Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer has been one of the most consistently highly graded players in the 2023 NFL Draft. Mayer was considered a first round prospect at the start of the 2022 season and has been considered a Top 20 player for almost all of the process leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tight ends aren’t often considered valuable prospects, and it speaks to Mayer’s ability that there are few questions regarding his ability to immediately help a team. He isn’t the biggest, strongest, or fastest tight end in the nation, but he’s widely considered to be the best.
Granted, tight end isn’t a huge need for the Giants in 2023, but they do need pass catchers. But could the Giants take the unusual step of bypassing the receiver class and adding another tight end to bolster their passing attack if Mayer falls to them?
Prospect: Michael Mayer (87)
Games Watched: vs. Ohio State (2022), vs. California (2022), vs. North Carolina (2022), vs. USC (2022)
Games Played: 36
Yards (YPC): 2099 (11.7 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 809 (12.1 per catch)
Best: Blocking, route running, ball skills, competitive toughness, play strength
Worst: Top end athleticism, burst out of three-point stance
Projection: A starting tight end with scheme versatility.
(Mayer is Notre Dame TE number 87)
Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is a stout, tough, smart, competitive, and versatile tight end prospect.
Mayer has solid size for the position at 6-foot 4 ½ inches, and 249 pounds. He does have relatively short arms at 31 ⅝ inches, but that didn’t impact his blocking or receiving on tape.
He was used all over the Notre Dame formation, playing a traditional tight end role, slot receiver, an H-back or fullback role, and even some wide receiver. Mayer was used as both a receiver and blocker from all of the above alignments, and executed well from each.
Mayer is a very capable run blocker and pass protector as a tight end. He has a complete understanding of his blocking scheme and was always in position on time as a blocker. He also has very good play strength and solid technique as both a pass protector and run blocker. He typically attacked defenders with good leverage, delivering strikes to try and stop them cold, if not drive them back. He’s capable of holding up against edge defenders in pass protection, and even creating movement on the edge as a run blocker. Mayer also has enough athleticism to be a solid blocker in space on screen plays or at the second level on runs.
He’s also a good – and instinctive – receiver at all levels of the field. Mayer is a savvy, detailed route runner with a good feel for using his tempo and stem to manipulate defenders and understands his role within the route concept. He’s able to bend his routes to find the voids between coverage zones, settling down and making himself available for his quarterback.
On the flip side of that, Mayer knows how to manipulate his routes to create traffic for defenders and space for his teammates. He will purposefully run his routes into coverage and position himself to be an obstacle for coverage players when the ball is going to a teammate in the same area of the field.
Mayer is a natural “hands” catcher who consistently attacks the ball at the catch point and makes an effort to pluck it out of the air and away from his body. He has good body control and makes great adjustments to the ball in the air to haul in circus catches.
Mayer has very few true weaknesses as a tight end. He’s an adequate athlete for what he was asked to do at Notre Dame, but he lacks the top-end athleticism boasted by some of his peers. Mayer can appear lumbering out of his stance and he doesn’t have elite speed or agility.
He also lacks a great burst or explosiveness. Most notably, he has a definite hesitation when playing out of a 3-point stance. There are instances where Mayer is one of the last players moving at the snap of the ball. Though it doesn’t seem to impact him much at the collegiate level, defenders could take advantage at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 8.4
Michael Mayer projects as a starting tight end with scheme versatility at the NFL level. Mayer should be able to start right away in just about any offense routinely called in the NFL.
He’s already a capable blocker who coaches can rely upon in pass protection or on short-yardage running downs. He might not be a dominant blocker, but his play strength and technique are enough to make him consistently competitive. He does more than just “lose slowly” as a blocking tight end
Mayer is a very instinctive route runner and has an absolutely uncanny ability to slip below defenders’ notice and get lost in coverage. There were multiple instances where he is clearly in the route progression, yet no defender seemed to notice him.
It’s easy to look at Michael Mayer on paper and be a bit disappointed. He’s a bit smaller than is prototypical for a tight end, has short arms, and had a disappointing workout at the combine. But on the field, he’s greater than the sum of his parts and just wins. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mayer get Pro Bowl honors before his rookie contract is up.