It’s a rarity to hear this phrase being passed around in NFL circles during draft season, but the 2023 NFL Draft is loaded at the Tight End position. From players like Dalton Kincaid from Utah, Sam LaPorta from Iowa, Darnell Washington from UGA and Luke Musgrave from Oregon State, it’s clear that this is a great year to add some serious talent to help an NFL franchise at the Tight End position. Having an elite tight end is usually a Quarterback’s best friend. Take a look at the connection the Chiefs have with Patrick Mahommes and Travis Kelce. How about Jalen Hurts and Dallas Goedert for the Eagles? Players like George Kittle, TJ Hockenson and Mark Andrews have proven to be extremely valuable to their franchises. All 32 NFL teams would love to have a player like these on their roster and most quarterbacks would be thrilled to have this type offensive production.
Recruiting a Top Tier Tight End
Michael Mayer was five-star prospect out of the state of Kentucky in the class of 2020. Schools like Alabama and Georgia were extremely interested in Mayer as he was the 32th rated player in the entire country. He selected to play for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Mayer saw early playing time in his Freshman season, Mayer started to show off late in that season. Notre Dame made the College Football playoff in 2020 and was matched up against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Mayer had a nice, productive showing against the eventual National Champions with 7 catches and 62 yards. He was the leading receiver for the Irish and accounted for 17% of the total offense that afternoon.
While the Rose Bowl was a nice afternoon for Mayer, his true announcement to the national scene was to open the 2021 season against the Florida State Seminoles. In 41-38 shootout between the two schools, Mayer had an impressive 9 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Mayer showed that he was becoming a true matchup nightmare for defenses. He reflected the coach speak of being “Too big to be covered by a corner and too fast to be covered by a linebacker”. Throughout the 2021 season, Mayer only had 3 games throughout the entire year that he did not average over 10 yards a chance. Even in the Fiesta Bowl that year facing Oklahoma State, a team which had the 10th best pass defense in the country, Michael Mayer still showed out. He produced two 2nd quarter touchdowns from Jack Coen and ended with 7 catches for 72 yards on the afternoon. Mayer had shown why he was one of the best tight ends in all of college football entering into 2022.
The Strange Tale of 2022
Michael Mayer entered into the 2022 regarded as one of the best Tight Ends in all of College Football. The Notre Dame product entered into the season with 113 receptions for 1290 yards and 9 touchdowns in his first two seasons in South Bend. It was clear to see that the 6’4, 250lbs Mayer was easily the best offensive weapon for the Fighting Irish. The Irish expected their starting quarterback to be Tyler Buchner for the year. In week 2 in a loss against Marshall, Buchner was injured and Drew Pyne stepped in the Irish. The results were mixed to say the least. The inconsistent Quarterback play definitely had an impact on Mayer’s stat line as the production varied from week to week.
In week 1 against Ohio State, he was limited to just 5 catches and 32 yards. but a week later against Marshall it changed to 8 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Mayer would ball out against BYU for 11 catches, 118 yards and 2 scores, but then struggle against Navy. This leads many people to ask the question on whether defenses had figured out how to contain the superstar tight end or was his production a result of lackluster quarterback play? It’s truly tough to tell which is the case. But at the end of the season, when the lights were the brightest, Mayer had one of his best games.
The Bright Lights of Southern Cal
The country was watching as Notre Dame and USC added another chapters into their storied rivalry. USC needed the win to continue to hope to get into the College Football Playoff and a win by the Irish would mean that they won their last 6 games and really salvaged Marcus Freeman’s first season. While the Irish lost the contest, Michael Mayer showed out with his 8 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. Besides the impressive stat line, a few things jumped off the screen in the tape vs the Trojans. First, Mayer was highly committed to contributing to the run game. Mayer is shown either engaging the outside linebacker and moving him with his block to the boundary or he’s pulling in his block to try to open the hole in the heart of the defense. Additionally, his first touchdown in the game is impressive. He runs a solid post route that gets picked up by Senior Linebacker Ralen Goforth. Goforth starts to commit pass interference as the ball is in their air to Mayer. Even with the Trojan draped all over him, Mayer shows off his sure hands and catches the touchdown. An impressive display that allows NFL Scouts to see how he can contribute at the next level.
All Notre Dame fans knew that Michael Mayer would be leaving after his Junior season to be a first round NFL Draft pick. Mayer performed above average at the NFL Combine with a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash. His 1.6 second in the 10 yard, shows that he has one of the best initial quick moves off the line. This should translate well to becoming a solid safety valve for many NFL Quarterbacks. While Michael Mayer may not be Rob Gronkowski, he should have a very solid and productive NFL Career. In the Irrational Confidence first round mock draft, Mayer was selected at 15 by the Packers. The range for Mayer’s draft stock could be anywhere from 12th by the Houston Texans to 21st by the Los Angeles Chargers. While he’s not a top 10 prospect, he’s a draft pick that many fans will be very happy with in the long run.