The 2023 NFL Draft is less than a week away. As of now, the Green Bay Packers have the 15th overall pick in the first round and the 45th overall pick in the second round of the draft. More early round picks could be added if the trade of Aaron Rodgers is completed before or during the draft.
This is the next in a series of articles looking at players the Packers may be interested in selecting in the early rounds of this year’s draft. The only players listed here are realistic possibilities for the Packers to pick in the first or second round of the draft or who fill specific needs for the team right now.
Tight end is a major need for the Packers. Their top receiving tight end from a year ago, Robert Tonyan, has signed with the Bears. Their number one blocking tight end, Marcedes Lewis, remains an unrestricted free agent and his return is uncertain. The only experienced players the Packers have at the position right now are Josiah Deguara, who has been used mostly as a fullback or H-back, and Tyler Davis who contributes mostly on special teams.
The other tight ends on the roster are unproven at the NFL level. They include Nick Guggemos and Austin Allen.
Fortunately for the Packers, this is one of the most talented and deepest classes of tight ends in recent memory with as many as four players predicted to go in the first round.
It is likely GM Brian Gutekunst will draft more than one player at the tight end position and there is still a chance Lewis returns if he’s willing to sign a team friendly deal. Look for the Packers to add one tight end during the first two days of the draft and one on day three depending on how the board falls.
So here is a list of possible tight ends the Packers may take early in the 2023 draft. They are not listed in any particular order:
Darnell Washington, Georgia
Washington is the most athletic tight end on the board. His 6’7”, 270-pound frame can create mismatches and he has long arms. Washington has long strides and good downfield speed, but it takes him a while to get there which may make getting separation a little more challenging.
At Georgia, he was used more as a blocker and he’s a darn good one. Washington blocked very well on running plays and his size and strength and big hands helped him move defenders out of the way.
Washington was not used much as a receiver in the Georgia offense. The raw athletic tools are there for him to be a good one at the next level and his hands improved each season of his college career, but it may take him a little more time to become a major factor as a receiver. Still, he may have the highest upside of any tight end in this draft.
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Mayer was the most productive tight end in Notre Dame history and the school has a long history of great players at the position. The 6’4”, 265-pound prospect ran a complete route tree in college and has the toughness you crave at the position. He also has strong and big hands.
His run blocking and pass protection will need some work in that area of his game. He’s a willing blocker but often struggles to maintain his blocks.
Mayer appears to be ready to contribute as a pass catcher right away, but he is not a classic downfield threat as his athleticism is a bit below what scouts ideally look for.
Most scouts consider Mayer to be the top tight end on the board this year and he should quickly become a strong NFL player.
Dalton Kincaid, Utah
At 6’7” and 240 pounds, Kincaid is a big target who runs crisp and precise patterns and often forces defenders to hold him as he fakes them out.
Kincaid would be a good receiver for the middle of the field, and he can help other receivers get open in Matt LaFleur’s offense because although he is only above average athletically, his route running and knowledge of the passing game would open things up for the offense.
Kincaid is limited as a blocker and keeps his pad level too high. But if you’re looking for a pass catching tight end who will be a weapon in the short passing game, he’s an excellent prospect.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
Musgrave is a great pass receiver and has outstanding athleticism. He stands 6’6” and 250 pounds and is a smooth route runner with long strides and the ability to get downfield.
Blocking was never Musgrave’s strong suit, but the Packers could always use a day three pick on a blocking tight end and be very happy with the production Musgrave would give them through the air. He also has experience playing special teams in college.
The big issue with Musgrave is his health. His 2022 college season ended after two games due to a knee injury. Oregon State was a run-heavy offense, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience but the talent and ability is clearly there. If his medicals check out, Musgrave has the tools to be an elite tight end.
Josh Wyle, Cincinnati
Wyle has good athleticism and can get downfield. He usually lined up off ball in college so his adjustment to the NFL may take a little more time, but the tools are there. He is a willing blocker and makes for a big target at 6’7” and 245 pounds.
The former Cincinnati star comes from the same school as Josiah Deguara and is considered a better all-around athlete than Deguara was coming out of school. Wyle has good hands but doesn’t always play as fast as he tests.
He should make a good intermediate receiver and can give the Packers a middle of the field weapon if they take him on day two of the draft.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage