Top 10 tight-ends of the 2023 NFL Draft:

We’re entering our final full week of positional draft rankings, as we’ve gone through an offensive and defensive group for four weeks already – running backs and linebackers, wide receivers and cornerbacks, offensive tackles and edge defenders, interior offensive and defensive linemen. Today we’ll be looking at what I believe is the best tight-end class of the last decade and then on Friday we shift to the safeties, before finishing up with quarterbacks.

Since I just praised the group as a whole, let me say that there are five guys I currently have top-50 grades on, plus another I have in the late second-/early third-round range. There is a certain drop-off after that, but this entire top-ten could potentially make it inside my top-100 big board next week and even beyond that, there are some intriguing options, to a point where we may see a couple TE2s stick on teams as undrafted free agents or at least late day-three selections. This is a class however, where I didn’t really struggle in terms of ordering the top-seven names. After that, there was some more debate for me.

This is what I came up with:

Dalton Kincaid


1. Dalton Kincaid, Utah

6’4″, 240 pounds; SR


A zero-star recruit in 2019, Kincaid played just one year in high school in Las Vegas, because his team played a wing-T offense where he barely got a chance to show his receiving skills. He started his career at San Diego (FCS), where he amassed over 1200 yards and 19 touchdowns across two seasons. After that he transferred to Utah, where he only caught one pass in 2020, before converting 36 catches into 510 yards and eight touchdowns the following season. With the other Utah tight-end Brandon Kuithe (Utah used a lot of 12 personnel early on) getting hurt in the first few weeks last year, Kincaid needed to step up and he did so with 70 catches for 890 yards and eight more TDs, which earned him first-team All-Pac-12 accolades.


+ Heavily utilized in-line by the Utes despite his receiving skills and affording to add a little more weight

+ Strikes low with his lands, provides consistent leg-drive and overall effort as a blocker, whether he’s asked to seal the defensive end on the backside on run plays or is asked to occupy safeties in the screen game

+ Delivers a good bump, in order to allow his teammates to get their base in position to secure the down-linemen and then push guys on the second level out of the lane effectively

+ What he’s awesome at though are those wide zone combos with the tackle, where he peels off and takes those outside linebackers or safeties behind it for a ride

+ Display tremendous hip flexion and short-area agility to get his base around and seal off edge defenders, who try to crash through the backside

+ Also excels on lead-blocks as the second guy on GH/GF counter, with the way he unloads on linebackers on the move

+ Tremendous at being able to snatch up smaller bodies, driving his feet through contact and creating space for his teammates in the screen and sweep game

+ Has the burst off the line to put safeties on their heels in one-on-one coverage and can make some dynamic square cuts to get open

+ You love what he can present on those deep-in/dig routes out of the slot, to work the middle of the field off that – Only Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer had more than Kincaid’s six catches of 20+ air yards among draft-eligible TEs

+ That speed can also be used horizontally on some crossing routes, especially after landing a chip first, to help out protection, or slipping across the second level off bootlegs

+ How loose he is at the hips and ankles to bend effortlessly is rare

+ Understands how to attack the edges of defenders’ frames and winning against their alignment, consistently providing himself with room with the initial route stem

+ Yet, he also has the play strength to fight through contact and throw by defenders, who are leveraged towards where he wants to break in zone

+ There’s no wasted movement on hitch, stick, hook routes, etc. to chip away at defenses with papercuts, as he and the quarterback connect with defenders sinking past the break-point

+ Recognizes when to slow down his breaks and get his eyes on the quarterback, as he’s about to enter voids in zone coverage, along with slightly adjusting his stem as he sees defenders bail out


+ Consistently catches the ball away from his frame and displays strong hands, while his technique doesn’t vain dealing with challenging angles of arrival – Only dropped two of 108 catchable targets across the past two seasons (1.9%)

+ Showcases tremendous focus with defenders initiating contact just as or slightly before the ball arrives at him – Hauled in exactly half of his 18 contested targets in 2022

+ Immediately brings the ball into his frame, transitions upfield and runs with his pads down – He can really build up momentum, in order to shrug off tacklers in his path

+ Along with that, he has a knack for making the first man miss with a juke move and contorting his body to avoid guys being able to wrap him up – Forced 16 missed tackles this past season (third-most among draft-eligible TEs)

+ Absolutely tore apart USC in the ’22 regular season, catching all 16 of his targets for 234 yards and a touchdown, along with drawing a couple of flags

+ Received PFF receiving grades of 83.2 and 90.1 respectively the last two years


– Still on the lighter end for an in-line option (only three starting TEs at 240 pounds or less in the NFL) and you see him on the turf or spun the wrong way more often than you’d like, going up against physical edge-setters

– Tends to get his head too far out in front at times and allow well-schooled defenders to slip off his blocks, as he tries to make up for the lack of size

– Lacks the type of high-end explosiveness and long speed you typically see from move tight-ends that go early in the draft

– Not quite the same kind of savvy route-runner teammate Brandon Kuithe is, in terms manipulating defenders with body-language and the way he sets up his secondary breaks – such as on stick-nods


If your team runs a system that needs a true in-line option, who can act as an extra tackle in the run game, this is not your guy. Kincaid isn’t going to split safeties in cover-two or pull away from fast DBs, but there are so many redeeming qualities to his game. The way he gets in and out of breaks is so effortless, he approaches the ball better than anybody in this class and is highly effective after the catch. For him to consistently be able to come up with those combat catches and how efficient he is once the ball is in his hands will translate very well to the next level, I believe. Like I said, he’s not a traditional Y, but considering he only started playing football in 2018 and still has some room to build up muscle, combined with the effort he displays as a blocker, will force defense to respect him as a tight-end and therefore create matchup issues in terms of the personnel usage, because he’s a legit extra receiver.



Michael Mayer


2. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

6’4”, 250 pounds; JR


The number two tight-end recruit in 2020, behind only Arik Gilbert, Mayer already stood out as a freshman with his natural receiving skills, as the TE1 for the Irish, forcing them to use eventual third-round pick Tommy Tremble as more of an H-back or fullback. He led the position group with 42 catches for 450 yards already that yeyr, but only two touchdowns. In 2021 he increased his numbers to 71 grabs for 840 yards and seven TDs, earning himself third-team All-American honors. And finally last year he made first-team All-American with nearly identical numbers (67-809-nine).


