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Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Tight Ends (2023 Fantasy Football)

by Derek Brown | @dbro_ffb | Featured Writer
Mar 3, 2023
Dalton Kincaid

The NFL offseason is here (silently chuckles on the inside). Every dynasty GM knows there is no offseason. There’s the regular season, and then there is rookie fever season. If you’re like me and you’ve had a raging fever since February…the only prescription is my rookie primers.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer

I’ll run through each skill position (QB, RB, WR, TE), laying out draft strategy, tiers, statistical analysis, and scouting reports. Let’s dive into this exciting rookie class.

How to Approach Tight Ends in Dynasty Rookie Drafts

The tight end position is one that I will enjoy the value pockets in start-up drafts or trades over drafting rookies aggressively in most cases. Tight ends often still need some NFL seasoning before they hit their full stride in the league. This lag time between hype and production can open up a few buy windows, so I’ll usually remain patient and look to pounce on athletic freaks that could break out.

In saying that, this year’s tight-end class is a strong one for fantasy. Players like Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer should get sizable draft capital to earn big snap shares early. The sexy skill sets of Sam LaPorta, Darnell Washington, and Co. should allow them to earn targets or high-value targets in Year 1.

*These tiers could shift with extra additions once we have athletic testing numbers back.*

Positional Tiers

Tier 1

Analysis: Kincaid and Mayer are brewing fantasy football monsters. Both should be top-50 selections in the NFL Draft.

Tier 2

Analysis: I was not expecting to have a tight end in the class falling into a tier above Washington and Musgrave, but here we are. LaPorta’s ceiling as a receiving threat is sky-high.

Tier 3

Analysis: Washington and Musgrave are physical specimens. Each player has the upside to develop into a consistent top-12 fantasy tight end, but they still have growth in their games to make before that can happen.

Dalton Kincaid (Utah)


  • 2022 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 2nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 1st
  • 2021 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 13th
    • PFF receiving grade: 11th
  • Career
    • Utilized in the slot on 55.1% of his snaps in 2022
    • Kincaid was third in missed tackles forced among tight ends last year.

Scouting report:

  • Kincaid has special movement skills. He looks fluid through his routes with a quick snap at the top of his stem. Kincaid has excellent body control with above-the-rim skills. He is exceptional at high-pointing the ball, which will serve him well in the red zone in the NFL.
  • Kincaid can win inline, in the slot, and on the perimeter. He has early and late separation skills that allow him to be flexed out to the boundary, even against man coverage. Last year, Kincaid was 13th in PFF receiving grade and yards per route run against man coverage (minimum 10 man-coverage targets).
  • He is a tackle-breaking steamroller in the open field. I’m not prone to comping rookie tight ends to future Hall of Famers, but Kincaid reminds me of Travis Kelce on film. His combination of route running, speed, and RAC ability evokes Kelce’s highlight reels in my head. He’s also a field-stretching weapon that can win vertically on the perimeter and down the seam. Kincaid was fifth in PFF deep receiving grade and 13th in deep yards per route run among tight ends last year (minimum five deep targets).
  • The biggest area of improvement for Kincaid is in the blocking department. He is religiously turned into a pretzel in pass protection. His after-the-catch nastiness displays the necessary play strength for Kincaid to grow as a blocker. His first punch is decent, but pass rushers have no issues standing him up and blowing him off his mark. Improvements on technique in the NFL can allow him to become a serviceable blocker, at least.

Player Comp: Travis Kelce

Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)


  • 2022 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 1st
    • PFF receiving grade: 2nd
  • 2021 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 18th
    • PFF receiving grade: 14th
  • 2020 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 40th
    • PFF receiving grade: 38th
  • Career
    • 95th percentile college dominator
    • 76th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Mayer should be an immediate pass-game weapon on any depth chart. At worst, he has the receiving chops to be the second option in a passing attack. Mayer has plus speed, fluid hips, and the route-running nuance of an NFL veteran. His routes vary in tempo, with head fakes at the top of his stem. On vertical routes, he displays good bend and changes of direction.
  • He’s an early separator against linebackers and flashes solid late separation on the perimeter against corners. Maher can be used on the perimeter, even against press or man coverage. He has the requisite speed, upper body strength, and footwork to defeat this coverage type.
  • Mayer is mean as a blocker. He’s tenacious and determined to bury his defender in the dirt. He’s better inline as a pass protector and run blocker than as a pulling blocker or lead. Maher has a good anchor, but he needs to work on leverage. He has the functional strength and technique to enter any NFL depth chart and be a league-average blocker with the upside to grow into an exceptional blocker.
  • As nasty as Maher is with blocking, you’d think he would be a monster after the catch, but that isn’t the case. Maher’s play strength doesn’t consistently bubble to the top in this area. He needs to channel his aggression into breaking tackles after the catch with stiff arms, etc. Last year, he was 88th in YAC per reception (minimum 20 targets).

Player Comp: Mark Andrews

Darnell Washington (Georgia)


  • 2022 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 20th
    • PFF receiving grade: 11th
  • Career
    • 66.2% inline during his career at Georgia

Scouting report:

  • Washington is a nasty customer in run blocking. With his size and physicality, he can manhandle incoming tacklers. He was lined up in the backfield and utilized as a lead blocker plenty of times. Washington’s towering build (6’7″) can allow him to be chopped down, but he displays surprising bend.
  • Washington might never be a high-volume target in the NFL. His height will make him an automatic weapon in the red zone. His catch radius is massive, and his body control (especially considering his size) is eye-opening when paired with his soft hands. He can adjust quite well to low passes and poorly-thrown balls.
  • Washington looks lumbering in the open field with build-up speed that can get stopped in its tracks if he’s contacted early after the reception. If you allow him to build up steam, he can swat incoming tacklers like pesky gnats.

Player Comp: Marcedes Lewis

Sam LaPorta (Iowa)


  • 2022 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 7th
    • PFF receiving grade: 6th
  • 2021 (minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 19th
    • PFF receiving grade: 20th
  • Career
    • 78th percentile college dominator
    • 64th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • LaPorta will make his mark as a receiver in the NFL. Blocking will be a skill he must continue honing in the NFL. If LaPorta hits his ceiling in the NFL, it will be because of his pass-game abilities and not his run-blocking chops.
  • LaPorta runs routes like a wide receiver. He’s smooth in and out of his breaks with surprising foot quickness. LaPorta played 20.2% of his snaps as a boundary receiver in 2022. He proved up to the task by leading all FBS tight ends in man-coverage targets. He was also second in PFF receiving grade and third in yards per route run against man coverage (minimum 10 man-coverage targets). He’s also adept at finding the soft spots in zone coverage.
  • He puts some impressive work after the catch on film. His start/stop ability and change-of-direction skills are noticeable. He has good acceleration after the catch with jukes, spin moves, and stiff arms to make a defensive back’s job of getting him to the ground tough. He ranked second in missed tackles forced and third in YAC among tight ends last year.

Player Comp: David Njoku

Luke Musgrave (Oregon State)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)**
    • Yards per route run: 2nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 23rd

**Only 15 targets**

  • Career
    • Only 38.9% of his contested collegiate targets secured
    • 58.1% inline rate in college

Scouting report:

  • Chain mover tight end. Does have enough athleticism to threaten downfield up the seam, but he’s not much of a threat after the catch.
  • Musgrave is an average to below-average blocker at this point. His play strength shows up in blocking and his routes. He can be pushed off his route by physical linebackers. He can hold his spot in blocking on some reps, but don’t expect him to be utilized as a lead blocker or road grader at the next level.

Player Comp: Zach Miller

Josh Whyle (Cincinnati)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 83rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 43rd
  • 2021 (133 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 37th
    • PFF receiving grade: 50th
  • Career
    • Whyle’s yards per route run has declined in each of the last three seasons from 2.94 to 1.11.

Scouting report:

  • Fluid receiver after the catch. He’s able to shed arm tackles with his plus leg strength. Whyle has the speed to pull away from linebackers in space.
  • Good short-area start/stop ability considering his size. Utilized on drag routes and screens heavily to let him do work in space.
  • A willing blocker in all facets. He ranked 30th in PFF run-blocking grade and 15th in pass blocking last season (minimum 100 blocking snaps) among tight ends.

Player Comp: Harrison Bryant

Davis Allen (Clemson)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 32nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 31st
  • Career
    • 43.0% slot rate in college
    • Only three drops at Clemson (115 targets)

Scouting report:

  • One-speed runner in the open field. If you’re looking for him to pull away from linebackers in coverage, you’ll be waiting a while watching film. Only 4.6 YAC per reception in his collegiate career, with five missed tackles (88 receptions).
  • While he won’t be a big-play threat in the NFL, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a dependable target underneath and against zone coverage for a quarterback. He ranked 26th in catch rate last year and first in contested catch rate (minimum six contested targets). Allen is strong at the catch point high-pointing balls and securing everything thrown in his direction. With these traits alone, he could develop into a consistent red-zone threat.

Player Comp: Blake Bell

Will Mallory (Miami)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 25th
    • PFF receiving grade: 12th
    • YAC: 7th
  • 2021 (133 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 94th
    • PFF receiving grade: 111th
  • Career
    • Shift from 46.6-53.9% slot (2020-2021) to 58.0% inline in 2022
    • Putrid PFF run-blocking grades (never surpassed 52.0 in any season)

Scouting report:

  • Mallory has a tough time separating. He rounds off many of his routes at the top of the stem. Linebackers have little trouble hanging with him. Many of his routes are run from stacked formations, or he is utilized on designed screens.
  • Functional as an inline blocker. His physical limitations show up here, as he’ll anchor his spot on many reps, but you won’t see Mallory tossing rushers around like ragdolls or pushing them back off their mark.

Player Comp: Coby Fleener

Payne Durham (Purdue)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 68th
    • PFF receiving grade: 34th
  • 2021 (133 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 33rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 34th
  • Career
    • Durham decreased his drop rate in each of his final three seasons at Purdue (2022, 3.4%).

Scouting report:

  • Energetic blocker. Utilized inline and in space. Durham has no issues clearing a path. Good hand placement and will blow defenders back in the run game.
  • Utilized on screens and as an underneath target against zone. He’s not a big-play threat after the catch. He looks lumbering in the open field and after the catch.
  • Durham should develop into a reliable TE2 at the NFL level that can work inline and as an H-back.

Player Comp: Nick Vannett

Cameron Latu (Alabama)


  • 2022 (146 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 92nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 83rd
  • 2021 (133 FBS TEs, minimum 20 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 58th
    • PFF receiving grade: 51st
  • Career
    • Started his Alabama career as a defensive end. Switched to tight end and became the starter for the last two seasons.

Scouting report:

  • An old defensive mean streak shows up in his blocking. Good punch and anchor noted. Should be able to contribute in 12 and 13 personnel from Day 1.
  • He has a decent snap at the top of his routes to gain separation, but his limited straight-line speed prevents him from running away from defenders or holding a cushion in his routes. Latu can be utilized as an underneath chain mover in the passing game, but not much more than that.

Player Comp: Kaden Smith

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*All data utilized in this article is courtesy of PFF, Football Outsiders, and unless otherwise specified.*

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