Eleven Tight Ends Patriots Could Target In 2023 NFL Draft

It's considered the best tight end class in years


Apr 11, 2023

As the 2023 NFL Draft draws closer, NESN.com is taking a closer look at this year’s crop of prospects to spotlight ones that could be on the New England Patriots’ radar.

For each position, we’ve highlighted a handful of potential Patriots targets on Day 1, Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), with the acknowledgment that some players could wind up going earlier or later come draft day.

Next up: tight ends.

(Advanced stats via Pro Football Focus and The Athletic draft guides.)

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
6-foot-4 1/2, 249 pounds
2022 stats: 67 catches, 809 yards, nine touchdowns (12 games)
Probably the most complete tight end in this stacked draft class, Mayer is NFL-ready as a pass-catcher and run blocker and should immediately be an asset to whichever offense he joins. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he has the size and skills to play in-line or detached and proved his durability by missing just one game in college. He racked up 180 catches over his three seasons at Notre Dame and also was a team captain, showing the intangibles New England typically values. The Patriots should be looking to add a plus blocker to their tight end room — that’s not a strength of Mike Gesicki or Hunter Henry, both of whom are entering contract years — and Mayer would be an obvious fit. They’d almost certainly need to invest a first-round pick to land him, however.

Dalton Kincaid, Utah
6-foot-4, 246 pounds
2022 stats: 70 catches, 890 yards, eight touchdowns (12 games)
Kincaid’s rare abilities in the passing game earned him pre-draft comparisons to Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz and could make him the first tight end selected later this month. He led all FBS tight ends in catches and receiving yards per game in 2022 — narrowly topping Mayer in both categories — while forcing 16 missed tackles. He’s remarkably sure-handed, too, with just four dropped passes across 55 collegiate appearances. The knock on Kincaid, as with Kelce, is his blocking ability. NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein called him a “liability” in that area. He’s also coming off a back injury that sidelined him for most of the pre-draft process.

Darnell Washington, Georgia
6-foot-7, 264 pounds
2022 stats: 28 catches, 454 yards, two touchdowns (15 games)
If, after signing the receiving-focused Gesicki in free agency, the Patriots want to add a pure bully to their tight end group, they could be smitten with Washington. He boasts a massive frame and was overpowering as a run blocker for the national champion Bulldogs. His raw receiving numbers don’t measure up against some of the other tight ends in this class — partially a result of playing alongside Georgia teammate Brock Bowers, who could be the first tight end drafted next year — but he has potential there, too. Washington averaged an impressive 17.2 yards per catch in college and is a freak athlete for his size.

Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
6-foot-6, 253 pounds
2022 stats: 11 catches, 169 yards, one touchdown (two games)
Few tight ends in this draft can match Musgrave’s blend of size, speed and fluidity, which scouting reports link back to his days as a high school standout in track, skiing and lacrosse. He’s coming off a knee injury that wiped out most of his senior season, but he returned to the field in time to deliver an impressive showing at the 2023 Senior Bowl and crush his combine workout. Musgrave is a well-rounded player with big-play potential as a pass-catcher (four catches of 25-plus yards in just two games last season) and solid run-blocking chops. He also blocked a punt in 2021 and returned it for a touchdown.

Sam LaPorta, Iowa
6-foot-3, 245 pounds
2022 stats: 58 catches, 657 yards, one touchdown (12 games)
The latest in a long line of excellent Iowa tight ends, LaPorta was a run-after-catch weapon for the Hawkeyes, leading all FBS tight ends in forced missed tackles in 2022. There are some questions about his hands (11 drops over the last two seasons), red-zone potential (five touchdowns in 46 career game) and lack of prototypical size and length. But scouting reports rave about his character and leadership, and he showcased his top-tier athleticism at the combine. His top athletic comp on Mockdraftable was 2020 Patriots draftee Dalton Keene. Iowa’s offensive coordinator, ex-Patriots assistant Brian Ferentz, told The Athletic that LaPorta is “probably the best” player he’s coached — high praise from a guy who previously worked with George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.

Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
6-foot-5, 254 pounds
2022 stats: 27 catches, 348 yards, three touchdowns (nine games)

Kraft likely caught the Patriots’ eye when they were scouting his former college teammate, running back Pierre Strong, ahead of last year’s draft. The big-bodied FCS product was more productive in 2021 (65-780-6 in 15 games, with one of those scores coming on a halfback pass from Strong) with an ankle injury sidelining him for six games last season. He might face an acclimation period with the massive jump in quality of competition, but athleticism and versatility will make him an enticing Day 2 target. Also of note: Alabama tried to recruit Kraft away from SDSU last offseason with a lucrative NIL offer, per The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. Bama’s OC at the time? Bill O’Brien.

Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan
6-foot-5, 251 pounds
2022 stats: 35 catches, 418 yards, three touchdowns (12 games)

Hailing from a program that’s produced at least one Patriots pick in each of the last four drafts, Schoonmaker is considered one of the better blocking tight ends in this year’s class. He also was a reliable, if seldom used, pass-catcher for the Wolverines, catching 78% of his targets last season and dropping just three passes in 44 career games. Schoonmaker tested better in agility drills than you’d expect from a blocking-first player, too. The 6.81-second three-cone drill he ran at his pro day would have paced all tight ends at the combine. He played for the Patriots’ coaching staff at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl and is a former high school quarterback.

Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
6-foot-7, 255 pounds
2022 stats: 12 catches, 144 yards, two touchdowns (five games)

Kuntz’s draft stock shot up after he dominated the combine, posting top marks among tight ends in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone and bench press, plus a 40-yard dash time that ranked second by 0.01 seconds. All at 6-7, 255. Kuntz’s rare physical and athletic traits should get him drafted in the third or fourth round, but he’s viewed as a developmental prospect who needs to get stronger and hone his technique. He transferred from Penn State after three quiet seasons and, after racking up 73 catches for Old Dominion in 2021, missed the back half of his senior year with a knee injury.

Cameron Latu, Alabama
6-foot-4, 242 pounds
2022 stats: 30 catches, 377 yards, four touchdowns (11 games)

Latu’s ceiling isn’t as high as some of the more highly touted tight ends in this class. But he’s a familiar face after playing under O’Brien — the Patriots’ new offensive coordinator — for his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Latu scored touchdowns on more than 20% of his receptions for the Crimson Tide (12 of 56) and averaged 14.1 yards per catch.

Davis Allen, Clemson
6-foot-6, 245 pounds
2022 stats: 39 catches, 443 yards, five touchdowns (14 games)

Zierlein called Allen a “human vacuum” for his ability to pull down contested catches. He dropped just three passes in four seasons at Clemson (two as a starter). Allen is neither a prolific receiver nor a dominant blocker, but he’s solid in both areas, can play in-line or in the slot and checks several Patriots boxes as a team captain who played in Senior Bowl and had a large role on special teams. He’s also durable, playing in all 54 games during his college career.

Jack Colletto, Oregon State
6-foot-2 1/2, 237 pounds
2022 stats: three catches, 46 yards; 27 carries, 103 yards, six touchdowns (12 games)

Colletto isn’t a traditional tight end. In fact, he’s not a traditional anything. He played running back, linebacker and quarterback at Oregon State, winning the 2022 Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football. The Patriots employ three of the previous six winners of that award: safety Jabrill Peppers (2016), receiver Lynn Bowden (2019) and last year’s recipient, cornerback/return man/receiver Marcus Jones. They got an up-close look at Colletto at the Shrine Bowl and could view him as a movable offensive piece who also can contribute on special teams.

Thumbnail photo via Erin Bormett/Argus Leader via USA TODAY Sports Images
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