2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (2023)

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (1)

Doug Farrar

April 27, 2023 6:45 AM ET

As much as the modern NFL is 3×1 in the passing game, the ways in which teams arrive at that equation are very different. Last season, the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs, known primarily for their explosive passing game, ranked second in the league in dropbacks with two tight ends on the field — their 245 such dropbacks left them behind only the Baltimore Ravens (338 dropbacks with two tight ends), who are far better known for such things.

With two tight ends on the field, Patrick Mahomes completed 166 of 230 passes for 1,707 yards, 831 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 113.4 passer rating. The Philadelphia Eagles, who faced the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII, had the highest passer rating (127.1) with two tight ends on the field.

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No team had more dropbacks with three tight ends on the field than Kansas City's 78 (Houston Texans are second with 48), and in those 3TE sets, Mahomes completed 51 of 68 passes for 714 yards, 314 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns , no interception, and the pass rating is 149.0.

Sure, it helps to have a generational, slam-dunk Hall of Famer like Travis Kelce on your roster when you're at a high position, but the overarching point is that tight ends are more important to many NFL offenses than you think — and not just the ones you know about.

So when we turn our attention to the prospects for tight ends in the 2023 draft class — a class as loaded with talent at the position as we've seen in years — it's crucial to understand that there isn't just one type of tight end that matters to NFL teams. Big receivers who don't block obviously have better flats and usually get the most accolades, but it's more than that.

Here are the eight best tight ends in the 2023 NFL draft class.

(All advanced metrics thanksProfessional football focus,Sports Information Solutions, iFootball underdogsunless otherwise noted).

(All measurement percentiles of expected customers thanksMockDraftable.com).

1. Dalton Kincaid, Utah

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (2)

(Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 3⅝” (25st) Weight: 246 (20st)
40-yard dash: N/A
Split on 10 meters: N/A
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard carry: N/A

Wingspan: 78⅜” (40.)
Arm length: 32⅝” (32.)
Hand Size: 10¼” (81.)

Biography:A multi-sport guy growing up, Kincaid didn't really start playing football until his senior year of high school. He then became a recipient of Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Basketball was Kincaid's primary sport, but the non-star recruit signed with San Diego and played there for two years before deciding to explore what might be available at bigger schools. The 2019 third-team All-American, who led all FCS tight ends in receiving yards, chose Utah as his next destination. Over three seasons with the Utes, Kincaid caught 107 passes for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2022, he lined up on 376 snaps, with 257 in the slot, 49 out wide and one in the backfield.

What to know:If you watch Kincaid's tape and assume he's a killer against zone coverage, you'd be correct. His 45 receptions against the zone ranked first among all tight ends not only in this class, but in the FBS as well. Kincaid gained 626 yards on those catches, also tops in the nation, and only Notre Dame's Michael Mayer had more touchdowns with four than Kincaid's three.

Forces:Death is just creeping up on KincaidBasic, fundamentalzone coverage for several reasons: He has the speed to get through the first gate, he's in place when it's time to stop and make the catch, and he's just a bully after the catch. You have to have a better plan for this guy when he gets going than the Colorado defense had here.

And while his athleticism is a primary attribute, Kincaid can also be a real problem for defenses with contested catches. Even with defenders all over him, the ball is more his than theirs.

In those aforementioned 3×1 sets, the "Y-iso" — a tight end who can position himself on one side of the field and make big plays — is of primary importance if your tight end has the skills to pull it off. Kincaid's athleticism and ability to track the ball project him well into that particular scenario.

Disadvantages:Kincaid appears to be a willing blocker most of the time, but that clearly wasn't a point of focus in Utah. He needs some work to latch on to his targets and make his blocks look like more than effortful repetitions with minimal results. There are other cases where... well, let's just say he's going to need to be trained at the next level with these things.

Conclusion:Any NFL team would consider Kincaid a good addition to their offense, but those teams that depend most heavily on multiple tight end sets — think the Chiefs, Ravens, Seahawks, Falcons and Packers — would especially love what he brings as a space weapon that can play by the entire field. Maybe your second and third tight ends are big blockers, and you just have Kincaid running defenses at all three levels. There is no other tight end in this class more capable of winning in these roles.

NFL Comparison: Travis Kelce.The Chiefs drafted Kelce out of Cincinnati in the third round of the 2013 draft, and after a knee-injured rookie season, Kelce quickly became the epicenter of a Kansas City offense that has become exponentially more complex, explosive and difficult to stop over the past decade. Kincaid works so well in many of the areas that made Kelce a future Hall of Famer.

2. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

Height: 6′ 5⅞” (80th percentile) Weight: 253 (52nd)
40-yard dash: 4.61 (88th)
10-yard split: 1.58 (87th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 36″ (82.)
Long jump: 125 inches (93rd)
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard carry: N/A
Wingspan: 79½” (53.)

Arm length: 32⅝” (32.)
Hand size: 10⅜” (87.)

Biography:A champion skier in his youth, Musgrave played running back, running back, wide receiver and then tight end at Bend High School in Bend, Oregon. The three-star recruit chose Oregon State over Oregon, and he has plenty of family ties in football. Most notably, his uncle, Bill Musgrave, was drafted in the fourth round in 1991 out of Oregon by the Dallas Cowboys, and Bill Musgrave spent five seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback, later becoming an offensive coordinator for several NFL teams. Over four seasons with the Beavers, Luke Musgrave caught 47 passes on 80 targets for 633 yards and two touchdowns. In 2022, he made 80 layups, 28 in the slot and six out wide. Musgrave missed all but two games of the 2022 season with a knee injury.

What to know:Last season, Musgrave was targeted just three times on passes of 20 or more yards — mostly because of that injury. His 2021 season, in which he caught four deep passes on 10 targets for 117 yards, should be more indicative of his rate of explosive play opportunities, with a serious jump in efficiency based on his 2022 tape.

Forces:Musgrave's high percentage speed and burst at the combine absolutely shows on tape. He is quick out of the gate and has excellent speed building through the second and third levels of the defense. This not only allows him to make big moves in a straight line - he is also comfortable and capable at the end of the road in an explosive play situation. If you want to replicate Kyle Shanahan and run a bunch of "Y-throwback" stuff, Musgrave would be plug-and-play.

Musgrave's comfortable quickness also allowed him to develop subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) moves to create separation, preventing tight coverage.

Musgrave also brings a good sense of creating openings through route breaks; he knows how to maximize space and take advantage, and that will be important in his professional development — especially as he expands his range of routes.

Disadvantages:Musgrave is more of an innocent bystander than an actual blocker; effort and intent don't really show on tape. Teams will have to decide how important it is in his case and how coachable it is.

There are times when Musgrave could have improved his radius for his defenders by timing the ball more accurately and better. He has nine tackles during his college career and will need to back it up.

Conclusion:Musgrave's value to NFL teams will depend entirely on what NFL teams are looking for. Making him a YAC specialist who blocks a lot and gets the occasional big play is not an ideal paradigm for him at all. He's a player for teams that see tight ends as big receivers, has moved away from "traditional" position builds and will let developmental commitments slide in favor of how he can torch the field.

NFL Comparison: Darren Waller.Selected in the sixth round of the 2015 draft by the Ravens out of Georgia Tech, Waller overcame personal issues to become one of the most explosive tight ends in the NFL. Musgrave doesn't have Waller's superior track speed (Waller ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his scouting combine), but the 1.58-second 10-yard split is identical, and from deep play potential to blocking issues down to the occasionally maddening drop, Musgrave looks a lot like Waller to me.

3. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (4)

(Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 4½” (52nd percentile) Weight: 249 (33rd)
40-yard dash: 4.70 (66th)
10-yard split: 1.66 (32nd)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Leap: 32½” (42nd)
Long jump: 118″ (68.)
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard carry: N/A
Wingspan: 76¼” (9th)

Arm length: 31⅝” (7.)
Arm Size: 9½” 924th)

Biography:Mayer grew up dreaming of playing basketball in Kentucky, but when he enrolled at Covington High in Covington, Kentucky, he started playing football and it really stuck. He was a U.S. Army All-American and Mr. Kentucky in 2019, helping Covington to a 44-1 record with two state titles in his three varsity seasons. The five-star recruit chose Notre Dame over Penn State and Kentucky among a host of schools. During three seasons with the Fighting Irish, Mayer caught 180 passes on 255 targets for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns. In 2022, he had 463 snaps in the formation, 202 in the slot, 63 in the wideout, 19 in the backfield and one on the offensive line.

What to know:Mayer led all tight ends in the Class of 2023 with eight receptions of 20 or more yards, gaining 420 yards and scoring four touchdowns in those games.

