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2023 Senior Bowl Position Preview: Tight Ends

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The Reese’s Senior Bowl arrives this week, with practices starting Tuesday leading up to Saturday’s game. Over the past few seasons, we have seen some of the best talents in the draft go through Mobile, Alabama, to get one-on-one time with NFL coaching staffs and personnel in an effort to boost their draft stock. Over the next few days, I’ll preview some of the top names at the skill positions at this year’s event. Today, we’ll look at tight ends. 

 

When it comes to tight ends, they can really boost their draft stock during Senior Bowl week. We saw this with Greg Dulcich, Isaiah Likely, Daniel Bellinger and more. They were able to showcase their skills during the one-on-one drill sessions. 

Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

6-foot-6, 250 pounds

Luke Musgrave is somewhat of a question mark. In his time at Oregon State, he only appeared in more than 10 games once (2021) – playing only 20 games total in four seasons. In that 2021 season, Musgrave posted an impressive 22 receptions for 304 yards and a score. This past season, he only appeared in two games due to a knee injury, but he was the Beavers’ leading receiver with 169 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions. 

Heading into the Senior Bowl, Musgrave is on a lot of NFL executives’ must-see lists, as he stands an impressive 6-foot-6 and has great fluidity to his game. He has the ability to attack the defense vertically while also running quality routes underneath and in the mid-levels, although he struggled to create a lot of separation. His lineup versatility also makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses. He is far from a bully in the blocking game but does a good job when asked to seal edges and use the defender’s momentum to move them out of the way. He has paired this with a solid ability to leak off blocks and sneak into the mid-levels of defenses on delayed calls and hurt defenses downfield.

Cameron Latu, Alabama 

6-foot-5, 244 pounds

Cameron Latu has been a reliable target for Bryce Young over the past two seasons, totaling over 700 yards and 12 touchdowns. This past season, he was often relied on in critical situations, leading to 30 receptions for 377 yards and four TDs – both fourth on the team. He was on pace to set career-highs but missed a few games due to injury. 

Latu is a converted linebacker who has only seen two seasons at the tight end position, but he displays a high football IQ and understands his role on each and every play. He shredded zone defenses all year and was able to find and settle in the soft spots. This was advantageous for him since he lacks the overall speed to beat man coverage. He wasn’t asked to stretch the field (nor can he) at Bama. Instead, they used him in the short to mid-levels of the field as a security blanket or dump-off option. He also didn’t show an ability to separate much. However, he made some incredible catches in tight coverage, showing off an ability to win even when covered. Latu is an adequate blocker but has limited experience and will need to develop this part of his game.   

Will Mallory, Miami 

6-foot-5, 245 pounds

Over the past five seasons, Will Mallory has produced an impressive 1,544 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns for the Hurricanes. This past season, he led the Hurricanes and set career-highs in receptions and receiving yards (42 passes for 538 yards and three TDs). This was also the third straight season he topped 300 yards receiving, and he was a consistent threat in Miami’s passing attack. 

Mallory is a player who is limited in his potential ceiling. He has overall-body limitations and lacks the bully attitude when it comes to the blocking game. As a result, he tends to struggle to climb levels and assert himself while blocking in the box. On the flip side, he’s adequate on the edge as a seal blocker or in the screen game. These athletic limitations extend to the passing game as well. He lacks the ability to separate and tends to succeed most on timing routes or against zone coverage. He can be schemed open but doesn’t offer much after the catch.

 

Payne Durham, Purdue

6-foot-5, 255 pounds

In the past two seasons at Purdue, Payne Durham exploded onto the tight end scene, producing back-to-back 450-plus yard seasons. This year, he set career-highs in all offensive categories but yards per reception. Durham produced 560 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on 56 receptions, all the second most on the Boilermakers. 

Durham lives up to his given name in the blocking game. He uses his size and strength well as a run blocker. He places his hands well and is an extremely tough and dictating blocker who moves defenders to where he wants them. On top of this, he also shows a willingness to be used as a lead blocker in different run concepts. When it comes to the passing game, we see his lack of overall athleticism come into question. He fails to separate much from man coverage and can’t really stress a defense deep. Like most of the big strong tight ends, he has his most success against zone coverage, as he finds the soft spots well and presents a big target for his quarterback – especially in the red zone. However, he lacks anything after the catch unless he uses his strength and power to break a tackle or two. 

Davis Allen, Clemson

6-foot-6, 250 pounds

Davis Allen has become a staple of the Clemson offense over the past three seasons where he produced over 900 yards receiving on 88 receptions. Allen was third on the team this year with 443 receiving yards and 39 receptions, both career-highs. Additionally, his five touchdowns were tied for the team lead and also a career-high. Throughout his career, Allen averaged a slightly underwhelming 10.8 yards per reception, which was second worst among tight ends playing this weekend. 

Even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping, Allen is an above-average athlete for his size who shows great versatility in areas he can line up. He isn’t a speedster, but he’s a smooth mover who stretches the field well but lacks the fluidity and twitchiness to win at the top of routes. Like most tight ends, he is a monster against zone coverage but has an even better advantage with his huge catch radius. He is great in contested catch situations and inside the red zone as a big target for his quarterback. He leaves us wanting more as a blocker since he doesn’t bully defenders, but he is adequate enough. 

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