Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Georgia’s Darnell Washington could also both end up being selected in the 1st round, something that hasn’t happened since the 2019 NFL Draft. The tight ends are ranked based on in which order I think they will be picked, but it will be highlighted what are my thoughts on them.
1. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
6’5”, 250 lbs., Junior
Mayer is a reliable, NFL-ready tight end who offers a solid floor as a pass catcher plus great effort and technique as a blocker. The league will be sky-high on Mayer as he’s already well-refined and ready to contribute from day 1. The Notre Dame standout is effective at catching the ball in traffic and being a go-to target in difficult situations. Mayer has the traits to become the “security blanket” of his next quarterback, while impacting the passing game mainly in the short and intermediate areas of the field.
At the same time though, he doesn’t offer much from an athletic standpoint, his straight line speed is average and he’s not particularly effective at breaking tackles with the ball in his hands. Mayer has some T.J. Hockenson in his game, but I doubt he tests quite as well at the combine as the former Iowa star. I expect him to be a top-20 pick next April.
Personal ranking: #3
2. Darnell Washington, Georgia
6’7”, 280 lbs., Junior
The true junior is a gigantic pass catcher with unreal athleticism for his size. Despite playing in a Georgia passing offense who doesn’t create much volume for its pass catchers, Washington has been able to display flashes of pure dominance. He turns 50/50 balls into 80/20 balls at the catch point thanks to his physicality and ball skills. He’s also an extremely dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands, as Washington can truly create yards after the catch by taking advantage of his strength and athleticism. He’s a threat at all three levels of the field who can become an elite player at his position in the NFL.
He’s a versatile pass catcher who would be a matchup nightmare in the slot, as well as he can beat anyone in man coverage on the outside. He’s also an extremely reliable blocker who can take on whichever defender given his size and power. I expect him to be selected in the bottom half of the 1st round, or early in the 2nd round.
Personal ranking: #1
3. Dalton Kincaid, Utah
6’4”, 240 lbs., Redshirt senior
In the midst of a breakout season that saw haul in 234 receiving yards on 16 catches against USC, Dalton Kincaid has a fair shot to be selected quite early on day 2. Kincaid is a reliable pass catcher able to add something after the catch quite often: he’s a specialist in the short and intermediate areas of the field who displays good physicality, great hands and ball skills. He has everything needed in order to become a potential primary tight end in the NFL, also as a blocker. Kincaid has some Dalton Schultz in his game.
Personal ranking: #5
4. Jaheim Bell, South Carolina
6’3”, 230 lbs., Junior
Despite it seems like the Gamecocks have no clue on how to utilize Bell’s rare skillset, the junior Swiss Army knife has the tools to be an absolute game-changer and he has proven it when he was given a fair opportunity. Bell is a versatile game-breaker who can be aligned all over the line of scrimmage as well as out of the backfield: he’s an absolute monster with the ball in his hands who could perennially be a touch away from a big-play to happen thanks to his lethal speed and ability to break tackles.
In the NFL he would have the tools to be one of the best offensive chess pieces around: in a pass happy league, he would be pure gold for a creative playcaller able to take advantage of his special skillset. He’s also a big threat downfield who’s aggressive at the catch point. I expect him to be selected on day 2.
Personal ranking: #2
5. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
6’5”, 255 lbs., Redshirt junior
Kraft has only played two games in 2022 because of an injury, but thus far he has displayed why he can be a productive tight end at the next level. He’s a dynamic pass catcher who’s solid with the ball in his hands and he’s also an impact player downfield. Kraft also displays good technique as a blocker, both in pass protection and run blocking. He’s a well-refined prospect who can become a primary tight end at the next level, given his upside as a receiver. While without the injury he could have been in line to reach a Dalton Kincaid type of hype, he’ll probably still get a call on Day 2.
Personal ranking: #7
6. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
6’6”, 250 lbs., Senior
Even though the knee injury he suffered could hit his draft stock, when healthy Musgrave was by far one of the best tight end prospects in football. The Oregon State product is a modern pass catcher with well above average speed and athleticism, which allows his team to move him around to create mismatches. Musgrave is also a playmaker downfield, where his speed, physicality and aggressiveness at the catch point are on full display. He has the tools to become a primary NFL tight end and I expect him to be selected on day 3.
Personal ranking: #4
7. Sam LaPorta, Iowa
6’4”, 250 lbs., Senior
Iowa has a rich legacy at the tight end position and Sam LaPorta will be the next one to enter the NFL. He plays the position in a traditional way emerging as a reliable pass catcher and blocker. LaPorta doesn’t offer much in terms of athleticism and game-breaking ability, he’s more of a safe target in short and intermediate situations in order to move the chains, who has a rather solid floor but a capped ceiling. NFL teams though will look forward for his reliability and consistency. I expect him to be selected on day 3.
Personal ranking: #8
8. Benjamin Yurosek, Stanford
6’5”, 231 lbs., Junior
Despite getting little to no attention, Stanford’s Benjamin Yurosek is one of the most consistent pass catching tight end prospects in football. He’s a solid athlete with great hands and an impact receiver at all three levels of the field: despite he has to improve as a blocker, Yurosek has everything needed to step in and immediately making an impact in the passing game. He possesses above average speed and he’s a threat with the ball in his hands, making him a potential primary tight end in the league. I expect him to be selected on day 3.
Personal ranking: #6
9. Cameron Latu, Alabama
6’4”, 237 lbs., Redshirt senior
A veteran who has been reliable when involved, even in significant situations. Latu is a very good blocker and an average pass catcher who mainly projects as a secondary tight end at the next level. He’s a big-time red zone target who could be an impact blocker right out of the gate in the NFL while being able to manage some targets. His profile is limited by a lack of athleticism and speed. I expect Latu to be selected on day 3.
Personal ranking: #10
10. Josh Whyle, Cincinnati
6’7”, 244 lbs., Redshirt senior
Throughout his career with the Bearcats, Whyle has displayed some good flashes, despite being overall a bit inconsistent both as a blocker and pass catcher. He’s a big-bodied receiver with a well above average catch radius that allows him to consistently make plays at the catch point. He’s also able to break tackles with the ball in his hands by taking advantage of his physicality and acceptable athleticism. Whyle mainly projects as a secondary tight end and I expect him to be selected on day 3.
Personal ranking: #11
*My personal #9 ranked tight end is Ohio State’s Cade Stover.