The 10 best tight ends in the history of Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have a top-heavy list of great tight ends in franchise history.
NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons
NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The tight end position is considered the most evolved position in football. Starting out, they were seen as offensive linemen who weren't big enough to play on the line. They were hybrid blockers who could be moved around to help keep quarterbacks and running backs clean.

Nowadays, tight end has become a popular position. This has resulted in young kids who are tall and athletic wanting to play tight end rather than positions like edge rusher or linebacker. They can present impossible matchups for opposing defenses, especially in the end zone.

The Falcons housed the most influential tight end in NFL history who is the undisputed greatest player at his position. However, the list of great Atlanta tight ends is not expansive. They don't have much history when it comes to yards and touchdowns at the position—two things that weigh heavily in these rankings.

Criteria for selection

Yards and touchdowns were the two most important stats for this list, much as was the case for the top 20 wide receivers in Falcons history. Having a threat who can get you down the field and into the end zone is most valuable.

Another factor was impact on successful teams. Those who made an impact for the Falcons during a playoff season were given a leg up. This is something you will see near the end of the rankings.

The top 10 tight ends in Atlanta Falcons history

10. Hayden Hurst

As you might expect, this list is dominated by recent players like Hayden Hurst. The evolution of the position limits the past standouts for every team in the NFL.

Originally a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Hurst was traded to the Falcons, who were looking to replace a Pro Bowler who will make a later appearance on this list. His promising skill as a receiver resulted in a 571-yard, six-touchdown season in 2020. Injuries and the addition of an even more talented receiving threat at the position caused him to have a subpar final season in Atlanta.

He finished his two seasons with 82 catches for 792 yards and nine touchdowns.

9. Brian Kozlowski

Brian Kozlowski is one of a few players who saw two distinct eras with the Atlanta Falcons. He arrived in the city in 1997 and made a limited impact on the 1998 Super Bowl team. He stuck around for the turn of the century and was around for part of the Michael Vick era.

Spending seven of his 14 seasons with the Falcons, Kozlowski caught 74 passes for 891 yards and seven touchdowns. It is impressive in and of itself that he stuck around through so much change for the Dirty Birds.

8. O.J. Santiago

A player Kozlowski looked up at on the depth chart, O.J. Santiago made an impact for the 1998 team, especially in the playoffs.

As a 6-foot-7 target, the Canadian caught 27 balls for 19 first downs, 428 yards and five touchdowns during the 1998 regular season. His biggest impact came in what is perhaps the biggest win in franchise history: the NFC Championship Game upset over the Vikings. He gained 54 yards on three catches, although he did fumble early in the game.

His three years with the team that drafted him saw him catch 59 passes for 819 yards and nine touchdowns.

7. Arthur Cox

If you watched the Falcons during the early-'80s, then you saw a lot of Arthur Cox. The tight end spent the better part of five years as the team's starting tight end.

Of course, given the era in which he played, his stats weren't overwhelming, but he managed to have three 300-yard seasons. He played in 76 games and caught 111 passes for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns. He also managed to have a 62-yard catch, which is impressive for a 260-pound receiver.

6. Junior Miller

Junior Miller's career got off with a bang for the Atlanta Falcons. The seventh overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft put together a Pro Bowl season as a rookie, going for 584 yards and nine touchdowns on 46 receptions.

His stats never reached that level again, but he managed to have another Pro Bowl season in Year 2 with 32 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns (proof the position has changed). His four seasons saw him rack up 114 catches for 1,328 yards and 13 touchdowns.

5. Kyle Pitts

The current tight end of the Atlanta Falcons is already, easily, one of the five best players at his position in franchise history.

His career started off with promise. After becoming the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history when he was selected fourth overall in the 2021 draft, Kyle Pitts had the second-most receiving yards by a rookie tight end with 1,026 and came close to breaking the record.

Pitts is just getting started after he had two disappointing seasons. He will maneuver his way up these rankings after going over 2,000 career receiving yards late in the 2023 season. The sky is the limit for arguably the most talented tight end in NFL history.

4. Austin Hooper

Starting his career on a winning team, Austin Hooper made a minimal impact as a rookie on the all-time-great 2016 Falcons offense. However, his first season ended with an impressive touchdown catch in the Super Bowl.

As a second-year player in 2017, Hoop started to make a name for himself. He opened the season with a two-catch, 128-yard performance against the Bears. Most of his yards came on an 88-yard catch-and-run touchdown that included a nasty stiff-arm.

His second season was the start of a three-year streak with over 500 yards and three or more touchdowns, which helped him land what was then the largest contract for a tight end in NFL history with the Browns.

His four-year Falcons career saw him record 214 catches for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns. He made two Pro Bowls in his final two seasons with the team that drafted him.

3. Jim Mitchell

Despite having the most receiving yards at the position in Falcons history, Jim Mitchell lands at No. 3.

Mitchell's production came over 11 years and 155 games with the franchise. He was consistently healthy presence throughout the '70s and never played fewer than 12 games in a season. He had six seasons with over 400 yards and five with four or more touchdowns.

While he averaged just 28.1 yards per game, he managed to make impactful plays throughout his career. His longest reception was 40 or more yards in six seasons, which is impressive for a tight end.

Altogether, the fourth-round pick out of Prairie View A&M turned into an 11-year player who caught 305 passes for 4,358 yards and 28 touchdowns. He currently sits at third in receptions and touchdowns and first in receiving yards at the position in Falcons history.

2. Alge Crumpler

Both coming into the league in 2001, Michael Vick and Alge Crumpler combined to be one of the best quarterback-tight end connections in the game. Remarkably, Crumpler significantly improved his stats in each of his first five seasons.

Known as one of the most explosive tight ends in the league, he averaged over 10 yards per catch in all seven of his seasons with the Falcons with an overall average of 13.3. He even returned 12 kicks in his career.

The North Carolina product had his best season in 2005 when he caught 65 passes for 877 yards and five touchdowns.

Finishing his career in Atlanta as the then-best tight end in franchise history, Crumpler caught 316 passes for 4,212 yards and 35 touchdowns.

1. Tony Gonzalez

Any list about the tight end position that doesn't have Tony Gonzalez at No. 1 immediately becomes problematic. Tony G. is the best tight end in NFL history; there is no debating it.

Where do you even start with the Pro Football Hall of Famer? While stats with other teams aren't usually mentioned in these franchise rankings, neglecting them would be doing him a disservice. At any position, the all-time great sits third in receptions (1,325), sixth in receiving yards (15,127), and eighth in receiving touchdowns (111). All of those marks are atop the all-time tight end leaderboards.

What's more, he played 17 seasons, made 14 Pro Bowls and 10 All-Pro teams, and only missed two games. You also cannot forget about him only fumbling once in his final 14 seasons.

After being traded to the Falcons, Gonzalez finally won his first playoff game against the Seahawks in 2013. He had the big catch in that game to set his team up for a game-winning field goal. He also made a big impact in the NFC Conference Championship, catching eight passes on eight targets for 78 yards and a touchdown.

With the Dirty Birds, the greatest tight end in NFL history caught 409 passes for 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns across 80 games and made four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team. He also never fumbled or missed a game in Atlanta. No one will ever match him or his consistency.