Michael Mayer Leads 2023 Travis Scores

Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - It's a strong draft year for tight ends, and draftniks disagree as to whether Michael Mayer of Notre Dame or Dalton Kincaid of Utah is the top prospect. Football Outsiders' Travis Scores prefer Meyer.

We introduced our Travis Scores last year, a new system to project receiving yardage for tight ends. The main element in Travis Scores is a player's projected draft position, translated from the player's rank on the Scouts Inc. big board on ESPN+. The second element in Travis is the player's best season in receiving yardage divided by total team pass attempts, similar to Playmaker Score. Travis also considers the prospect's 40-yard dash time and age, giving a boost to prospects under 23 years old as of September 1 of their rookie seasons.

Here is a look at the Travis scores for this year's tight end prospects. Each Travis score represents a projection of how many receiving yards that player will gain per year through his first five NFL seasons, i.e. the same output as Playmaker Score.

Travis Scores, 2023
First Last College Scouts
Inc. Rk
Michael Mayer Notre Dame 20 524
Dalton Kincaid Utah 14 486
Darnell Washington Georgia 30 431
Luke Musgrave Oregon State 48 333
Sam LaPorta Iowa 55 308
Brenton Strange Penn State 63 256
Zack Kuntz Old Dominion 123 207
Will Mallory Miami 156 192
Luke Schoonmaker Michigan 115 181
Josh Whyle Cincinnati 160 143
Davis Allen Clemson 129 131
Ben Sims Baylor 313 126
Brayden Willis Oklahoma 243 116
Leonard Taylor Cincinnati 284 112
Cameron Latu Alabama 167 110
Payne Durham Purdue 186 89

Mayer ends up with the 12th-highest Travis Score projection going back to 2001 while Kincaid is 18th. This is only the third season where three tight ends have Travis Scores over 400, following 2017 (Evan Engram, David Njoku, and O.J. Howard) and 2019 (Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, and Irv Smith). It follows up a 2022 draft which presented a rare year where no tight end was above 400.

Mayer is going to be just a little bit older than 22 when the season begins (born in July 2001) and he also led all tight end prospects this year with 2.39 yards per team pass. That ties 2019 Arizona seventh-round pick Caleb Wilson for the seventh-highest figure in the data going back to 2001. These figures are based on the player's best year, not his last year; for example, Travis Beckum played only six games in his senior season so these numbers come from his junior year in 2007. Looking at which of these players succeeded or failed in the NFL demonstrates why projected draft position is still the No. 1 element of Travis Score:

Top Yd/Team Pass for TE Prospects, 2001-2023
First Last College Draft Rd Pick Best Yd/
Rec Yds Tm
Garrett Mills Tulsa 2006 4 106 3.04 87 1,235 406
Travis Beckum Wisconsin 2009 3 100 2.83 75 982 347
James Casey Rice 2009 5 152 2.58 111 1,329 516
Vernon Davis Maryland 2006 1 6 2.48 51 871 351
Daniel Graham Colorado 2002 1 21 2.42 51 753 311
Lance Kendricks Wisconsin 2011 2 47 2.40 43 663 276
Caleb Wilson UCLA 2019 7 254 2.39 60 965 403
Michael Mayer Notre Dame 2023 -- -- 2.39 67 809 338
Dallas Clark Iowa 2003 1 24 2.36 43 742 314
Aaron Hernandez Florida 2010 4 113 2.34 68 850 364
Todd Heap Arizona State 2001 1 31 2.30 55 832 362
Zach Ertz Stanford 2013 2 35 2.25 69 898 399

Mayer is held back a bit in Travis Score by his 40 time at the combine, which was a very average 4.70 seconds.

Kincaid comes out lower in Travis Score because he is a little older than Mayer (born in October 1999) and was a little less impressive last season, with more receiving yards (890) but many more team pass attempts (444) giving him 2.00 yards per team pass attempt.

Darnell Washington is a physical freak and his Travis Score is almost entirely based on his age (born in August 2001) and his projected draft position. Washington had less than 1.0 yards per team pass attempt last season at Georgia, only catching 28 passes for 454 yards with the Bulldogs attempting 492 total passes. Scouts clearly believe that Washington will surpass his college production in the NFL.

If any player here qualifies as a "sleeper" it's probably Will Mallory out of Miami, who ran a 4.54s 40 at the combine and was fourth among these prospects with 1.30 yards per team pass last season.


4 comments, Last at 20 Apr 2023, 10:58am

#1 by shaunnewkirk // Apr 18, 2023 - 11:03am

"Mayer ends up with the 12th-highest Travis Score projection going back to 2001 while Kincaid is 18th."


Any chance we could see past projections? Like how QBASE data going back to early-2000's was posted?

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Schatz // Apr 18, 2023 - 11:09am

You will find the top 12 (well, 13 including Mayer) in last year's article which introduced the Travis scores: https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2022/mcbride-leads-inaugural-travis-ratings

Points: 0

#3 by ebongreen // Apr 18, 2023 - 1:34pm

That's a... weirdly distributed group of expected yardage.

  • 2 TEs bracketing 500 yds/yr
  • 1 more above 425
  • 2 bracketing 320
  • 1 around 250
  • 3 around 190

... and then a bunch of noise at the bottom. Huge gaps with some strange clusters.

Points: 0

#4 by ImNewAroundThe… // Apr 20, 2023 - 10:58am

Still not a fan of that forced Acronym

Points: 0

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