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Draft Darlings: Luke Schoonmaker might be the best value at tight end

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2023 NFL Draft class, one of the strongest position groups is tight end. The tight end group is led by Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, and Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. All three figure to be potential Round 1 targets for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The class is also deep as well, particularly on Day 2. Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave are all guys that might go on Day 2 but still are talented options. This is the best tight end class of the past few cycles.

For the Chiefs, there is always talk about the plan at the position for when tight end Travis Kelce retires. Kelce will be 34 this upcoming season and is under contract through 2025. Kelce arguably played the best football of his career last season, but the Chiefs would be wise to potentially look for solutions as he ages.

While the Chiefs could look to draft a tight end early in the draft, waiting for a tight end to fall to them and develop them from there is probably the best option. If they decide to wait, Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker would give the group a high-ceiling developmental option.

Here’s what you need to know about Schoonmaker:


Out of high school, Schoonmaker was a three-star recruit at tight end. Schoonmaker had only three Power 5 offers from Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan. Schoonmaker chose Michigan, where he would play for five years for the Wolverines. Schoonmaker earned third-team All-Big 10 honors in 2022 — as voted by coaches.

Schoonmaker wasn’t the most productive tight end in college, only having 54 catches, 637 yards and seven touchdowns over his five-year career. Schoonmaker’s most productive year was in 2022 when he had 35 catches, 418 yards, and three touchdowns.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Schoonmaker’s stock rose. Schoonmaker came in at 6’5 and 252 lbs. with 32 7/8” arms. He performed well in the athletic testing, running a 4.63 40-yard dash (83rd percentile) with a 1.62 10-yard split (69th percentile). His jumps were also solid, having a 10’7 broad jump (95th percentile) and a 33 1/2” vertical jump (56th percentile). Schoonmaker also did the short shuttle, finishing with a 4.27-second time (72nd percentile).

Film review

Schoonmaker’s college tape isn’t littered with many targets, but positive receiving traits are shown on film. The first thing that stands out is Schoonmaker’s speed running vertically. He can be a threat up the seams or in the middle of the field. Schoonmaker wasn’t asked to run a lot of vertical routes in college, but when he did do it, he generated separation on those routes.

Schoonmaker’s also good at finding zone windows in coverage, which is important for tight ends. He recognizes coverages and leverages well and can adjust his routes to give his quarterback a window to throw to him. Schoonmaker is also good after the catch, where he flashes good speed and agility to separate and generate extra yards.

As a blocker, Schoonmaker can function in multiple ways. Sometimes, he would align in-line and block defensive ends, and he looked competent. He doesn’t have much functional strength — I would argue he needs more weight for the NFL — but his long arms and leverage are solid. He might not move defensive ends off the line of scrimmage, but he can seal them from getting penetration. Throughout the season, Schoonmaker developed as a blocker; if he can add weight to his frame, he should be able to play in line.

Schoonmaker can be an in-line tight end, but he’s a great movement blocker. When he gets put into space, he looks comfortable with any block. He’s quick enough to reach any defensive back needed, and his long reach washes any defensive back flying downhill. Schoonmaker might not have many blocking highlights on film, but he can execute any block you ask.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Schoonmaker’s a good fit with the Chiefs since he can complement Kelce while taking some of his snaps. He can play in-line tight end next to Kelce when the Chiefs go into heavier personnel, but if the Chiefs want to give Kelce a breather, he can run similar routes to Kelce. I’m not sure Schoonmaker will ever be able to be detached from the line of scrimmage as a wide receiver, but the Chiefs have limited Kelce’s usage there over the past few years. If the Chiefs run a similar offense as they did last year, Schoonmaker can find a role.

The bottom line

Schoonmaker might not have a special talent like the top tight ends in this class. He lacks any dominant trait, but I think he will stick in the NFL. His college productivity was low, but Michigan’s offense also didn’t enable Schoonmaker to show his best traits. His versatility as a receiver and blocker should pop more in the NFL.

If the Chiefs are looking for depth at tight end to help alleviate Kelce’s load in this offense, I feel Schoonmaker can develop into that player. He won’t bring the dynamic ability Kelce does, but he has enough potential there to be a good weapon. Schoonmaker can also play with Kelce and handle tougher blocking assignments. If Schoonmaker is on the board in Round 4, he makes a ton of sense.

Grade: Round 4

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