+ Looks and plays like your prototypical Y tight-end, but carries those 250 pounds very easily, with no clunky movement to speak of

+ Provides great effort and natural power as a blocker, along with the sheer size to deal with true hand-in-the-dirt defensive ends

+ Can consistently widen the edge near the point of attack and work in concert with the tackle on combos, to allow the ball-carrier to press that way on wide zone and other concepts

+ You see him cave in backside edge defenders to crash through the C-gap and allow the ball-carrier to cut all the way back regularly

+ Excels at bringing that inside foot around and putting his body in the way of edge defenders away from the action

+ Can take corners and safeties for a ride when asked to lead the way on fly sweeps, And he takes out multiple bodies on occasions

+ Whether it’s kick-outs on the backside or leading out to the corner away from his alignment, he was frequently brought across the formation and took out guys – Notre Dame would put him on the inside of tight bunches and almost pull out wide on those a few times, including some end-arounds, where he would revert out to the perimeter


+ Has shown plus alignment flexibility, with 859 snaps in-line, 472 in the slot and 136 out wide across the last two years

+ Eats up a lot of ground with those long strides and has those natural receiving skills, where he’s in control of his body and adjusts it to the ball

+ Ran a lot more corner routes and out-and-ups than you’d expect from a guy at 250+ pounds – led all draft-eligible TEs with eight catches of 20+ air yards

+ When flexed out wide, the way he could bend off the outside field and gain position on square-ins makes him an attractive target for easy yardage and to move the chains even if one-on-one with a corner

+ Uses his frame well to lean in and slightly push off to create separation against man-coverage

+ Can give safeties/slot defenders a little shake at the top of the route and beat them across their face, breaking in or out against defenders leveraged that way respectively

+ Understands when he’s supposed to just run off coverage and create rubs, choosing the stems/angles in accordance to create conflict for defenders


+ Fully extends for the ball on a consistent basis and instantly tucks it as he turns into a runner

+ Doesn’t struggle with contorting his body or tries to short-arm passes as it invites defenders back into the catch-point

+ Uses his body exceptionally well to shield defenders from the ball – hauled in 65.4% of his contested targets last season (17 of 26)

+ Yet when he has space, he can rip it out of the air and run through the catch – Often uses the momentum of the ball to turn himself upfield regularly on spot/hook/out routes

+ Becomes a load to bring down with the ball in his hands, lowering his pads and bouncing or spinning off tacklers, consistently falling forward for extra yardage

+ And what I love to see is how it instantly clicks for him to transition from route-runner to blocker as the ball goes to one of his teammates, displaying great effort and regularly putting smaller dudes on the ground

+ In terms of yards-per-game (68.7), Mayer finished ahead of even Georgia’s Brock Bowers as the most productive TE in the country and PFF awarded him with a 91.6 receiving grade


– Can end up lunging and losing his balance at times as a blocker, limiting the way he can sustain blocks for longer stretches

– Not a dynamic separator, who can push guys up the field with the way he comes off the ball and comes out of his breaks without any delay

– Could still improve his footwork off the line (becoming more efficient with it) to create release angles for himself against man-coverage, particularly when flexed out wide

– Ran an underwhelming 4.7 flat in the 40 and had just a 32.5-inch vert at the combine, and you don’t really see him pull away with pure speed from safeties before or after the catch


Take what I said about Dalton Kincaid in the paragraph above and completely flip it around. Mayer is a throwback, in terms of being able to play on the end of the line full-time and execute anything asked of him in terms of blocking assignments inside the box. Yet, he doesn’t seem uncomfortable detached and has been uber-productive as the primary target for the Irish. Now, you do have to question if he has the explosiveness or speed to be a consistent separator at the next level, but as long as the ball is placed accordingly, the way he uses his body and how strong his hands are, it seems to not matter a lot of times, because he hauls those passes in anyway. If Mayer enters the NFL a decade ago, he’s most likely a top-ten pick. In today’s game, his skill-set is worth more so a mid- to late-first capital.



Sam LaPorta


3. Sam LaPorta, Iowa

6’4”, 250 pounds; SR

A three-star recruit at Athlete, LaPorta finished second in the history of the state of llinois in receiving touchdown, yet the Hawkeyes were the only major conference program to make him an offer. Through his first two seasons, he caught 42 passes for 459 and one touchdown. He then had a big junior campaign with 53 receptions for 670 yards and three scores, but it was last season when he recognized as a first-team all-conference selection, with nearly identical numbers, other than only reaching the end-zone once.


+ His WR background shows up in the way he sets up defenders with his lower half – You see him really stick his foot in the ground and burst out of his breaks with easy sink in his hips

+ Does a nice job of attacking the blind-spot of defenders and forcing them to commit their shoulders, then straightening their routes before breaking guys off

+ Showcases an impressive ability to always create an angle for the ball to arrive on stick/out routes

+ Runs a mean angle/Texas route, to cross over defenders in off-man as he’s releasing out of stacks/bunches, and he constantly won on out routes at different depths by tilting towards the inside initially

+ Was regularly flexed out wide (65 snaps in ’22) and showed the ability to beat corners through multiple avenues of the route tree

+ Changes up his pace on the fly to take advantage of soft spots in zone coverage and understands when to bring his head around, as he’s cleared the underneath defense

+ Quickly recognizes when the initial route is dead and he has to find a secondary path


+ The positional versatility for LaPorta is unmatched in this class – He spent 381 snaps in-line, 28 in the backfield, 111 in the slot and 90 out wide this past season

+ Displays good concentration and strong hands in traffic, being able to hold onto the ball with defenders raking through his arms and grabbing his jersey

+ Consistently runs through the catch and there’s no pause to becoming a ball-carrier

+ Gets physical after the catch and has some sneaky wiggle to him, which is how he forced 20 missed tackles this past season – second-most among draft-eligible TEs

+ Showcases some impressive burst to get away from linebackers trying to redirect against him, catching one of those slide or crossing routes every game it seems like

+ Had an insane target share of 34.4% last season, which was the second-highest mark among Power-Five TEs since 2008 – and he had another top-15 number in that regard the year prior, And

