2023 NFL Draft First TE Picks & Odds

Michael Mayer Notre Dame NFL Combine
Michael Mayer of Notre Dame participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

Top NFL Draft Pick

NFL Pick: Michael Mayer First Tight End Selected (-125) at Bet365

The tight end position is an odd one in the NFL as the elite players can give a team a huge advantage. Just think of the last two decades and the impact Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle have had on their teams. 

Yet, so many of the best tight ends were not drafted with a top-40 pick. This is true for much of NFL history too, making tight end different from other top positions where the cream of the crop usually does rise to the top of the draft board. 

But in the 2023 NFL draft, there are really only three names in competition at the top-rated sportsbooks to be the first tight end drafted. The following odds are found at Bet365: 

  • Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (-125) 
  • Dalton Kincaid, Utah (+180) 
  • Darnell Washington, Georgia (+300) 

We make our pick for the best value bet in this market below. 

The Potential Landing Spots 

Again, there is a long history of not needing to spend a high draft pick to get a great tight end. Kyle Pitts made history in 2021 when Atlanta took him No. 4 overall, making him the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history.  

But in 2022, no tight end was drafted until the second round when Trey McBride went No. 55 to Arizona. This is considered a stronger tight-end class in 2023, but it is rare to see a draft class with multiple first-round picks at tight end. Here are the last three times it happened: 

  • 2019: T.J. Hockenson (No. 8) and Noah Fant (No. 20) 
  • 2017: O.J. Howard (No. 19), Evan Engram (No. 23), and David Njoku (No. 29) 
  • 2006: Vernon Davis (No. 6) and Marcedes Lewis (No. 28) 

Not a ton of success there, but it is possible we see two tight ends go in the first round this year. Many mock drafts have the Packers taking a tight end with the No. 15 pick, which would be hilarious given the fact that Green Bay did not draft a wide receiver or tight end in the first round since 2002. 

So, doing it the moment after (we assume) trading Aaron Rodgers would look really weird. But it is possible now that Robert Tonyan has joined the Bears. 

Daaa Bears… Really?

We talk about what the Bears will do with the No. 9 pick in a lot of these draft markets, but they should not be a player in this tight-end market with that pick. With Cole Kmet and Tonyan in town, they should have enough at that position and drafting one of these prospects at No. 9 would be overkill. 

Look for tight end towards the second half of the round when teams like No. 18 Detroit (traded T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota last year) and No. 26 Dallas (lost Dalton Schultz to Houston) are on the clock. 

Darnell Washington: The Dark Horse 

Washington comes in third in the odds at all the top online sportsbooks, but he looks more like a second or third-round pick for a team looking for an in-line run blocker who has some receiving ability. 

Washington is someone you can see in two tight-end sets in a run-focused offense. He might be a good pickup for a team like the Eagles or Titans, but not in the first round, and certainly not first over the other two options.

Dalton Kincaid: The Value? 

Some mock drafts prefer Utah’s Dalton Kincaid over Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, so this is certainly one of the top races in this year’s draft for figuring out who will be first at their position. 

Kincaid is arguably the best receiving tight end in this draft. He had 36 catches in 2021 and nearly doubled that to 70 catches in 2022 while scoring 8 touchdowns in both seasons. He averaged a solid 13.2 yards per catch and can be a weapon for a team looking to throw often. 

Kincaid has drawn comparisons to Zach Ertz as a moving tight end. His run blocking may not be there, but similar things have been said before about many successful NFL tight ends, including Travis Kelce. A team can always teach him to get more physical in that regard, but as far as pure receiving talents go, Kincaid should be TE1. 

Michael Mayer: The Favorite 

Mayer had a 3-year run at Notre Dame with impressive numbers: 180 catches, 2,099 yards, 18 touchdowns. He went over 800 yards in each of his last two seasons for an offense that was not prolific in the passing game. 

In fact, in 2022, Mayer had 37 more catches than the next closest teammate, and he was the only Notre Dame player with more than 361 receiving yards. He was the No. 1 option every week and defenses knew that. He had a little more help in 2021 with Kevin Austin leading the team with 888 receiving yards, but Mayer maintained his production without that help in 2022. 

While Kincaid is the receiving tight end in this draft, Mayer is the more complete player. He can be a receiver, but he may have his most value as a traditional in-line tight end who can serve as a sixth lineman or go out on a pass route

Teams still value this in the NFL, but it really depends on which team wants to draft a tight end first when it comes to picking Kincaid or Mayer. 

The Pick 

We still have some uncertainty with the draft order since the Jets and Packers have not completed a trade yet for Aaron Rodgers. If the Packers end up holding the No. 13 and No. 15 picks in the draft after this trade, then you could realistically see them take a tight end with one of those picks despite it being such an unusual move for that franchise. 

In that case, Mayer seems like someone who fits the Matt LaFleur offense better than Kincaid. But if the Packers are going to go in a whole different direction with the Jordan Love era, then maybe someone with the receiving talent of Kincaid is the better fit. 

Appreciating the Blockers

If the Lions go the tight end route again, head coach Dan Campbell probably would appreciate more of a blocker too in Mayer after the team traded a receiver who did not pan out in Hockenson. The same could be said about Tampa Bay if it enters the tight-end market, though that team has many holes to fill. 

While Kincaid feels like a natural replacement for Schultz in Dallas, do not be surprised if the Cowboys lean in on the Jason Witten comparisons and take Mayer should he still be available in a scenario where the tight ends slip. 

Kincaid may fit the modern NFL better and would really be an asset to a pass-heavy offense like the Bengals. But when it comes to the teams likely to draft the first tight end in this draft, the arrows are still favoring Mayer as that player. 

NFL Pick: Michael Mayer First Tight End Selected (-125) at Bet365

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