Following the retirement of longtime New England Patriots great Rob Gronkowski, the New York Jets’ Chris Herndon is now the best tight end in the AFC East.
The New York Jets have themselves one of the brightest young tight ends in the league in Chris Herndon and after a recent development in the NFL world, it’s finally safe to say that he is the best at his position in the AFC East.
Longtime New England Patriots great — and Jets matchup nightmare — Rob Gronkowski has officially announced his retirement after an incredible nine-year career. His time in the NFL was highlighted by five Pro Bowl appearances, four First-Team All-Pro recognitions, and, of course, three Super Bowl victories.
But now that Gronkowski has departed to the euphoric bliss that is retirement, the AFC East is now without a clear standout tight end. Or at least, there’s a new face in town that people should start recognizing as the clear-cut best tight end in the division.
Former Miami standout Chris Herndon is that player and the New York Jets are the team that he calls home.
Herndon had a relatively slow start to his NFL career but really picked it up as the season went on becoming one of his offense’s most prolific players. The 23-year-old hauled in 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns, leading all rookie tight ends in both receptions and receiving touchdowns.
On top of that, Herndon finished second on the Jets in each major receiving category establishing himself as one of the team’s top playmakers. His chemistry with fellow rookie Sam Darnold developed as the year went on as the duo look prime for big sophomore seasons.
It’s easy to see Hernon growing into a true top 10 tight end in the league, but even after only one season as a professional, he’s already the best in his division. While each of the other three teams in the AFC East made offseason moves in an attempt to beef up their tight end groups, none of the other players in the division matchup to Herndon, even at this stage.
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The Buffalo Bills went out and signed former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft who will likely step in and be their starter from Week 1. However, the coveted free agent signing has only spent one season as a true No. 1 option and he hauled in 42 catches for just 404 yards in that year. Combine that with the fact that he’s coming off of a season-ending foot injury that limited him to just five games and there’s reason to question whether he’s a true starting option.
The Miami Dolphins have their own young, promising tight end in Mike Gesicki, but the Penn State product failed to make the same impact as a rookie that Herndon did. Gesicki made just 22 catches for 202 yards despite showing flashes of greatness. The athletic 23-year-old still has room to grow but isn’t nearly as complete of a player as Herndon is at this stage.
Then there’s the New England Patriots, of course. The retirement of Gronkowski leaves New England in a bit of a bind as there is no true replacement for him currently on the roster. Former Denver Broncos tight end Matt LaCosse was recently signed to a two-year contract but the Illinois product has just 27 catches over his four years in the league.
The remaining combination of Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollister, and Ryan Izzo totaled a whopping four catches in 2018 making it likely the long-term answer isn’t on the roster. Expect the Patriots to address the newfound need in the draft but for now, Herndon easily tops every Pats tight end.
While the competition may not be steep, Herndon is far and above the new premier tight end in the AFC East. And if all goes right, Herndon could soon develop into one of the premier tight ends in the AFC, if not the entire NFL.
The future looks bright, but Herndon already controls the present.