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2023 NFL Rookie Fantasy Rankings: Tight End

Michael Mayer

Michael Mayer

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

1. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Age: 21.7

Size: 6'4/249

Mayer is nearly the complete package as a tight end. He is an early declare who improved both his counting stats and his efficiency in all three of his collegiate seasons. As an 18-year-old freshman, Mayer accounted for 16 percent of Notre Dame’s receiving yards. That number ballooned to 35 percent by his junior season. He went for 809 yards and nine scores on 67 catches in 2022 and led all FBS tight ends in yards per route run (2.44). Mayer played across the formation for the Fighting Irish and projects as a traditional Y tight end in the NFL. Mayer’s only flaw, if you can even call it that, is his 8.12 RAS. He posted a 4.7 Forty at the combine with pedestrian broad and vertical numbers. Mayer is by no measure unathletic. His combine numbers simply fail to stick out in a class loaded with absurd athletes. A career similar to that of Zach Ertz will be the hope for whoever calls Mayer’s name, which will likely happen sometime in the mid-20s.

2. Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Age: 23.4

Size: 6'4/246

Kincaid only played a year of high school football, so he began his NCAA career at the University of San Diego, an FCS school. With next to no experience as a tight end, he was still in a league of his own, totaling 1,209 yards and 19 touchdowns in his two seasons on the west coast. He transferred to Utah and posted a breakout season with 510 yards and eight scores after sitting for a year. He followed that up with 890 yards and eight scores on 70 receptions. He posted dominator ratings of 26 and 28 percent in those two seasons. Kincaid also ranked second in yards per route run (2.42) among FBS tight ends as a senior. He did not do any athletic testing at the combine or Utah’s pro day which may knock him out of the first round of the NFL draft. Kincaid has adequate size and an elite production profile. Having no measurable for him is a concern, but it’s one I’m willing to look past based on his pair of elite seasons at Utah.

3. Darnell Washington, Georgia

Age: 21.6

Size: 6'7/264

Judging Washington based solely on his production would show an underwhelming prospect, but that would be a mistake. Washington saw some playing time as a freshman while competing with future NFL tight ends John FitzPatrick and Tre’ McKitty. He led the trio in receiving yards at 166. Then, in 2021, Brock Bowers came on the scene and continued to box Washington out of the lineup for the next two years. Still an elite talent in his own right, Washington forced himself into a role that was good for 28 catches, 454 yards, and two scores. Because he is an elite blocker, Georgia OC Todd Monken often put him on the field to sell the play-fake, only for Washington to leak out for easy receptions. It’s possible that his production was scheme based. On the other hand, he was in that position because defenses feared him as a blocker. Washington crushed the combine with a 9.88 RAS, No. 15 among all tight ends since 1987. Marcedes Lewis and Darren Fells are the closest comps that come to mind. Washington may never crack 1,000 yards, but he is a good bet for a long career and should serve as an elite red zone weapon at the very least.

4. Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion

Age: 23.8

Size: 6'7/255

Kuntz was parked behind Pat Freiermuth at Penn State before transferring to Old Dominion. In his first year on campus, he exploded to the tune of 72 catches for 687 yards and five scores. That was good for a 30 percent Dominator. An injury cut his final season to just four games. Kuntz then proceeded to break the combine, posting the No. 1 all-time RAS for a tight end. He ran a 4.55 Forty with a 1.55 10-yard split. He jumped a 40-inch vertical and a 128-inch broad. His agility drills and bench were top-notch as well. There are holes to be found in his production, but the combine matters for tight ends more than most positions and Kuntz is an alien. Kuntz spent most of his time in the slot in 2021 but was on pace to get more reps as an inline tight end in 2022. He looks like a more versatile version of Mike Gesicki heading into the draft.

5. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

Age: 22.6

Size: 6'6/253

Musgrave has virtually no collegiate production to speak of unless you squint really hard. In 2021, he went for 304 yards on 22 catches. By yards and receptions, he out-produced future NFL tight end Teagan Quitoriano. He posted a solid, 14 percent dominator rating this year. In his final year at Oregon State, he posted an 11/168/1 line in two games before a season-ending knee injury. At 84.5 yards per game, Musgrave was on pace for 1,099 yards. This wasn’t likely to hold, but his stellar combined proved it to be at least an indicator of his talent. He ran a 4.61 Forty with strong 10 and 20-yard splits before crushing the jumps. His speed also showed up in his aDOT, which sat at 12.5 yards over his career. Musgrave has an absurdly wide range of outcomes because most of his production profile hinges on two games. He is a risky but exciting bet for the middle rounds of dynasty drafts.

6. Sam LaPorta, Iowa

Age: 22.2

Size: 6'3/245

LaPorta enters the league slightly undersized. He is both the shortest and lightest tight end in my top 10. But what he lacks in mass he makes up for with production. In his final two seasons at Iowa, LaPorta caught 111 passes for 1326 yards and four scores, good for a 26 percent Dominator both years. The only thing missing from his profile is touchdown production as he found the paint just five times over four years. Among FBS tight ends, LaPorta ranked second in missed tackles forced (20) and third in yards after the catch (368). He showed well at the combine, running a 4.59 Forty with elite splits, a strong three-cone, and good jumps. If LaPorta gets drafted in the second round, I could see him leaping as high as the dynasty TE4 in this class given his strong production profile and testing.

7. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

Age: 22.4

Size: 6'5/254

Kraft redshirted his freshman year and didn’t see much action as a sophomore. In 2021, his junior season, Kraft made a name for himself with a 65/780/6 line. He went for 348 yards and three scores across eight games as a senior. In his junior season, Kraft ranked fifth among all FCS tight ends in yards per route run and fourth in PFF receiving grade. Kraft proved he was more than an average FBS player beating up on FCS defenses at the combine. He ran a 4.69 Forty with a 4.29 shuttle on his way to a 9.65 RAS. Kraft is a small-school producer with big-time athleticism. He can play across the formation, but the acclimation period for him entering the league may be longer based on the extreme jump in competition. I like him as a long-term hold in dynasty leagues, just don’t expect much as a rookie.

8. Payne Durham, Purdue

Age: 22.8

Size: 6'6/253

Durham broke out in 2021 with 467 yards and six scores. He followed that up with a 56/560/8 line as a senior. In that season, he accounted for 16 percent of Purdue’s receiving yards. With seven touchdowns in his underclassman years, he reached at least a 20 percent share of the Boilermaker’s touchdowns in all four of his collegiate seasons. Durham was underwhelming at the combing, running a 4.87 Forty on his way to a 6.49 RAS. As a middling athlete with solid but not elite production, Durham looks like a solid backup with low-ending starting potential in the NFL.

9. Will Mallory, Miami (FL)

Age: 23.8

Size: 6'4/249

Mallory was a consistent but unexciting producer at Miami, topping 300 yards three times before reaching 538 yards as a fifth-year senior. He blazed a 4.54 Forty at the combine, which is more than impressive for his size. However, scouts didn’t rave over his speed as a Cane, so he may test as a faster player than he plays. He also struggled as a blocker and doesn’t project to take on defenders often in the NFL. Mallory was able to compile counting stats during a five-year career at Miami but left with a career yards per route run of just 1.35 and will have to be taken off the field at times in the NFL. Early in his career, Dan Arnold-like usage would be a win for Mallory.

10. Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

Age: 24.5

Size: 6'5/251

Schoonmaker failed to earn much playing time at Michigan until his fifth season when he broke out for 418 yards and three scores. Had fellow UofM tight end Erick All not suffered a season-ending back injury, Schoonmaker may not have broken out in 2022. He posted a 15 percent Dominator as a senior and ranked seventh among all Power Five tight ends in yards per route run. Pro Football Focus charted him with a 28.6 percent contested catch rate which is well below average for a player of his size. He was notable after the catch either. Schoonmaker impressed at the combine with a 9.86 RAS. He projects as a blocker and backup pass-catcher in the NFL, not exactly the asset most dynasty managers are looking for.