South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Kraft was the focal point of the Jackrabbits’ offense in 2021, having accounted for 65 receptions, 780 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. An injury shortened Kraft’s 2022 campaign, limiting him to seven appearances and 348 yards.
A quieter campaign has made Kraft somewhat of a forgotten commodity in a loaded tight end class. Kraft is healthy and put forth an excellent showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, however. Kraft ran an elite 4.69 40 and leaped a 10-foot-2-inch broad jump.
A receiving weapon, Kraft is a dual-threat playmaker that doubles as an effective blocker. Kraft’s all-around services should be in high demand. We’ve identified four ideal fits for Tucker Kraft.
The Bengals lost Hayden Hurst to the Carolina Panthers in free agency. Drew Sample is also an unrestricted free agent. The Bengals are taking a one-year flier on Irv Smith Jr., but he’s hardly a long-term solution. Smith’s career has been plagued by recurring injuries. General manager Duke Tobin needs a better plan at the position, one that doesn’t overly rely on Smith staying healthy and being productive.
Kraft could be a target in the second round. The Bengals are preparing for big-money extensions for Joe Burrow and possibly Tee Higgins as well. Getting a young tight end on a four-year cost-controlled deal should be appealing. Kraft would take advantage of ideal matchups in Cincinnati, where opposing defenses are already stretched thin by their trio of receivers.
The Jaguars franchise tagged Evan Engram and have until mid-July to negotiate a long-term extension. It’s possible that Engram plays out the 2023 campaign on another expiring contract. Jacksonville needs to consider the future outlook of the position.
Even with Engram in the fold, head coach Doug Pederson is a big fan of two tight-end sets. He routinely took advantage of coaching both Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. Jacksonville already lost Chris Manhertz in free agency, and Dan Arnold isn’t expected to return either. Drafting Kraft and pairing him with Engram would allow Pederson to run his preferred personnel packages with increased frequency.
The Lions arguably have the worst tight end room in the league as things stand. Trading T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings left a void and Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra aren’t starting-caliber tight ends.
The Lions possess four top-60 selections and I expect them to address tight end within the back end of that range because general manager Brad Holmes hasn’t been an aggressive player for a tight end in free agency. Kraft fits Dan Campbell’s coaching philosophies and offensive identity. Kraft can serve as an in-line blocker on occasion while aiding Jared Goff in the passing game when necessary.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers are routinely mocked a tight end in the first round, but there are other positions they can address with that pick. Tight end is a glaring requirement nonetheless, and general manager Tom Telesco could target Kraft in Round 2.
Gerald Everett is a potential cap casualty. Everett remains a Charger for now but will enter a contract season in 2023. The Chargers should surround franchise quarterback Justin Herbert with more pass-catching weapons if they hope to contend with the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Kraft would be an immediate needle-mover in L.A.
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