The 2023 TE class is supposed to be amazing; the numbers show otherwise
Is the 2023 tight end class as good as it’s being portrayed?
That depends on how you look at it.
From a pure number’s standpoint, there aren’t as many players listed in the first- through seventh-rounds as was drafted last year. There are 16 tight ends ranked among the top 259 players in the soon-to-be-updated Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board. By comparison, 19 tight ends were drafted last year in what was then-described as a down year for the position.
Last year, though, was the anomaly. Eleven TEs were taken in 2021, 12 in 2020, 16 in 2019 and 14 in 2018. The sweet spot has been between rounds 2 to 4, where about 60 percent of tight ends have been drafted the past five years.
So, statistically speaking, the 2023 TE class is slightly above average in terms of sheer numbers.
What makes this an interesting group of tight ends, though, is in the top group, where five are ranked in the top-50. That means there’s a chance more than two are drafted on Day 1, something that hasn’t happened the past five years since two who were drafted in the first round in 2019.
The top three in the Rigdon big board include Utah’s Dalton Kincaid (No. 19), Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer (No. 23) and Georgia’s Darnell Washington (No. 30), followed closely by Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave (No. 39) and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta (No. 45). Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker (No. 53) sits just outside the top 50.
Otherwise, 11 tight ends are ranked among the top 135 prospects (which takes you through Round 4), which is about 70 percent of this TE class. Take away the three with first-round rankings, though, and, once again, about 60 percent of this year’s tight ends are ranked in the second- to fourth-round range – just like the previous past five drafts.
What could give this TE class a little boost, and what might explain the reason behind their hype, is if there are more who scouts are aware of but who have fallen under draft analysts’ radar thus far. In other words, if it turns out that 25 tight ends are drafted this year, then it would indeed by a historically good class.
Otherwise, it looks like this year’s tight end class is about average in spite of previous media reports.
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Some interesting news coming out of recent pro days.
Michigan pass rusher Mike Morris followed up a poor showing in the 40 at the Combine with an even worse time during the school’s pro day earlier this week. Morris (6-foot-5, 275) reportedly ran a 5.08-second 40-yard dash during the school’s pro day after running a 4.95 at the Combine.
Morris current ranked No. 75, which puts him in the third-round range.
Meanwhile, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud reportedly looked good, but the big news was how receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba performed after missing most of last year with lingering hamstring injuries. JSN isn’t known as a speed burner, so scouts on hand were anxious to see him run. His time was reportedly in the 4.48 to 4.52-range, which actually helps his draft stock inch up a bit despite the average time for a receiver. That’s because JSN already wowed at the quick-burst agility drills during the Combine, where he had the fastest 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill.
Smith-Njigba is now the No. 1 receiver in the Rigdon big board at No. 13 overall.
Alabama held its Pro Day on Thursday (March 23).
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. His big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft. Message him on Twitter to receive $3 off your new Ultimate GM subscription.