While what happens on the field and how things finish at the end of the season is what really matters, preseason rankings give fans an idea of what teams and players they should keep an eye on. In this summer series, we’ll take the Top 25 approach and rank the best returning players at every position.
Next up are the tight ends.
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Best Returning TEs
25. Kamari Young, Florida A&M
24. Blake Gobel, Eastern Washington
23. Bryce De Maille, Delaware
22. Derek Kline, San Diego
21. Adam Zavalney, North Dakota
20. Lee Negrotto, Nicholls
19. Sean Brown, Jacksonville State
18. Jyrin Johnson, Texas Southern
17. Shawn Bowman, Maine
16. Carson Bobo, Princeton
15. Hayden Meacham, Weber State
14. Jax Sherrard, Sam Houston (Davidson transfer)
13. Caleb Warren, Rhode Island
12. Tyler Roberts, Merrimack
11. Julian Hill, Campbell
10. Dakota Allen, Eastern Kentucky
9. Thomas Greaney, UAlbany
8. Cole Grossman, Montana
7. Marshel Martin, Sac State
6. Ryan Miller, Furman
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The Top 5
5. Zach Heins, South Dakota State
SDSU has two tight ends on the 2023 NFL Draft radar, and Heins is one of them. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder is an all-around elite TE. He had a promising start to the 2019 season before an injury. Then the spring saw 12 receptions for 200 yards. And last fall was when Heins showed the FCS how talented he was in an offense that spread the wealth. He recorded 24 receptions for 250 yards and six TDs.
4. Kemari Averett, Bethune-Cookman
Averett began his college career at Lousiville as a three-star recruit. After two seasons and catching three TDs, he transferred to Bethune-Cookman. Averett was unstoppable at times last fall. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder totaled 52 catches for 888 yards and 10 TDs. He can move in the open field as well, taking one reception 65 yards to the house. Averett earned multiple All-American honors, including HERO Sports and Stats Perform Second Team. He’ll have plenty of NFL scouts’ eyes on him this season as an intriguing prospect.
3. McCallan Castles, UC Davis
A four-star recruit and ranked the 14th-best tight end in the country in the 2018 class, he signed with Cal before transferring to UC Davis for the 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-5 and 240-pounder caught 12 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns in five games during the spring, being named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American. Last season, Castles had 27 catches for 387 yards and four scores. He was once again named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American. Castles is one of multiple FCS tight ends getting big 2023 NFL Draft buzz.
2. Noah Gindorff, North Dakota State
Gindorff was viewed as a Day 3 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But a fractured fibula suffered early in the playoffs resulted in him coming back for one more season thanks to the COVID extra year of eligibility. Gindorff is a blocking machine in NDSU’s dominant rushing attack at 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds. He’s also a threat in the red zone, catching six TDs in 2019. He added three scores in the spring. Last fall, Gindorff recorded 17 receptions for 193 yards and two TDs, earning All-American honors from HERO Sports (Third Team) and Phil Steele (Fourth Team).
1. Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
Kraft is a junior this season, but there is a chance he declares early for the 2023 NFL Draft with another strong year. Several P5 schools wanted him this offseason, offering six-figure NIL deals to transfer. He chose to stay at SDSU and in one of the best TE rooms in college football. Kraft, who is 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, caught 65 passes for 780 yards and six TDs last season, garnering several All-American honors, including HERO Sports First Team, Stats Perform First Team, and AP Second Team. Whatever draft year it is, Kraft will be an early-to-mid-round pick.