Forces:Mayer isn't an explosive player with a lot of power down the stretch - and more on that in a minute - but he has the ability to match up defenders with route awareness, and at times he looks like a proto-Gronk when he gets around opponents and just posts them up in some remarkable ways.

Mayer is also a very effective short pass receiver because he can explode (in relative terms) after the catch. Through tons of positive experience, he learned that he is not afraid of contact, because he can simply beat people up in the open.

As a run and pass blocker, Mayer also has no problem in the dirt. He could use some help getting hold of his targets in open space, but he's a willing and effective protector.

Disadvantages:If your tight end preference leans toward an explosive player who can puzzle defenders with short-area movement and speed, Mayer will not be your optimal choice. He has to be open for those big plays, because he's not going to win those situations with his own pure athleticism, and he's at best aligned with the formation.

Mayer's speed deficiencies show in several ways — sometimes he'll look down too quickly on shorter passes because he wants to go, and if the timing of the throw is even off, Mayer will let defenders into his kitchen of potential incompletions.

Conclusion:It's easy to overthink players like Mayer to your own detriment. When a prospect does most everything pretty well to very well, a few things poorly, and a few things spectacularly, we tend to label him a "safe pick" and move on to the next guy, hoping for something more explosive. Mayer won't be throwing highlights on every tape of his NFL team's games, but that team will get some quick plays, a tolerably low rate of foul trouble and proven repeatable consistency game after game. That may sound boring to some, but there are times when boring is better than crazy spikes in production. He's a true tight end in the old-school sense, and if that's what you want (or are willing to settle for) at the position, Mayer will be plug-and-play from Day 1. There is nothing wrong with that.

NFL Comparison: Jason Witten.I could also go with Zach Ertz, although Ertz has been a little more explosive throughout his career. Instead, let's look at Witten, who the Cowboys selected in the third round of the 2003 draft out of Tennessee. Witten wasn't anyone's idea of ​​a speed demon and wouldn't necessarily fit the modern prototype of a detached big receiver masquerading as a tight end positionally, but he made 11 Pro Bowls and had two All-Pro nods because he was consistent, tough, and fearless on the field. He maximized his abilities, and I think Mayer will do the same in his own way with similar athletic limitations.

4. Sam LaPorta, Iowa

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (5)

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 3⅜” (23rd percentile) Weight: 245 (17th)
40-yard dash: 4.59 (90th)
10-yard split: 1.62 (69th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 35″ (73rd)
Long jump: 123 inches (90s)
3-cone drill bit: 6.91 (88.)
20-yard shuttle: 4.25 (78th)

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 32⅛” (16.)
Hand Size: 10¼” (81.)

Biography:A four-year letterman and three-year team captain at Highland High in Highland, Illinois, LaPorta played wide receiver and defensive back and returned to good standing. He was also a star in basketball, baseball and track, and Iowa ended the trouble for the three-star recruit by offering him a football scholarship after seeing his moves on the basketball court. During four seasons with the Hawkeyes, LaPorta caught 153 passes on 238 targets for 1,777 yards and five scores. Last season he had 381 tackles in the line, 111 in the slot, 90 out of the backfield, 28 at fullback and three at fullback.

If you want to know how the Hawkeyes finished their 2022 season at 8-5, including a 21-0 win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, consider that their defense is second among FBS teams in points allowed per game, and they're at 123 .place of 131 in points scored per game. Sam LaPorta, who continues a respected tradition of Iowa tight ends including Dallas Clark, George Kittle, Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, was the only true receiving threat in the passing game, averaging 14.8 catches, 156.7 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per contest. His 58 catches on 90 targets for 648 yards and one touchdown should be seen in context. We're generally going with more biographical information here, but it's really important to note what LaPorta was able to do with what he had to deal with.

What to know:LaPorta led all tight ends in his class with 20 forced fumbles, and I think about half of those came on this 27-yard catch against Kentucky in that bowl game.

by my count, iowa and laporta alone broke 136 tackles in this game# Analytics pic.twitter.com/nNxvVHu94i

— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar)April 15, 2023

Forces:So yes. LaPorta is a demon after the catch, with the wherewithal to find openings in space with short passes and the impressive determination to beat people when their uniforms look different than his. the whole idea of ​​a "contested catch" is relative to him, since he's generally the one competing.

