Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft: Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer Vie for TE1

We could see the TE position return to the first round in the 2023 NFL Draft, with Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer heading up an exciting class.

One year after a relatively underwhelming tight end class, the 2023 NFL Draft TE group is making up the difference. If you need an immediate difference-maker, there are several available in the early rounds. And if you’re looking for a value play later on, there are options on the board as well. Here are the top 10 TE prospects in the 2023 class.

Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft

10) Payne Durham, Purdue

Payne Durham caught 45 passes for 467 yards and six touchdowns in 2021, then followed it up with 56 catches for 560 yards and eight scores in 2022. There aren’t many targets more reliable than Durham, and he was able to prove that time and time again in Purdue’s offense.

Durham won’t beat NFL defenders with speed or explosiveness, and that’s why he’ll probably go on Day 3. But in that range, he’s the perfect TE to add to a rotation. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s a reliable hands-catcher, and he comes up big in clutch situations.

9) Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion

If you’ve ever asked the trivia question: “Who has the highest Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of all time at tight end?” you now know the answer. That player is Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz — a 6’7 3/8″, 255-pound behemoth who logged a 4.55 40-yard dash, 40″ vertical, 10’8″ broad jump, 4.12 shuttle time, and 6.87 three-cone.

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Kuntz’s numbers, all-around, are jaw-dropping. He’s still a bit raw as a football player. He doesn’t sink and drive very well as a blocker, and he’s largely a linear athlete in space. But his smooth athleticism and length, at the very least, give him dangerous upside as a seam threat.

8) Luke Schoonmaker, TE

Luke Schoonmaker already had respect from NFL evaluators before the 2022 season. But an injury to Erick All opened the door for Schoonmaker to earn more targets in the passing game. After that, his appeal only grew as a potential multi-phase TE at the professional level.

Schoonmaker is already one of the best blocking TEs in the class, but he’s also a very good athlete at 6’5″, 251 pounds, as evidenced by his 4.63 40-yard dash, 6.81 three-cone, and 10’7″ broad jump. Schoonmaker has the athletic upside to be a true independent separator, and he can find soft spots in coverage and convert with his hands.

7) Cameron Latu, Alabama

After setting an Alabama TE record for touchdowns in a season in 2021, Cameron Latu took a step down in 2022 with 25 catches for 323 yards and three scores. But even amidst his slight regression, Latu remains an intriguing TE prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.

As a former edge rusher, Latu has both size at 6’4″, 242 pounds, and unique ankle flexion, which he can use to sustain acceleration on route breaks. His hands need to be more consistent, but he has appealing separation potential and could just be scratching the surface.

6) Sam LaPorta, Iowa

It has to count for something that Sam LaPorta was able to amass over 100 receptions and over 1,200 receiving yards in Iowa’s offense through the stretch of 2021 and 2022. The Hawkeyes were famously averse to aerial production, but LaPorta found a way to keep putting up yards, regardless.

LaPorta doesn’t always play to his elite athletic testing numbers, but he’s a smooth mover in space who has a functional route tree. He adjusts well for passes in stride and has some of the best RAC utility in the 2023 NFL Draft TE group. With his reliable receiving ability and floor as a moving blocker, he can be an above-average starter.

5) Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

It takes an uncommon talent to declare with eligibility remaining at the FCS level. Tucker Kraft spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons proving that’s what he is. The 6’5″, 254-pound TE logged 92 catches for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns over his final 24 games, putting himself on the fast track to early-round status.

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Kraft isn’t quite as expansive of a route runner as the prospects above him, but he still brings plenty of appeal with his athleticism, play strength after the catch, and blocking ability on the ground. Particularly as a RAC threat, Kraft thrives, and he can be a bully in both phases with his tenacious playmaking mentality.

4) Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

Before the season, Luke Musgrave was documented as having a 4.51 40-yard dash and a 36.5″ vertical on Feldman Freaks. He was only able to play two games before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the campaign, but he provided enough validation in that stretch to support his declaration.

At 6’6″, 253 pounds, Musgrave is a unique mold of tight end. Of the prospects on this list, he’s arguably the most explosive athlete, and he has a legitimate speed element in space once he can open up his strides. He’s also a flexible route runner who can extend beyond his frame and convert at the catch point.

3) Darnell Washington, Georgia

There are few prospects at any position more purely imposing than Georgia’s Darnell Washington. Washington is a straight-up tank at almost 6’7″, 264 pounds. And yet, some of the displays of athleticism he provides on tape are truly jaw-dropping. His RAS of 9.88 confirms his rare talent.

As of now, Washington’s athleticism is more theoretical than functional. He’s largely a lumbering mover in space who struggles to separate independently. But still, he flashes dominating reach and strength at the catch point, he’s a bulldozer in the open field, and he’s an elite blocking threat who functions as an extra offensive lineman.

2) Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

There’s a clear top two at the pinnacle of the 2023 NFL Draft TE class, consisting of Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid. Either prospect is a viable TE1, but on PFN’s board, Kincaid slightly edges out Mayer for the top spot. That’s no slight to Mayer, of course. He’s still a top-25 prospect in the class.

Mayer — who caught 138 passes for 1,639 yards and 16 touchdowns through 2021 and 2022 — profiles as an extremely well-rounded TE at the next level. He’s a nuanced route runner with foot speed and physicality, he can convert at the catch point with strong hands, and he’s also a stellar blocker.

1) Dalton Kincaid, Utah

There are reasons to have Mayer over Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid is a couple of years older than Mayer, and Kincaid also has an injury history that might concern teams. If you lean toward stability in your evaluations, then Mayer is probably your man. But if you lean toward upside, Kincaid might hold the edge on your board.

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Mayer is a better blocker than Kincaid, but Kincaid’s ability as a receiving threat in all three phases is special. He’s an explosive, flexible athlete with good spatial awareness as a route runner who can split out wide with his mobility. He’s an albatross at the catch point with unnatural consistency. And after the catch, he bowls through tackle attempts.

Honorable Mentions

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