The 2023 NFL Draft is just days away, and NFL teams are putting the finishing touches on their draft boards. From the Shrine Bowl, to the Senior Bowl, to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, to pro days, there have been plenty of events to shake up the rankings since January. However, all the aforementioned events are now in the rearview mirror, which means it is time to release the SB Nation 2023 NFL Draft Rankings!
Today, we will be ranking and analyzing the top ten tight ends in the upcoming draft. These rankings are based off a vote that was taken amongst some of SB Nation’s community draft analysts. These rankings are not a reflection of any one person’s rankings, but rather a consensus of multiple opinions.
This year’s tight end class is one of the deepest in recent memory, as we could see as many as four go in Round 1 and ten inside the first three rounds. What I find interesting about the top of the class is the plethora of styles of tight ends. From blocking tight ends who remain in-line, to fast tight ends to align in the slot, to supersized tight ends who are simply matchup nightmares, there is something for everyone in this class.
Here are SB Nation’s top-10 tight end rankings for the 2023 NFL Draft.
1. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Mayer is by far the most complete tight end in the NFL Draft, and he received all but one of our first-place votes. The sure-handed, big-bodied pass catcher from Notre Dame possesses solid speed, excellent hands, and a large catch radius. Also known for having great ball skills, Mayer does a great job of tracking the football in the air and knowing when to turn around to make a play on the ball. He is going to be an immediate contributor in his rookie season, and the team that takes him may be getting one of the next upper-echelon NFL tight ends.
2. Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Kincaid, who received the other first-place vote in our polling, is the typical modern-day tight end who will almost exclusively reside out of the slot. The most complete receiving tight end in the class, Kincaid possesses soft hands, superb body control, and impressive route-running ability. Teams that miss out on their favorite receiver late in Round 1 may opt to take a stab on a guy like Kincaid rather than reaching for a different receiver.
3. Darnell Washington, Georgia
Washington’s modest numbers are not due to a lack of ability, but rather a lack of opportunity. Despite being the TE2 in Georgia’s offense, Washington made a huge impact on their championship run, specifically as a run blocker. With sure hands, a massive catch radius, and surprisingly good speed, Washington will surely make an NFL team happy, whether it be a team picking in the late first or early second round. His rankings here were consistent as either second or third on everyone’s lists.
4. Sam LaPorta, Iowa
To have over 650 yards in a season highlighted by Iowa’s offensive deficiencies is nothing short of impressive. The area I am more concerned about with LaPorta is blocking. LaPorta does not have the strongest lower body, which causes him to be supplanted as a blocker and driven back by pass rushers when playing in-line. He is willing, and I believe he will improve in time, but expectations should be tempered in Year 1. If LaPorta’s blocking can improve, he has the potential to become a top-ten tight end in the league.
5. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
Musgrave is one of many tight ends in this class whose draft stock has been affected by injuries. Limited to only two games in 2022, it took time for Musgrave’s stock to begin moving in the right direction, but after an impressive showing at the combine, first-round buzz began to pick up. He will not do much as a blocker, but his combination of size and speed is too much for average safeties and linebackers to handle in the middle of the field.
6. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
One thing I really appreciate about Kraft is his feistiness as a run blocker. He does not have the greatest blocking technique or refinement, but he never gives up on a play, even if it looks as if he is beat. He has active hands, good leg drive, and the necessary awareness to both diagnose and follow through as a blocker. Although you will see an occasional drop on tape, Kraft is typically a sure-handed receiving weapon who can beat slower linebackers with his athleticism and beat the average defensive back with his size. If he falls outside the top 80 picks, he will be a true steal.
7. Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
If you want a true matchup piece with superb athleticism, look no further than Zack Kuntz. A transfer from Penn State, Kuntz participated in only 5 games in 2022, recording a mere 12 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nonetheless, I have fallen in love with his upside. Standing at 6’7, Kuntz naturally struggles to keep the pads low as a run blocker, but his lengthy frame will allow him to add extra weight at the next level. That should help solidify his base and prevent him from getting supplanted as a blocker so often.
8. Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan
Schoonmaker is an intriguing tight end who is dangerous working up the seam. He is not an elite athlete, and he is not the most thickly-built, but he does provide a big catch radius as well as reliable hands. Running a faster 40 than I expected (4.63), Schoonmaker has moved up my board and is now a guy I could see being taken before the conclusion of Day 2.
9. Brenton Strange, Penn State
Strange has been a late riser in the draft process, solidifying himself as a viable Day 2 option. Despite only moderate production at the collegiate level, Strange’s game translates well to the pros, as his physicality, both as a run blocker and receiver, is amongst the best in the class. He can also align from anywhere in the formation, displaying great versatility and flexibility.
10. Payne Durham, Purdue
Durham is not the most dynamic athlete, but his ability to high-point the ball in the red zone makes him a dangerous weapon near the goal line. Durham’s hand placement is inconsistent as a run blocker, but he displays decent power and a willingness to do the dirty work. We may not have seen the best of him yet.
Source: SB Nation