Ranking Brock Bowers, Ja’Tavion Sanders, and More

It’s been a little while since the NFL Draft has fielded a blue-chip tight end prospect. The 2024 NFL Draft TE group will have that, and more. Although it’s too early to say anything definitive about the incoming class, it’s a group that should have an appealing blend of top-end talent and depth for NFL teams to peruse.

Ranking the TEs in the 2024 NFL Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft TE group boasted Dalton Kincaid — a first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills — and Michael Mayer — a prospect deemed worthy of first-round capital by many evaluators. That alone helped the class’ perception, but there’s reason to believe the 2024 class might be even better. Here’s a look at some of the top names in the preseason conversation.

10) Brant Kuithe, Utah

It’ll be fascinating to see how Brant Kuithe’s stock is valued in the 2024 NFL Draft cycle. He’s a good football player with built-in versatility, who’s been very productive at Utah. He earned 602 yards and six scores in 2019, and 611 yards and six more TDs in 2021. But coming off a torn ACL will be a challenge for him this season.

Kuithe will turn 25 years old at the tail end of his rookie campaign, which isn’t ideal, and his injury history may also work against him. But as a player, the 6’2″, 230-pound Kuithe has few weaknesses. He’s a free-flowing athlete, an independent separator, is sure-handed, and can operate from a barrage of different alignments.

9) Gavin Bartholomew, Pittsburgh

Gavin Bartholomew wasted no time producing. In 2021, catching passes from Kenny Pickett, he put up 28 receptions for 326 yards and four scores. Then, as a sophomore in 2022, he added 21 catches, 283 yards, and two more TDs to his career totals. The passing attack has regressed since Pickett’s departure, but Bartholomew remains a threat.

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At 6’5″, 255 pounds, Bartholomew has NFL size, but he’s also a superb athlete in space. He went viral for a TD-securing hurdle against Tennessee early in 2022, but he also has the burst to break through open seams. Bartholomew’s a physical player after the catch, with the frame density and balance to stay upright. Add in his blocking, and he has great appeal.

8) Jalin Conyers, Arizona State

It’ll be interesting to see what Kenny Dillingham can do for the Arizona State football program. His ability as an offensive mind is well-documented, and he has a few high-quality weapons at his disposal, among them TE Jalin Conyers.

Now a redshirt junior, Conyers — a former four-star recruit — is coming off a career year and is poised to produce more. Conyers transferred to the Sun Devils’ program from Oklahoma and delivered on his potential with 38 receptions for 422 yards and five scores in 2022.

At 6’4″, 265 pounds, Conyers has one of the largest frames in this class. That translates to impressive play strength in contested situations, and physical extension ability after the catch.

7) McCallan Castles, Tennessee

After racking up 57 catches for 734 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons at UC Davis, McCallan Castles chose to transfer to Tennessee in 2023. The Volunteers won’t have prolific QB Hendon Hooker, but there’s a need for playmakers in Josh Heupel’s offense, and Castles’ natural receiving chops make him a prime breakout candidate.

Naturally, Castles has room to fill out his frame and improve his play strength as a blocker. But at 6’5″, 233 pounds, he’s an incredibly smooth athlete and receiving threat with flexibility as a route runner and slippery RAC utility. Especially in Tennessee’s offense, where he’ll be able to get in space and funnel in targets, he could rise up boards.

6) Terrance Ferguson, Oregon

There are several talented TE prospects hitting their first year of eligibility this cycle, and Oregon’s Terrance Ferguson is one of them. He was another pass catcher who benefited from Bo Nix’s breakout in 2022, hauling in 32 catches for 391 yards and five touchdowns in an emergent sophomore campaign.

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Ferguson often wins just by being bigger and stronger than his opponents. At 6’5″, 255 pounds, he’s sure-handed through contact, and his leg churn after the catch allows him to constantly stay on his feet and absorb hits. He has the RAC utility to be used on drag routes and quick outs, but he’s also a venerable seam threat with his traits.

5) Bryson Nesbit, North Carolina

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Photo Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Maye is an established presence at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft QB class at this point, but the 2023 campaign will present its challenges. Maye lost both Josh Downs and Antoine Green to the 2023 NFL Draft. But he’ll have one primary pass catcher returning in TE Bryson Nesbit, who also offers early-round upside with his traits.

