Tight end is definitely not a glamour position in the NFL. Never has been and never will be. However, thanks to guys like Tony Gonzales, Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates, and Rob Gronkowski, the position gets more attention now than ever before.
If you’ve been a Texans fan for a minute, you should remember the days when Houston had a solid tight end before Bill O’Brien came along; that hasn’t been the case for quite some time. Houston may once again have a good group, but only time will tell. Will players like Darren Fells, Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins, and Kahale Warring make fans forget about the glory days of #81? Maybe..maybe not.
Are you one of the few who misses Ryan Griffin? Probably not.
When assembling this list, it’s hard to consider just the stats to determine a definitive pecking order. Tight ends are an integral part of the passing game, but they’re also called on to be a sixth offensive lineman, pulling, blocking, and otherwise getting in the way of defenders—you know, the sorts of things stat trackers can’t record.
Like the list of running backs, there’s a sizable drop-off from the top of the list to the bottom, which just goes to show how this role has been neglected over the franchise’s history. But we shall endeavor to persevere.
5. Garrett Graham
While not as famous as another former Wisconsin tight end drafted by the Texans, J.J. Watt, Garrett Graham joined Houston via the 2010 NFL Draft, a year earlier than Watt. While it took Graham a few seasons to really get going and crack the starting lineup, he might very well be the best TE2 the Texans have ever had, which is why he makes this list. Stepping into games alongside Owen Daniels or to spell him, Graham caught 100 passes in his six year career, racking up 1,059 yards, 10 touchdowns, and was one of the lone bright spots in an abysmal 2013 season where he started 11 games; he caught 49 passes for 545 yards and 5 touchdowns. As mentioned above, there’s no record of the sheer number of times Graham contributed key blocks, opened holes for running plays, and otherwise did his job as a co-star in the Texans’ offense.
4. Jordan Akins
Current Texans tight end, and one half of the “Jordan Twins” alongside fellow tight end Jordan Thomas, Akins has shown flashes of brilliance in his short H-Town career. With 53 catches for 643 yards, 2 touchdowns, and numerous key blocks, the former Texas Ranger (think baseball, not law enforcement) played his college football at UCF before playing in the 2018 Senior Bowl for Bill O’Brien. Akins was then selected by Houston in the third round of the NFL Draft. His 2019 Week 3 performance is one of the best from a Texans tight end in recent memory, as he gained 73 yards on 3 catches and scored 2 touchdowns. Making this list primarily on potential, the inclusion of Akins speaks to how thin Houston’s all-time tight ends group is 18 years into the franchise’s existence.
3. C.J. Fiedorowicz
Drafted by the Texans in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Iowa, affectionately dubbed “CJF350” for his ability to pancake opposing defenders, Fiedorowicz had all the makings of an old school, blue collar, Mike Dikta style tight end. Tough, seemingly unstoppable, and quite possibly a little bit insane. CJF350 started 42 games over his four-year Texans career, catching 89 passes for 881 yards, 6 touchdowns, and who knows how many bulldozing hits on opposing defenders. One of the toughest tight ends in Texans history went on IR in his fourth season after suffering his third concussion of the year. He retired a few short months later.
2. Joel Dreessen
Originally drafted by the New York Jets, Dreessen joined the Texans in his second season and remained with the team for the next five years before jumping ship to the Denver Broncos. In his H-Town time, Dreessen caught 105 passes for 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns. Alongside Owen Daniels, Dreessen was a key part of the Texans’ 10-6 division title campaign in the 2011 season. That year, the two tight ends combined for 1,030 receiving yards. Departing via free agency in 2012, Dreessen would precede head coach Gary Kubiak and many others who left Houston for the Mile High City prior to the beginning of the Bill O’Brien era.
1. Owen Daniels
As with the aforementioned running backs list, Owen Daniels is as securely atop this list as Arian Foster was that one. Like Kevin Walter on the wide receivers list, Daniels was a security blanket for Matt Schaub and any other Texans quarterback in his time with the team. In an eight-year Houston career, Daniels caught 385 passes for 4,617 yards, 29 touchdowns, a million fakeouts, and countless unforeseen blocks on opposing defenders.
Like Graham and Watt, Daniels was drafted out of Wisconsin where he was known as “Ol’ Sure Hands” for his nearly superhuman pass catching skills. Clearly, those skills translated well to his NFL career.
After leaving the Texans to follow Gary Kubiak through Baltimore to Denver, Daniels was a key part in the Broncos’ Super Bowl march of the 2015 season; indeed, he caught two key passes in Denver’s win over New England in the AFC Championship Game. Daniels retired with the distinction of having caught the last touchdown pass ever thrown by Peyton Manning. Too bad Manning didn’t throw that pass wearing battle red, but I digress.
While Daniels is clearly alone at the top of this list, there are other players who deserve honorable mention or might even deserve to push one of these guys out of the top five. Players like James Casey, Darren Fells, Billy Miller, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson have all had flashes, but none come close to Daniels. Perhaps Jordan Akins will continue to develop and become the new TE1 some day, but for now, #81 is King of the Hill.
There you have it—the newest five best list to add to your collection. If you missed the others, here’s your chance to get caught up:
Join the rankings discussion in the comments and tell us your favorite Texans tight ends memories.