+ Despite defenses being able to zero in on him, as part of arguably the worst offense in college football, LaPorta averaged a solid 2.15 and 2.16 yards per route these last two years


+ Yet, while LaPorta does his best work as a pass-catcher, you’re not going to start for the Hawkeyes if you don’t block in the run game

+ From the Y spot, you regularly saw him cut off or move the backside linebacker down the line, to allow the back to get vertical or cut behind him

+ Yet he can also widen the front-side C-gap on drive blocks pretty effectively against guys who try to get around him

+ Iowa moved him along the formation a lot, motioning in an offset fullback spot to lead-block or sift across the formation on split zone concepts, among others

+ Excels on those moving blocks against defenders out towards the perimeter, where he fits his hands under their arm-pit / at their hip and riding them off track

+ I just really like his aggressiveness when coming in on an angle and driving his feet to take defenders off track, and how he peels off later on, to get a piece of guys flashing with a chance to get to the ball

+ At the combine he ran 4.59 in the 40 at 245 pounds and had top-three numbers in both the agility drills, along with looking very fluid and effortlessly in how he moved around the field and caught the ball


– Received a run-blocking grade of just 53.1 by Pro Football Focus last year, not packing the strongest lower half to create a ton of displacement head-on against legit edge defenders

– I don’t see the explosiveness to really threaten guys vertically detached from the line and won’t be somebody you’ll actively target on (slot) fade routes or anything like that

– When we did see defenders get their hands on him early in the stem, LaPorta didn’t showcase the strength to get off contact quickly or make those combat catches like the guys at the very top of the class – hauled in only 14 of 34 contested catch opportunities (41.2%) since 2021

– Had 11 combined drops over these past two seasons, particularly when they got outside his frame and he didn’t look them in properly


While I wouldn’t say Utah or Notre Dame had great quarterback play, but you can easily argue how productive LaPorta has been as a receiver for an offense that would’ve been better off just punting the ball rather than putting the ball in the hands of any other skill-position player three times in a row, is more impressive than what anybody else in the class has done. I wouldn’t say he’s a great down the field threat and he doesn’t great great thickness or length to take advantage of being matched up with smaller defenders consistently, but I think the number of drops is reflective of the quality of hands and he’s a much better run-blocker than he gets credit for. In terms of setting up routes and making stuff happen with the ball in his hands, I would argue he’s right behind Dalton Kincaid. And just as a measure of his football character – LaPorta needed meniscus surgery right after the regular season, yet he still returned for Iowa’s bowl game, which many draft prospects skip even if fully healthy.



Darnell Washington


4. Darnell Washington, Georgia

6’7”, 265 pounds; JR

With eventual 2021-teammate Arik Gilbert as the only actual tight-end recruit ahead of this five-star ATHLETE, Washington caught 17 passes for 310 yards (and one touchdown) through his first two years with the Bulldogs. Despite playing with the best player in the country at that position in Brock Bowers, Washington made a name for himself with his giganteus size and some flashes of his athletic ability in 2022, putting up career-highs in catches (28), yards (454) and touchdowns (two).


+ Throughout his collegiate career, Washington was getting utilized more for his blocking than his talents as a receiver, but he proved his worth with how much Georgia used 12 personnel, despite having an All-American in Brock Bowers at the same position

+ Has the monstrous size to be one of the top in-line blockers at the position, with the sturdy frame and want to contribute for one of the top rushing offenses in the country, often times being tasked one-on-one with defensive ends

+ Can dig the inside shoulder into defenders lined up over him, to seal them away from the action, but also cave in one side and allow the back to navigate around the traffic

+ Has that strong inside hand, to get bodies turned, who try to stay square and allow enough of a lane to cut behind

+ You saw quite a few big runs off cutbacks on split zone, because Washington took out the guy chasing from the backside

+ And he would regularly be put him at the point of attack on plays out to the edge, where he was able to reach-block and pin the point-man

+ Shows the sufficient dexterity and balance to sustain blocks even when caught on a weird angle and not having both cleats properly planted in the turf

+ Georgia frequently utilized his blocking ability in space, whether it was pulling him out to the edge from off-set alignments or peeling back on linebackers when detached

+ When he digs his shoulder on a corner or safety out on the perimeter, he can emphatically put them on the turf


+ You can put Washington next to the offensive tackle and not allow safeties to widening in their zone drops because of the way he pushes down the field – If you do leave the middle of the field open with nobody turning and running with him, he can burn defenses in a hurry

+ Displays impressive acceleration out of his cuts for a man his size

+ With a quick turn and the wall he puts in front of defender on hook and stick routes makes nearly impossible to defend for smaller defenders

+ Clears the hook area in a hurry and becomes a real problem coming across off the formation on drag routes as well get out the backdoor when leaking into the flats off play-action

+ Presents a massive catch-radius with the largest wingspan ever by a tight-end at the combine (83 and 3/8 inches) along with massive 11-inch hands

+ Made several impressive over-the-head grabs, when even if trail defenders are in good position, it doesn’t matter

+ Washington’s speed with the ball in his hands and the momentum he builds up, makes him a rolling train for defenders to try getting in front of

+ Had an absurd play in the ’22 season-opener, where he tanked his near-270 pounds through defenders before hurdling another guy at the sideline at the tail-end, However, his blocking in-line might have actually been even more impressive, when you go back to the tape


+ Was a big piece of Georgia’s protections, especially off play-action, regularly sifting underneath the formation and picking up guys off the edge

+ His strong base and ability to move his feet to stay in front of guys makes him a real asset in that area

+ Earned a PFF grade of 78.3 as a receiver and 81.3 as a blocker last season

+ Ran a 4.64 in the 40 at 264 pounds and the third-best short-shuttle time of the entire event at 4.08, behind a WR and CB – both guys below 200 pounds

+ However, the two images that stick in my head are of course the one-handed grab on a goal-line fade to end the session, but even more so, watching him move the blocking sled as if it’s nothing, while most of the guys there were hammering their feet into the ground, desperately trying to create momentum

– You see him chop his feet and kind of telegraph his break on a large portion of routes and he ran a very simplistic route-tree at Georgia – routinely would simply be the outlet in the flats – and had very limited production – two career games with more than three catches and once had more than 65 yards

