Dynasty League Football

Michael Mayer

DLF Team Dynasty Predictions for 2023 NFL Draft: Tight End

We dive deep into this year’s tight end class and share the thoughts of the DLF team.

Michael Mayer

Dynasty League Football is the premier source for dynasty fantasy football analysis, and its contributors are the top minds in the industry. So, we needed to figure out how the team at DLF feels about the 2023 class of rookies! We surveyed the team, and we’ll analyze the results in a four-part series, wrapping up here with the tight ends!

Tight ends have been a major headache for fantasy managers in recent years. Aside from Travis Kelce, the position has been inconsistent and underperforming. Elite superstars have aged out of fantasy relevance or retired, and the incoming classes of rookies have been mostly busts. Typically, it’s a smart move to avoid tight ends in rookie drafts, but is this year the exception? Let’s see what the DLF team has to say about this rookie class!

There have been three drafts in NFL History where three tight ends were selected in the first round, most recently in 2017 when OJ Howard, Evan Engram, and David Njoku were all early picks. This year, four tight ends have gotten first-round buzz, and they’re the four tight ends who are consistently at the top of dynasty fantasy football rookie rankings. We asked the DLF contributors to rank Michael Mayers, Dalton Kincaid, Darnell Washington, and Luke Musgrave from one to four.

Mayer came out on top, receiving 61% of the votes for number one overall. Mayer is certainly the most NFL-ready and should have a long career at the professional level. He’s also the most likely to be picked first from the group in the NFL Draft. He is the most well-rounded of the group, a great blocker who could become a quarterback’s best friend at the next level. He isn’t as fast or athletic as some of the other top-4 tight ends, which could limit his fantasy upside.

Dalton Kincaid ranked number two in the group of tight ends, receiving 22.2% of the number one overall votes. A national championship basketball player turned tight end, Kincaid only played one year of high school football and actually started his career at the University of San Diego, an FCS program. Kincaid will be a move tight end in the NFL, which could lead to more route runs than Mayer. But he will need to become a better blocker to succeed in the NFL.

Darnell Washington was third in our poll. He is a massive tight end who can hold his own as an athlete as well. At 6’7” and 264 pounds, Washington ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, giving him a 96th-percentile speed score. He could become an elite blocker and a red-zone beast in the NFL.

Luke Musgrave brought up the rear of the top four, but he was my vote for number one. Musgrave is a bet on pure potential, he’s nearly as big as Washington but is just as athletic as anyone on the board. He struggled with injuries in college, so the production absolutely is not there, but his tape is great, and the Combine numbers were off the charts. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gave him a 6.49 grade, the highest of all of the tight ends this year, and the third highest since 2018, behind only TJ Hockenson and Kyle Pitts. I believe he’ll be a great value in rookie drafts.

When we asked if there should be any other tight ends considered top four above any of these players, Sam LaPorta was the most popular suggestion. DLF contributor Corey Spala said, “LaPorta can work all areas of the field and is able to win after the catch.” Iowa is well-known for producing NFL-ready tight ends, and LaPorta could be next in that line. Tucker Kraft and Zack Kuntz were also mentioned as potential top-four tight ends.

To determine the fantasy football potential of this class, we asked the DLF contributors what would be the top fantasy football finish for the two top tight ends in the Draft. The results were unanimous, you will get at least one tight end one season out of both Mayer and Kincaid. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they’d each finish as a tight end six or better in their careers as well. DLF contributor Justin Taylor voted that Mayer would finish as a top-three tight end at least once in his career. Explaining his choice, Taylor said, “He is a guy that can stay on the field for any type of formation. If he can end up on a team that can utilize him, he has an extremely high upside.”

This speaks to the strength of this tight end class at the very top but also the weakness of the tight end position in the NFL right now. “SuperFlexDude” John Hogue put it best, “Top three is within reach of anyone at the position. The only real qualifier is 80+ targets, and it’s safe to expect that of Mayer and Kincaid.” The top three tight ends in DLF’s Startup Dynasty Rankings are Travis Kelce, who is nearly 34 years-old, Kyle Pitts, who is coming off a season-ending injury on a bad team, and Mark Andrews, who could lose his MVP-caliber quarterback as early as this season. The top of the dynasty tight ends are vulnerable, and these two could do enough at the NFL level to crack into that elite group.

