The offseason is here for the Atlanta Falcons, and that means it’s time to go full-throttle into free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. With my colleagues taking the lead on the free agency front, I’m going to be focusing my efforts over the next few weeks on the draft. Atlanta secured the 8th overall pick for 2023, the second year in a row that the team will hold that selection.
The next event on the Draft Season calendar is the Reese’s Senior Bowl—a showcase of the top draft-eligible seniors (or players who graduated early) that takes place in Mobile right around the first week of February. To get everyone ready for the week to come, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch for the Falcons and the league at large.
DEFENSE | EDGE | IDL | LB | CB | S | OFFENSE | OT | IOL | WR | RB | TE
The final positional preview is tight end, which might be the most settled group on Atlanta’s roster if veteran MyCole Pruitt returns. Atlanta has a high-end talent in Kyle Pitts, a very good TE2 in Pruitt (hopefully), and an effective blocker in Parker Hesse. Still, given Arthur Smith’s love for the position, we shouldn’t rule out the Falcons looking to improve the depth chart.
Last year’s Senior Bowl featured a very good tight end class, with most of the top prospects competing in Mobile. We saw players like Greg Dulcich and Daniel Bellinger turn in excellent weeks and rocket themselves up the draft board. This year’s class doesn’t have the star at the top after Dalton Kincaid pulled out, but does have a number of intriguing prospects. Here are some of my favorites.
Davis Allen, Clemson
A versatile tight end prospect who can provide value to an NFL offense from a number of alignments, Clemson’s Davis Allen has a lot of appeal to an offense like Atlanta’s. Allen has an NFL-ready frame at 6’6, 250 and has taken snaps out wide, as a big slot, in-line, and in the backfield as an H-back. He’s got strong hands and a big catch radius, and Allen is at his best in contested-catch situations. His overall athletic profile is fairly average, as is his blocking ability, but he doesn’t have any significant holes in his game either. Allen looks the part of a long-term depth TE in the NFL that can give an offense a little of everything, but probably doesn’t offer enough receiving ability to make the jump to a featured role.
Cameron Latu, Alabama
A player whose development reminds me a bit of Parker Hesse (both were originally recruited as defensive linemen), Cameron Latu has enjoyed a slow but steady climb up the depth chart at Alabama. Latu’s calling card is his versatility, with the ability to line up and play anywhere. His blocking is very good overall, and he’s got a good frame for the position at 6’5, 245. Latu appears to be an average athlete, but he finds ways to mitigate his lack of plus speed and agility by being a savvy route runner. He’s got very good hands and is good at finding the hole in the zone and making himself available for the QB. I think Latu has a long TE2 career ahead of him at the NFL level, and will have an opportunity to separate himself from the pack in Mobile.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
The tight end with the most hype coming into Mobile, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave has a lot to gain this week. With a prototypical NFL frame (6’6, 250) and standout athleticism, Musgrave’s potential has the attention of the scouting community. The problem is that it’s pretty much all projection with Musgrave, as he’s started just 13 games due to injury issues. Musgrave has excellent long speed and good movement skills to go along with strong hands and a massive catch radius. While Musgrave is a willing blocker, he’s not overly physical and his play strength appears below average overall. I personally don’t really get the Day 2 hype that Musgrave is receiving, but I could look very foolish if he shows out at the Senior Bowl.
Josh Whyle, Cincinnati
If the Falcons are looking to bolster the tight end room without spending premium resources, Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle makes a ton of sense. Whyle has a good NFL frame at 6’6, 245 and has continued to add good weight every year. Obviously, he’s got three years of experience with Desmond Ridder, and that’s a big boost to his potential future in Atlanta. Whyle was a better player than I expected overall, considering his mid-to-late Day 3 projection. He’s got good hands, above-average overall athleticism, and his blocking improved significantly in 2022. I don’t see why he couldn’t be a future NFL TE2, the requisite traits are there. While I don’t think he’s the athlete that Greg Dulcich was, Whyle could have a similar rise with an impressive week at the Senior Bowl.
Other players to watch:
Payne Durham, Purdue
Will Mallory, Miami
I hope you enjoyed our Senior Bowl 2023 preview series. I’ll be in Mobile to cover the Senior Bowl for The Falcoholic from Tuesday, January 31 through Thursday, February 2. Stay tuned for my live coverage of the event starting on Tuesday!