– Tends to clap at the ball when trying to haul it in and you see him double-catch quite a bit

– Only had a 31-inch vertical jump at the combine – worst mark among TEs – and for people thinking he could be a red-zone monster with his size, he hasn’t proven that he can be yet

– At his size, Washington presents an enormous strike zone for tacklers and you have to worry about how long he will last if DBs have to revert to go low on his constantly

– Could do a better job of establishing his first step and gets his center of gravity shifted too far over his toes in the run game, leading to him slipping off blocks because of it – needs to learn not to bend as much at the waist


This guy is an absolute monster aesthetically and for as many freaks as Georgia put out there on a weekly basis, this is who opponents probably least wanted to step off the bus. With how flexed out the game has become at all levels, it’s rare to see a player like this, who can be a legit third offensive tackle on the field but also run away from linebackers in the open field. Washington is raw as a route-runner, he clap-attacks the ball more than I’d like to see and there are some details he still has to learn in the run game. However, you can’t teach the sheer size and natural strength, giving him the potential to become one of the best blockers and he’s a nightmare to tackle. I don’t ever see him becoming an 800-900 yard receiver in the NFL, but the way he can provide with limited targets or even no targets is worthy of top-50 consideration.



Tucker Kraft


5. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

6’5”, 255 pounds; JR

Despite being an all-state player at running back, Kraft didn’t receive any FBS offers until Wyoming came in late, but he had already decided on the local Jackrabbits instead. After not seeing the field as a freshman and only catching seven passes in the spring of 2021, he hauled in 65 balls for 780 yards and six touchdowns the following fall (15 games), making him a first-team All-FCS selection. Last year he only played in nine contests, across which he caught 27 balls for 348 yards and three TDs.


+ Certainly not saying that he’s that type of player, but Kraft purely from an optics aspects looked like former SDSU star Dallas Goedert, as a big body, who can really move

+ Presents good girth throughout his frame, with a powerful lower half and the play-strength to lock horns with defensive linemen

+ Can create momentum on edge defenders at the point of attack as well as hinge-/reach-block away from the action equally well

+ Was asked to execute insert blocks and wrap-around on the play-side backer quite a bit, and did so to great effect, frequently creating knock-back at contact

+ Even as defenders accelerate into him and arch his back initially, he displays the balance to re-gain control, keeps his legs churning and moves those guys for the most part

+ Shows patience to not overrun targets in space typically

+ San Diego State put him at the tip of tight bunch sets regularly, where he was typically able to get the butt of the defender across from him to be pointed at the sideline and offer the ball-carrier plenty of space inside of him

+ Overall, I really like his body-control, competitiveness and finishing mentality as a blocker


+ For a guy above the 250-pound mark, Kraft has legit juice and he was regularly deployed on deep overs and benders

+ Along with that, they used his large frame on chips and chip-release stuff, to have him as a dump-off option in the flats

+ Plus, you like what he presents as a big target over the middle on digs and hooks, making him a three-level threat

+ Instantly gets his head around as he clears the underneath coverage

+ SDSU put him as the de-facto X receiver in three-by-one sets and used his big frame on slant routes frequently

+ Tested in the 62nd percentile or better for the position at every single combine event


+ Kraft’s large mitts really swallow the ball and he fluidly turns his body for passes, without having to actually slow down

+ Yet he also understands when to wrap up the ball with two arms with people around him

+ Only dropped two of 29 catchable targets this past season

+ As somebody who flashed to me before I saw him anywhere on consensus boards, whenever I saw him catch the ball on the broadcast, he seemed to gain ground on defenders

+ Can beat guys towards the sideline, in combination with the stiff-arm, as well as build up that momentum and steam through guys in his path

+ Once he gets rolling, he becomes a load to bring down with that trunky lower body to slip off hits

+ Uses his off-arm well to swipe away the reach of would-be-tacklers and you actually see him switch sides as defenders approach from different sides

 + Despite his physicality, he only fumbled once across 106 career touches


– Wasn’t asked to run many intricate or really any multi-break routes, while the quicks may not be there to really stress defenders with what he does at the break point – You see a lot of rounded cuts, which will not allow him to consistently create separation at the next level

– Not somebody with the juice to threaten safeties and big nickel defenders going down the field

– Has a bad tendency of clapping at the ball occasionally, particularly when having to leave his feet for it

– In the run game, he still needs to work on getting his butt closer to the ground and his hands tighter inside the chest of defender, to really taking advantage of his lower-body strength

– Certainly benefitted from being a man amongst boys in the FCS, where even if his technique, he was able to move people as a blocker and defenders couldn’t really tackle him


Kraft became one of my favorite tight-end prospects during the 2021 season already, because of his grit and physicality for the position. We’ll have to see how that translates to a high level of competition, but there’s nothing on tape that would suggest he can’t make an impact as a blocker in the NFL, if he continues to work on the details in that regard. As a receiver, there may be some limitations in terms of running away from defenders and I’ll be interested to see how well he fares when asked to become a more precise route-runner. With that being said, what he can bring after the catch, to slip into the flats off bootlegs or peel off as a dump-off option, being able to build up momentum and run through people in his way, I think he has the potential to become a slower version of what George Kittle was early in his career.



Luke Musgrave


6. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

6‘6”, 250 pounds; SR


One of the 1000 highest-ranked recruits in the country for 2019 as a multi-sport athlete and the nephew of Cal OC Bill Musgrave, Luke’s usage increased every single year with the Beavers, going from just two catches as a true freshman, then 12 for 142 yards as a sophomore and 22 for 304 plus a touchdown in 2021. He also blocked a punt and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown in a 42-34 win over Utah and was named the Pac-12 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Musgrave was limited to just two games this past season before injuring his knee, but not before catching 11 passes for 169 yards and a TD.


