Michael Mayer, Notre Dame: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals tight end depth currently consists of Devin Asiasi, and that is it. Tight end needs to be in consideration at the end of the first round, and Michael Mayer could fall right into their lap. Mayer grew up a Bengals fan and went to high school in the area. Cincinnati also drafted a Notre Dame tight end in the first round a decade ago in Tyler Eifert.
He was a great player for the team when healthy, but frequent injuries derailed his career. Adding Mayer to Joe Burrow’s arsenal of weapons would make the offense even more dominant. Mayer is also an NFL-ready blocker, which will help aid the Bengals in their run game.
Darnell Washington, Georgia: Green Bay Packers
After drafting two Georgia players in the first round last season, Brian Gutekunst can continue the Bulldog to Packer pipeline with Darnell Washington. Washington is a freak athlete at his monstrous 6’6, 264-pound size, and is the type of blocker Matt LaFleur will fall in love with.
Washington is often compared to a super-charged Mercedes Lewis. What better landing spot for him than Lewis’ most recent team?
Dalton Kincaid, Utah: Washington Commanders
New offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy has spent the past ten years with Travis Kelce in his offense. He will want to replicate that presence as much as possible in his new offense. Kincaid has elite upside and is the best receiving tight end in the class. His route running is on another level from most tight-end prospects.
Whether Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett (who loves targeting tight ends) is under center, Kincaid would immediately become one of their favorite targets and add another threat to the passing game along with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon State: Detroit Lions
Dan Campbell is regarded as one of the best tight-end coaches in the league and could succeed with any of the players in this class. Luke Musgrave is especially intriguing in the Lions’ offense thanks to his athleticism. Injury concerns could cause him to slide in the draft, ideal for Detroit armed with two second-round picks to scoop him up. Musgrave was a matchup nightmare for Oregon State thanks to his wide-receiver-like fluidity and contested catch ability.
Defenses already have to gameplan for Amon-Ra St. Brown over the middle of the field and Jameson Williams taking the top off of the secondary. Musgrave would have frequent open looks in the short-to-intermediate receiving game and add another dynamic element to one of the most exciting passing games from last season.
Sam LaPorta, Iowa: Miami Dolphins
Iowa tight ends have a strong track record in the pros, and there is no greater example than George Kittle. Kittle’s former coach, Mike McDaniel, is now with the Miami Dolphins and revamped their passing attack in just one season. Sam LaPorta is one of the best after-the-catch threats in the draft class which would pair well with Tua Tagovailoa’s strength of getting the ball out quickly.
Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill are already two of the most dangerous after-the-catch ball carriers. LaPorta would fit in with McDaniel’s offense much better than Mike Gesicki did, and the Dolphins have a void at tight end after losing him and Hunter Long.
Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State: Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Jake Ferguson in round four of the 2022 draft to replace Dalton Schultz. Undrafted rookie Peyton Hendershot also contributed last year in limited action. Both players are trending in the right direction, but should not stop the team from capitalizing on a fantastic draft class.
Kraft can fill in either as an in-line tight end or flex out as a receiver. The Cowboys are moving in a slightly different direction offensively after parting ways with Kellen Moore and should rely less on tight ends than they did with Schultz. Kraft can be a safety valve option for Dak Prescott immediately as he develops into a larger role.
Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion: Las Vegas Raiders
Earlier this offseason I wrote about Zack Kuntz as one of the most underrated prospects in the class. As anticipated, he blew up the combine with his 6’7, 255-pound frame and 4.55 speed, giving him a perfect 10 Relative Athleticism Score. Kuntz is a fast, fluid receiver, similar to Darren Waller who the Raiders just traded away.
They also recently signed OJ Howard, the same vein player. Kuntz would be a seamless fit in Josh McDaniels’ offense, developing behind Howard and another veteran (possibly Foster Moreau) before taking over as the lead in year two or three.
Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan: Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Engram was a major breakout at tight end for Jacksonville in 2022, but the team hesitated to commit him to long-term money. He will play in the upcoming season on the franchise tag before hitting free agency again. Luke Schoonmaker could serve as a compliment to Engram for this season and an eventual starter.
Engram largely plays a “big slot” flex role in the Jaguars’ offense. Schoonmaker has the frame to be an in-line starting tight end along with impressive athleticism. The two players can absolutely coexist, at least for a year, and Schoonmaker gives Doug Pederson and Press Taylor a Dallas Goedert for their offense.