Last week, ESPN posted an article of the latest draft buzz for all 32 teams. In the section titled “What we're hearing about the Cowboys' draft,” Jordan Reid states “with a huge hole at tight end, expect the Cowboys to be aggressive in finding a dynamic option there, perhaps at the end of Round 1.”
Then, in Dane Brugler's seven-round mock draft that was released on April 17th, he selected Michael Mayer of Notre Dame for Dallas at 26.
Brugler went on to say that “the Cowboys are looking for a tight end who can hold his own as a blocker but also move the sticks as a receiving threat. If [Michael] Mayer makes it this far, it's a good bet he will have a star on his helmet.”
I like the current tight ends and believe going into the season with Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot competing for TE1 would be fine.
With that being said, I'm all for competition and trying to upgrade the position.
Now let's look at the top four tight end prospects who could be in play at 26. They are listed in order of Daniel Jeremiah's most recent top 50 prospects and I reference his analysis throughout.
Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Kincaid is Jeremiah's ninth overall prospect and is more of a jumbo slot wide receiver than a true tight end.
According to Jeremiah, he offers both route-running polish and yards-after-catch (YAC) ability.
College production doesn't always translate, but it certainly helps seeing a prospect be a team's top target. Last season, Kincaid led Utah in receptions (70), receiving yards (890), and receiving touchdowns (8).
If Brugler's assessment of wanting someone who can hold their own as a blocker is accurate, Kincaid doesn't seem like a fit.
He is the best receiver at the position in this draft class but offers very little as a blocker.
Though medically cleared now, he was withheld from doing drills at the combine and his pro day due to a late-season back injury.
Most mock drafts have him coming off the board before the Cowboys' pick at 26, but the injury could have him slide.
Back injuries worry me a ton, but the Cowboys have shown a willingness to take players who fall in the draft due to injury red flags. Could Kincaid be next?
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Mayer lands at spot 21 on Jeremiah's top 50 and is considered the top tight end by other draft analysts.
He often gets miscast as just a traditional in-line tight end, but Notre Dame used him all over the formation. He was by far their best player, yet teams couldn't stop him.
He's not a dominant blocker but is more than adequate.
Athletically, he is a bit limited and doesn't offer the same separation quickness as Kincaid.
His superpower is how great he is in contested catch situations which compliments his more physical, box-out route-running style.
Overall, Mayer offers the balance Brugler mentioned. He's also the most pro-ready of the four.
My biggest issue is his average athleticism limits his upside which might be the lowest of the four.
Darnell Washington, Georgia
Coming in at 25 for Jeremiah is Darnell Washington, who was a recent 30 visit for the Cowboys.
Washington is a physical and athletic freak at nearly 6'7″, 264 pounds, and ran a 4.64s 40-yard dash. He might be one of the best blocking tight ends in the league from day one and is pretty good with the ball in his hands.
Jeremiah notes that “he is a little clunky getting out of breaks,” but due to his size, he's a large target who can shield off defenders.
Lack of production and refinement as a receiver is his biggest question mark.
Some of his lack of production is due to his former Georgia teammate Brock Bowers. Bowers is not eligible for this draft but could be a top-10 pick in 2024.
Was it inability that prevented Washington from being more productive?
Or given his superb blocking ability and the receiving ability of Bowers, was it lack of opportunity?
Washington has a lot of untapped potential.
At worst, he's basically a sixth offensive lineman who can work the seam and flex out wide in the red zone for jump balls.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
Musgrave is pretty far down Jeremiah's rankings in comparison to the top three at 39, but he's a fringe round-one player.
Reading scouting reports on Musgrave, he is a mixture of the first three in many ways.
At nearly 6'6″ and 253 pounds, he ran a 4.61s 40, which compares similarly to Washington. Also like Washington, his big frame and athleticism makes for some intriguing YAC ability.
He's not quite as polished a route runner but offers some of the quickness that Kincaid does.
He's not on the same level as a run blocker as even Mayer, but Jeremiah compliments his willingness and effectiveness in walling off defenders there.
To bring it full circle, he's coming off a significant injury like Kincaid, is more of a balanced receiver/blocker like Mayer, and had limited college production like Washington.
Overall, I'd want to pass on Musgrave.
If the other three are gone, look to the later rounds to improve tight end.
Kincaid, Mayer, or Washington at 26 would all be good picks and should be TE1 instantly.
I have my doubts that Kincaid or Mayer will be available, and I'm ok with that because I'm all-in on Washington.
He boosts the run game immediately and has the size/athleticism to become a good-to-great receiving option. Meanwhile, whether it's blocking for Kincaid or athleticism for Mayer, developing those weaknesses is tougher.
I understand the best tight ends in the league currently and historically have not all been great receiving threats AND great blockers.
For me, give me the guy who is great already at one of those with the traits to become a high-end receiving option as well.