The Chicago Bears need one of their two newly added tight ends to step up in 2020 and provide the offense with the kind of playmaker Matt Nagy's system requires. Whether it's veteran Jimmy Graham or 2020 second-round pick Cole Kmet, production beyond Trey Burton's 68 catches, 653 yards and six touchdowns over two seasons with the team is a must.
Graham will get the first crack at being the primary tight end this season and he should maintain a significant role in the passing game all year. But it's Kmet who has the kind of upside to become a real weapon for Nagy to dial-up, assuming the former Golden Domer assimilates quickly to the NFL game.
Rookies like Kmet are facing a steeper learning curve than that which normally accompanies a player's first season in the league. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent clubs from holding organized team activities and minicamps. As a result, Kmet's first dose of NFL life will occur at training camp; he's preparing for the challenge.
"Just kind of working out with some of the guys in the area right now," Kmet told former Bear Chris Zorich. "Running routes and that type of stuff and kind of staying in shape that way. We've been putting in the work. I'm excited to get getting going on the field with these guys and show them what I can do as a rookie coming in. I'm just going to continue to study up on that playbook, and when camp rolls around, I'm going to be ready to go."
Kmet's production at Notre Dame doesn't suggest he's a high-upside receiver. He finished 2019 with 43 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns, but his physical profile is very similar to future Hall-of-Famer, Rob Gronkowski. And that's part of the reason why he's expected to have a more productive pro career than he had in South Bend.
Kmet checked-in at the NFL Combine at 6'6, 262 pounds. Gronk is 6'6, 258. Kmet ran a 4.7 40-yard dash; Gronk ran a 4.68 at his pro day. Kmet's vertical jump was nearly four inches higher than Gronk's, and his broad jump was better too.
There's plenty of reasons to be excited about Kmet's upside in Nagy's offense. It'll just take some patience and time for him to become a finished product.
Bears rookie Cole Kmet says he'll be 'ready to go' for training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago