Michael Mayer #87 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dives just short of the touchdown in the first half against Josh DeBerry #21 of the Boston College Eagles at Notre Dame Stadium
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The Tight Ends of the 2023 NFL Draft Could Shake Up the League

The 2023 NFL Draft is just a couple weeks away, and there is plenty of buzz surrounding it. With several teams in the market for a new young quarterback, we could see anywhere between three to five young signal-callers taken in the first round. Followed by the need for quarterback, the talent and depth at the defensive and offensive line positions and at the secondary positions are set to flood the first round. Heck, there are guys at all three of those position areas who have first-round talent but could fall into the second round.

But one of the positions that has some of the deepest talent is at one of the pass-catcher positions — and, no, it's not the wide receivers, nor is it the running backs. It's the tight ends. We are only going to see maybe one tight end taken in the first round, as it is pretty rare for more than one to be taken that early in the draft; we usually see the top tight ends come off the board in Rounds 2 and 3. And you might agree that there are more-important positions to draft; but if you have a hole at the tight end position, the first-round picks over the last 15 years say it is worth the risk to grab one early.

  • Kyle Pitts, Falcons (2021)
  • T.J. Hockenson, Lions (2019)
  • Noah Fant, Broncos (2019)
  • Hayden Hurst, Ravens (2018)
  • O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (2017)
  • Evan Engram, Giants (2017)
  • David Njoku, Browns (2017)
  • Eric Ebron, Lions (2014)
  • Tyler Eifert, Bengals (2013)
  • Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (2010)

While some of these names had a higher and longer impact than others, it is safe to say these picks were worth it. But as I said, a first-round tight end selection is usually limited to one — but the talent is not. In recent years, we have seen tight ends such as Pat Freiermuth (2021) and Cole Kmet (2020) taken in the second round; and in 2018, we saw Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews taken in the second or third rounds. And lastly, the top two tight ends in the league — George Kittle (2017, fifth round) and Travis Kelce (2013, third round — were each taken outside of the first two rounds of the draft.

Do you get my point? The tight end position is the easiest and best position for finding a diamond in the rough and to take a gamble on if it is a positional need. And with the talent in this year's draft, 2023 might be one of the best tight end classes of all time.

Here are the top tight ends of the 2023 NFL Draft:

5. Darnell Washington, Georgia

 Darnell Washington #0 of the Georgia Bulldogs lines up during the first half against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Sanford Stadium

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Darnell Washington's stats do not jump off the page at you, as he only had three touchdowns in his three years at Georgia. But a stellar 2022 season — when he caught 28 passes for 454 yards to give him an average of over 16 yards per catch — is definitely noteworthy. Why so? Well, Washington is a staggering 6-foot-7 and weighs 270 pounds. His size and athletic ability are what we thought LeBron James would have had he gone the football route.

4. Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine

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The best athlete at the tight end position is Oregon State's Luke Musgrave. Musgrave's 2022 season ended after just two games due to a season-ending knee injury. But in those two games, Musgrave caught 11 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown and was on pace to set not only career-season highs but also to shatter them. If he can remain healthy, Musgrave is going to be a top tight end in this league.

3. Sam LaPorta, Iowa

Sam LaPorta #84 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs with the ball against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first quarter of the game at Huntington Bank Stadium

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In each of the last two seasons, Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta caught over 50 passes for over 650 receiving yards, ending his four-year career with the Hawkeyes with 153 receptions, 1,786 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Iowa is known to be "Tight End U" and has been producing top-tier NFL talent at that position for a while now — and LaPorta is just another name to add to that impressive and long list of Hawkeye greats.

2. Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Utah Utes tight end Dalton Kincaid (86) warms up prior to the Pac-12 Championship football game between the Utah Utes and the USC Trojans

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I would not be surprised if someone drafted Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid in the late part of the first round or the early part of the second round. Kincaid is coming off an amazing season that saw him haul in 70 passes for 890 yards and eight scores. Add that to his prior year totals, and Kincaid had over 100 receptions for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career at Utah. Kincaid is very similar to Travis Kelce and his ability to line up anywhere on the field and use his route-running skills to get open.

1. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) runs onto the field prior to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Oklahoma State Cowboys

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Since the day he stepped onto the campus at Notre Dame, Michael Mayer had some high expectations — and boy, did he exceed them. In three years, Mayer caught 180 passes for just under 2,100 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Mayer is the only tight end slotted by pretty much every draft expert to go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and it is pretty evident why. Mayer is not only the top tight end in the draft — but if drafted to the right team, he also could be a top name to win AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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