Notre Dame football’s Cole Kmet is the top prospect at his position. Will he be the first tight end drafted and how high will he go?
Despite not having a physical draft, the NFL is going ahead with the process beginning April 23 and ending April 25.
Tight end is one of the more intriguing positions in this draft. The position is not super deep and there might only be three taken in the first three rounds according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
Where does that leave Cole Kmet? He is the best pure tight end in this class by most estimations. That does not necessarily mean he is a lock for the first round. Tight ends Harrison Bryant and Adam Trautman are moving up the boards, but both players have legitimate question marks.
Both Bryant and Trautman are from lower-tiered competition — Bryant from the Group of Five and Trautman from the FCS — and need to prove they can play against big-time competition. Consider how much Adam Shaheen has struggled coming out of Ashland College.
Kmet is a smooth route runner either in-line, out wide or in the slot. He uses his hands well and does not “body” the ball. He has good speed after the catch and his size is a matchup disadvantage for a safety defending him in man coverage. Cole has mastered the middle of the field and is dominant when running the seams. He knows how to use his body as a shield against defenders when catching the football.
Moreover, he has outstanding ball skills; he high-points the ball and rarely waits for the ball to come to him. He is a good in-line support blocker in the run game and max-protect packages in the passing game. His body and physical size make him an instant security blanket for a quarterback needed a big target to bail him out in certain situations.
Cole is also the best red-zone target in this draft.
Thought Kmet has good speed after the catch, he does not separate well while running his routes. He could be covered well by an athletic linebacker. He comes out of his in-line stance well when running routes, but when split out wide or in the slot, he tends to run a bit too tall through his routes giving defenders a read of where he’s going.
Defenders in the NFL will break on those routes and know how to stifle them. Though he is good at support blocking, he does not block well in a phone booth. He gets overwhelmed trying to block a defensive end or rush linebacker one-on-one. He needs to get better with his hand placement as a blocker.
It would be on of the draft day surprises if any other tight end goes in the draft before he does. There is an opportunity for him to possibly sneak in the back-end of the first round, but that does not seem likely. It would not be a surprise if he does.
His value is at the top of the second round. It would not be a shock for the Bengals to snag him at the top of the second round with the 33rd pick. If he gets past Cincy, look for the Steelers or his hometown Bears to be in play in the middle of the second round.
Projection: Round 2 (picks 33-50)