A Hater’s Guide to the 2023 Tight End Class

John DiBari

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but it sounds like many people believe that every NFL team had an amazing draft. The lowest grade given to any team by NFL.com was a C+ (Lions). FoxSports gave the Denver Broncos their lowest grade with a C-, while Bleacher Report agreed with them, giving Denver the only D grade I’ve seen any team get in a draft grade article. Even The Pat McAfee Show asked, “Did Every Team Win in The 2023 NFL Draft?” The harshest draft grades I’ve found anywhere were from CBS’ Pete Prisco, who handed out several C- grades, but none lower than that. Even fellow DLFer John Hogue thought everyone hit it out of the park this year.

So, did everyone really nail the draft? As a miserable pessimist to my core, I sat through the draft, scrolling through my phone, looking at each selection, and I found a reason for each pick to make me sick. In this four-part series, I’ll look at each position group individually and tell you why I think every pick stinks. So, while everyone else on the planet is ranting and raving about the incredible results of the 2023 NFL draft, let me take you for a walk on the dark side.

Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers were already thoroughly picked apart, so in this final edition of the series, it’s time to take some of the glow off of this tight-end class. I love tight ends (get your mind out of the gutter) for fantasy. There are always sleepers to uncover and streaming options, and I love the versatility of the position. But I digress; it’s time to tell you why none of the 2023 rookies will succeed in the NFL.

1.25, Dalton Kincaid, TE BUF

Kincaid was the only tight end selected in the first round, so while he gets the draft capital, it’s not the best landing spot. He’s already competing with Dawson Knox, who is literally Josh Allen’s best friend. Being a team’s second-string tight end, on a team that runs two-tight end sets less than almost every other team in the league while the starting tight end is BFFs with the quarterback, doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

2.03, Sam LaPorta, TE DET

Get ready for one good season before he is jettisoned from the Motor City. Detroit gets one good year out of their tight ends before they trade them or let them walk away. If Eric Ebron and TJ Hockenson’s careers are any indication, you can count on four seasons from LaPorta, where he’ll amass just over 2,000 yards on 186 receptions, with 10-15 scores. That looks like an annual stat line of 46-502-3, good enough for 114 points. That was TE20 last year.

2.04, Michael Mayer, TE LV

It’s always a good thing when the universally acknowledged top player at a position ends up being the third player drafted at his position. Is there any bigger red flag in recent history than being drafted by the Raiders?

2.11, Luke Musgrave, TE GB

The common thought process is that it takes tight ends three-ish years to fully develop at the NFL level. Whelp, no luck for you, Luke Musgrave, as you’re now the top TE on a Packer team with a brand new starting quarterback for the first time in 15 years. That should go smoothly.

2.27, Luke Schoonmaker, TE DAL

Schoonmaker is a great real-life tight end, which does not always translate into fantasy success. Not a direct player comp, but think about Marcedes Lewis or Josh Oliver in a Cowboys uniform. Jake Ferguson should remain the top-fantasy option in Dallas.

2.30, Brenton Strange, TE JAC

Strange was projected to be a fourth-round pick, so he was overdrafted by the Jags. Evan Engram was hit with the franchise tag this off-season, and if he has another good year, you have to expect the Jags to ink him to a new deal or tag him again.

3.15, Tucker Kraft, TE GB

The common thought process is that it takes tight ends three-ish years to fully develop at the NFL level. Whelp, no luck for you, Tucker Kraft, as you’re now the TE2 on a Packer team that drafted Luke Musgrave to be the TE1 a full round ahead of you. Oh, you’ve also got a brand new starting quarterback for the first time in 15 years. That should go smoothly.

3.30, Darnell Washington, TE PIT

Some projected Washington to be a first-round pick. Instead, he almost falls into the fourth and lands in Pittsburgh – which is less than ideal. So now Washington is the blocking option for the Steelers, while Pat Freiermuth is freed up to run even more routes and catch more passes.

3.38, Cameron Latu, TE SF

A projected fifth-round pick who was overdrafted by the Niners, Latu gets the privilege of playing behind one of the best fantasy tight ends, George Kittle. Latu follows the recent history of successful Alabama tight ends in the NFL, like OJ Howard and Irv Smith Jr.

5.12, Josh Whyle, TE TEN

I don’t even remember where Whyle went to college and can’t be bothered to look it up. He’ll get one season of Ryan Tannehill clinging to his job, followed by an underwhelming battle between Will Levis and Malik Willis to see who will lead the Titans to a top-five pick in 2025. All this, and he has the privilege of doing this behind Chigoziem Okonkwo for the foreseeable future.

5.27, Will Mallory, TE IND

Mallory comes from a football family, so he’s got that going for him. He’s currently the Colts’ TE4, and he’s the lightest of the group of gigantic humans the Colts have assembled at the position.

5.36, Payne Durham, TE TB

The Baker Mayfield-led Bucs drafted only two offensive skill position players, the first being Durham in the late fifth, because that’s all they needed to take a step towards a championship, a TE3.

5.40, Davis Allen, TE LAR

One day, when Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, and Hunter Long are gone and Matthew Stafford retires, Davis Allen will be fortunate to catch passes from Stetson Bennet or maybe even Brett Rypien. The sky is the limit.

7.03, Zack Kuntz, TE NYJ

I was a massive fan of the absurdly athletic Kuntz pre-draft. Now competing with Tyler Conklin, CJ Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, and Kenny Yeboah – it’s the John Di Bari “who’s who” of tight ends I love that annually disappoint me. Lucky for all of them, they are now catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, who has, historically, completely ignored the position.

7.30 Brayden Willis, TE SF

The 49ers hit on Brock Purdy late last year; why can’t it be Brayden Willis this year? Willis gets the privilege of playing behind one of the best fantasy tight ends, George Kittle, and Cameron Latu, who was drafted four full rounds ahead of him. Willis actually has one of the harshest evals I’ve ever seen on NFL.com; it’s worth a read.

This concludes my four-part series of why the entire 2023 class will fail. I had fun writing this, and I hope you had a good time reading it. Thanks for reading, and hopefully, I’m wrong about everything in this series. Good luck with your rookie drafts!

john dibari
A Hater’s Guide to the 2023 Tight End Class