The race to be the first tight end drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft is as difficult to predict as any position group. The four starring contenders are Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, and Georgia’s Darnell Washington. All four are excellent prospects with a legitimate opportunity to earn first-round status.
BetOnline recently updated their positional odds for the 2023 NFL Draft. We’ve analyzed the field. The top five are as follows:
MICHAEL MAYER (-135)
DALTON KINCAID (+175)
DARNELL WASHINGTON (+350)
LUKE MUSGRAVE (+1400)
SAM LAPORTA (+4000)
THE FAVORITE & MY PICK: MICHAEL MAYER
Mayer entered the 2022 college football campaign as the consensus top-ranked tight end. Mayer was outstanding, having met expectations by recording 67 receptions for 809 receiving yards and a single-season career-high nine touchdowns. So why are some now questioning Mayer’s ceiling as a prospect?
Mayer’s athletic upside has been up for debate. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Mayer posted a below-average 32.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.70 flat in the 40-yard dash. Can Mayer be a difference-maker as a pass-catcher despite possessing what some are calling a modest athletic profile?
I believe he can. People are overcomplicating the Mayer discussion. Mayer is a pro-ready dual-threat tight end prospect that blends size, ball skills, and physicality as a receiver with in-line blocking abilities. Mayer is the total package and should be drafted within the first 15 selections.
THE NO. 1 CONTENDER: DALTON KINCAID
Kincaid has the highest pass-catching upside of any tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft. Kincaid is a nightmare assignment in coverage for opposing safeties and linebackers. Kincaid’s athleticism, ball skills, and route-running prowess routinely give him the upper hand throughout one-on-one matchups.
Kincaid threatens every level of the field. His skill set will be in high demand for high-octane passing offenses looking to duplicate what the Kansas City Chiefs have in Travis Kelce. Those are lofty expectations, but if any of these tight ends develop into anything remotely mirroring Kelce, I believe it will be Kincaid.
A back injury unfortunately prevented Kincaid from performing at the NFL Scouting Combine or at Utah’s Pro Day. It could hamper Kincaid’s ability to threaten Mayer to become the first tight end drafted. It’s still possible, hence his No. 1 contender status. I’d feel better about it coming to fruition had Kincaid been healthy throughout the pre-draft process.
DON’T SLEEP ON: LUKE MUSGRAVE
I’m a tad surprised to see Musgrave’s odd plummet to +1400. Musgrave has aced the pre-draft process. He was terrific at this year’s Senior Bowl, looking the part of a high-level tight end throughout practice sessions. Musgrave then ran an elite 4.61 40 and had a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump in Indianapolis. Musgrave is an athletic outlier.
Musgrave can do damage as a traditional Y-tight end or by being placed in the slot. A healthy Musgrave offers an alternative option for teams who prefer an athletic specimen at the position but are scared off by Kincaid’s injury. That alone gives Musgrave a fighting chance to rival Mayer, Kincaid, and Washington. Musgrave’s pass-catching traits are undeniable.
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