• Brock Bowers has always been a top NFL draft prospect: If Bowers could have declared after his true freshman season, he would’ve been a first-round pick. His 24 explosive plays in 2022 were the most in the FBS for any tight end.
• Ja'Tavion Sanders' positional background boosts his profile: The former defensive end makes the most of a wide catch radius and is also a willing blocker who will only get better as he gets stronger.
• Keep an eye on the field-stretching Bryson Nesbit: The 6-foot-5, 235-pound North Carolina tight end recorded 16 explosive plays of 15 yards or more in 2022 and provides plus ability in the red zone.
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
In the next chapter of our summer scouting for the 2023 college football season and 2024 NFL Draft, we’re reading up on the tight end class. Click here to read about our top 10 quarterbacks, here for our top 10 running backs and here for our top 10 wide receivers.
Georgia’s Brock Bowers is finally draft eligible and could go as high as the top five. Texas' Ja’Tavion Sanders is another first-round-caliber player who you should get to know. As for the rest of the class, there are some specialized players and good receivers who fit the bill for what the NFL is looking for now in a modern tight end.
1. BROCK BOWERS, GEORGIA
Not long after Kyle Pitts dominated his way through the NFL draft process, Bowers might be the highest tight end ever drafted.
If Bowers could have declared after his true freshman season, he would’ve been a first-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end gives shades of George Kittle with his ability to impact the offense as a receiver and blocker. He posted 92.2 and 90.5 receiving grades as an underclassman in 2021 and 2022, respectively. His 24 explosive plays (passing plays of 15 yards or more) in 2022 were the most in the FBS for any tight end.
And when it comes to catches through traffic (a necessity for tight ends), he recorded a 76.5% contested-catch percentage last season, which was top 10 for all FBS receivers.
Expect him to be one of the highest-ranked players in the class, regardless of position.
2. JA’TAVION SANDERS, TEXAS
While there isn’t another tight end prospect close to Bowers right now, Sanders presents a very high ceiling, as well. The 6-foot-4, 241-pound former five-star recruit played both sides of the ball in high school, also showing his talents as a defensive end. In fact, when he was an early enrollee at Texas in 2021 he practiced at both positions, ultimately settling on tight end.
His natural flexibility to get down in a three-point stance as an in-line tight end and his explosiveness to get out of that stance and up the field are very impressive. That makes him a tough coverage assignment for almost all linebackers. He makes the most of a wide catch radius and hauled in 53.3% of his contested catches in 2022. He’s also a willing blocker who will only get better as he gets stronger.
It’s going to be a crowded receiving room at Texas this season, so don’t be alarmed if Sanders is not a stat-sheet stuffer. The talent is there.
3. CADE STOVER, OHIO STATE
Stover wasn’t your typical tight end recruit heading into college. In fact, he wasn’t a tight end prospect at all. Stover was a four-star linebacker recruit coming out of high school and was named Ohio's Mr. Football and the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He also broke his high school’s record for scoring in basketball. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder started his Buckeyes career at linebacker but was moved to defensive end in his early years. After switching back to linebacker, the Buckeyes ended up flipping him over to tight end. He’s been at the position for most of his time since but did play linebacker in the 2022 Rose Bowl due to a lack of depth.
As you would expect from his background, Stover is just a true football player. He has the strength profile to be a reliable inline blocker, and the trench-play IQ as a former defensive end. But he’s also a nice receiver. He’s not as fluid as some of the other smaller receiving tight ends on the list, but he can certainly threaten up the seams as a vertical receiver.
4. JAHEIM BELL, FLORIDA STATE
Bell is the most polarizing player on this list. Although he carries the tight end position label, that’s not where he was lined up most of the time. In 2022, he played only 44 snaps as an inline tight end. Meanwhile, he played 82 as a slot receiver and 168 as a halfback.
The 6-foot-3, 233-pound Swiss Army knife is a very good all-around athlete, hence his ability to play all over the offense. His explosiveness and balance through contact are his top attributes, and he has good strength at the catch point, too, hauling in 66.7% of his contested targets last year. Bell transferred to Florida State this season. We know they’ll utilize him in versatile ways, but perhaps we’ll get a more straight-line look at what he can be as a full-time tight end.
5. BEN SINNOTT, KANSAS STATE
Sinnott feels like the sleeper of the class right now. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end at Kansas State was a no-star recruit coming out of high school but has worked his way into a contributing, versatile role for the Wildcats and now looks to have an NFL future.
He has a diverse skill set as a player who can play inline, in the slot, in the backfield and even outside as a receiver. But I wouldn’t say he’s “positionless,” as he recorded 587 snaps inline, 185 as a slot receiver and 95 as a backfield player. He has an impressive ability to flip the hips for change of direction and is not a body catcher — everything is extended and attacking the catch point.
Keep an eye on his draft stock throughout the season.
6. BRYSON NESBIT, NORTH CAROLINA
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Nesbit is comfortable as a receiver. He likes to line up as a big slot and is a good vertical threat player who can stretch the second level and beyond. He recorded 16 explosive plays of 15 yards or more in 2022 and provides plus ability in the red zone, where space is at a premium (he’s 6-foot-5; just throw it high). His home will be in the slot more than it will be inline, but if you’re looking for a tall, vertical receiver who can work the red zone for you, he’s a good guy to have on your radar.
7. TREY KNOX, SOUTH CAROLINA
Knox joins this tight end ranking as a former four-star receiver who has since thrown on some extra weight and made the position change. At Arkansas, he played in 11 games as a freshman in 2019, recording a 21.3% wide receiver usage rate. But that dropped to just 11.9% in 2020. He then started to make the move over to tight end, where he has played the past two seasons.
Knox's receiving grades have been low, but he moves well, especially when it comes to change-of-direction abilities, compared to other tight ends in the class. His potential route tree is more vast because of that. On top of that, his run-blocking grade went from back-to-back grades in the high 40s in 2020 and 2021 to 74.2 in 2022 on a career-high 348 run-blocking snaps. Now all the way up to 250 pounds and in Columbia with the South Carolina Gamecocks, it feels like the best version of Knox as a tight end could be coming up in 2023.