Early Top-Five 2023 NFL Draft Tight End Rankings: Notre Dame Tight End Michael Mayer Takes Top Spot | NFL draft

While 2022 tight end class was heralded for its depth, the top end of the Class of 2023 is on another level as there are several prospects that will provide legitimate first-round excitement in this class. All five prospects on this list have legitimate potential to be runners-up at worst.

1. Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (Junior)

2021 statistics Goals Rec meter TD DP MTF rec class
Michael Mayr 95 71 840 7 3 8th 82

The learning curve at the tight end of college is very similar to that in the NFL, which means it’s difficult to contribute early, but don’t say that to Notre Dame’s leading receiver over the past two seasons.

Mayer is the rare tight end prospect who’s ready for the NFL as a real sophomore. No, he may not run like Kyle Pitts and won’t go nearly as high, but he can play an inline role that Pitts can never fill.

Don’t get it twisted though, he’s not a stiff receiver. What he lacks in sheer explosiveness, Mayer makes up for in physicality. He has a knack for making contact on his paths before pinning defenders to his jersey on his breaks. If he looks clouded, it won’t be for long.

It’s scary to imagine that at just 20 years old he’s already acting like the worst guy on the field. What will he look like in the league in a few years?

2. Dalton Kincaid, Utah (RS Senior)

2021 statistics Goals Rec meter TD DP MTF rec class
Dalton Kincaid 45 36 510 8th 1 83.2

If Mayer is #1 in this class for refined receiving ability, then Kincaid is #1B. Kincaid’s background as a former receiver recruit is evident. He spent two seasons at the University of San Diego, where he was a sophomore FCS All-American after amassing 44 catches for 835 yards. He transferred to Utah in the COVID year, where he had a 2021 breakout season.

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The way he gets off the scrimmage line, as well as the way he gets in and out of his breaks, is exactly what evaluators want from a next-level receiving weapon. He’s got some damn good hands too, not losing a single pass on 37 occasions in Utah last season while going 7-for-9 on contested occasions last season. He’s a bit older as a fifth-year player, but Kincaid has likely returned to further revamp his former wide receiver frame as he’s still listed on the smaller side at 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds.

3. Arik Gilbert, Georgia (RS sophomore)

Statistics 2020* Goals Rec meter TD DP MTF rec class
Arike Gilbert 53 35 368 2 2 9 73

Gilbert really shouldn’t even be on this list – just his name at the bottom with an asterisk next to it – because he should be #1 from a talent perspective. And from a “what’s wrong with him off the field” perspective, we don’t even know when he’ll be playing football again.

Gilbert was a five-star player and one of the top-rated tight end recruits of all time in 2020. The 6-foot-5, 248-pound sports prodigy originally brought his talents to Baton Rouge, where he had 35 catches for 368 yards scored as a true freshman.

Then things took a turn. After entering the transfer portal, Gilbert originally committed to Florida before retiring and joining Georgia. He was never used for the national champion because he missed the entire 2021 season for personal reasons. Gilbert reportedly weighed over 300 pounds when he returned to the team in January this year. While he looked more groomed at the time of the Bulldogs’ spring game, NFL teams must do their due diligence on where Gilbert is off the field when he finally declares.

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4. Jaheim Bell, SC (Junior)

2021 statistics Goals Rec meter TD DP MTF rec class
Jaheim bell 41 30 488 5 1 13 88.8

Ball in hand, Bell is the best tight end in the country. So much so that South Carolina gave him seven handoffs last season! And that’s not even including this 65-yarder that was recalled.

Not only is he elusive with 13 broken tackles from just 30 receptions, he’s also explosive. Of his five touchdown receptions in 2021, three came from over 65 yards.

The only problem is that at 6ft 3 and 230 pounds, he’s still built more like a running back than a true tight end. If he can put 10-15 pounds of good weight on his body, he’ll be a desirable moving pawn in the NFL.

5. Sam LaPorta, Iowa (senior)

2021 statistics Goals Rec meter TD DP MTF rec class
Sam Laporta 81 53 670 3 5 10 80

LaPorta would easily have been in as a top-five tight end in last year’s class if he had declared, but there’s good reason to think he can boost his stock significantly as a senior. LaPorta moves so smoothly for a man his size, which we’ve seen on the course as LaPorta has rushed for 245 yards in his last three games.

With that kind of natural ability, LaPorta could be ranked much higher as a prospect if he cleans up a few things. The first problem he needs to fix is ​​his drops, as he’s let eight of 88 catchables slip through his hands over the past two seasons. The second is his route run, where he still doesn’t look good enough to run a full route tree. Given Kirk Ferentz’s history of designing tight ends, I’d have faith that LaPorta would look a lot better in 2022.

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