Cole Kmet is a Chicago Bear. We can argue until the season starts about if he was the right selection or if the Bears should have traded down but it doesn’t change anything.
The only thing that should be discussed is how Kmet can help the Bears win games in 2020 … and beyond.
Before the draft, I ranked my top tight ends in the class and Kmet came out on top as my number one overall at the position. The Bears seemed to have agreed with me as they made Kmet the first tight end selected at pick 43.
So what type of player are they getting in their new tight end?
Kmet grew up a short 30-minute drive away from Halas Hall in Lake Barrington, Illinois where he was a star baseball player for St. Viator High School. He almost became a fifth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017, but he turned it down and enrolled at Notre Dame to play both football and baseball.
Splitting time between the two sports limited his development in each.
On the football field, he started to get limited playing time as a sophomore, producing only 15 receptions for 162 yards. Before his junior year, he suffered a broken collarbone in an August practice, which caused him to miss the first few games of his final season.
When Kmet finally saw the field, he found success on the gridiron and exploded for 43 receptions, 515 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games.
He originally committed to return to Notre Dame for his senior season, but in the end, Kmet decided to leave early and enter the NFL Draft. He recently turned 21 years old, which means he still has immense room to grow as a football player.
You can’t have a discussion about Kmet’s potential without talking about his size. At 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, he was easily the largest tight end at the combine. He couples that with long arms and huge(10 ½ inch) hands. He also has the frame to add additional weight if he needs to.
With his size, Kmet can be a matchup nightmare for defenses. Cornerbacks and safeties are going to be too small to cover Kmet with his size and physicality advantage. And even linebackers won’t have the size and length to disrupt Kmet in contested catch situations.
Despite being the largest player at the position, he tested as one of the better athletes, maybe even the top athlete. He finished fourth in the 40-yard dash (4.7 seconds) and showed off his explosiveness as he was first in the vertical (37 inches) and second in broad jump (123 inches).
Overall, Kmet earned an elite 9.22 (out of 10) relative athletic score – second at the position. He outran and out jumped players 20 pounds lighter than himself.
Since Kmet is still learning the nuances of the position, his athleticism does not always translate to the field at this time. Once he gets a better feel for the game and the position, you should see his elite athleticism come out more on Sundays.
At Notre Dame, he ran a lot of shallow crosses and most of his touches were schemed. However, his athleticism came in flashes. Especially when he was asked to threaten the seam, where he showed the ability to get upfield quickly and hold onto the ball when taking a big hit.
Catch Radius and Body Control
Despite testing as an elite athlete, Kmet is never going to be able to outrun safeties and cornerbacks in coverage. That is where he is going to have to rely on his size, length and body control to corral tough passes outside his frame.
Kmet has great hands and consistently catches the ball away from his body when he needs to. In 2019, he only dropped two passes on 61 catchable targets; his 3.2 percent drop rate was well above average.
He has excellent hand-eye coordination and is very fluid at the catch point. Kmet also effortlessly catches the ball in stride, which allows him to turn upfield. On inaccurate passes, something he had to deal with a lot at Notre Dame, Kmet is able to contort his body to make acrobatic catches.
His coordination combined with his large frame and long arms give him a huge catch radius that Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky or anyone playing quarterback for the Bears can use to their advantage.
Ideally, Kmet will be the Bears starter at “Y” tight end to start the season. But he still has a long way to go as a run blocker before he can be relied upon in this role.
At Notre Dame, he was a willing blocker who put some good reps on tape. He also struggled at times to stay square and flashed his hands late, allowing defenders to control his chest and move him out of the way.
Given his size, long arms and work ethic there is not a doubt in my mind Kmet will develop into an asset in the run game.
Run after the Catch
One area where Kmet is below average – and I don’t really see him improving upon much – is his ability to create plays after the catch. He does not have the wiggle in the open field to make defenders miss. Instead, he chooses to lower his shoulder to run people over, and he has had some success there.
Ryan Pace on Friday mentioned a play near the sidelines vs Virginia Tech that showed Cole Kmet's aggressiveness after the catch.
"He just stones somebody, just runs over somebody. He's just such a dense, big body that guys are ricocheting off him as he's running after the catch." pic.twitter.com/VaCXBoRvbV
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) April 26, 2020
For a guy who won’t create huge separation, this is a bit of a concern. But he has good straight-line speed to pick up yards after the catch on short crossers before getting tackled. While it would be great if Kmet could be better here, if that is the biggest issue for your tight end, you’re in good shape.
Role on the Bears
As mentioned above, Kmet will slot into the “Y” tight end position while newly acquired Jimmy Graham will fill the “U” tight end position. Kmet will be relied upon in the run game and will be used to stretch the seam but mostly in the short game on crossers and curls.
It is incredibly difficult for rookies to make an impact immediately in the NFL and the tight end position is the toughest transition. Kmet will need to live in the weight room and work on his run blocking first and foremost. Most rookie tight ends don’t make a real impact in the passing game, and I don’t expect Kmet to be any different.
That doesn’t mean he was not a good pick. He has the potential to be a top-five tight end in the game. It is important to be patient and allow him time to grow into a larger role.
28 Receptions, 310 Yards, 3 Touchdowns