Iowa’s Sam LaPorta comes in as the most underrated tight end of the 2023 class, according to the contributors at DLF. The keyword in that previous sentence may be “Iowa.” In recent years, Iowa tight ends have shown-out at the NFL level, including George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. But, just because a player went to the same school as some NFL superstars, that doesn’t make him a certain superstar. LaPorta comes in with some size concerns, he’s only 6’3” and 245 pounds. He’ll likely need to play more of a big-slot role in the NFL than a blocker role. If a team can take advantage of his unique skill set, he could absolutely come through in the NFL. Hogue said, “A pass-catching specialist from Tight End U. He’s going to get knocked down for his run-blocking shortcomings, but we don’t care about that in fantasy football.” LaPorta has a rookie draft ADP of 35, the sixth tight end drafted.

After LaPorta comes two small-school players who will try to make the big jump to the professional level, South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft and Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz. Kraft is a thick tight end but also a very athletic one with a wide catch radius. He should have an easier time transitioning his game to the NFL than Kuntz, who is very athletic but needs to fill out his frame for professional success. Luke Musgrave and Luke Schoonmaker each got 11% of the responses, while Payne Durham received a vote.

When it comes to the most overrated tight ends in the 2023 class, the top two that make some sense in Darnell Washington and Michael Mayer. They’re the two tight ends who are expected to be more valuable as NFL tight ends than they are as fantasy football tight ends. They may even be the first two tight ends selected in the draft, but because of the nature of the tight end position is a hybrid of pass-catching and blocking, NFL Draft capital doesn’t necessarily translate to fantasy football success.

Despite that, draft capital will help players get onto the field early and often, and these two tight ends should find the field quicker than any other tight ends in the class. They’re the most pro-ready as blockers and can hold their own very well as pass catchers. They may not have the upside of Dalton Kincaid or Luke Musgrave, but their floor is certainly safer. They won’t be the sexiest rookie draft picks, and for that reason, one could consider them overrated. Nick Muzzillo of DLF said of Washington, “I know he’s a freak and athletic specimen, but it doesn’t always translate to the field.” Washington’s rookie draft ADP is 27th overall, TE3 off the board, and Mayer’s ADP is 10th overall, the first tight end to be selected.

Ironically, when our survey asked DLF contributors who is “your guy” at the tight end position this year, Darnell Washington actually received the most votes (tied with Kincaid). Hogue said of his pick, “Mayer is the safe pick, most likely to become an every week starter. But TE is easy to find starters and almost impossible to create advantages. Washington has the upside to creating that elusive, unfair advantage.”

Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft were next up in overrated selections, while Dalton Kincaid and Zack Kunz received votes.

Our survey asked DLF contributors how they felt this class ranked against the last ten draft classes, and the results are clear, this is one of the best groups of tight ends we’ve seen in a long time. One-third of those surveyed said this class is the best of the past ten years, including Muzzillo, who says, “Have been saying on record, this is the best tight end class I’ve seen in some time.” John DiBari agrees, saying, “This is a great TE group. I think we might get seven fantasy-relevant tight ends out of this class, and there is a world where ten could have staying power.”

We mentioned earlier that the record for first-round tight ends is three in one year, this year could absolutely tie or break that record. There’s elite well-rounded talent available for NFL teams and pass-catching ability and upside to keeping fantasy managers happy. In a world where fantasy managers are desperate for some stability at the position, this could be the rookie class that finally injects some talent into the pool of fantasy tight ends.

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DLF Team Dynasty Predictions for 2023 NFL Draft: Tight End
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Appreciative Reader
1 month ago

There it is! Thanks for another exciting article from your series, Tim. I’m so pumped for these TE prospects… would be amazing to see 2-3 fantasy stars emerge. This article sends my “hope” vibes into overdrive. 🙂

Gregory Massa
1 month ago

This has been a really cool series and Im hoping it continues in the future!

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