The baseball to football transition is becoming more common in NFL prospects. Of late we’ve seen a number of former baseball players go on to be effective quarterbacks. And there is even an argument to be made that an outfielder, who has to adjust to balls on the fly and cover a tremendous amount of grass, has a skillset that would translate from the diamond to the gridiron as a receiver.
A transition we haven’t seen that often is pitcher to tight end.
But that is exactly what Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet has done. Kmet signed with Notre Dame as a two-sport athlete and lead their baseball team with 8 saves as a freshman. He has since concentrated on football and could be one of the first tight ends off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The New York Giants are likely set at tight end for the 2020 season with Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and Levine Toilolo on the roster. But what about 2021 and beyond?
Prospect: Cole Kmet (TE, Notre Dame)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2019), vs. Virginia (2019), vs. Boston College (2019)
Red Flags: Collarbone (2019)
Games Played: 23
Yards (YPC): 691 (11.5)
Total Touchdowns: 6
Games Played: 10
Yards (YPC): 515 (12.0)
Total Touchdowns: 6
Best: Size, blocking, hands, feel for zone coverage
Worst: Athleticism, technical polish
Projection: A starting tight end with scheme versatility
Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet has very good size and deceptive speed for the tight end position. Kmet lined up at multiple positions for Notre Dame’s offense, taking snaps at in-line tight end, detached tight end, H-back, slot receiver, and wide receiver. He was most frequently used as a blocker and shows good competitive toughness to go with play strength and a good technical foundation as both a run blocker and pass protector. Kmet shows a good “strike, drive, leverage” foundation as a run blocker and works to sustain his blocks through the whistle. As a pass protector he shows a good understanding of his assignment as well as a good ability to mirror defenders.
Kmet was typically used as a check-down option or to attack seams in Notre Dame’s passing attack. He shows deceptive speed down the field on seam routes as well as a good feel for finding voids in zone coverages. He flashes the ability to track, locate, and adjust to the ball in flight, as well as the ability to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. Kmet is a physical player with the ball in his hands, and does not allow himself to be tackled easily. He routinely fights for extra yardage or plays through arm tackles.
Kmet has only average-at-best athleticism for the position and does not pose a significant athletic mismatch for most NFL defenders. Likewise, he lacks good short-area quickness and agility and sharp breaks are accompanied by chopping feet or are rounded off. Kmet also needs to be more consistent with his pad level and hand placement as a blocker.
Overall Grade: 6.1 - Has the traits to be a potential starter with development, but should be a reliable back-up right away in most systems. A Day 2 value. [Grading Scale]
Cole Kmet projects as a potential starting tight end at the NFL level. He has the ability to do everything an NFL tight end needs to in order to take and keep a starting job, but he won’t be particularly exciting in doing so.
Kmet is a largely linear athlete with good lower body explosiveness and relatively surprising long speed. That can help him find voids in zone coverage in the middle of the field or attack seams down the field. He can also be a stout and effective check-down option in the short-to-intermediate area of the field. That being said, limited agility and short-area quickness will mean that offensive coordinators will want to scheme him separation in those cases.
Kmet could do well paired with an athletic “Hybrid” tight end, as his play strength and competitive toughness give him good upside as a pass protector and run blocker. He also shows good versatility to line up in a variety of positions, which could prove offensive coordinators who want to show a variety of looks out of a 12-personnel set.
Kmet’s athleticism will likely limit his ceiling, but with some development he has the potential to be a dependable starter in the NFL.