American football isn't an Olympic sport -- yet. But with the world's best athletes set to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we thought we'd get in on the fun by holding a medal competition at nine key positions. NFL Media analysts ranked the top three players at each spot, with points assigned accordingly -- three points for each first-place ranking, two for each second-place ranking and one for each third-place ranking. The points were totaled, resulting in final gold-, silver- and bronze-medal finishers. Below, you'll find the results -- and each analyst's individual ballot -- for tight end.
The Tight End Podium
Gronkowski is like Jesse Owens -- almost unstoppable. The Bears made a mistake when they traded away Olsen; he's finally getting his due in Carolina as one of the top tight ends in the league. Witten has been doing it a long time and is probably the most complete tight end, as far as catching and blocking are concerned.
Gronk can't be stopped one-on-one and is one of the best blockers. Olsen's elusiveness and route-running ability allow him to make the tough catches. I believe Walker is underrated in this league. All three of these guys had 1,000-yard seasons in 2015, and that should happen again this year.
Gregg Rosenthal: 1) Rob Gronkowski 2) Medals forfeited 3) No one else is close
Gronk is so far ahead of the rest of the field at tight end that it's an insult to give anyone else a medal. He is the strongest blocker, makes big plays and has incredible hands. Step it up, other tight ends.
I think we're all wondering who can stop Gronk. His size and playmaking ability allow him to overpower his opponents. When Graham is healthy, he is a force to be reckoned with. Olsen proved why he belongs on this list with his 2015 performance.
So, yeah ... Gronk. But the gap is closing, with Olsen posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. With Jimmy Graham's return uncertain, Walker gets the final spot, thanks in part to his 217 receptions over the past three seasons -- third-most among tight ends.
Gronkowski is the gold standard for the position, having posted 65 receiving touchdowns during his first six seasons. (And that doesn't even count his nine touchdowns in 10 postseason games.) The big-bodied playmaker is a matchup nightmare on the perimeter with the size to overwhelm defensive backs and the athleticism to leave linebackers in the dust.
Gronk easily wins the gold here, and nobody would argue -- not even the other two guys on this list. Eifert is hard to match up with, while Reed is an ascending tight end and could be the centerpiece of the Redskins' passing attack, making all of their talented receivers even better.
Dave Dameshek: 1) Rob Gronkowski 2) N/A 3) Greg Olsen
Gronk's the best to ever play his position, and so much better than the rest of his peer group that we've left a space between 1 and 3. (But, for the record, Olsen is dynamite.)
Gronk is not only the best tight end in the league, but he could be the best of all time. Olsen has been one of the league's most consistent and dangerous options for years. Reed narrowly beats out Tyler Eifert in the "who can stay healthy" consolation bracket for the bronze.
Gronk is leaps and bounds ahead of every other player at this position. Olsen is Jason Witten 2.0, as there have been times where he is Cam's No. 1 receiver, and he can block. Gates gets the lifetime achievement award. If you have a spot on a team, you put him on the roster, because he's earned it.
Gronkowski has the biggest catch radius of any player in the NFL, maybe in the history of the game. Graham and Olsen are good players, but no one compares to Gronk. I wish I could go four-deep in this category, because Antonio Gates deserves to be here, as well.
May I go ahead and give Gronk all three medals? Because it's really not that close. If this were an actual Olympic sports competition, it would be canceled, because there is no competitive balance. Kind of like Olympic softball. The one thing that troubles me is that Gronk doesn't get enough love for his all-around game. Everybody knows what a great receiving threat he is, but dude can throw it around as a blocker, as well. Gronk makes me wonder, too ... The Texans love to use J.J. Watt as a receiver down near the goal line. I would imagine Gronk could be put on the field in passing downs on the defensive side to pressure to quarterback. He would at least eat up a double-team, right? But don't do that. It's a crazy idea.