From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be profiling South Dakota State TE Tucker Kraft.
#85 Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State (R-Junior) – 6050, 254lb
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Tucker Kraft||6’5, 254lb||10||32 3/4”||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has the size, length, frame, and athleticism you want in a traditional TE
— Evenly proportioned frame with the size to operate as an in-line blocker
— Good athlete with the burst and acceleration to create after the catch
— Does a good job fighting through arm tackles and evading defenders in the open field
— Used often on TE shovels and screens to get him the ball near the LOS
— Running back background shows up after the catch
— Will motion to under center to take direct snaps as a wildcat QB
— Has deceptive speed to stretch the seam of defenses up the middle
— Has the size and frame to make possession catches over the middle of the field and in traffic
— Security blanket on throws underneath, posting up on curl and comeback routes
— Played all over the formation from in-line, in the slot, H-back, and fullback
— Will wheel out of the backfield on routes up the sideline
— Accomplished blocker who aggressively attacks defenders
— Runs his feet on contact and executes down blocks effectively
— Can climb to the second level to pick off LBs and safeties
— Doesn’t have instant speed, builds into long speed
— Appeared to have left some contested catches on the table
— Needs to do a better job generating separation from defenders
— Played in a run-heavy system where a lot of his targets came on misdirection or play action rather than simply beating the guy across from him
— Can play with better leverage as a blocker
— Needs to do a better job of locking on and sustaining his blocks
— Only one year of big college production
— Missed several games in 2022 with an ankle injury
— Redshirt Junior Prospect from Timber Lake, SD
— Born November 3, 2000 (age 22)
— Played running back, middle linebacker, and punter, in high school rushed for 1,405 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, saw limited action at QB
— Earned second-team all-state recognition in basketball after averaging 14.2 points, eight rebounds and two steals per game
— Redshirted first year on campus in 2019
— Played in seven games with three starts in 2020 and caught seven passes for 90 yards
— Started all 15 games in 2021 and made 65 receptions for 780 receiving yards and six TDs
— Started nine games in 2022 and made 27 receptions for 348 yards and three TDs
— FCS All-American (2021, 2022), 2× first-team All-MVFC (2021, 2022), MVFC Honor Roll (2021)
— Biology major
Tucker Kraft may have starred at small-school South Dakota State, but that doesn’t diminish his talent or impact on the field. The FCS All-American TE had six-figure NIL deals to leave the school and play at the Power 5 level this past fall, but he wanted to play with his teammates one more season in pursuit of an FCS National Championship. The Jackrabbits got the job done, winning the national title this past season, making Kraft’s dream a reality. He then declared for the 2023 NFL Draft.
When you pop in the tape on Kraft, you see a big, athletic TE prospect who plays all over the formation. He can line up as a traditional in-line TE, in the slot, H-back, and fullback, making him a great fit for what teams are looking for in the NFL. Along with his versatility, Kraft gets after it as a blocker, showing off his size and strength to wall down defenders on down blocks or kick out defenders to spring the running back loose into the secondary. Watch these clips of Kraft displaying his physicality and effectiveness as a blocker, moving defenders off their spots as part of a dominant Jacks running game.
Kraft may be a 6’5, 254-lb TE, but he has deceptive speed and athleticism for his size. He plays well as a gadget guy, having been a former running back in high school, and looks to create after he gets the ball in space. Watch these two plays of Kraft being utilized on a TE shovel pass as well as on a TE sweep. Getting the ball close to the LOS allows him to create in the open field.
SDSU trusted Kraft so much in short-yardage situations that it made him their wildcat QB. He would motion to under center and take handoffs, using his big frame to push the pile and pick up first downs.
As mentioned earlier, Kraft has deceptive speed as a receiver with the acceleration to stretch the seam and work vertically down the field as you can see on this TD catch against Montana State. Defense must be aware of him working vertically as he has the size, leaping ability, and athleticism to make them pay.
Kraft does a good job of turning up field immediately after the catch, going back to his running back days in high school as he attempts to pick up as much YAC as possible. Here are a couple plays in which Kraft demonstrates that YAC ability, both near the LOS on an underneath screen as well as down the field as a vertical threat.
While Kraft can do the exciting jobs as a down-the-field threat or a gadget guy, he also can be a possession receiver in the intermediate portions of the field, catching quick curls and comebacks as the big-bodied security blanket for his QB to keep the offense moving.
Tucker Kraft is a well-rounded TE prospect who has the full package as a receiver as well as a blocker. He needs to continue working on his technique as a blocker as well as working on consistently separating from coverage, but the tools are there for Kraft to become a starter relatively early in his NFL career. Given the fact that he played in a run-heavy offense in college and is relatively new to the position, Kraft’s best days are ahead of him. He is a prospect with a high floor as well as a high ceiling.
When watching Kraft on tape, I couldn’t help but think of what Travis Kelce was like coming out of Cincinnati. I’m not saying that Kraft is going to have the same career Kelce has had (although that would be best-case scenario), but rather that the two are nearly identical when it comes to the measurables (6’4 7/8”, 255lb), athletic testing (4.61 40, 7.09 3-cone, 35” vert, 10’4” broad), as well as college production with Kelce’s best season being 45 receptions for 722 yards and eight TDs. Kelce had to make the transition from QB to TE, like Kraft did from RB to TE, after high school. Both starred at smaller schools and had similar thick, athletic frame that helped them create after the catch.
Kelce ended up getting drafted at the top of the third round in 2013, and I can see Kraft going in a similar range. He has all the tools you look for in a traditional TE who can play all over the formation and would be a great value pick for whoever takes him. The Steelers re-signed Zach Gentry and have Pat Freiermuth as their TE1, making Kraft more of a luxury pick. However, should he make it into the third round, the value may be too good for Pittsburgh to pass up. Kraft could be another weapon for Kenny Pickett in the passing game as well as help boost the running game as the Steelers focus on making that the identity of the offense.
Projection: Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.4 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: vs Montana St (2022), vs Illinois St (2022), at UNI (2022)