2020 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Cole Kmet (Fantasy Football)

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Nothing gets me going like watching tight end film.

Ok, I lied. Watching snap after snap of players who are partly utilized as a sixth offensive lineman and partly as a much slower wide receiver can be well… slow. There is a major transition to the NFL pace for young tight-ends, which is why most teams know there is a learning curve on the front end and likely a built-in one-to-two years of development and adjustment once teams draft them.

Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet has been lauded as one of the first TEs off the board in an otherwise weak class. The timing is impeccable; if you look across the landscape of the NFL, there aren’t too many teams in need of TEs this year oddly enough. Kmet’s body is NFL-ready and with his age (only 21 years old), he has time to develop into a starter in this league. I’ve taken the time to check out Kmet’s tape from the 2019 season and point out what I saw on film. In the end, I’ll give some actionable items for fantasy owners in redraft and dynasty leagues to consider with Kmet.

Note: For more on the 2020 rookie class, check out all of our 2020 NFL Draft content and stay tuned to the Fantasy Footballers podcast for April’s Rookie Preview show where the Ballers breakdown each position heading into the draft.

College Production Profile
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Kmet came into college as a highly recruited player but he got on NFL scouts radar with this junior season. After pitching for the Fighting Irish baseball his first two seasons, 2019 was the first year we saw major involvement and a giant leap forward as an NFL prospect. 515 yards and six TDs are substantial for a tight end in college. For instance, George Kittle never caught more than 22 passes in a season. Regardless of his overall college numbers, he asserted himself as a dependable second option behind WR Chase Claypool on a Fighting Irish squad that finished 11-2 on the year including six wins in a row to finish out.

NFL Scouting Combine Measurements
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Kmet has the football pedigree as his father (Frank Kmet) was a fourth-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in 1992. His size obviously stands out in this class as he towers over everyone. At his combine workout, Kmet looked smooth catching passes in his drills and his 4.7 40-time is nothing to shy away from. But it’s his 88th percentile burst score that shows you he has the athleticism to be a legitimate high-point dominator in the red zone.

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What’s On Tape

My method for watching film is simple: get out a pen and pad of paper. Watch each passing attempt taking note of the down and distance and simply write down what I see. For TEs, I focus on blocking, aDOT, utilization in the slot, hands, and if they present YAC-ability. For Kmet, I took four of his highest-profile games from the 2019 season.

Games viewed: Virginia (2019), Boston College (2019), Virginia Tech (2019), Georgia (2019)

1. He was used in the vertical game.

Whether it’s seam routes or post routes, Kmet has the size to block out smaller linebackers and safeties with his massive frame. It bodes well for a young in-line tight-end to be utilized in this way in college. In the Virginia Tech game, QB Ian Book looked for Kmet a couple of times and simply overthrew his open man. Kmet also drew a pass-interference penalty on a couple of occasions where it was clear he had his defender beat.

I found his breaks off the line of scrimmage to be better than average for a player with his size. When you couple that with the ability to get open down the field or to work the sideline in this case against Boston College, QBs will look your way. While this was on another busted play, the play concept called for Kmet to be angled towards the middle of the field to split the high safety across from WR Chase Claypool.

These are the types of deeper routes that actually can translate to the NFL game. Any tight-end can be used as a release valve as they turn around five yards and wait for the ball. For example, I did a film review of Jack Doyle a couple of years back and what routinely showed up on film was his aDOT was low and defenses weren’t intimidated in giving Andrew Luck the opportunity to check down to his tight end. Here is another deep route where Kmet bursts off the line of scrimmage and eventually wins the ball in the air against Virginia.

2. His TDs were a bit fluky.

While Kmet certainly has the size and ability to develop into a red-zone threat, if you look at how his TDs played out on film, there is certainly some

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  • Against Georgia in the opener, his TD was on a 4th-and-goal that honestly came on a broken play.
  • His 10-yard TD against USC was a simple drag route and the defender took a poor angle and just whiffed on the tackle. Kmet should’ve been wrapped up right near the line of scrimmage.
  • Against Bowling Green, Ian Book made a quick decision right after the snap seeing Kmet run the seam uncovered for a 20-yard TD.
  • Against Michigan, Book rolled out to the right and threw back left to a wide-open Kmet for a 7-yard score.
  • Inside the red zone against Virginia Tech, the linebacker covering Kmet completely blew his assignment. It was an easy 8-yard grab wide open in the middle of the end zone.
  • Kmet was a consistently dependable target in the Boston College game ending with seven catches for 78 yards. His TD came on another blown assignment by a linebacker. It was a walk-in TD in the middle of the field from 11 yards out.

