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2023 NFL Draft: Tight end rankings with pro comparisons

SEC Championship - LSU v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft process well underway, there is a much clearer picture of the 2023 class than there was even a month ago. With exhibition games and the Combine now in the past, it is easier to build a full profile of this year’s prospects. This wide receiver class lacks the star power of years passed, but it has some intriguing players who could contribute early in the right situation.

1) Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Michael Mayer wins with technique, toughness, and smooth athleticism. Michael Mayer is the next in line for great Notre Dame tight ends. He is an extremely skilled receiver for the position and the Fighting Irish repeatedly moved him around their offense to get favorable matchups. He is a skilled route runner who gets open with sharp cuts and a great feel for attacking soft spots in coverage. He has soft, dependable hands that helped him catch 180 passes in three years, outrageous production for a college tight end. Mayer makes his name as a receiver, but he is a high effort blocker as well.

Michael Mayer can take a leap by continuing to strengthen his strengths to offset any sort of weakness. Michael Mayer is good, not great athlete. This just means he will need to continue honing his skills as a receiver, becoming an even better route runner while improving on his already advanced feel for the game to be a threat in the NFL. He is very much an “on the ground” type of pass catcher.

Pro Comparison: Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals

2) Darnell Washington, Georgia

Darnell Washington wins with overwhelming size, athleticism and advanced impact as a blocker. Darnell Washington’s impact at Georgia is harder to directly correlate to what he could do in the NFL. Washington played alongside all-world tight end Brock Bowers in an offense that ran the ball quite a bit. So Washington was relegated to being the second tight end and blocked quite a bit. That being said, he is a tremendous blocker that will immediately get his way on the field by functioning almost as a sixth lineman. At over 6’6” and 264 pounds with long arms and huge hands, he can erase defensive lineman with his blocking. Washington is also a great athlete with surprising speed, soft hands, and the ability to pick up tough yards after the catch.

Darnell Washington can take a leap by getting more experience as a pass catching tight end. Washington has caught 45 passes in his whole career, and while he had great efficiency when used in the passing game, his role was typically pretty simple. Washington has limitless potential as an NFL tight end, he just has a long journey to achieve it.

Pro Comparison: Logan Thomas, Washington Commanders

3) Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Dalton Kincaid wins with a combination of great athleticism, route running prowess and ball skills. Dalton Kincaid might be the best pure receiving tight end to come out in the last two years. He caught 174 passes in four full seasons with 35 of those catches going for scores. That is outrageous production for a college tight end. Kincaid is basically a 6’4”, 245 pound wide receiver who can outrun linebackers and outmuscle most defensive backs.

Dalton Kincaid can take a leap by providing anything as a blocker. Kincaid is a liability when it comes to in-line blocking. This is not a death sentence for the modern tight end, not by a long shot. However it limits how teams can deploy Kincaid, hampering scheme flexibility. Kincaid is not big for the position, so a lot of it just needs to come from improved technique and effort. That will go a long way.

Pro Comparison: Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns

The Rest

4) Sam LaPorta, Iowa

5) Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

6) Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

7) Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

8) Brenton Strange, Penn State

9) Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion

10) Josh Whyle, Cincinnati

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