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2023 NFL Combine positional review: TE targets for Buffalo Bills

Tight end is the most underrated draft option for the Bills

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Combine positional review series stays on the topic of pass catchers, but this time features the tight end group. Remember, if you missed any of the previous articles in this series find them here:

If the Buffalo Bills are going to invest in an “offensive weapon,” I’d prefer it be a wide receiver or someone with scheme flexibility out of the slot. I don’t see much sense in drafting a tight end with an early pick to have him be an occasional rotational piece on the offense. So, if the Bills invest in the TE position early, I expect it to be someone they think can immediately help improve their passing game. That being said, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to inject some life into that position group. Buffalo currently has tight end Dawson Knox locked up long-term, via last season’s 4-year 52 million (13 mil AAV) contract. Knox’s contract is set to kick in this upcoming season. The Bills also have Quintin Morris and Zach Davidson on their roster. Tommy Sweeney is an unrestricted free agent. Knox is a do-it-all tight end that the team figures to be a big part of their offense for seasons to come. He doesn’t offer high-end potential as a receiving threat, but I think he has a lot more production in him if targeted more. For those who complain that Knox didn’t do enough to warrant his big contract extension, I would say tread carefully — he does a lot of things outside of catching the football that are important. He is a plus blocker, a team leader, a decent receiving threat, and a tone-setter for the offense. Let’s dive in to look at who the Bills could consider for the tight end position in the 2023 NFL Draft.

For reference:

  • Day 1 = Round 1
  • Day 2 = Rounds 2 & 3
  • Day 3 = Rounds 4-7

Round 1 Considerations

Dalton Kincaid, TE (Utah)

Unfortunately, Kincaid did not participate in field drills due to an injury, but technically he was invited to the combine so he fits in this article. Hopefully, we get some testing numbers from his pro day. Kincaid is more of your prototypical “pass-catching” tight end. It’s difficult not to think of all the fun possibilities if he was paired up with Josh Allen, I think Kincaid would be a matchup nightmare in the Bills’ offense. The 6’4”, 246-pound TE acts more like a receiver and is a more dynamic athlete than a typical TE. His ball skills are superb and his length provides him a great advantage in 50/50 balls. He has surprisingly nimble feet for a big man, may I dare say reminiscent of Travis Kelce. His blocking isn’t good and I don’t think it ever will be, but teams won’t be drafting Kincaid in the first round to be a blocker. Physicality is not his game, which can cause some problems when challenged by a physical defensive back. Overall, Kincaid has the potential to be great, and if the Bills have him fall into their lap at pick 27, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were ecstatic about it.

Side note:

For those of you wondering why I do not have Michael Mayer, TE (Notre Dame) on this list — I think Mayer is indeed a top tight end in this class who deserves to be considered in the first round. I also don’t think the Bills should consider him with their first-round pick. Mayer is a more traditional tight end who offers similar abilities to what Buffalo already has with Dawson Knox (albeit Mayer has a much better pedigree coming into the draft than Knox ever did). Anyways, if the Bills select a tight end in the first round, I think the only consideration should be Dalton Kincaid, not Mayer, due to Kincaid’s elite pass-catching traits. It is worth noting that the Buffalo met with Mayer at the combine (and not Kincaid). So maybe One Bills Drive thinks differently than me. Moving on...

Day 2 Considerations

Darnell Washington, TE (Georgia)

Darnell Washington is a physical specimen. He stands a towering 6’7” and weighs 264 pounds, not to mention that his arm length is 34 3/8”. He ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, which is absolutely out of this world for someone his size. Washington is a beast when blocking and he provides a catch radius the size of a small swimming pool. He doesn’t have a long history of production like some of these other tight ends in this draft class, and that is a cause for concern that pushes him to the second round for me. It only takes one team to fall in love and take him in the first round — and that would be because of his rare combination of size, power, and speed. The Bills did meet with Washington at the combine. If they are interested in him I hope they wait until Day 2, but Washington may not last until pick 59 after his stellar combine performance.

Luke Musgrave, TE (Oregon State)

Musgrave is another TE prospect who has stand-out physical traits (6’6” and 253 pounds). The big man can also move, posting an impressive 4.61-second 40-yard dash. The biggest knock on Musgrave might be that his 2022 season was cut short (only two games played) by a knee injury. He should be good to go for the 2023 season, but this is a reason he might fall down draft boards a little bit. Musgrave is a plus athlete at the tight end position and possesses tremendous upside. His combination of size and speed, sprinkled with his silky route running are reasons to believe he is the dark horse to end up being the best tight end that comes out of this draft. A lot of other tight ends are getting hyped up around him, but I wouldn’t mind it if Musgrave slipped to provide a great value pick for the Bills.

Sam Laporta, TE (Iowa)

Laporta is more of a tweener tight end (6’4”, 249 pounds) who has the ability to catch the football out of the slot with volume and also be a productive in-line blocker. He has above-average athleticism and proved that by putting up solid numbers at the combine.

  • 40-yard dash = 4.59 seconds
  • Vertical jump = 35”
  • Broad jump = 10’3”
  • 3-cone drill = 6.91 seconds
  • 20-yard shuttle = 4.25 seconds

Laporta can get open in any area of the field and is an above-average route runner. He provides solid hands and can be seen “plucking” the ball numerous times on film. I wouldn’t label him as a possession receiver because he does offer solid value in the run after the catch. He is competitive in his blocking but some bigger players can discard him quickly. Laporta has the qualities to develop into a quality starting NFL tight end.

Day 3 Considerations

Zack Kuntz, TE (Old Dominion)

Another tight end with really special physical traits, catch the theme yet? Kuntz absolutely destroyed the NFL combine. Keeping in mind that he is 6’7” and 255 pounds, check out these numbers:

  • 40-yard dash = 4.55 seconds
  • Vertical jump = 40”
  • Broad jump = 10’8”
  • 3-cone drill = 6.87 seconds
  • 20-yard shuttle = 4.12 seconds

These numbers are so good that I’m skeptical he’ll make it to Day 3 now. But if he does, he’s my favorite tight end consideration for the Bills in this year’s NFL Draft. The original Penn State recruit transferred to Old Dominion and had a great 2021 season, but his 2022 season was ended prematurely by an injury. Kuntz’s length, ball skills, and catch radius are elite. He does show some potential to become an above-average route runner, but he still has to refine his craft. His potential is sky high and physical traits alone warrant him a Day 3 flyer.

In summary

The Buffalo Bills don’t necessarily have a need at the tight end position, so drafting one isn’t a high priority. However, I do think they could use a little jolt to that position group to spice things up a bit on offense. If you noticed, most of these tight end considerations were gifted with supreme physical traits. If one of them were to fall down the draft board a little, I wouldn’t mind Buffalo taking the value pick.

Next up in this positional series we feature quarterbacks, stay tuned!