+ Consistent in his first steps and angles in the run game

+ Works up through contact with tight hands and provides plus effort

+ Regularly is able as edge defender try to go upfield, to place his hands underneath their pads/arm-pit and get them turned further to the outside

+ Uses the momentum of safeties coming down from depth against them, to slightly push them off track and create a lane for the ball-carrier

+ His athleticism is a plus getting him out to the perimeter on fly sweeps and end-arounds

+ While he may not have the physicality to become a legit in-line blocker, you rarely see him miss and his guy makes the tackle and he’s talked himself about the joy he’s found in making a mark in that area, where you see some improvements overall in 2022 and him celebrating after a big conversion on the ground

+ Understands when to let go and avoid being flagged for holding


+ Glides across the field more like a big wide receiver, with 4.61 speed at 253 pounds, looking at his combine measurements (he also had an elite 10’5” broad jump there)

+ Asking linebackers to carry him down the middle is often a recipe for failure – averaged 12.5 yards in average depth of target for his career

+ Has some suddenness to elude contact as guys try to press him off the line and does a great job of attacking the edges of second level defenders, while using his hands to avoid getting hung up with them as he’s stemming down the seams

+ Physical with the way he fights through traffic, trying to release from in-line alignments, but also understands how to be elusive and sneak out on in-and-ups or as an option on delayed releases and trick-play type of stuff

+ Runs a nice dig route, where he really sells vertically and gives a subtle nod to the outside, before breaking away from the safety when matched up one-on-one

+ Crafty with the way he releases on play-action – was utilized on some deep overs and downfield routes off run-fakes (27-yard touchdown versus Boise State in 2022 on drag-and-up)

+ Understands right away when to bring his head around, as he’s entering voids in zone coverage or has cleared the second level down the seams


+ Absorbs the ball with those large paws (10 and 3/8 inches) – extending, plucking and also quickly pulling the ball into his frame

+ Tracks the ball very well over either shoulder

+ Shows impressive flexibility to pull in passes that arrive at his feet

+ Understands when he enters crowded windows and needs to instantly pull it into his belly, to protect against nearby defenders raking at it

+ While he only appeared in two games, before injuring his knee last year, his 3.38 yards per route run led all FBS tight-ends up to that point and Oregon State’s QB had a passer rating of 132.4 when targeting him

+ Clearly stood above the rest at the Senior Bowl, regularly leaving linebackers and safeties behind in the dust on seam, post and corner routes, along with some nifty head-fakes to win against their leverage and eating away with hook/stick routes during team drills.


– Still learning how to really activate his lower half as a blocker and lacks the sheer physicality you like to see from somebody at his size

– While his initial approach is good, Musgrave doesn’t really attach his hands to the chest of defenders and sustains blocks

– Still fairly raw as a route-runner in large part simply due to a lack of experience, not being super-efficient in the way he sets up his breaks and there’s a lot of rounding them off

– Has the speed to keep on running after the catch for extended yardage, but isn’t really going to make somebody miss or run them over – only forced two missed tackles across 48 career touches

– Doesn’t play particularly strong at the catch point, being able to use his frame and extend for the ball through contact, which resulted in a 38.9% contested catch rate for his career


The fact a tight-end with slightly above 600 career receiving yards, who doesn’t present a great blocking profile, is considered a top-50 prospect is very telling about today’s NFL – it’s all about traits. Musgrave has prototypical height and elite speed for the position. I do believe with the right coaching and commitment to the weight-room he can become a player who contributes as an in-line blocker, but at this point he’s Mike Gesicki coming out of Penn State, only without the basketball-like skills to box out and win above the rim. What he put on display during Senior Bowl is very intriguing, especially considering it was his first time on a football field in about half a year and he said himself that he isn’t quite back to his former self. To me he’s more of a late second-rounder, but I believe he can be a seam threat right away and at least take care of some sort of cut-off blocks.



Luke Schoonmaker


7. Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

6’5”, 250 pounds; RS JR

A top-1000 overall recruit in 2018, Schoonmaker barely saw action early in his career, before establishing himself as TE2 in 2021 and then doubling his previous numbers last season, with 35 catches for 418 yards, along with three touchdowns.


+ Plays with the natural sink in his hips and bend in his knees to be a legit asset as an in-line blocker

+ Is sound with his hand-placement and how he rolls his hips through contact in that regard – if he’s able to create that initial momentum or edge defenders try to get him, his continued leg drive allows him to widen guys off their landmarks

+ Most importantly, he keeps his weight centered and doesn’t end up on the turf very often whilst shielding defenders, with that balance to re-gain leverage after getting stood up off the snap

+ Very comfortable executing insert blocks from offset alignments and lead-blocks when put in the backfield, where he typically is able to get his hands underneath the chest of linebackers

+ Consistently digs his shoulder into the near-half of backside edge defenders on sift blockers and is able to eliminate them from the play

+ Effectively aligns his base and stays wide with his feet to pin linebackers inside when runs are designed to get out to the perimeter

+ Does a good job of breaking down in space and landing his hands inside the frame of linebackers and safeties in the run game, from detached alignments

+ I was very impressed with Schoonmaker’s ability to be able to initiate clean contact with defenders in space, even after a long run-way, at times circling back around on reverses


+ Drops his hips and gets out of break very naturally/effortlessly for a guy his height

+ Shows the ability force coverage players with outside leverage to tilt their hips inside with a slight nod that way and be able to win on out routes

+ And he understands when to straighten out for a split-second after his release off the line, so safeties can’t drive down on him working across the field

+ Can add a little wiggle or head-fake at the top of his routes, to make off-defenders freeze their feet

+ Sudden to make that 90-degree cut and simultaneously swiping away from off-coverage defenders trying to initiate contact, to create that window for uncontested catches if the ball comes out on time in the quick game

+ Very fluid in his movement stemming routes and avoiding contact by ancillary zone defenders, understanding how be elusive and also sneaky with the way he releases off play-action

+ Has the quick burst and gets his head around immediately as he releases off chips and play-action, for easy yardage against pressure

+ Understands how to pace and sit down his routes accordingly going against zone coverage


+ Showcases some really strong hands and focus in traffic, to not be affected as defenders swipe at the ball

+ Only dropped two of 37 catchable targets last season

+ Snaps his head around and brings the ball in his body instantly, to make himself very effective on hook and stick routes

+ Bends off either foot and transition up the field seamlessly after the grab, making sure he consistently gains positive yardage

+ Has some pretty impressive burst once the ball touches his hands and recognizes when to cut inside of guys flying up from depth on him


– Powerful edge defenders can overwhelm him at the point of attack at times – That’s why Michigan let Erick All typically play the Y-role in 12 personnel sets

