2023 NFL Draft: TE Landing Spots (Fantasy Football)
An incredible nine TEs were drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft with an additional six drafted in rounds 5-7 (no TEs were drafted in round 4). Although no TE was drafted in the top 20 picks, the density of TEs picked within the first two days of the draft will have a ripple effect both in the real NFL and fantasy football. Even beyond the top-end talent at the position, several TEs drafted later remain interesting prospects including one of the best athletes for their position entering the NFL of all time. You read that right – and he’s huge – and he was productive and we’re not talking about Darnell Washington.
The following is a breakdown of the TEs from the 2023 NFL draft, their value in the near term, and value in dynasty leagues:
Dalton Kincaid – Buffalo Bills
Round 1, Pick 25
Buffalo was looking for a pass-catching specialist to pair with Stefon Diggs, but a run on WRs happened right before Buffalo’s pick eliminating a shot at one of the top receivers in the class. Kincaid, who led Utah in receiving last year and had back-to-back eight-TD seasons was still available though. Buffalo made a mini-splash towards the end of the first round essentially leapfrogging Dallas who they feared was also looking at drafting a TE and nabbed Kincaid with the 25th pick.
Kincaid took to football later than most. He was more focused on basketball and only ended up playing one year of high school football after which he received no football scholarships until Utah finally offered him one in 2020. Those basketball skills developed early proved useful creating reliable hands and an ability to shield receptions from defenders.
Obviously, Buffalo has plans for Kincaid and it’s not for his blocking where he won’t offer much at the NFL level. Buffalo clearly intends to use Kincaid almost entirely as a pass-catcher to give Josh Allen an outlet besides Diggs. Nothing is guaranteed once a player moves from the college to the NFL, especially with Dawson Knox still on the team, but Kincaid should receive immediate playing time as a move tight end in an explosive offense. Buffalo has struggled to find a slot option to fill the void left by Cole Beasley who was an unsung hero in the 2021 season. While physical opposites, Kincaid looks on pace to fill that void and become a weapon near the endzone. Kincaid is on the table as a late-round flyer in redraft leagues and should be a lock in the first round of rookie drafts in single QB dynasty leagues.
Sam LaPorta – Detroit Lions
Round 2, Pick 3
Iowa TEs – a tale as old as time. Although any of a handful of TEs in this class could have been one of the first few picked, it was a bit of a surprise when Detroit took Laporta as the second TE off the board over Michael Mayer.
Laporta is more well-rounded than Kincaid with better-blocking skills, but still offers value as a pass-catcher. On one hand, Detroit may need Laporta sooner than later with Jameson Williams on a 6-game suspension, but Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmir Gibbs will be soaking up a lot of targets and the competition for targets will only get stiffer once Williams is back. Technically, Brock Wright is ahead of Laporta on the depth chart, but it won’t take long for LaPorta to fill the ‘Hockensen’ role. I’m cautiously optimistic Laporta makes his way onto the field early, but I don’t think he can be relied on in redraft leagues. He’s definitely worth a later rookie pick in dynasty leagues.
Michael Mayer – Las Vegas Raiders
Round 2, Pick 4
Laporta may have been a surprise pick ahead of Mayer, but Mayer didn’t have to wait long before hearing his name called.
Mayer may have benefited from waiting the extra pick landing in an almost perfect spot. Foster Moreau had to step away from football after a cancer diagnosis and Darren Waller is now a New York Giant. The only TE in front of Mayer is Austin Hooper who is also a solid, albeit average TE. Still, Mayer was one of the top graded TEs in the class with very good blocking skills and hands that showed up in Notre Dame with 800 or more yards receiving in back-to-back seasons and a John Mackey Award for being the best TE in the nation. He will see the field early and might not have the greatest ceiling in this class from a fantasy standpoint, but should become a regular TE1 for dynasty managers.
Luke Musgrave – Green Bay Packers
Round 2, Pick 11
Musgrave fills a huge need on the Green Bay Packers and appears to have the starting TE role locked up. He’s a risk with multiple injuries severely limiting his production where he only produced a total of 603 yards and two TDs across four seasons at Oregon State. He totaled 304 yards in his best season. What he did put on tape impressed scouts though.
Musgrave has the inside track to starting, but this Green Bay offense with the Aaron Rodgers departure is a huge unknown. Are they going to lean on the run game and hope Jordan Love can do enough to keep the ball moving? Are they going to ignore that their future Hall-of-Fame QB left and resume the status quo? We don’t know, so we don’t know how much or how little Musgrave figures into their immediate plans. I wouldn’t draft him in redraft, but I’d keep an eye on his usage to see if he starts drawing consistent targets. Two or more consecutive weeks with six or more targets may be enough signal to pick him up on waivers. For dynasty rookie drafts, there comes a point where the WRs, RBs, QBs, and high-end TEs are pretty well dried up. At that point he’s worth a speculative add in dynasty rookie drafts.
Luke Schoonmaker – Dallas Cowboys
Round 2, Pick 27
The Cowboys may have been sniped in round 1 of the NFL draft, but they took their shot in round 2 with drafting Schoonmaker. He’s an athletic TE, but that hasn’t necessarily reflected in receiving ability where his best year at Michigan produced only 418 yards and three TDs. On the other hand, receiving is more of a bonus where he excelled in pulling blocks.
