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Best Rookie Tight Ends (TE)

By Kevin English 12:15pm EDT 6/26/23

Did the next great fantasy TE just enter the NFL?

Rostering the best fantasy tight end is like owning a cheat code.

Because that’s been Travis Kelce -- forever. 

He’s performed as the best fantasy tight end over the past nine seasons.

Wild.

But what’s the plan if you don’t roster Kelce? Even for Kelce owners, it’s time to consider a succession plan for the 34-year-old (in October).

SPOILER: Kelce no longer occupies a top-2 spot in our updated  dynasty rankings.

 

2023 Rookie Tight Ends Look Legit

Chances are we can find a stud TE (or three) in this class. 

From Dalton Kincaid to Tucker Kraft, let’s hit the best rookie tight ends in fantasy for 2023.

Note: In minutes, you can create a Dynasty Draft War Room for detailed rankings customized to your league’s rules. Don't make a mistake and use generic rankings! YOUR format matters. 

 

Dalton Kincaid, Bills

Senior
6'4, 246 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 9.05 (out of 10)

WR-Like Talent

Kincaid’s tape looks the best of any TE in this class. He can separate, make tough catches, and chew up yards after the catch.

Dalton Kincaid showed excellent run-after-catch ability at Utah. The type of talent shown by future fantasy TE1s. He has cemented himself the best rookie tight end in the class

 

He’ll turn 24 in October – “old” for a college prospect. Just note his early breakout at the University of San Diego.

From 2018-2019, Kincaid tallied 68 catches, 1,209 yards, and 19 TDs. (After the 2019 season, he transferred to Utah and remained a strong TD producer.)

A back injury kept him out of the NFL Combine and Utah’s Pro Day. But that didn't deter the Bills from selecting Kincaid 25th overall. 

Full breakdown of Dalton Kincaid

 

Michael Mayer, Raiders

Junior
6'4, 252 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 8.08 (out of 10)

A Finished Product?

Mayer looks like one of the safest prospects at any position in this class.

He missed only one game due to injury over three college seasons. He was the only FBS TE to eclipse 800 yards each of the past two years.

Mayer doesn’t have the elite athletic profile of the next TE on this list. But the Notre Dame star checks boxes for size, toughness, contested-catch ability, and production.

Mayer ultimately profiles as a Day 1 starter.

Full Breakdown of Michael Mayer

 

Luke Musgrave, Packers

Junior
6'6, 253 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 7.97 (out of 10)

High Ceiling, Low Floor

Musgrave is largely a projection. He exits Oregon State with only 47 catches across four seasons.

Had an MCL tear not ruined his 2022, however, we might be looking at a Round 1 lock.

With excellent speed and the leaping ability of a volleyball star, Musgrave comps favorably to Mike Gesicki. 

Luke Musgrave's limited tape shows a top-end athlete with excellent length. He is one of the best rookie tight ends in the 2023 NFL draft class.

 

The NFL Combine merely confirmed his athletic traits. There, Musgrave tested 80th percentile or better in 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, vertical jump, and broad jump.

This spring, Musgrave drew praise for his work at minicamp/OTAs. While he'll compete for snaps alongside fellow rookie TE Tucker Kraft, Musgrave looks like a future fantasy TE1.

Full Breakdown of Luke Musgrave

 

Darnell Washington, Steelers

Junior
6'7, 264 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 8.19 (out of 10)

Massive Size, Suspect Fantasy Upside

Washington wasn't even the best TE at Georgia. (That was All-American Brock Bowers.)

Washington also missed time with several injuries, including foot, shoulder, and ankle issues.

But there’s a reason he earned some Round 1 buzz. Washington tore up the NFL Combine with a near-perfect 9.88 Relative Athletic Score (RAS).

The former five-star recruit at least looks like a future factor in the red zone.

Still, the downside is clear. Washington can function like a sixth O-lineman, meaning he could spend a decent chunk of his snaps blocking. He also landed with a Pittsburgh squad that has Pat Freiermuth under contract through the 2024 season.

Full Breakdown of Darnell Washington

 

Sam LaPorta, Lions

Senior
6'3, 245 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 7.81 (out of 10)

Day 2 Steal?

LaPorta’s resume includes consecutive seasons of 50+ catches and 600+ yards. 

Add context to those numbers, and they’re impossible to ignore. 

His 2022 included:

  • 28.8% target share
  • 30.3% reception share
  • 31.9% receiving yardage share

And remember, we’re talking about a TE here…

LaPorta isn’t built like a prototypical in-line option. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for with top-end speed, athleticism, and YAC chops.

This 22-year-old only built more hype with his performance in the spring. A strong training camp should put him in the mix to be Detroit's 3rd most targeted pass catcher.

 

Tucker Kraft, Packers

Junior
6'5, 254 lbs.
Prospect Model Score: 7.65 (out of 10)

Small School Gem?

You can knock him for facing poor competition. But Kraft has the size and athletic profile (9.67 RAS) coveted by NFL teams.

It showed on the field, where the South Dakota native broke out as a 2021 sophomore:

  • 65 catches
  • 773 yards
  • 6 TDs

Each figure ranked second on the team.

Tucker Kraft posted a huge 2021 season at South Dakota State. He bullied defenders with an unfair size/speed combo. He is a sleeper to be one of the best rookie tight ends this year!

 

An ankle injury – and subsequent “tightrope” surgery – ruined his 2022. The Combine and Kraft’s Pro Day at least showed he’s back to 100%. 

Consider it a win that Kraft went in Round 3, although we have to knock him for Green Bay's selection of Round 2 TE Luke Musgrave. Entering training camp, Musgrave appears in line for a larger 2023 role.

Tip: Love our Tight End breakdown? You will love how we dug into the best rookie running backs!

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