– While he does approach rushers accordingly, I don’t see the grip strength and anchor strength to sustain blocks as a pass-protector at a high level, with guys slipping off him a second or two in frequently

– Saw very little vertical usage or balls thrown up to him through contact, with just two catches of 20+ yards and in contested situations each last season (on seven contested attempts)

– Doesn’t offer much after the catch, in terms of dynamic cuts or powerful running through contact – just one missed tackle forced on his 35 catches last season


If you’re looking for a safe option at the tight-end position in the middle rounds, Schoonmaker is somebody I’d very much like to target. He’s already well-coached as an in-line blocker, is loose in the hips to run just about any route you ask of him and he doesn’t waste any time to gain additional yardage. He doesn’t give you a ton in the vertical game and he’s not a make-you-miss type of player after the catch. However, I think there is untapped potential with this young man, which is a common theme for skill-position player at Michigan, where so much of his usage was built off the run game and he wasn’t allowed to show his skills as a route-runner in isolated situations. With his burst off the line from either two- or three-point stances, I believe he’ll benefit from being able to work a more extensive route-tree. The one hold-up here for some teams is that he will already turn 25 years old less than a month into the upcoming NFL season.



Davis Allen


8. Davis Allen, Clemson

6’6”, 245 pounds; SR

One of the top-1000 overall recruits in 2019, Allen was limited to five catches as a true freshman, before having a solid follow-up campaign as the TE2 for the Tigers and then taking on the starting gig in 2021. This past season, he caught 39 passes for 443 yards and five touchdowns, which is basically what he combined for over the prior two years.


+ Initiates contact with low pads and shoots his hips through the defender, in order to create that initial movement on drive-blocks

+ Makes sure to close the gap to the tackle or even step slightly behind him when securing the backside, with nobody outside of him

+ Maintains a wide base and keeps his weight centered, along with active feet, in order to rarely slip/fall off blocks

+ Works up to the second under control and breaks down well, to latch his hands inside the frame of those backers

+ The Tigers ran a bunch of GF power/counter with him on the wrap-around isolated against linebackers and he was able to take of his assignments effectively by covering up guys

+ Does a great job of getting his outside foot around and shielding edge defender/linebackers as the “point-man” on toss plays

+ Excellent on-the-move blocker, from offset and alignments, to snatch up smaller defenders and maintain contact with them

+ Clemson regularly put him in motion and used that ability to put hands on targets in space, specifically in the screen game, along with backside kick-outs on split zone


+ Lined up all over the formation for Clemson – in-line, wing, H-back, slot and out wide

+ Graceful mover at his weight and can drop his hips very effectively on cuts

+ Provides the burst off the line to threaten down the seams, as well as be an asset on corner routes out of the slot

+ The Tigers frequently tasked him with option routes from wing-alignments, where he could shake off linebackers and some down-safeties one-on-one

+ Sits down routes with ease, not having to chop his feet and leading defenders to the break-point

+ Was legitimately used as a chain-mover and target for easy yardage on early downs, running hitches and slants as the single receiver in the boundary – 19 of his 39 catches last season resulted in first downs

+ Had a passer rating when targeted above 100 every year with Clemson, including a mark of 126.5 this past season


+ Plucks the ball at the highest point and rips it into his body instantly, when the quarterback puts it on the top shelf for him

+ Never dropped more than one pass in a season (one on 40 catchable targets in 2022)

+ Has some impressive catches on tape, where he plucks the ball off the helmet of defenders trailing him down the seams

+ Brings the frame to sustain catches through hits and keep the ball pinned to his body; His contested catch rate of 91.7% this past season is unheard of (11 of 12) – and he was at 75% the year prior

+ Eats up some pretty good ground with the ball tucked away and packs a nice stiff-arm to throw out against pursuing defenders

+ Trusts his hands to not stop as the ball is placed slightly behind him – 194 of his 443 yards last year came after the catch (43.8%)

+ His tape includes some impressive pass-pro reps in terms of technique, keeping rushers square and working from a wide base, and in terms of the ankle flexion, to get all cleats into the turf


– Has his pads knocked back by box defenders fairly regularly, when he’s closing that distance to the tackle and looking to seal the backside and they decide to fill the C-gap

– Not somebody who necessarily imposes himself physically as a route-runner – you see defenders widen his release when they do out their hands on him, specifically when he gets run into the sideline on fades lining up as a boundary receiver

– Could still incorporate some more nuances running routes, such as working in body-leans and head-fakes on a regular basis

– Slaps his hands onto the ball instead of having them in place on leak routes, bubbles, etc., where he tries to run through the catch

– Ran an underwhelming 4.84 in the 40 and will not come close to his insane contested-catch rate against NFL defenders, who are better at playing the ball


I outlined Allen as one of “my guys”, considering he’s comfortably outside the top-ten at the position based on consensus boards and I just feel like that’s due to a combination of people looking at what he ran at the combine and his limited production – which was largely dependent on an up-and-down passing game for the Tigers. You can argue in terms of being technically sound and taking care of his assignments, only Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is a better blocking TE at this moment, among the names currently projected to be drafted. I’d like to see him become more physical and incorporate some more details to his routes, that won’t show up when they’re drawn up on paper, but his ability to find openings against man or zone, combined with the way he attacks the ball in the air makes him a highly reliable target in the pass game. And he was only penalized four times throughout his career (1853 snaps).