His hands look solid, but he appears to have trouble creating separation at times. He sufficed in blocking, but he’s going to need to fill out and learn better technique getting his body into position to avoid whiffing on blocks or drawing holding penalties. He also has Jake Ferguson in front of him although Ferguson only exceeded a 50% snap share in five regular season games and had a minimal impact on the passing game his rookie year. Avoid him in redraft leagues unless proven otherwise and feel free to take a late flyer on them in dynasty rookie drafts – a common refrain for a lot of these TEs in this draft class.
Brenton Strange – Jacksonville Jaguars
Round 2, Pick 30
Strange is a capable blocker and receiver, but this looks more like a move to increase depth behind Evan Engram rather than a draft selection expected to take on a primary role at some point. He’s not draftable in redraft leagues and I would look elsewhere in dynasty leagues.
Tucker Kraft – Green Bay Packers
Round 3, Pick 15
I remember a time I wrote this article for TEs and Baltimore did a weird thing and spent two draft picks on TEs early. Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst 25th overall and actually moved up to select Mark Andrews 86th overall. I bring this up as a point of interest, but Kraft is far from Andrews. He’s an average athlete with one year of great production and another injury shortened year with limited production before that. He should have dominated FCS competition, but struggled in blocking and had some issues with drops. He’s a pass in redraft and dynasty.
Darnell Washington – Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 3, Pick 30
There were reports Washington fell due to medical issues related to his knee. I’m not sure what those medical issues were or how severe they were, but there’s no way he should have fallen this far.
This play isn’t even relevant for fantasy, but this was against LSU and not FCS competition. Washington is essentially a third tackle on the field that happens to have plus athleticism for a TE, a huge frame, and capable hands. Pittsburgh got a steal here.
I clearly like Washington as a prospect, but he lands in Pittsburgh, which already features Pat Freiermuth and has Zach Gentry for depth. Washington shouldn’t be on redraft leagues and this abhorrent draft position and landing spot makes him undraftable in all but the deepest dynasty leagues. If I’m a dynasty team owner, I’m making sure I’m picking him up as soon as it looks like he may sign with another team.
Cameron Latu – San Francisco 49ers
Round 3, Pick 38
Latu lands on a team with an elite TE in George Kittle. Latu himself is a bit of a project with limited experience at the TE position after switching from defense. He offers no redraft value and might not even be a value in dynasty even if George Kittle isn’t in the picture.
Josh Whyle – Tennessee Titans
Round 5, Pick 12
Whyle seems almost perfectly average. Average production, average athleticism, and average prospect. Whyle is a good pass catcher, particularly adept at contested catches, but he lacks the play strength to work through tight coverage and struggles in blocks. He’s also going to sit behind Chigoziem Okonkwo who showed promise in his rookie year after being drafted in the 2022 fourth round.
Will Mallory – Indianapolis Colts
Round 5, Pick 27
Mallory has some potential with plus athleticism and natural hands, but Indianapolis is a tough landing spot with Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson, and Mo Alie-Cox on the depth chart. He shouldn’t be drafted, even in deeper dynasty leagues, but keep tabs on him to see if he can grow into an NFL TE capable of matching up physically to edge rushers.
Payne Durham – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 5, Pick 36
Incredibly, it looks like Cade Otton is the only TE ahead of Durham on the Tampa Bay depth chart. Durham profiles more as a blocking TE, but he does have sufficient hands. His big weakness is athleticism. He’s going to struggle to beat man coverage.
Davis Allen – Los Angeles Rams
Round 5, Pick 40
He’s buried on the Rams’ TE depth chart behind Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, and Hunter Long, but there’s hope for him long-term. He’s one of the better blocking TEs drafted after the third round, and despite sub-par athleticism, he has an uncanny ability to simply catch the ball. He posted a 70% catch rate or better all four years he was at Clemson, and dropped no more than one pass in each of his four seasons. He’s also incredible at contested catch rates, hauling in an incredible 11 of 12 contested catches this past year. Allen is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on in dynasty leagues, but no reason to burn a pick on him now.
Zack Kuntz – New York Jets
Round 7, Pick 3
Kuntz has one of the strangest prospects ever. He started at Penn State but produced virtually nothing before transferring to Old Dominion. After sitting out the requisite year, he lit it up in 2021 posting 73 receptions on 111 targets that created 692 yards and five TDs. He decided to come back for what would be his fifth year but got injured after playing only five games.
The injury itself is a bit of a mystery. I couldn’t find any definitive word on what it was, but he appeared to (and I say this as a non-medical professional) roll his ankle badly with the weight of a defender on him. Whatever the injury was, it didn’t affect him at the combine.
Kuntz didn’t just post elite athletic numbers at the combine. He posted THE elite numbers as in #1 in his class AND #1 of the last 467 TE prospects. And he’s not just a smallish athletic TE. Kuntz is a monster at 6’7″ and 255 lbs.
Kuntz is sitting behind Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, and Jeremy Ruckert, but I’m willing to bet the Jets’ staff will like to see how Kuntz can develop, given his past production and otherworldly athleticism. He’s not going to have redraft value anytime soon, but you could do worse with a late-round dynasty stash. I really wonder what would have happened if he had declared last year.
Brayden Willis – San Francisco 49ers
Round 7, Pick 30
Willis possesses subpar athleticism and size, though he did post 514 yards and seven TDs on 39 receptions with Oklahoma this past season. Regardless, he’s behind George Kittle, Cameron Latu who was drafted in Round 3, Charlie Woerner, and Ross Dwelley. He has no redraft or dynasty value.