Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft: Dalton Kincaid, Tucker Kraft Lead the Chase Behind Michael Mayer

Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft: Dalton Kincaid, Tucker Kraft Lead the Chase Behind Michael Mayer

If you’re a team in need of a star tight end, the 2023 NFL Draft class has what you need. This class not only has a bonafide first-round prospect, but it also boasts plenty of depth in the Day 2 and 3 ranges. After the regular season, who are the top 10 tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft? Let’s take a look.

Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft

10) 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 over the past two seasons. The Hawkeyes were famously averse to aerial production, but LaPorta found a way to keep putting up yards, regardless.

LaPorta doesn’t have the elite athletic upside that other Iowa tight ends have had in the past, but he’s a solid all-around prospect who should earn a rotational role quickly in the league and potentially grow into an above-average starter.

9) Josh Whyle, Cincinnati

Every so often, you get prospects who might end up being better professional players than they were in college. Josh Whyle might be one of those prospects at tight end. He never eclipsed 32 catches or 353 yards, but his offenses also never fully spotlighted his talent.

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At 6’6″, 250 pounds, Whyle is a lean, streamlined athlete with excellent explosiveness and freedom of motion. His overall play strength is lacking in comparison to his counterparts on this list, but he’s a high-upside receiving threat who could fit very well in the modern NFL.

8) 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.

Now, the Shrine Bowl commit has his eyes set on the NFL, where he should have plenty of fans. A compact prospect at 6’5″, 255 pounds, Durham has a strong profile with few holes. He might not be an elite athlete, but he has functional mobility before and after the catch and can come up clutch in contested situations.

7) Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

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 has great size at 6’6″, 250 pounds, and he’s quietly a solid athlete. His most marketable trait is his blocking ability, and that’s what will get him on the field early. That said, he’s also able to find soft spots in zone coverage and use his hands to deliver when passes enter his reach.

6) 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, he remains an intriguing TE prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.

As a former edge rusher, Latu has both size at 6’5″, 244 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 be scratching the surface.

5) 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 6’7″, 280 pounds. And yet, some of the displays of athleticism he provides on tape are truly jaw-dropping.

As of now, Washington’s athleticism is more theoretical than functional. He’s largely a lumbering mover in space who struggles to separate independently. Nevertheless, he’s a dominating force at the catch point and equally overwhelming as a blocker.

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 window to support his declaration.

At 6’6″, 250 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) Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

It takes an uncommon talent to declare with eligibility remaining at the FCS level. Tucker Kraft has spent the past two seasons proving that’s what he is. The 6’5″, 255-pound TE has 90 catches for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns over his past 23 games and is 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.

2) Dalton Kincaid, Utah

If Mayer is the strongest, most well-rounded TE in the 2023 NFL Draft, then Dalton Kincaid might be Mayer-lite. There’s a sizable gap from one to two, but Kincaid is another TE talent worthy of early-round consideration on account of his complete pallet of tools.

At 6’4″, 240 pounds, Kincaid is a bit light. But he’s one of the most natural receiving threats among this group, and his 2022 production — 70 catches for 890 yards and eight scores — only reaffirms that. He’s a smooth athlete with rare contortion ability, and he’s also a very willing blocker.

1) Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

In the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s Michael Mayer, then a big gap, then everyone else. There’s a lot of depth and quality talent to celebrate in this TE group, but no one comes close to matching the profile that Mayer boasts out of Notre Dame.

Mayer isn’t the kind of athlete that’ll blow your socks off at the NFL Combine. But on tape, you can see the functionality of his athleticism and foot speed, both in space and as a route runner. He has more than enough mobility and burst to work with, and he reinforces it with elite instincts and hands at the catch point.

Honorable Mentions

  • Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota
  • Will Mallory, Miami (FL)
  • Cade Stover, Ohio State
  • Benjamin Yurosek, Stanford
  • Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
  • Luke Ford, Illinois
  • Noah Gindorff, North Dakota State
  • Brenton Strange, Penn State