Josh Whyle


9. Josh Whyle, Cincinnati

6’6”, 245 pounds; SR

A top-500 overall recruit in 2018, Whyle caught only two passes as a true freshman, before registering nearly identical numbers each of the following three seasons, averaging 29 catches for 337 yards and five touchdowns, earning second-team in 2020 and first-team All-AAC honors in 2022 respectively

+ Lands his hand inside the chest well initially, rolls his hips into contact and maintains a wide base in the run game

+ And he displays impressive balance, to not get knocked back or turned sideways as he initiates contact with box-defenders who have a runway to build up momentum as the charge into him

+ Was regularly utilized as a lead-puller on GF power/counter or turning up inside the tackle next to him, where he consistently is able to center his blocks on defenders in the hole and give the ball-carrier room to operate

+ Can blow backside edge defenders out of the action on sift/kick-out blocks, frequently after motioning inside from detached alignments

+ Lands some impactful crack-blocks on defensive ends on toss and sweep plays, to create a softer corner for his names to pull around

+ Quick out of his stance and up in the face of safeties from wing-alignments, being able to cover them up and allowing the ball to get out to the perimeter

+ Consistently takes care of his man in the quick screen game, choosing the appropriate angles and forcing guys to go through him – Generally does a great job of breaking down in space and making sure to secure challenging blocks


+ Easy burst off the line to threaten defenses vertically, on seam routes and benders, where he rapidly clears the second level

+ Doesn’t tilt or give away breaks prematurely, with discipline in his stem and not having to throttle down a whole lot

+ Can reduce his size and make those sharp 90-degree cuts very well, as well as change up gears on the fly, Yet he can also bend off the inside foot fluidly on quick out-breaking routes

+ Regularly beats safeties in off-coverage on slant or glance routes, by sticking that outside football in the ground with force and typically not being contested as he catches the ball, because they can’t drive forward quickly enough

+ Was open on quite a few corner routes, where he pushed them up the field and made them commit their hips before perfectly timing up he worked across their face – Unfortunately he was rarely targeted on those

+ Delays the way he gets into some of his routes on cross-releases and patterns where he can’t get to his landmarks too quickly, with good secondary burst when he does hit it

+ Shows the awareness for when the slow or sit down routes as he enters soft-spots in zone coverage


+ Super-reliable hands with consistent technique if he has to extend in front of him or over his head – only dropped one of 33 catchable targets last season and four across 86 over the last three

+ Secured some challenging receptions, where he had to pick the ball up inches above the ground

+ Displays the body-control and looseness to adjust to off-center passes without looking like he’s caught in awkward positions

+ His ability to turn up the field instantly after the catch was something to note on a couple of occasions

+ No-nonsense type of ball-carrier, who can weave through traffic but doesn’t stop his feet much

+ More than half of his career yardage total has come after the catch (567 of 1060) and 57 of his 88 total catches were turned into first downs (64.8%)

+ The Bearcats regularly brought him across the formation and hit him for easy yardage on slide routes off play-action


– Gets too far over his skis as a blocker and falls forward at times as he’s approaching contact

– Needs to work on re-fitting his hands and finding leverage again without having to lean/lunge into defenders – bigger defensive ends could certainly give him issues

– His 4.69 in the 40 was below-average for the TE group, he had the fourth-worst vertical jump at 33.5 inches & he was tied for the worst broad at 9’7”

– Only has 31.5-inch arms at 6’6” and ½ – that played part in hauling in just two of seven contested targets last year

– Forced just two missed tackles in 2022, without the strongest lower body to bounce off hits


Whyle presents more of a high-cut, long build. That comes with positives and negatives. The way he can burst off the line and easily bend his routes, along with being able to “play small” when he does not to sit down and be precise in his cuts, is impressive. However, that higher center of gravity gives him issues taking charge of blocks in terms of working up through contact as well as staying attached to them. With that being said, he can get open against safeties, catches the ball naturally and quickly makes those count. He certainly plays faster than he timed and I think can be a valuable flex option combined with some H-back/wing duties, but I would have liked to see more in contested catch situations as well as being able to break tackles. That’s why he’s not even higher. In the comp pick to very early day three range is where I see him.



Brenton Strange


10. Brenton Strange, Penn State

6’4”, 255 pounds; RS JR

A top-500 overall recruit in 2018, Strange increased his production all four years with the Nittany Lions, finishing 2022 with career-highs across the board (32-362-five)

+ Presents dense, powerful frame and is out for blood as a blocker

+ Uses a wide base and great leg-drive to take care of his in-line duties in the run game

+ When defenses line up a safety on the edge of Strange, he’s highly capable of taking that guy for a ride or even pancake him

+ Effectively takes care of kick-out and sift-block assignments, plus there are snaps of this guy crack-blocking defensive ends off near-motion and drive them past the entire offensive line

+ Spent 94 snaps in the backfield last year, regularly being tasked with iso-blocks on inside linebackers as a fullback or from split sets, where he explodes his hips into contact to set the tone and digs guys out of the lane with continuous leg-drive

+ Highly effective at shielding off DBs in the screen game and Penn State made it a priority to motion or just put him to the right side because of it

+ Excels at sustaining blocks against moving targets, re-placing his hands to take defenders off track, but without grabbing and understanding when he needs to let go (only two career flags for holding) – his dexterity in the upper and lower half to not slip off targets at odd angles is impressive


+ Impressive burst off the line and has those arms pumping with a forward-lean

+ Can really sit down in the chair and be crisp in his breaks – Offers a quick turn on stick and hook routes, to present a reliable target underneath

+ Understands how to create angles for himself against off-man defenders, widening his stem in order to create more jump when he jumps inside, as well as when to cut his break into two parts and actively nudge guys off

+ You definitely see a feel for route pacing and ability to navigate through traffic as a route-runner

+ Friendly to his quarterback with the way he settles and doesn’t drift towards traffic in the shallow areas, while instantly clicking if he becomes the hot read on fire-zone; Along with recognizes when the initial route is dead and he needs to slide away from ancillary zone defenders

+ Does a great job when he isn’t the intended target, to understand how to create openings for his fellow receivers with the angles he chooses and how he pulls defenders with him

+ The 4.7 in the 40 won’t blow you away and the agility were only in the low 30s in terms of percentile for the position at the combine, but the 1.57 ten-yard split, the 36-inch vert and the 10’4” broad jump were all at the 82nd percentile or better, showing his explosiveness


+ Really worked on the way he actively approaches the ball instead of allowing it to get into his body, only dropping one of 33 catchable targets in 2022

+ Shows no issues dealing with contact to his backside and defenders driving at the catch-point from the side – Hauled in five of his eight contested targets this past season

+ Transitons upfield swiftly and regularly lets the momentum of passes carry him up the field

+ Constantly is looking to push forward and gains yards through contact, with quite a few would-be-tacklers bouncing off him, showcasing great contact-balance

+ Averaged 7.3 yards after the catch and forced seven missed tackle on 32 catches last year, with 64.1% of his production coming once the ball was in his hands