If you’re not catching a pattern here, I don’t know what to tell you. While we need to recognize that a touchdown is still a touchdown, regardless of where it comes from, Kmet caught ALL of six of his TDs in 2019 on uncovered, broken plays by undisciplined defenses. I wanted to see a jump ball or an example of boxing someone out. However, don’t just pencil him as a red-zone dominator… we haven’t actually seen this yet on the field. For now, call him a huge red-zone threat whose best pro comparison might be to Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert.

3. He plays too “high” as a blocker.

After compiling my notes and research and listing my main takeaways, I found it odd to see Kmet listed by many as the top blocking tight-end of this class. While that superlative is based on comparing to other prospects in an obviously down year for the position, my eyes told me he often tries to win simply with size over technique. By playing “high”, I found his footwork to be less than stellar which led to some missed assignments and being knocked back more than what I would’ve thought for a 6’6, 250 lb player. Being tall doesn’t necessarily translate to being a sound blocker if you aren’t engaging the defender with the right amount of leverage. Here against Georgia, he gets completely blown up inside, which is puzzling considering this hand-off goes inside.

Kmet’s calling card is his size in the passing game but if he’s going to become a starter in this league within the first two years, his run-blocking will have to improve.

What’s Not on Tape

This is arguably the most crucial part of any scouting analysis, in my opinion. It is easy to splice together highlight reel takes and forget that we are looking at college football players; in other words, the majority of players the prospect faced will never be playing on an NFL field and likely will be vying to be your financial planner or turning to high school coaching. We cannot only glean from film watching based on what our eyeballs are showing us. Sometimes it’s best to ask yourself the question: What am I not seeing? This involves asking questions and reflecting.

Here are a couple of takeaways of what didn’t show up:

1. More big plays from the slot.

The best tight ends in the NFL are ones who consistently line up in the slot to create mismatches in coverage and ultimately line up on diminutive nickel corners who they can push around after the catch. Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle are the best because they honestly could play wide receiver if they wanted to. While Kmet is nowhere in the same stratosphere, I compare him to a less developed version of Dallas Goedert.

I mentioned earlier the seam routes were moneymakers for Kmet and he was targeted there more than I would’ve expected. His yards per reception look fine (12.0) but chalk that up to wide-open looks and deeper targets. He didn’t run away from tacklers but used his massive arms to stiff-arm a few times. According to Pro Football Focus, Kmet only forced four missed tackles on the season, or once every 10.75 catches, which was among the lowest rate among this year’s class.

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2. The nuances of being a route runner and not just a big guy.

While I wouldn’t say Kmet’s route tree is limited, there is a lot to add to his game in terms of the curl and dig if he’s going to take the next step as a pro. But with that height, he can honestly look like a giraffe galloping; sticking your head down and leaning into your cuts is needed to not run “stiff” routes. I will once again add that he looks fluid coming off the ball at the snap which bodes well for creating separation. If he lands with a team like New England or even Tampa Bay, learning how to run “option” routes by reading the defense will be a skill to acquire.

2020 Fantasy Outlook

Perhaps what the numbers and the tape fails to tell you is how incredibly young Kmet is. At 21 years old, he will be the youngest TE in the league and a good two years in age behind other top TE prospects such as Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins. As most TEs do, he will need time to develop and is off any redraft radar for 2020. If a team falls in love with him and takes him in the second round of the NFL draft, he definitely should garner some interest especially if it’s with a team like New England, Washington or Cincinnati where he could potentially see heavy playing time early.

In dynasty leagues, he’s in the conversation for the 1st or 2nd TE to be taken off the board, albeit he’s more like a late 3rd rounder at best in rookie drafts. He’s a worthy addition to a roster especially if you can put him on your taxi squad in 2020, wait two years, and see if he develops into an NFL starter.

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