Tight end is becoming one of the most important positions to an NFL offense. Teams are looking for players who can both block and open up the offense with their pass-catching ability. It’s time to continue our 2023 NFL Draft Odds series with a special first tight end drafted in the first-round odds, prediction, and pick.
Tight ends do not always get drafted in the first round, but there are three with major talent and upside that may be hard to pass up. The last time two tight ends were drafted in the first round was 2019, with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both out of Iowa. In 2017 there were three first-round tight ends, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and David Njoku. That was the first time three went in the first round since the 2002 draft. Three may go in the first round this year, but who goes first?
Here are the 2023 NFL Draft odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
2023 NFL Draft Odds: First Tight End To Be Drafted
Michael Mayer (-230)
Dalton Kincaid (+150)
Darnell Washington (+3400)
Why Michael Mayer Will Be The First Tight End Drafted
Mayer is young, polished, and a great receiving tight end. He is coming off his true junior year, and in his time at Notre Dame, he came down with 180 receptions for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns. Mayer comes in at 6’4 1/2″ inches tall and 249 pounds, so while not as big as a tight end like Darnell Washington, he does have average NFL tight end size. What is loved about Mayer is his pass-catching ability. According to PFF, among tight ends, Mayer was 1st in the NCAA in contest catches, 1st in deep catches, and had the highest-rated receiving grade of the year. He has improved in making contested catches every year while bringing down drops. Last year, he had a career-low four drops.
While he is seen as a polished pass catcher, his run-blocking ability is also admired. He is a plus-quality run blocker from the tight end position. Still, he was beaten on the block by speed-rushing defensive ends last year, and his quickness is a concern. Mayer is not an atheltic freak and does not create separation on his run routes. There is the very real possibility that Mayer has tapped out his athletic potential, and has already shown the best of what he can do. Still, at that best, multiple teams will be very interested in him on Thursday.
Why Dalton Kincaid Will Be The First Tight End Drafted
If Michael Mayer is the proto-typical tight end, Dalton Kincaid may be the future of the position. Kincaid is still larger, at 240 pounds, but is much more of a gap between the tight end and the wide receiver. He took 142 snaps inline as a tight end last season but took 221 snaps in the slot, and thirty-eight snaps as the wide receiver according to PFF. He can be the primary receiver in an offense, with above-average route-running ability, and the ability to create separation on defensive backs. Covering Kincaid with a linebacker is not an option, as he is too quick and agile. Last year, Kincaid recorded 70 catches for 890 yards, with 14 of the 70 catches being at a reception depth of ten or more yards downfield.
If you are looking for a tight end to be a blocker, Kincaid is not the best answer though. While serviceable, Kincaid struggles with run blocking and can be beaten by top-end linebackers who are coming downhill toward a running back. In 14 games last year, PFF advance statistics note that he was below 50% in successful run block rate eight times. Even with that, teams are excited about the possibility of Kincaid.
Why Darnell Washington Will Be The First Tight End Drafted
Currently, the consensus for Darnell Washington is a second-round pick, but he is a special player. Last year, Washington had 45 catches and three touchdowns on the season. This was all done while sharing the field with Brock Bowers. He is 6’7″ and 270 pounds but moves with great speed. Washington is an offensive tackle who plays tight end. He can make great catches with his wing span and can also make guys miss. Washington even lined up in the slot 86 times according to PFF. Washington is one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the draft. PFF rated him 81.3 runs blocking grade, which was top five at his position.
Consequently, a team will pick up a big red zone target, that can move, and lay guys out while blocking. While his hands could use some work, that is something that could be coached. He has some of the best measurables in the draft and could end up being the best one. There are tight ends better statistically than Washington in the draft, but with a focus on the passing game in the NFL, and the sheer size of Washington, someone will be intrigued enough to snag him.
Final 2023 NFL Draft First Tight End Drafted Prediction and Pick:
The three tight ends are three different styles of players. Could it be the first tight end taken is just decided on which flavor of tight end you want? Mayer is more of the modern proto-typical tight end. He has the nickname “Baby Gronk,” for a reason. He is not the most athletic of the group but is a polished receiver who will help in the run game. Kincaid is closer to a wideout than a wide receiver, and if you plan on using your tight end in the slot more often than not, he is the choice. Washington is an athletic freak who will be great for red zone targets and big in the run game.
If the Titans do a trade back instead of trade up, and Mayer falls, Washington might be the answer. It would be more likely he is the Titans’ second-round pick. Kincaid goes to the Cowboys at 26, but the Packers snag Mayer at 12, making him the first one off the board.
Final 2023 NFL Draft First Tight End Drafted Prediction: Michael Mayer 12 to the Green Bay Packers
Final 2023 NFL Draft First Tight End Drafted Pick: Michael Mayer (-230)
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