Nesbit, who broke the 500-yard mark in 2022, does his best work up the seam and over the middle of the field. He’s more of a linear athlete at TE, but he’s an explosive long-strider at 6’5″, 230 pounds, who can instinctively flow into blind spots downfield, before converting at the catch point with his smooth body control and hand/eye coordination.

4) Seydou Traore, Transfer Portal

Seydou Traore re-entered the transfer portal shortly after Colorado’s spring football showcase. He’d originally transferred to Colorado from Arkansas State, so for the time being, his future is up in the air. But whoever gets Traore will be getting a very dynamic receiving talent, as evidenced by his 50 catches, 655 yards, and four scores in 2022.

Fun fact: Traore used to be a standout soccer goalie playing in London. But in the States, receiving tight end has grown to become his best role. At 6’4″, 223 pounds, Traore is a free-flowing move TE with a different brand of athleticism. His strides are quick in space, he can offset defenders with cuts, and he comes up big when tasked with winning 50-50 balls.

3) Jaheim Bell, Florida State

Versatility is becoming a common theme for TE prospects in the modern era of NFL football. The traditional in-line tight end molds are still valuable in their own way, but having a player who can fill unique roles and wear many different hats is becoming more and more coveted, especially for offensive coordinators looking to stay one step ahead.

Looking at things within that lens, Florida State’s Jaheim Bell has a lot to offer. He’s never been an elite producer, but at 6’3″, 232 pounds, Bell’s a hyper-dense RAC threat with a high-level blend of explosiveness and contact balance. And in an offense with Jordan Travis, Keon Coleman, and Johnny Wilson, the H-back hybrid could have his best year yet.

2) Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas

If the Texas offense in the summer of 2022 was the “dream team,” then this year’s Texas squad is the dream team 2.0. Bijan Robinson is a big loss, but on top of Quinn Ewers, the Longhorns have Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell, Jordan Whittington, and Isaiah Neyor in the receiving corps, and they also have one of the nation’s best tight ends: Ja’Tavion Sanders.

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Sanders quickly became a favorite target of Ewers’ across the 2022 campaign, amassing 54 catches for 613 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. At 6’4″, 249 pounds, Sanders offers great size and length, and he’s a very good blocker. But the brunt of his appeal comes from his fleet-footed athleticism, certifiably elite catching instincts, and reliable hands.

Who Is the Best TE in the 2024 NFL Draft?

There’s plenty of depth to be had in the 2024 NFL Draft, and that’ll help teams looking for ancillary threats in the middle and later rounds. But right now, there’s one prospect who stands all alone at the top of the TE group. Evaluators have had premonitions of Georgia’s Brock Bowers’ first-round-worthy report for two years now.

1) Brock Bowers, Georgia

It’s Brock Bowers, then everyone else. And while there’s always the chance someone else rises from the crowd, it’s relatively likely that Bowers will persist through the cycle as the consensus TE1 — similar to the way Florida’s Kyle Pitts did a few cycles earlier.

Bowers has dominated at the collegiate level since stepping on the field as a true freshman. Through two seasons, the Bulldogs star has 119 catches for 1,824 yards and 20 touchdowns. Forget needing time to ramp up — Bowers was that guy from the moment he set foot on campus.

Even with Stetson Bennett and Todd Monken gone, Bowers should continue to produce. He offers an elite skill set for the modern brand of football. Even before the season, he grades out as one of just a few blue-chip prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.

At 6’4″, 230 pounds, Bowers doesn’t have elite size — but that’s one of the only knocks in his profile. He’s a functional route runner who best operates when he’s able to use his explosiveness to exploit seams. In that role, Bowers has extraordinary catching instincts, vice-grip hands, and brawling RAC ability, and he doubles as a game-changing blocker.

Things like alignment versatility, natural slot ability, and receiving value helped Kincaid become a first-round pick in the 2023 class. Bowers fits a similar mold, but he’s younger and has even greater tools at his disposal. It stands to reason that he could go off the board very early next April.

Honorable Mentions

  • Luke Lachey, Iowa
  • CJ Dippre, Alabama
  • Michael Trigg, Ole Miss
  • Kyle Morlock, Florida State
  • Benjamin Yurosek, Stanford
  • A.J. Barner, Michigan
  • Mason Fairchild, Kansas
  • Erick All, Iowa
  • Austin Stogner, Oklahoma

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