The Las Vegas Raiders trading Darren Waller to the New York Giants created a hole at the tight end position. It left Jesper Horsted as the lone tight end to receive snaps in 2022, and the front office would need to add depth.
Dave Ziegler went to work during the second phase of free agency, adding OJ Howard, who played for the Houston Texans. Howard comes from Nick Caserio and will be a quick addition to the offense having familiarity with the scheme.
His placement on the depth chart may change in April when the NFL draft begins in Kansas City. The depth at tight end has generated a buzz around the draft community, with plenty of players displaying impact in the passing and run game.
When deciding the best fit at the tight end for the Raiders, the measurable is a good place to eliminate players. While McDaniels has been a franchise's OC or head coach, he has not drafted a tight end under 250 pounds. For example, OJ Howard's tops that number regarding weight.
TE measurables under McDaniels
The Raiders have plenty of options with these measurables. Here are the best players who fit the profile to become the tight end of the future.
Darnell Washington, TE Georgia
Arm length- 34.375
Hand Size- 11
Three cone- 6.99
One element that led to Waller being traded was his blocking ability. McDaniels covets a tight end who stretches the field and helps in the run game. Regarding blocking at the tight end position, Darnell Washington from Georgia stands out.
At 6'6 and 264 pounds, Washington ran 4.64 at the combine and recorded a 6.99 3-cone. He is a mauler in the run game on film who can work in pass protection and the run game. He regularly moves defensive ends giving the feel of an unbalanced offensive line when he is on the field.
When Darnell Washington gets his hands on a defender, it's nasty— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) March 14, 2023
Still needs work on footwork & hand placement to be more consistent
Mostly will be used on verticals and crossers, doesn't have a lot of suddenness which is to be expected
Edited with @TRACAB_ #coachpaint #tracab pic.twitter.com/KgGZprYPyx
The question for Washington is production as a pass catcher. His 774 career receiving at Georgia highlights how he was primarily a blocking tight end. The upside for Washington at receiver displays in his athletic numbers, and the Raiders could fall in love with the player coming for a winning program.
Zach Kuntz, ODU
Arm length- 34
Hand Size- 10.25
Three cone- 6.87
Ziegler has plenty of day-three draft picks to move around and find gems during the weekend. With the value of the tight end position lower around league circles, good players might fall later in the draft. One small school player from Old Dominion University is Zach Kuntz, who fits the mold at tight end for McDaniels.
Kuntz is 6'7 255 pounds running a 4.55 40-yard dash and 3-cone of 6.87. His profile matches Washington's with more receiving upside during his rooking campaign. Route running is his specialty, with smooth movement skills while working against defenders. He has the hands to make tough catches in traffic and becomes a matchup problem down the seams.
TE Zach Kuntz is a fluid route runner at 6'7 255. Nice jab step at the top of the stem on the corner route. A 4.55 40-yard dash displays his ability to stretch the field. pic.twitter.com/8zZPsozIvv— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) March 5, 2023
The issue for Kuntz is mainly regarded to run blocking. He can struggle at the point of attack, especially when he battled vs. power five conferences. However, he was serviceable enough to help out early in his career if the silver and black drafted him.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon St.
Arm length- 32.62
Hand Size- 10.375
Three cone- NA
While the first two players have missing elements that need to be developed, other prospects in the draft are more complete. A player who fits the bill with day two buzz is Luke Musgrave for Oregon St. He has the skillset and blocking prowess that McDaniels craves at the position.
Musgrave was poised for a breakout season in 2023 but dealt with an injury that halted his campaign. He had over 80 yards in his first two games of the season and was on pace for over 800 yards. He was ready for the combine running a 4.61 40-yard dash and 36-inch vertical leap. He can affect the run game, moving defensive ends and safeties at the second level.
Oregon St TE Luke Musgrave showcased nicely when allowed to attack down the field.— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) February 6, 2023
Big body with straight line speed! pic.twitter.com/GLh9KKi39L
His injury history and overall lack of production might hurt his draft stock. He could be the answer at 38 if the Raiders buy into the upside he brings.
Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan
Arm length- 32 7/8
Hand Size- 9
Three cone- NA
Finally is a player the Raiders got to meet at the Shrine Bowl. Luke Schoonmaker from Michigan is prospect draft pundits say was underutilized playing for Jim Harbaugh. He is the type of tight end available on day three and develops into a good player.
Schoonmaker displayed his athleticism at the combine, running a 4.63 40-yard dash. His specialty is blocking, with him not giving up pressure on 18 pass-blocking snaps. He can also move players in the run game with great hands and play strength. He is underrated as a route runner who can run choice routes in the slot or while lining up as an H-back.
TE class needs to chill. Schoonmaker with a nice route at the top of the screen. pic.twitter.com/QPMC4izMnd— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) March 10, 2023
The former Michigan Wolverine might be the best fit in the later rounds. His size and athleticism mark every box, plus his untouched potential as a receiver could have him develop into a starting tight end. He can come in on day one and be a blocking tight end for the Raiders.