We talked about the importance of the "Y-iso" position in the Dalton Kincaid discussion, and LaPorta is another prospect who has the athletic ability to be that guy.

Disadvantages:LaPorta could be a willing blocker; I'm not sure. But the results on tape are often lacking. He doesn't really have the awareness to target and hold defenders, which can lead to some interesting upsets.

LaPorta had six drops last season and 14 during his time at Iowa, which is less than optimal. You don't want to assume the tight end hears footsteps over the middle, but...

Conclusion:LaPorta's NFL team should be excited to tap into his potential in an offense that has never scared anyone. That team will also have to adjust to his blocking issues, drops and the fact that his height prevents him from being a post-up weapon in the downfield. Still, he shows ability as a tight end and H-back, and that should work pretty easily in his next phase.

NFL Comparison: Owen Daniels.The Texans drafted Daniels in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Wisconsin, and Daniels managed to make two Pro Bowls as an undersized tight end with a lot of brains, despite mostly bad-to-horrible running backs. Like Daniels, who finished his NFL career as one of Peyton Manning's more reliable targets in Denver, LaPorta has proven an ability to outperform broken offenses.

5. Darnell Washington, Georgia

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (6)

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 6⅝” (93rd percentile) Weight: 264 (85th)
40-yard dash: 4.64 (79th)
10-yard split: 1.61 (73rd)
Bench press: 21 repetitions (59.)
Vertical Jump: 31″ (26th)
Long jump: 122 inches (86.)
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.08 (97th)

Wingspan: 83¾” (98.)
Arm length: 34⅜” (91.)
Arm Size: 11 inches (98.)

Biography:Washington grew up as one of eight children with his mother in the Las Vegas area, and the family moved frequently, sometimes without a home. He didn't have much stability in school until he was a sophomore at Desert Pines High School in East Las Vegas. There, he became a star at tight end and defensive end, as well as a championship-level athlete in basketball and track. The five-star recruit chose Georgia over nearly every major college in the country. In three seasons with the Bulldogs, Washington caught 45 passes on 70 targets for 774 yards and three touchdowns. In 2022, Washington had 537 formation-aligned snaps, 114 in the slot, 18 wideouts, one in the backfield and one at free safety.

What to know:Washington's yards-after-catch average of 7.8 leads all tight ends on this list, and that should come as no surprise.

Forces:We don't usually start evaluating a tight end with blocking skills, but in Washington's case, we'll make an exception. He had a 0.0% Blown Block Rate in pass protection last season, and his 0.5% Blown Block Rate in runs is tied with Notre Dame's Michael Mayer for second among tight ends on this list, behind only Sam LaPorte of Iowa (0.0%) . You'd expect a man of Washington's size to block well, but there are some pretty epic examples on his tape. Washington's NFL team should love him as an inline blocker and as an H-back on moves and pulls. The ways he can casually outplay Godzilla's defensive line is kind of funny.

When I watch Washington high-point the ball over some poor defender, I think to myself, “How did this guy only have a 31-inch combined vertical jump? Did he slip on the lawn?”

Disadvantages:Washington is far more of a rumbler than a runner. A lot of his big catches over the middle came when Georgia was throwing four and five wide on defenses with all kinds of movement. He will need to be similarly open at the NFL level, where windows are generally tighter. Basically, almost every catch for Washington will be a contested catch if he is the focus. It won't come apart quickly.

As both a blocker and a giant after the catch, Washington could be even more effective with some technique tweaks. Especially in the game after the catch, a more consistent ability to catch the ball with a stronger base could lead to some comical replays for opposing defenders.

Conclusion:I'm not sure how productive Washington will be at the NFL level; i have a hard time envisioning him as an 80-catch, 1,000-yard player in any offense. But there's a difference between production and value, and Washington can provide a ton of value as an all-around reliever for his next team. Smart offensive coordinators will open him up with numbers and scheme, let him destroy cornerbacks on intermediate passes and block defensive linemen with authority in the run game.

NFL Comparison: Darren Fells.An undrafted free agent out of UC Irvine, Fells was a high school and college basketball player and actually played professional basketball in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France from 2008 to 2012. He was signed and released by the Seahawks in 2013. , Fells caught a connection with the Cardinals in 2014, and during his time with multiple teams, he was a good receiver in certain directions and a plus blocker in all aspects. You have to imagine what Washington could be like you would have to imagine what Fells could be, and Washington obviously has more of that kind of football experience and I'll be fascinated to see how Washington stacks up in the NFL.

6. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (7)

(Syndication: Argus Leader)

Height: 6'5" (66th percentile)Weight: 256 (56.)
40-yard dash: 4.69 (71st)
10-yard split: 1.59 (84th)
Bench press: 23 repetitions (75)
Vertical Leap: 34 inches (62.)
Long jump: 122 inches (86.)
3-cone drill: 7.08 seconds (64th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.29 seconds (69th)

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 32¾” (38.)
Arm Size: 10 inches (62.)

Biography:Kraft attended Timber Lake High School in Timber Lake, South Dakota, a very small farming town. He was a nine-man star in basketball and football, playing linebacker, running back, linebacker and linebacker. Kraft was not ranked at all by any of his major scouting services, and South Dakota State was his first Division I scholarship offer. transfer from schools as big as Alabama. In three seasons with the Jackrabbits, Kraft caught 99 passes on 132 targets for 1,208 yards and nine scores. And that's despite missing three games in 2020 with a sprained knee and six games in 2022 with an ankle injury. Last season, Kraft had 274 snaps in the formation, 66 in the slot, 28 at wideout, 15 in the backfield and three at fullback.

What to know:Only one of Kraft's catches and two of his targets last season were on passes of 20 or more yards in the air, which makes no sense at all after you study his athleticism. Especially when that deep touchdown came on an icy field.

Forces:As a straight-line racer, the Kraft is a smooth glider to begin with, with impressive acceleration into second and third levels. He is comfortable as a receiver on explosive plays because he doesn't "try" to get to the ball.

Kraft brings extra strength and leverage when asked to block, especially for a player his height. This is where the fact that it broke the clean energy record in the state of South Dakota comes into play. He's good at engaging defenders with his hands and has the power and power to get people back.

Disadvantages:Kraft could work on his route accuracy and hands (two drops last season and 12 in his college career); he was able to just increase the height/weight/speed of opponents in ways he won't be able to do in the NFL. In those cases, you want to see consistent dominance to project his professional future, as opposed to things like this.

Conclusion:Kraft is a bit of a project as a complete NFL receiver based on the intricacies of the position he'll have to fill, but that's balanced by the fact that he has downfield potential that we haven't seen nearly enough of. He's already doing well as a blocker and receiver, and most of the things that need coaching are pretty coachable.

NFL usporedba: Dawson Knox.A third-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Mississippi, Knox has become a staple in the Bills' offense with his ability to move to the second and third levels while providing reliable blocking. He's not the best tight end, and goodness knows drops have been an issue, but Knox provides a good illustrative example of how Kraft can provide immediate value to an NFL offense even as he rounds out his football palette.

7. Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (8)

(Syndication: Detroit Free Press)

Height: 6'5" (66th percentile) Weight: 251 (43rd)
40-yard dash: 4.63 (83rd)
10-yard split: 1.62 (69th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Leap: 33½” (56.)
Long jump: 127 inches (95.)
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.27 (72nd)

Wingspan: N/A
Arm length: 32⅞” (42.)
Hand Size: 9 inches (3.)

Biography:Schoonmaker began his prep career as a quarterback at Xavier High in Connecticut, where he was teammates with future Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. He suffered a lacerated spleen his freshman year, and transferred to Hamden Hall High to repeat his freshman year. Schoonmaker became more of a receiver in his senior season, collecting three interceptions as a defensive back. At first, the three-star recruit received light offers, but Hamden Hall head coach Joe Linta, also a prominent sports agent (Joe Flacco is Linta's most famous client), talked him up with then-Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and that got the ball rolling.

In five seasons with the Wolverines, Schoonmaker caught 54 passes on 70 targets for 637 yards and seven scores. Most of that came in his 2022 campaign — 35 catches on 45 targets for 418 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, Schoonmaker had 421 snaps in the line, 75 in the slot, 15 out of the backfield, 10 in the backfield and five on the offensive line.

What to know:Schoonmaker had just six catches on nine targets against man coverage in 2022, but gained 52 yards and a touchdown on those six carries.

Forces:Schoonmaker has a great feel for getting and staying open in zones with his route consistency and good quickness to get up; expectations throwers will especially appreciate at the NFL level. He works well through stationary coverage and has enough acceleration to test safeties at the second and third levels.

Schoonmaker is also a red zone asset, because of that feel for creating and exploiting openings.

