The Dallas Cowboys are on the hunt for a tight end. Barring a surprise, Dalton Schultz will be taking his talents elsewhere, freeing a spot on the tight end depth chart along the way.
With Jake Ferguson expected to take on the top role of TE1 and Peyton Hendershot slotting in somewhere behind, the Cowboys will be looking for a top-3 TE in the 2023 NFL Draft. Luckily for Dallas, this year’s draft features multiple tight end prospects in the middle rounds who offer high potential in the pros.
Payne Durham is a high-floor prospect who may also offer a decent ceiling for the team like the Dallas Cowboys.
Payne Durham, No. 210 on TDN’s big board and outside Dane Brugler’s top-100 appears to be one of the more underrated TEs in his draft class. The former lacrosse player turned Boilermaker was once a three-star recruit. New to the game, Durham showed an immediate knack for football and has progressed steadily each year at the tight end position.
He enters the draft as one of the better and more willing blockers, making him a perfect fit as a TE2 on a team like the Dallas Cowboys. He can play the traditional Y, blocking playside or backside. He can split out as a big slot, navigating zones and finding soft spots. And he can be used on the move, showing the ability to play the screen game or even H-back.
At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Durham is a big body with strength and a high motor. He’s not an elite athlete but he’s an athlete. He’s not fast but he’s not slow. He’s not ultra-quick in his breaks but he’s efficient. Nothing about him screams sleeper except that he’s good at everything and willing to do anything.
With a 3.4 percent drop rate, Durham has relatively sure hands. His run-block grade was eighth in his class and at 1.23 yards per route run he ranks seventh in his class.
He made money at the Senior Bowl, impressing as a blocker and downfield as a pass catcher.
As the draft gets closer, a player like Payne Durham is going to move up. He’s not the pedestrian talent many scouted him for in 2022 film. His Senior Bowl film combined with interviews is going to improve his standing.
On the Dallas Cowboys he’s near the top of the bargain list. He’s an instant contributor at TE2 with the potential to be more down the road.
Projected Draft Spot: the two sites listed above have him outside the first two days of the but I’d be surprised if he made it very far into the fourth round. Depending how the TEs come of the board, I can see Durham going off the board somewhere in the third and would have no issues using a late pick on Day 2 to secure one of the safer prospects in the draft.
In this Dallas Cowboys 7-round mock draft they add playmakers to the ranks, improving the talent across the board for the Cowboys in 2023
Extreme value can be found in the middle rounds of the 2023 and if the Cowboys remain patient, he could have a great prospect fall into their laps in Round 4.