+ Penn State would frequently bring him underneath the formation and hit him on slide routes off play-action for some easy chain-movers

+ Converted 56.3% of his receptions into first downs and had a passer rating of 135.0 when targeted


– As physical and effective as he was a blocker near the point of attack, there is certainly room for improvement in terms of initial footwork and hand-placement, as he deals with more well-schooled edge defenders

– Not somebody who will really scare defenses with his long-speed, to blow by defenders who end up sinking along with him

– Ran a fairly simplistic route-tree with the Nittany Lions and will need to prove he can set a wider variety of breaks effectively, in particular further down the field

– His 31 and 1/8-inch arms in the bottom-third percentile and we don’t have much proof of him being able to win above the rim

– Has some pretty bad drops on his 2021 tape, where he seems to have his hand in place, but doesn’t actively extend and pluck the ball


There has been some more buzz around Strange recently and I think he will go higher than consensus boards would suggest currently. While his technique near the attack-point can vain a little bit, there is no question about his grit and power as a blocker. I don’t have an officially statistic on this, but I feel pretty confident in saying Strange leads this tight-end class in pancake blocks. His production and usage in the pass game was pretty limited at Penn State, but the natural ability to sink his hips and how much his approach catching the ball has improved last season, makes me believe his best days in that regard are in front of him. Without break-away speed and shorter arms, he may never be one of the top players at the position, but at the very worst, he should be a high-quality TE2 with great alignment versatility.



The upside can’t be ignored:


Zack Kuntz


Zach Kuntz, Old Dominion

6’7”, 255 pounds; RS SR

A top-200 overall recruit in 2018, Kuntz could never join a very good line of Penn State tight-ends. He only appeared in one game as a true freshman and over the following two seasons he was almost exclusively used on special teams, combining for just three catches as a Nittany Lion. After that he transferred to Old Dominion, where he immediately turned into a star for the Monarchs. Despite having his final season cut short less than five full games in, when he got his foot twisted underneath a tackler, Kuntz was able to haul in 85 passes for 836 yards and seven touchdowns across 18 games with ODU. In the program’s final season in Conference-USA, he was named first-team all-conference in 2021.


+ While he’s not your prototypical Y on the ball, Kuntz actually lined up as a wing about half the time and took on different responsibilities in the run game

+ Brings his hips and drives his legs through blocks on C-gap defenders to cave in that side pretty well and allows the back to cut behind him on duo

+ Was regularly deployed as a blocker on the move, coming across the formation on kickouts and leading up into the hole on GF counter

+ Does a nice job of landing contact with the inside shoulder when sifting towards the backside edge on split zone

+ Not afraid to trap D-tackles after motioning inside from detached alignments and basically hitting them at full force

+ Allowed the ball to get out to the perimeter by cutting off linebackers from wing-alignment on fly sweeps and some other plays

+ Is able to take care of safeties with a wide, low base for the most part


+ Was regularly utilized as a vertical receiver on slot fade and corner routes

+ Light on his feet for a big body, to where he makes bending on glance/slant routes and pivoting back towards the quarterback look easy

+ Can give a little stutter and cleanly beat safeties and slot defenders across their face on in-breaking routes

+ ODU targeted him a few times running out-and-ups as the single receiver to his side or from wing alignments

+ Uses his off-arm very well to swipe down the hands of hook/overhang defenders trying to widen his route stem

+ Shows some quicks to elude defenders in space and slide inside of them when they’re leveraged that way as he has to work away from them on breaks across the field

+ Can incorporate some head-fakes breaking off routes, to get safeties turned the wrong way down the field – he did so on the go-ahead touchdown versus Virginia last year with a minute left, before their opponents were able to ultimately win on a field goal


+ Plucks the ball at full extension when he can and has impressive over-the-head catches on tape

+ Doesn’t seem bothered by the arms of defenders extending for the ball minimizing/affecting his vision

+ Dropped only five of 90 catchable targets across these past two seasons

+ Will quickly eat up ground with those long strides after the grab, if you give him space to work with

+ Had one of the best all-around combine showings we’ve ever seen from a tight-end, where he was just one 100th of a second in the 40 and four 100ths of a second in the short-shuttle away from sweeping the board for the position, including a 4.55 in the 40, a 40-inch vert and the fourth-best short-shuttle time among all players in Indy (4.12)

+ While it may not be part of his future plans, Kuntz didn’t shy away from doing the dirty work and putting his body in the way, when pass-protecting against edge rushers or sliding inside from wing alignments and picking up a blitzing linebacker up the A-gap as a personal protector


– Not somebody who brings much thump at contact as a blocker and is more so shielding defenders or riding them off track

– Can’t sit in the chair as well as some of other TEs with that height and rounds off too many breaks or tilts off defenders with what’s coming

– Needs to do a better job of manipulating (off-man) defenders at the top of the route and not allowing them to cut off his path, forcing himself to work through contact

– Lacks a certain understanding for how to uses different paces as he’s navigating through zone coverages – when to slow down, re-accelerate, sit down, etc.

– Doesn’t appear to be a particularly physical player at the catch point or somebody who puts his body in-between the ball and the defender, as he hauled in just ten of 24 contested catch opportunities (41.7%) over the last two seasons combined


As good as this tight-end class is all-around, Kuntz stands above the rest with the historic combine he put up at the combine. I’m not sure if he quite plays up to those and his height creates some challenges in terms of being able to find leverage in the run game, as well as efficiently getting through his freaks and keeping defenders off balance with his body-language out in the pattern. The combination of explosiveness, long speed and catch radius make him a very intriguing prospect and somebody who could go as early as anybody outside the top-six. As a former high jump and hurdle standout, how much muscle he can still add to his frame will be crucial for his potential in-line usage and the improvements we may see from him in terms of being able to come down with combat catches. If his future team can improve his strength and flexibility by a good 10%, his ceiling is very high.




The next few names:

Payne Durham (Purdue), Cameron Latu (Alabama), Will Mallory (Miami), Blake Whiteheart (Wake Forest), Noah Gindorff (North Dakota State) & Daniel Barker (Michigan State)

For in-depth breakdowns of the NFL and college football, head over to my page and my Youtube channel

Twitter: @halilsfbtalk
Instagram: @halilsrealfootballtalk


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