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Irish On Tap 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Cole Kmet

Cole Kmet was originally slated as a third-round draft pick. A productive 2019 season and a strong showing at the combine could have him going much earlier.

Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I first heard of Cole Kmet when I attended high school with his cousin (Illinois State Champion wrestler Christian Brunner) who told me about a relative who was planning on playing football Notre Dame. Little did I know, Kmet would play the tight end position on the football team, be a relief pitcher on the Irish baseball team, and now a potential first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

Kmet, a local native, spent his high school days at St. Viator in Arlington Heights playing baseball and football as well. He committed to Notre Dame to play football after racking up 48 receptions for 773 yards and four touchdowns in his senior season.

Kmet played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2017 but finished with only two receptions for 14 yards.

In 2018, Kmet appeared in 26 games for the Irish baseball team, posting a 5.05 ERA with 39 strikeouts and eight saves. He would go on to play in 11 games in the football season, recording 162 yards on 15 receptions.

Kmet pitched in eight games in 2019 before suffering an arm injury. However, it was a bright year on the football field for the junior. In his final season at Notre Dame, Kmet finished with 43 receptions, 515 yards, and six touchdowns. That body of work helped propel him to the top of the prospect list in this year’s tight end class.

At the combine, Kmet further bolstered his draft stock with an impressive showing. A 4.7 40 time and a 37’ vertical will do that for a young tight end prospect. Before the combine, Kmet was a third-round lock. There’s not a whole lot of tape out on Kmet, but the season and a half of it that exists proves why he’s not a third-round talent — he’s even better.

Depending on what happens in the first round, Kmet could be an option for teams picking in the latter part of the first round. If that does not pan out, he will be a guaranteed early second-round pick. I really liked Kmet to the Bears not only for the “hometown kid plays for Chicago Bears” story, but because this kid can play. He’s 6-foot-6, he’s athletic, and he can go up to get the ball. He would be a perfect vertical threat for the Bears or any team looking to upgrade their tight end room.

Kmet has a great burst off the line of scrimmage and possesses the ability to burn a defense if they aren’t careful. Last season, defenses frequently got torn apart by Kmet running down the hashes and Ian Book floating one up for a touchdown.

He may not be overpowering in the trenches, but Kmet also has a solid blocking ability. Running backs in the NFL need minimal time to turn a corner these days. Kmet is a blocker who will hold the end or linebacker up and occupy him long enough for the running back to get around the defender into the second wave.

Walterfootball.com projected Kmet going to the Colts in the third round. It’s worth noting that the same mock draft also had Chase Claypool going to the Colts in the second round. Many mock drafts I have completed have Kmet going to the Packers in the second round. However, I don’t see the Packers going after a tight end that early in the draft. The Redskins are another team that may have serious interest in Kmet. A sturdy pass-catcher would do wonders for a guy like Dwayne Haskins. One would think he would do the same for the Trubisky/Foles experiment, but that scenario is more unlikely now that the Bears have signed Jimmy Graham. The Colts are a very realistic destination for Kmet, especially after the loss of Eric Ebron, and it won’t be in the third round if that happens.

When reminiscing on great tight ends that have come through Notre Dame, names such as Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Durham Smythe, and Irv Smith come to mind. In a season and a half, Cole Kmet made a name for himself and now is on his way to be a young starter in the NFL. The Irish just keep adding to the list of players that truly make Notre Dame, Tight End U.


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