The tight end position in the 2023 NFL Draft had a wide variety of talent. Guys like Sam LaPorta, Michael Mayer, Darnell Washington, Dalton Kincaid, Luke Musgrave, and Tucker Kraft had their names called inside the top 100, and the majority of those guys enjoyed very solid rookie years, with LaPorta specifically cementing himself as a top tier tight end in Detroit. Something many noted in 2023, was that year's class was without the then-teammate of Washington at Georgia, Brock Bowers, who's widely considered one of the best tight-end prospects in at least the last decade.
The back-to-back John Mackey Award winner has been a mismatch nightmare for defenses in the SEC and beyond for the last three years, and in a ton of ways at that. Bowers wins as a blocker, receiver (out wide, in the slot, or otherwise), and even as a runner getting carries out of the backfield. Much like LaPorta, he's also put together a great pre-draft resume as someone who isn't exactly the biggest tight end ever, standing 6'4 and at 240 lbs. While there is little doubt Bowers is the top tight end in this draft, could he potentially be the best outright player in a draft that features Marvin Harrison Jr., Caleb Williams, and Drake Maye?
Name: Brock Bowers
Jersey: No. 19
Position: Tight End
Weight: 240 lbs
Games Watched: vs. Georgia Tech and Ohio State (2022), vs. Auburn, Kentucky, and Alabama (2023)
Major Injury History: Bowers underwent tightrope surgery on his ankle in October of 2023, but returned ahead of schedule for Georgia's final three regular season games and the SEC Championship game.
I think especially since Bowers isn't packing on a ton of weight as far as tight ends go, he's shown that he's an excellent blocker with regularity. More than simply holding his own, the Georgia product consistently made quality blocks in the run and pass game, and as for the former, didn't look much better than he did against Auburn, making several impressive key blocks in the run game that day.
Some technique things Bowers can continue to work on are getting his hands in a more firm position on in-line blocks first. I thought there were just enough reps in a couple of games to notice it where he couldn't sustain blocks in the run game long enough, simply based on that. Another thing would be that Bowers can be a little better at getting to defenders at the second level, specifically outside the hashes. In the box, he's perfectly fine, but he could be taking better angles when tasked with blocking on the boundary. Both issues are ones that I believe get ironed out very quickly once he's drafted, especially if he can add some additional weight. Don't discount the fact he's doing all of this at 240 lbs against mainly SEC defenses, mind you.
Route Running (13.5/15)
While Bowers runs a pretty diverse route tree, he lacks the consistent crispness in and out of his breaks, which could make him an even more dangerous pass catcher than he already is. Especially in some of the man coverage snaps he took, Bowers didn't really create any additional separation with his route running, mainly relying on his speed against slower guys to get the job done. But you saw Bowers hit wheel routes in motion out of the backfield, work vertical (deep overs, nine-routes, etc.), work in and out breaking stuff, plus your typical shallow area stuff (sticks, hitches, etc.).
While Bowers' reaction time off the line leaves some to be desired, he makes up for it with his ridiculous ability to accelerate and quickly get into his highest gear. Although I didn't see a ton of reps where he went up against press-man coverage, I don't have any notable reservations about his ability to win off the line at the next level, especially if he can get better as a route runner.
Probably the best example I can give you of Bowers' ability to just go up and make a play on the ball would be in the Auburn game, on back-to-back plays, no less. Some unreal body control is on display on this first grab, working back to a ball that was behind him, then making an impressive grab over the middle, making a late enough adjustment with a couple of defenders bearing down on him. Did I mention these are both one-handed catches? Far from the only example I could pull, but this first grab in particular was preposterous.
Run After the Catch (10/10)
Think of any great YAC tight end currently in the NFL, and you could put Bowers in the same breath right now. He's nearly impossible to tackle as a single defender (I believe Alabama nickel defender Malachai Moore was the only guy to make a straight-up wrap-up tackle on him in those five games), and he's just a hard guy to bring down if he's in full stride. You can see a lot of this when Bowers is getting handoffs on sweeps and things of that nature. I don't want to say he's Gronk in this respect because no one is, but what Bowers can do with the ball in his hands is downright freakish.
Hands/Ball Security (9.5/10)
I believe there was only a singular 'gotta have it' drop that Bowers had in these five games, a rainbow shot against Kentucky that would've made for a great over-the-shoulder grab, but he just couldn't haul it in. Save for that, Bowers has some big strong mits and uses them very well, as you can see above with the pair of one-handed grabs. Also helping out the cause is Bowers' catch radius, which he uses to his advantage early and often, like here, as he scrapes up a very sloppy Stetson Bennett throw off the turf for six against Georgia Tech.
Contested Catch (8.5/10)
While Bowers is capable of being a force in 50/50 ball situations and making some grabs in traffic (just watch any highlight video), I happened to come across a pretty poor sample size of what he's capable of in the former category, which, in my mind, is good. Seeing the opposite end of the spectrum, especially in this setting, gives me a better understanding of what needs improvement. That mainly means adding some box-out ability to his repertoire. Especially in the red zone, he had a good deal of trouble with not winning at the point of attack in this five-game sample size. Bowers allowed defenders to get their hands in and make big pass breakups with a fair level of regularity. Having seen a good amount of him outside of this report, I know he's capable of doing so, which leaves me hopeful that he can improve further once he gets drafted.
It's scary how many ways Georgia used Bowers as a Swiss army knife. In-line blocker? No problem. Get him in motion so he blocks some poor defensive back out of the club with a head of steam? Absolutely. How about as a running back? Because I had Bowers down for at least one carry as either a halfback, fullback, or quarterback in a wildcat formation. Georgia also lined up Bowers out wide in a variety of fashions. While mainly in the slot when not in line, Bowers also has reps in stack and bunch sets on the outside and has limited work at the X spot. Assuming there are mismatches to be had on the outside, NFL teams would be foolish to not even try and see how Bowers does. Also, pre-snap motion with him as a receiver has horrifying potential if he lands in the right spot.
While Bowers's athleticism translates to the gridiron, here are a couple of fun notes from when he was still in high school. According to Brandon Huffman from 24/7 Sports, Bowers, then a sophomore in high school, ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and hit a vertical of 40 inches, the latter of which would be tied for the sixth-best among tight ends ever at the combine. Furthermore, according to Bruce Feldman's annual freaks list, Bowers has been clocked in the high 4.4s running the 40, and watching him on the field, that does track. It's not a huge surprise, given that his parents were collegiate athletes, but that further adds to his profile.
Comparing any tight end prospect to Gronk is a tough ask because 1) I doubt we ever see a guy that physically dominant as both a pass catcher and blocker for a long time, and 2) That sets an impossibly high expectation for any prospect, whos more than likely 22 years old or younger. With that said, I think it's very hard to watch Bowers in how he's used, his ability after the catch, and his ability to track passes, and not at least somewhat think of Aaron Hernandez, as crazy as that sounds on multiple fronts.
Add those traits in with his elite blocking ability for his size, the acceleration/overall athleticism, and the playmaking potential, I now 100 percent believe that if there's any one player better in this draft, it's Marvin Harrision Jr., and that's it. People may dismiss that given his position and the value of said position, but Bowers checks off nearly every box you could want. Although I could see him slipping out of the top 10 based on team needs and other factors, teams have completely lost the plot if he's on the board 15 picks in. Don't overthink it, you'd be getting an instant-impact guy at a position that can unlock a ton of possibilities offensively.
Rookie Projections: Borderline-Top Five Tight End
Third-Year Projections: Perrenial All-Pro
Final Grade (94/100): Top 10 Talent
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