He's also a willing and capable blocker who has no problem taking a strong upper body and good leverage on defenders.

Disadvantages:Schoonmaker is a weapon after the catch in open space, but he's not anyone's idea of ​​a YAC monster that cuts through defenders. He's not exactly ready to create when faced with guys ready to knock him down.

Conclusion:Schoonmaker's injury history, not to mention his one season of actual production over five seasons with the Wolverines, will give NFL teams some pause. But in a vacuum, and based on his 2022 tape, he projects well as a Y tight end for teams looking to put their second and third linemen open in space and capable of making big plays.

NFL Comparison: Cameron Brother.An undrafted free agent out of Harvard, Brate caught fire with the Buccaneers in 2014 and over time became a valuable target in the short and intermediate passing game, especially when it came time to make things happen in the red zone. Schoonmaker could have similar value, and when you add in his plus blocking, he would be a good find for any NFL team that runs a lot of two-three tight end stuff.

8. Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion

2023 NFL Draft: Top 8 tight ends (9)

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 6⅝” (93rd percentile) Weight: 255 (61st)
40-yard dash: 4.55 (92nd)
10-yard split: 1.57 (91st)
Bench press: 23 repetitions (75)
Vertical Jump: 40″ (97th)
Long jump: 128 inches (96.)
3-cone drill: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.12 (93rd)

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 34 inches (83.)
Hand Size: 10¼” (81.)

Biography:A four-star recruit out of Camp Hill High in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Kuntz committed to Penn State in the same class as current Cowboys Destroyer of Worlds Micah Parsons. He spent three seasons unsuccessfully battling for targets with guys like Jahan Dotson, Pat Freiermuth and KJ Hamler before moving to Old Dominion, following former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, who became the head coach there. Kuntz made the All-CUSA first team in 2021 with 73 catches for 692 yards and five touchdowns. He appeared to be on the same path last season with 12 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns before missing the final seven games of the season with an ACL injury. As you can see from his absurd numbers, Kuntz has made a full physical recovery.

What to know:In 2021, Kuntz caught five passes of 20 or more yards on 20 targets for 1,415 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't catch those passes on four targets last season.

Forces:There are big tight ends in this class who haven't yet learned to use their size as an advantage to set up defenders. Kuntz is not one of them. He already understands that 6-foot-7 is his own weapon. You put a smaller guy on him and just beg your defense to concede the catch.

Kuntz's combo show also comes up on tape when it's time to shake and roast a defender; this seems particularly relevant in the red zone. He has a good feel for breaking off his leverage routes to the defender's biggest advantage.

Disadvantages:When a receiver of any kind catches just 12 passes in 30 targets, you want to know why. Kuntz suffered from some really bad throws last season, but he also needs to improve the timing of those jump shots to show a more favorable catch radius. He is not as effective when his defender can meet him at the time of the catch. Against Virginia cornerback Jaylon Baker, who is 6-foot-2, Kuntz ran a great route to get open, but needed to close the deal.

There are also cases of alligator hands on tape, which you never want to see. Tight ends have to go over the middle and make things happen.

There are also several matador blocks on Kuntz's tape — "Ole!" not the correct technique.

Conclusion:Kuntz's rawness in certain aspects of his game, given his football background, gives me pause, but I also wonder if some of these issues can and will be corrected with NFL coaching. I'd be inclined to target him in the mid-round as a true tight end if my offense needed a player who could fully fill that role over time. Kuntz's speed and fluidity off the line of scrimmage, his route efficiency and his ability to win size wars (sometimes) would give me a serious case of coach-'em-up-itis. We'll just have to wait and see how it works out for him in the NFL.

In three years, Kuntz could be the most productive NFL tight end on this list, or he could be an afterthought. Neither result would completely surprise me. The team and the scheme will mean a lot.

NFL Comparison: Jimmy Graham.I'm not comparing Kuntz to Jimmy Graham, who broke out with the Saints in his second season and became the NFL's most productive tight end for a while. He does, however, remind me of Jimmy Graham, who the Saints selected in the third round of the 2010 Miami draft. Graham was mostly a basketball player who turned his attention to football late in his college career, and that rawness showed at first.

Like Graham, Kuntz has maddening moments where he looks almost incompetent, but they're backed by more than enough athletic potential to make an NFL team take a similar risk, with likely a similar reward. Of course, since Kuntz has been a football guy for a lot longer, it makes you wonder.

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