The 2023 NFL Draft is coming up in one week so it’s time we plant some flags on these tight end prospects. This whole list is likely to get shuffled up by the draft but it’s fun to know who we are talking about going in and make some predictions for our dynasty fantasy football rookie rankings. It’s also important from a real-life perspective to consider what your team needs in the upcoming NFL Draft. What we are going to do here is break the 2023 NFL Draft rookie tight ends into two articles: this one will be our top five TE prospects and the next will examine the tight end sleepers and busts. So, without further ado, let’s look at the pros and cons for the top five rookie tight end prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft! 

If you missed it, check out more positional scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft:


2023 NFL Draft Top Tight End Prospects

Dalton Kincaid, Utah

If we are talking from a pure NFL standpoint, the best option might be the second name on this list. But with this list, we are trying to pinpoint the best options for fantasy football. And, in the modern NFL, those are guys who line up at wide receiver a ton. We want our guy in the slot or out wide, especially in the red area where there is a lot of man-to-man coverage. Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts - most of these guys dropping 1,000+ yard seasons are lining up at WR for more than half of their snaps at least. And the guy with the best odds of doing that is Dalton Kincaid. In fact, he was already doing it plenty in college - in his senior year he lined up at WR for 280 snaps and his 198 routes run from the slot was sixth in the country. That’s a big part of why he led the league in receiving yards.

On film it’s pretty clear to see why that is - he’s one of the few guys who looks like a wide receiver. That’s also part of his downside as, at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, he’s not the biggest body out there. A guy like Evan Engram ran into trouble at times when coaches asked him to play in-line but he’s thrived on the occasions where he’s been able to run free from the slot. That’s our concern with Kincaid - we want a team that views him as a full-time “big slot” that lines up in-line at times rather than just a part-time player that comes in for 50-60% of the snaps. 

Good NFL Fit: Green Bay PackersThe Packers have an open spot for a guy to play “big slot” right away with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs on the outside. He could replace Allen Lazard which might not sound appealing until you realize Lazard’s per-game fantasy production would have been in the top ~5 range for TE. 

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

If you want the absolute safest option from this class, this is your man. He’s your classic true two-way tight end. He has the prototypical size to play in-line with pass-catching chops that saw him finish only 41 yards behind Kincaid last year. And that was as a true junior. If I were an NFL team looking for an every-down tight end that can play right away, this would be the first guy off the board for me. He’s the closest thing we’ve had to a “sure thing” since TJ Hockenson.

The one knock on him, however, might be enough for us to rank him second for fantasy football. And that is speed. The comparable players to Michael Mayer are fantastic names like TJ Hockenson, Zach Ertz, and Hunter Henry. Between those guys though there have been 22 seasons played and ONE 1,000+ yard season (by Zach Ertz in 2018). Mayer ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and guys that run in that range can struggle at times to both get vertical on routes and to make big plays after the catch. Without a high aDot (average depth of target) and YAC (yards after catch), you need to really be peppered with targets to put up huge numbers - Ertz had a bunch of 100+ target seasons but needed 150+ to hit 1,000 yards. That’s a big part of why a guy like Hunter Henry can have one play of 40+ yards on 418 career targets while a guy like George Kittle, who ran a 4.52 forty, has 13. We obviously like Zach Ertz and we like TJ Hockenson though so we are splitting hairs with a talent of this caliber. Even if he is Hunter Henry, that’s a career professional football player and NFL starter for many years.  

Good NFL Fit: Dallas CowboysThey just lost their two-way tight end in Dalton Schultz and could replace him long-term with another.


Sam LaPorta, Iowa

The reality of the tight end position is that it’s rare to get three or more high-end tight ends from the same class. We’ve seen a couple with two (2010 Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham and 2012 Travis Kelce/Zach Ertz come to mind). Depending on how the careers of Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, Dalton Schultz, Hayden Hurst, etc. play out, the 2018 class might end up being the best tight end class of all time in terms of fantasy football. Or maybe it will be this one. But, the bottom line is, it’s rare to get a ton of megastars so, after the first couple of guys, we are just looking for the profile that translates to the highest upside for fantasy football. And that to me is Sam LaPorta.

For the film grinders out there, his tape is riddled with him winning in man-to-man, snagging contested catches, breaking tackles, finishing plays, ripping off 30+ yard chunks, etc. Maybe even more so than Dalton Kincaid, he looks like a wide receiver. For the metrics folks, he offers a young breakout age with 90th percentile speed per PlayerProfiler. He’s even fresh out of the Iowa Tight End Factory for the narrative guys. What he doesn’t offer? Size. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he could run into similar issues we discussed for Dalton Kincaid. Guys like Cameron Brate, Anthony Firkser, and even Mike Gesicki at times have felt the pain of being a tight end “in-betweener”. If you aren’t a good enough blocker to play in-line but also not quite good enough to be a full-time wide receiver, you simply end up playing a partial snap share. That’s the concern.

Good NFL Fit: Washington Commanders - Ron Rivera essentially uses Logan Thomas in the slot full time and LaPorta would be a good heir for that role. 

Darnell Washington, Georgia

This guy is a physical specimen. At 6-foot-7 and 264 pounds while running a 4.64 in the 40-yard dash, he might offer the highest upside of any player in this class. The narrative working in his favor is that he played alongside the best tight end in the country, Brock Bowers, and their offense was simply too high-powered for him to rack up a ton of touches. His blocking ability alone is going to insure decent draft capital and a role on a team.

That blocking ability is also what causes him to have the lowest floor for fantasy of anyone in this top group. I spoke to Brandon Huffman over at 247sports who told me a scary tale - that scouts approached Washington as early as 17-18 years old and told him that he should convert to offensive tackle. He stuck with tight end and it seems to have worked out for him but NFL teams truly value blocking ability so it would not be surprising to see him primarily used in that capacity. Guys like Marcedes Lewis and Martellus Bennett had tremendous careers in the NFL but only offered brief glimpses of fantasy relevancy. George Fant was a college basketball player at Western Kentucky, was picked up by the Seahawks to play tight end, and now he’s a 320+ pound offensive tackle for the Jets. Washington has the upside to be a superstar in fantasy but his floor is blocking tight end.

Good NFL Fit: Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins opted to use Durham Smythe over Mike Gesicki for his superior blocking as the system requires a two-way tight end. Mike McDaniel has done a good job replicating the offense he ran in SF and Washington could be their George Kittle - though they would likely need to trade up to get him as they had to forfeit their first-round pick.

Zach Kuntz, Old Dominion

The four tight ends above are my favorite prospects that are pretty much locked into playing time at the NFL level. After them, I’m swinging for the fences. So I’m going for unbridled athleticism and the upside that comes with that. And, this guy might have had the best NFL Combine of any tight end since Vernon Davis. Check out the Relative Athletic Score for Kuntz that Kent Lee Platte, the creator of, shared on Twitter.