Tight end Cole Kmet provides huge target in middle of field

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet (84) runs after a catch against Navy during a 2018 game.

Latest in a Packers Prospects series looking at players Green Bay could select in the April 23-25 NFL draft.

GREEN BAY - Cole Kmet arrived on campus at one of college football’s most prestigious programs with split loyalties.

He was one of the nation’s top tight end recruits when he signed his national letter of intent with Notre Dame. But Kmet also had a wicked fastball. He used it as a college freshman to lead the Fighting Irish with eight saves.

As a sophomore, Kmet dropped baseball to focus solely on football. The decision enabled him to blossom into one of the nation’s top tight ends as a junior, leading to his early departure into the NFL draft.

This year’s tight end class isn’t nearly as dynamic as the group of receivers entering the NFL, but it has some prizes. Kmet, who may be more ideally slotted for the second round, is the top target at the position. Not unlike many tight ends entering the league, Kmet is a better receiver than blocker. At 6-6, 262 pounds with 33-inch arms, Kmet is a huge target in the middle of the field.

Of course, blocking was supposed to be a liability for Jace Sternberger when the Packers drafted him in the third round last spring, and he surprised as a rookie. And the Packers’ greatest need is more juice in their passing game, especially with veteran Marcedes Lewis returning to handle blocking duties. The tight end position is severely thinned in Green Bay, especially after Jimmy Graham’s release.

They need depth and talent. Kmet could provide both.

Age next season: 21.

Combine measurables: 4.7 40, 37-inch vertical jump, 123-inch broad jump.

Stats: 43 catches, 515 yards, 6 touchdowns.

Pro Football Focus analysis: Kmet had only 21 career targets before 2019, but he was called on to be an integral piece in the Notre Dame offense once he returned from injury in Week 4. He saw 61 targets the rest of the season and recorded a receiving grade that ranked 18th at his position. Kmet was exposed a bit when lined up at receiver, failing to crack the top 25 in both receiving grade and yards per route run. Overall, he’s not really a player that is going to create on his own or win consistently in single coverage. Well over half of his 515 receiving yards were underneath the coverage or from finding a hole and when in single coverage he had just a 54.0 receiving grade.

Draftniks say: “He's the one, if you're saying, ‘OK, who looks like Gronk and who kind of has that physicality to them,’ it would be Kmet. Now he's not nearly as athletic as Gronk, but he's somebody with that big catch radius. He's tough to tackle. Big, physical and strong. He's good in the run game. He can create some movement there and help you.” — Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

Quotable: “I kind of knew it for a little while. This past season, it kind of felt like that, but at the end of the day, it was kind of a tough decision in January, after the bowl game. But I just felt like this was what I wanted to do. At the end of the day, football was where my heart was, and that’s what I wanted to do.” — Cole Kmet on pursuing a professional football career.

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