The first tight end taken in the 2020 NFL Draft was Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet in the second round by Chicago – even though the Bears already had eight other tight ends on the roster. Yes, eight! Here are Kmet’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Bears’ over/under win total.
At one point during the 2019 season, it looked like Kmet would return to Notre Dame for 2020, but he announced in January his intentions to head to the NFL. The Bears selected Kmet, who grew up in the Chicago area, with the 43rd pick of April’s draft. At 6-6, 262 and with a solid 4.7 40-yard dash time, Kmet is a big tight end with enough speed to stick at the next level.
He was the seventh tight end drafted out of Notre Dame since 2011, including pro bowlers Kyle Rudolph (2011) and Tyler Eifert (2013). Cole’s father, Frank Kmet, a defensive lineman from Mount Prospect, Illinois, played at Purdue and was a fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. Then he spent the 1993 season on the Bears’ practice squad.
As a freshman in 2017, Kmet played in every Notre Dame game but had just two catches for 14 yards. He also played for the baseball team, leading the Irish with eight saves. The next year, Kmet played in 11 games and had 15 catches for 162 yards.
Last year, though, he really emerged as a pro prospect. Kmet started 11 games after missing the first two due to a broken collarbone suffered during fall camp. He nine receptions for 108 yards and a TD in his first game back from injury at Georgia and recorded a receiving TD in four straight games against Bowling Green, Southern Cal, Michigan and Virginia Tech. Overall, he finished with 43 catches for 515 yards and six scores.
Kmet is a solid receiver and capable blocker who also happens to be one of the youngest tight ends in this year’s rookie class (he turned 21 in March). He has outstanding size (6-foot-6, 262 pounds), as well as good hands and balls skills. He has drawn Austin Hooper and Tyler Higbee comparisons as a player who figures to develop into a pass-catching in-line tight end. Hooper caught just 74 balls in two years at Stanford before posting multiple 70-catch seasons at the NFL level thus far in his career.
“I think my versatility [is my biggest strength] — just from being able to go from the backfield to in-line to split out wide, that’s pretty unique, and I’m an aggressive player,” Kmet said. “I don’t go down on first contact. I like to run through guys and stuff, and I’m going to play fast and physical, and I refuse to go down.”
The Bears had the league’s least productive group of tight ends in 2019. Veteran Trey Burton led Chicago tight ends with only 14 catches, while J.P. Holtz topped all tight ends on the roster with just 91 receiving yards. Kmet should play plenty in two-tight end sets opposite free-agent addition Jimmy Graham. The front office and coaching staff view Kmet as a classic “Y” tight end.
“You really have two different styles to TEs in this offense,” GM Ryan Pace said. “You have the ‘U’ tight end, that would apply more to Jimmy Graham, and you have the ‘Y’ tight end, which is a little bit more of an in-line guy, good in the run game, and he needs to have the size to be able to do that, and that’s what we see in Cole.”
Kmet is at his best working the deep middle, where he shows excellent ball-tracking skills over his shoulder and the flexibility and coordination to adjust to the off-target throw. His length makes him a natural in the red zone.
Chicago has released free-agent tight end flop Trey Burton, and former 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen seems like a long shot to make the final roster. Look for veteran Demetrius Harris to also be one of Chicago’s top three tight ends with Graham and Kmet. Pace entered the new league year determined to overhaul the position and has done so.