hockenson was a revelation for Minnesota’s offense after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Lions last year. In 10 games played for the Vikings, he hauled in 60 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns. If you take that period when he first arrived in Minnesota and project that throughout a full season, Hockenson would have posted over a hundred catches with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback. His 20 contested catches were also eight more than any other tight end, according to PFF. In that same vein, there’s also the potential for his touchdown totals to increase in 2023 in the aftermath of Adam Thielen — who had 21 red zone targets last season — being released this offseason.


While the former top-10 pick already has a solid reputation entering 2023, we’re bullish that he could be on the verge of a career year. – Sullivan, CBS Sports

Coming in at No. 2 on the list is a fan favorite in Iowa and beloved by Hawkeyes fans across the globe. It is George Kittle. While he is at No. 2 on this list, there is a case that he is the most well-rounded tight end in the league when you look at his blocking.

George Kittle may be the most well-rounded tight end in the league. While some are strictly blockers or pass catchers, Kittle not only can do both but do so at an extremely high level. He is routinely among the top blockers at his position and ranked as the third-best run-blocking tight end last season, according to PFF. Kittle is just as dynamic as a receiver and can stretch the field up the seam and destroy any would-be tacklers after the catch. Surprisingly, the 2022 campaign was the first time in his career that Kittle was able to produce double-digit touchdowns, notching 11 scores throughout the regular season. So long as San Francisco has its quarterback situation hammered out, Kittle should continue to be among the game’s best. – Sullivan, CBS Sports

Iowa has terrific tight ends in the league. Meanwhile, Luke Lachey and Erick All figure to terrorize defenses in the Big Ten in 2023. Younger names in Iowa City such as Addison Ostrenga, Grant Leeper and Zach Ortwerth look like they’re going to ensure the Hawkeyes’ tight end tradition continues.

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