The Preseason is wrapping up and it’s finally Game week for the College Football season. So I am continuing Full steam ahead with the Introduction to the 2023 NFL Draft Class, today it’s Tigh Ends to finish off the skill positions. Most of the NFL Draft and Fantasy communities are in agreeance, like at Runningback in 2023, Michael Mayer is the Top Tight End, but who comes next is the question for most.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue breaking down prospects you need to know heading into the 2022 College Football Season and 2023 NFL Draft. From Bryce Young at Quarterback for Alabama to Bryan Breese on the Defensive Line for Clemson, you will leave this series fully equipped and prepared to talk your friend’s ear off at the local pub this College Football season.
Competition for #1
(1) Michael Mayer, Notre Dame – 6’4″ 265 lbs
- Evaluation: I can’t begin to explain how many times Notre Dame ran Mayer on crossing routes and allowed him to chew up yards and dominate the inside and outsides of the field. Michael Mayer has all of the accolades a rising junior could ask for from Freshman All-American to John Mackey semifinalist as a sophomore, and potentially winner in 2022. Mayer’s athleticism and ability to break tackles, dominate and well, wearing no. 87 on a weekly basis has garnered him the nickname “Baby Gronk”. Although subtle at times, Mayer began his career at Notre Dame in 2020 with just a handful of games over 30 yards, while peaking with 5 receptions for 73 yards and one touchdown against Pittsburgh, things changed as a sophomore. In 2021, Mayer burst onto the scene with a massive 9 reception 120 yard game against Florida State – this became a normal occurrence for the golden domer, he went on to finish with seven games over 7 receptions and 60 yards during his sophomore campaign. Entering his Junior season, the expectation is for Mayer to continue competing with Georgia Tight End Brock Bowers as the Best in College Football, but for a stat line – expect multiple 100-yard explosions in 2022.
- Projected Comp: T.J. Hockenson
- 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Mid-1st Round
- Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 8.80
Michael Mayer tossing a safety around. pic.twitter.com/Kt2rydHtxB
— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) November 28, 2021
(2)Arik Gilbert, Georgia – 6’5″ 255 lbs
- Evaluation: The most interesting prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft Class, Arik Gilbert received the no.1 rating by a TE recruit of all time per 247 sports. Gilbert started his college career at LSU in 2020 at less than 245 lbs, where he finished with 35 receptions for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. After the turmoil and off-field issues, Gilbert left the program and was away from football in 2021. During the 2021 season, Georgia won a National Championship and found a unit at Tight End in freshman Brock Bowers who compiled almost 900 yards. Entering the 2022 College Football season, the duo of Arik Gilbert and Brock Bowers looks to be the best since Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson at Iowa. Gilbert has the athleticism and upside to overtake Michael Mayer as the top tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft Class, but it will take complete dedication and drive from Gilbert in 2022. On the field, there are few limitations – Gilbert’s immediate burst is a question, but once he is on the move, as a YAC monster, Gilbert is unstoppable when he wants to be.
- Projected Comp: Floor – O.J. Howard / Ceiling – Mark Andrews
- 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Late 1st / Early 2nd Round
- Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 8.10
(3) Jaheim Bell, South Carolina – 6’3″ 232 lbs
- Evaluation: Listed at just 6’3″, Bell plays like he is 6’6″ with Wide Receiver skills in the receiving game and elite evasion skills. If you have been following along through the 2023 NFL Draft Introduction series, you already know how I feel about South Carolina in 2022. Jaheim Bell is a part of that. Bell projects for a low 4.50 speed in the forty-yard dash, and if he can combine that with a 240 lb frame, we are talking about a real weapon at the college football level and a sneaky prospect in the NFL Draft. Arik Gilbert and Brock Bowers at Georgia are the best Tight End duo in College Football. But Jaheim Bell and Austin Stogner at South Carolina have to be next in line. Bell finished with 497 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns as a sophomore at South Carolina and Stogner just got to South Carolina with Spencer Rattler.
- Projected Comp: Jonnu Smith
- 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 2nd Round
- Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.72
Jaheim Bell got them feet. "offensive weapon" pic.twitter.com/TLQfgZLuuN
— Fusue↗️ (@DevyEusuf) May 16, 2022
(4) Theo Johnson, Penn State – 6’6″ 260 lbs
- Evaluation: A lot of Theo Johnson‘s profile is a projection as he hasn’t been on the field as much as others in the 2023 NFL Draft Class. Johnson has just 23 receptions in 13 career games, but at 6’6″ 260 lbs when Johnson has touched the ball it has been electric. It’s clear that he is an NFL talent with great fluidity, hands, and natural athleticism. Due to the talent around him at Penn State in Brenton Strange and Tyler Warren, I am projecting Theo to take charge of the starting role, dominate and declare for the 2023 NFL Draft early.
- Projected Comp: Jimmy Graham
- 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Late 2nd Round
- Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.55
(5) Sam LaPorta, Iowa – 6’4″ 249 lbs
- Evaluation: After a mediocre first two seasons at Iowa, LaPorta took over as the top dog in the passing game where he reeled in 53 receptions and nearly 700 yards. Unlike former Iowa greats at the tight end position, LaPorta lacks the breakaway speed and ability to make multiple defenders miss before contact. T.J. Hockenson and George Kittle set the bar with 4.50, 4.53, and 4.70 40-yard dashes during the combine. Something LaPorta likely won’t attain. Without the athleticism, LaPorta will need to do what none of the prior listed could at Iowa, crest 1,000 receiving yards. LaPorta has that upside while being the top target in an inefficient passing attack.
- Projected Comp: Hunter Long
- 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 3rd Round
- Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.11
The Rest of the Class of 2023 (6-12)
6. Jahleel Billingsley, Texas – 6’4″ 219 lbs
7. Darnell Washington, Georgia – 6’7″ 270 lbs
8. Will Mallory, Miami (FL) – 6’5″ 245 lbs
9. Gee Scott, Ohio State – 6’3″ 240 lbs
10. Austin Stogner, South Carolina – 6’5″ 250 lbs
11. Trey Knox, Arkansas – 6’5″ 233 lbs
12. Hudson Henry, Arkansas – 6’5″ 257 lbs