Notre Dame has nine former players set to attend the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, which begins next week. It is an opportunity for each player to improve his draft stock. Before it begins, Irish Breakdown will profile each former Irish player and discuss what’s at stake for him at the combine.
COLE KMET, TIGHT END
Hometown/High School: Lake Barrington, Ill. / St. Viator
2019 Stats: 43 catches, 515 yards, 11.98 YPC, 6 TD’s
Career Stats: 60 catches, 691 yards, 11.5 YPC, 6 TD’s
Overview: After playing just 62 snaps as a true freshman (2017), Kmet emerged as the No. 2 tight end as a sophomore (2018). Kmet caught 15 passes for 162 yards while splitting time with Alizé Mack, a seventh round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 NFL Draft. In the two games where Mack went down, Kmet hauled in six passes for 72 yards.
A baseball player in the spring his first two seasons, Kmet focused just on football last spring, and his game took off. Kmet was basically unguardable all spring and early in fall camp before he broke his collarbone while beating Alohi Gilman on a deep throw (he made the catch). Kmet proved to be a quick healer, returning in week three for Notre Dame’s matchup against Georgia.
Kmet announced himself with authority, hauling in nine passes for 108 yards and a score in his first game of the season. For a full film breakdown of Kmet's performance against the Bulldogs, CLICK HERE.
We saw Kmet putting all his pass catching skills on display in that game. He worked the short-to-intermediate zones, picked up yards after the catch, showed toughness when the ball was in the air and showed off his ability to stretch the field.
When Kmet was made a focal point in the offense his numbers were highly effective, but this didn’t happen enough. He had a strong performance against Virginia (four catches, 65 yards), made clutch grabs against USC (six catches, 61 yards, TD) and caught 12 passes for 155 yards in the final two games of the regular season.
Kmet’s combination of size and athletic skills made him a challenging matchup for linebackers and safeties. During the spring and in fall camp prior to his injury he was used outside in one-on-ones, something we did not see much at all in games. Kmet has the tools, but they just weren’t utilized. Notre Dame did utilize him to attack up the seams, and when the quarterback actually targeted him he made a lot of plays in the seams and over the middle.
Kmet wasn’t as physical as he needs to be in the run game, but he was quite physical in the pass game. He was more than willing to take a hit if it meant securing a catch. Kmet took punishment up the seams, but it never seemed to phase him.
This worked well for how Notre Dame used him in 2019. Kmet did most of his damage over the middle of the field on all three levels. His length and strength allowed him to be effective in this zone even when the coverage was tight.
The 250-pound tight end used his size and power to make plays after the catch. He runs well in space, but when he gets rolling he’s very hard to bring down, which you can see in this clip:
Kmet finished his junior season with 43 catches for 515 yards, and both totals rank as the sixth-best single-season mark in Notre Dame history. His six touchdowns tied Ken MacAfee’s mark for the most in a season at Notre Dame.
Despite bypassing his senior season and catching just two balls as a freshman, Kmet finished his career ranked eighth all-time among tight ends at Notre Dame.
What’s At Stake: Kmet is considered by most as the top tight end in the draft, but there isn’t a consensus on that. I’ve read a lot of analysis of Kmet, and most will grant he’s a fluid athlete, and everyone recognizes his outstanding size for the position. Kmet is a long and thick athlete with good body control.
Being a two-sport player has caused him to be a bit behind from a route running and blocking technique standpoint. He can show improved route running at the combine, and that would be a boost to his draft stock. But the biggest criticism about Kmet is a perceived lack of explosiveness.
While other Notre Dame players need to have strong all-around performances at the combine, for Kmet it’s all about showing speed and explosiveness. If Kmet runs in the low 4.7 or high 4.6 range it will solidify what people already think about him. Big, physical, fluid all-around athlete with top-notch ball skills, but more of a throwback player that lacks vertical speed, and someone who might have trouble separating down the field.
If Kmet runs in the low 4.6s or high 4.5s it will boost his stock, and any team, scout or analyst that doesn’t have him at the top of the board will have to think long and about why that is. The reality is, Kmet running that kind of 40-time should result in him earning a lot more first-round grades and will put distance between him and the rest of the tight ends in the class.