2023 NFL Draft Skill Player Preview

TE1: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Michael Mayer is ready for the NFL right now. It’s not an exaggeration that he was a man among boys in 2021, as a true sophomore. If Mayer were eligible, he almost certainly would have been the top tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s only 20 years old, and he’s only getting better both as a receiver and a blocker. As a tight end, Mayer has been the leading receiver for the Fighting Irish for the past two seasons, and I would personally expect that trend to continue in 2022, which will almost certainly be his final season in South Bend.

Mayer plays receiver like the defensive back, or safety, or linebacker, or whoever the poor soul who has to guard him is, has personally wronged him in a serious way. He plays with such physicality, while simultaneously keeping it reigned in enough to avoid penalties, that it’s legitimately his most impressive trait. He’s like a bowling ball grew arms, and the arms had fists, and the only thing the fists knew how to do was fight potential bowling ball predators. He’s almost impossible to stop in the open field due to sheer force of rage, and being 6’4 and 250 pounds helps.

While Mayer’s effort is one of the things I love about him, I feel that he needs to work on his hands, and not running before he gets the football. He’s extremely dangerous in the open field, but only when he actually catches the ball first. His tape in 2021 showed a bit of concern in the way of concentrating and simply keeping his eyes on the ball, and I like my tight ends to be sure-handed. I still think Mayer is a sure-fire slam-dunk success at the pro level, but that’s the one thing that really worries me when it comes to his potential.

TE2: Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Aside from having one of the coolest names in this year’s draft class, Dalton Kincaid is one of the most polished receivers at any position in the class. He completely understands the what, why, and when of catching footballs, which is a bit less common than you might think. As a blocker, Kincaid gives effort, which is all that NFL coaches are really looking for from tight ends, at least in most schemes. I would give a better descriptor than to say that Kincaid “gets it” at the tight end position despite only picking it up as a senior in high school, but it’s about the most accurate thing I can really say about him.

Kincaid is a basketball player by trade, and you can absolutely tell that from his tape on the gridiron. Kincaid’s route running is clean, sudden, and shifty in all the right ways. He profiles as a class mismatch tight end in the vein of Travis Kelce coming out of Cincinnati. He’s too fast for linebackers yet too big for a safety, and don’t even try it with cornerbacks. He is tremendous at getting up at the catch point and excels with high-pointing the football and bringing it back down to earth at the edge of the endzone.

Kincaid is explosive, but he’ll be coming into the NFL as a relatively inexperienced, 24-year-old rookie. It’s not his fault that he found the game of football so late in his youth, but it certainly won’t help him in the eyes of scouts and front offices. While I said he gives effort in blocking, he isn’t exactly what one would call “good” at it, or even close. Kincaid will make his NFL money as a receiving tight end, and the blocking part of his game may never truly come along. I’m much more worried about him than I am with Mayer, but it’s likely that they’ll both be drafted quite high.


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