Dalton Kincaid entered college unceremoniously as a no-star tight end prospect out of Las Vegas who played just one year of high school football.

Fast forward five years, and he’s now a first-round NFL draft pick.

The former Utah star tight end was taken by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 25 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft on Thursday. 

The Bills traded up two spots with Jacksonville to take Kincaid. The Jaguars, in return, received the No. 27 and No. 130 picks in this year’s draft.

That is the highest a former Utes tight end has ever been drafted — the previous high was Kurt Haws, a fourth-round selection (No. 105 overall) in the 1994 NFL draft.

Kincaid well surpassed that mark after back-to-back stellar seasons for Utah that propelled him into being one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft.

He was the first tight end taken in the draft.

The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Kincaid scored 35 touchdowns over his five college seasons, which included two years at FCS school San Diego before he transferred to Utah.

He caught 36 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns for the Utes in the 2021 season. 

After fellow tight end Brant Kuithe went down with an injury last season, Kincaid became the Utes’ primary pass catcher and finished the year with 70 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns — all team highs — in helping Utah win its second straight Pac-12 championship.

Kincaid earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in his final collegiate season, as well as a trio of All-American honors.

He is the 10th first-round pick out of Utah in school history and the first skill position player taken in the draft’s opening round since quarterback Alex Smith went first overall to the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.

It’s also the first time in school history that Utah had first-round selections in back-to-back years, after linebacker Devin Lloyd was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2022 draft.

What experts said about Dalton Kincaid

“Kincaid is a highly productive tight end with exceptional quickness, route polish and run-after-catch ability. At Utah, he typically lined up flexed in the slot. He is explosive in his release and is a smooth/fluid route runner. … Overall, Kincaid is a more explosive version of Zach Ertz coming out of college.” — NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.

“With his basketball background, Kincaid has fluid movement skills and flashes the short-area quickness to open stride and accelerate in and out of his breaks. He is a natural ball winner and shows confidence in his hands, doing most of his damage when catching the ball on the move.” — The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.

“At 240 pounds, Kincaid bridges the gap between tight end and wide receiver. You’re not going to draft him for his blocking ability, but he’s at least serviceable in that regard. No, Kincaid can be a focal point of an offense with his route-running ability after recording 70 catches for 890 yards at Utah last season.” — Michael Renner, for Pro Football Focus.

What experts said about the selection 

ESPN’s Steve Muench said Kincaid could be a rookie of the year candidate in his first NFL season: “There is some concern about whether or not Kincaid will get enough targets. However, he lands in a high-power offense with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and the talent to make the most of his opportunities.”

“In an effort to diversify the pass game around Stefon Diggs, the Bills select a dynamic tight end who can make an immediate splash in the offense. Kincaid has soft hands and will serve as a dependable target who’ll help Josh Allen be more efficient in Buffalo’s passing attack,” — NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.

“This is a strange pick when you consider they have Dawson Knox and have a few more pressing needs. Kincaid is a good player, but the position doesn’t make sense and they traded up to get him.” — CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco.

Utah’s history of previous NFL first-round draft selections

Year — Player, Pos., Pick No., Team

  • 2022 — Devin Lloyd, LB, No. 27, Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • 2017 — Garett Bolles, OT, No. 20, Denver Broncos.
  • 2013 — Star Lotulelei, DT, No. 14, Carolina Panthers.
  • 2005 — Alex Smith, QB, No. 1, San Francisco 49ers.
  • 2003 — Jordan Gross, OT, No. 8, Carolina Panthers.
  • 1998 — Kevin Dyson, WR, No. 16, Tennessee Titans.
  • 1995 — Luther Elliss, DT, No. 20, Detroit Lions.
  • 1971 — Norm Thompson, DB,  No. 17, St. Louis Cardinals.
  • 1959 — Lee Grossup, QB, No. 10, New York Giants.