Whether they played for Group of Five or FCS programs, there are plenty of promising prospects in this year’s NFL Draft who didn’t play in the Power Five conferences.
Here’s a look at some of the best tight ends who might not go in the first round but could end up providing key contributions for a pro team sometime in the near future.
1. Zack Kuntz of Old Dominion
Kuntz’s 2022 season was cut short due to injury. But he proved he has the talent to play in the NFL.
Last season, he caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown against Virginia. The year before, he was an All-Conference USA first-team selection and ranked second in the country among tight ends with 73 catches following his transfer from Penn State.
Kuntz could absolutely thrive against some of the best players in the world in the NFL if given the chance.
Read more: Zack Kuntz An Intriguing Tight End Prospect
2. Tucker Kraft of South Dakota State
Kraft, a former HERO Sports All-American, was successful throughout his career. He helped South Dakota State win an FCS national championship before now moving on to the pro level.
Last season, he caught 27 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. The year before, he totaled 780 yards and six touchdowns on 65 receptions.
Playing in the FCS shouldn’t be a concern for Kraft, considering Dallas Goedert also played at SDSU. Kraft certainly has the capability to become a contributor for an NFL team.
Read more: NFL Belief Turning To Reality For SDSU’s Tucker Kraft
3. Josh Whyle of Cincinnati
Whyle set Cincinnati’s all-time record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with 15 – and the program has produced NFL tight ends like Travis Kelce and Brent Celek. That alone should prove how well Whyle has played.
Whyle earned all-conference accolades each of the past three seasons and ended his career with 1,062 yards on 88 catches. Playing in the American Athletic Conference, he proved to be a well-rounded player.
Whyle might not end up having the same pro career Kelce has had, but he undoubtedly could prove to be a good draft pick wherever he ends up going.
Read more: Josh Whyle Potentially Another Under-The-Radar Cincinnati TE
4. Kyle Patterson of Air Force
Patterson is another tight end who dealt with injuries in his career. But if he stays healthy, he could end up playing in the NFL for a while.
Patterson’s best statistical season was his sophomore year in 2020 where he caught 12 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in five games while seeing limited targets in Air Force’s run-heavy offense. He played just 14 games collectively at Air Force.
However, pro scouts must seem to think he has potential because he was invited to the NFL Combine. Patterson could earn a role as primarily a blocking tight end and develop his receiving abilities if he’s drafted and stays on a roster for a few years.
Read more: Kyle Patterson On Draft Radar Despite Low Production
5. Leonard Taylor of Cincinnati
Taylor didn’t quite get the target volume Whyle did at Cincinnati. But he has the traits to become a late-round steal.
Taylor totaled just 170 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions in 2022 and had 69 receptions for 697 yards and eight touchdowns in five seasons. But he has the size to compete against most NFL defensive backs at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and the athleticism to get open against many NFL linebackers.
If Taylor finds the right situation, he could help an NFL team both as a run blocker and a pass catcher.
Read more: Leonard Taylor of Cincinnati Could Finally Stand Out In NFL