The 2023 NFL Combine has wrapped up defensive drills, and on Saturday, the offense will be on-field for televised drills. As is tradition, one group began by running the 40-yard dash, then shifted into position drills, while another group completed agility drills and measured jumps.
Previously, we have profiled the following position groups:
- 7 defensive tackle standouts
- 10 edge rusher standouts
- 10 linebacker standouts
- 12 cornerback standouts
- 7 safety standouts
- Breaking down all 15 quarterbacks
- 12 wide receiver standouts
Let’s take a close look at the tight ends that stood out.
Darnell Washington, Georgia, 6-foot-7, 264, 34 3/8” arm length
4.64 (40-yard dash), 4.08 (short shuttle)
Washington is a massive tight end with a huge frame and ridiculous catch radius (his wingspan reaches almost seven feet across). But despite his towering physique, he managed to run a 40-yard dash and short shuttle times of a much smaller prospect, which points to his overall athleticism.
He does lack burst, which can slow down the ability to get out into routes quickly, but his hand and arm length give quarterbacks a large window to target, and he swallows up anything in his range. Washington’s skill set was on full display for this red zone catch to close out Saturday.
Darnell Washington with the best catch at the 2023 Combine, my goodness pic.twitter.com/ObpEt6lXRG— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) March 5, 2023
But Washington is much more than just a large target, he possesses unreal power as a blocker, engages low, keeps his hands inside, and drives. In the drill below, several tight ends struggled with hand placement or technique and failed to move the sled more than a yard, but Washington uses perfect technique and destroyed the drill.
Darnell Washington with some impressive power vs the blocking sled, whew pic.twitter.com/PmABdfEcY7— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) March 5, 2023
Two jaw-dropping moments in one Combine session by Washington. He was TE2 on my Lions-based draft board, but I’m not sure he gets out of the first round, which could turn their attention to...
Sam LaPorta, Iowa, 6-foot-3, 245
4.59 (40-yard dash), 10-foot-3 (broad jump), 6.91 (3-cone), 4.25 (short shuttle)
There’s something about Iowa’s offense that leaves you wanting more, and that can leave a bad impression of LaPorta’s game on analysts. He was in my second tier of tight ends heading into the Combine, and while he remains in that group, his workout pushed him to the top of said tier.
With impressive workout numbers across the board, LaPorta had my attention, and it didn’t take long before he won me over. I thought he got a bit high in the blocking drills, something that showed up on game film too, but his ability to extend power despite being slightly off with his technique was promising.
As a receiver, he showed soft hands, was an easy glider when running routes, was explosive when cutting, and fired up the field with great explosion. He routinely located the ball with ease and looked the ball in through his hands to secure the catch. Overall, a well-balanced, impressive day in multiple areas.
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (6-foot-4 1/2, 249, 4.70) is a complete tight end but he looked slow at times compared to the other “move” tight ends. He has massive hands that engulf footballs, is powerful in everything he does, and was solid as a blocker and pass catcher.
Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State (6-foot-4 3/4, 254, 4.69) has nice size and overall skills, but he caught my attention most when tracking down passes. He’s a TE-Y with upside that can be found on Day 2.
Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan (6-foot-5, 251, 4.63) ran a nice 40-yard dash time and then shut it down for on-field drills. This is the third Michigan player at this combine (Mazi Smith and DJ Turner) that opted to do drills in Ann Arbor instead of Indianapolis.
Brenton Strange, Penn State (6-foot-4, 253, 4.7) isn’t known for his blocking skills, but he showed well in the blocking drills at the Combine. He is known for his pass-catching and he also showed strong hands and the ability to take his speed up a level in routes.
Josh Whyle, Cincinnati (6-foot-6 1/2, 248, 4.69) was expected to do well in blocking drills and he did not disappoint. As a receiver, his best catch came at the end of the day when he tipped a pass to himself in the end zone drill.
Will Mallory, Miami (6-foot-4 1/2, 249, 4.54) may have improved his stock the most among the tight ends. He was much faster than anticipated, was gliding across the field during routes and his hands made tougher catches look easy. He has the upside to be a team’s second tight end and a TE-Y option.