Tight end is unfortunately one of the less exciting options for the Chargers to use an early pick on in this year’s draft but there is definitely a chance it could happen. The position has been in limbo the past two seasons with veterans Jared Cook and Gerald Everett carrying the load ever since Hunter Henry was allowed to walk in free agency two years ago.
While both Cook and Everett have done just fine as receivers, there’s been a blatant void at tight end in terms of a difference-maker in the run game that the offense sorely needed in 2022, especially with the host of injuries among the front five.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone over the next few weeks to see news trickle out regarding the Chargers meeting with and doing their homework on various tight ends this offseason. For example, once again from our friend Justin Melo of The Draft Network, the Chargers were one of a number of teams who took the time to meet with South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft.
.@GoJacksFB TE Tucker Kraft was EXTREMELY popular at the Combine.— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) March 7, 2023
Kraft met formally w/ 15 teams -- Lions, Bengals, Dolphins, Cowboys, Patriots, Packers, Titans, Texans, Giants, Chargers, Browns, Bills, Raiders, Saints & Bucs, per league source.
Kraft has been dominant at the FCS level due to his pro-ready size at 6’5 and 254 pounds. His 40 time of 4.69 is just fine for the position and it’s even less relevant when you turn on the film and realize this guy is a bonafide playmaker. During his junior season in 2021, Kraft broke out for 773 yards and six touchdowns. Injuries unfortunately took almost half his 2022 season, but he still managed to record 348 yards and three touchdowns en route to helping the Jackrabbits win the FCS National Championship.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein gave Kraft a pro player comparison of Pat Freiermuth, the young and promising player for the Steelers. That’s not a bad comp as Freiermuth was one of the top tight ends in his class and has recently come on for his team as an impact player.
Like I mentioned above, the Chargers need a tight end who can make things happen as a run blocker and that’s an area that Zierlein notes on with Kraft in his draft profile. Whether he’s attached or flexed in the slot, Kraft is a smooth mover that can lock in to second and third level defenders on outside runs.
As a pass catcher, Kraft loves to play strong and gain yards after the catch. When he catches in stride, he’s a major pain for defenders to drag down by themselves. Just catch out this catch-and-run by Kraft against Northern Iowa this season:
Another TE I really like is Tucker Kraft. Good size, athletic, solid blocker.— Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) March 3, 2023
Definitely a guy with high upside. pic.twitter.com/4IITRjmF5O
Daniel Jeremiah loves this tight end class and has called it the best class in the past 10 years. With this in mind, it makes sense that the Chargers could find a future starter somewhere outside the first round. In all honesty, this may be the best-case scenario for the team come April.
As always, give me your thoughts on Kraft below!