2023 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Michael Mayer (Fantasy Football)
The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is just days away, and that means fantasy managers should get to know Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, who is projected to go in Round 1. Mayer is a well-rounded TE prospect out of Notre Dame who broke out as a true sophomore. This article will dive into his college production profile, athletic testing and his film to get an idea of what we can expect from Mayer in the NFL. Let’s get to it!
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series, which will continue until the 2023 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2023.
College Production Profile
Mayer is easily the most productive TE in the 2023 class and has one of the strongest college production profiles we’ve seen in recent years. Coming out of high school, Mayer was the #2 TE recruit in the country. He wasted no time making an impact in South Bend when he stepped on campus at Notre Dame.
In 2020 as a true freshman (while playing alongside current NFL player Tommy Tremble), Mayer made a name for himself with 42 catches and 450 receiving yards. He then had a true breakout in 2021 as a sophomore and followed that up with an impressive 809 yards and nine scores in 2022.
Mayer’s strong production profile is among the best in Notre Dame history when it comes to the tight end position. He basically re-wrote the record books for the Fighting Irish tight ends, setting the school record for both single season and career receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs.
A first-team All-American, Mayer’s usage in the Notre Dame offense is extremely encouraging. He was essentially used as the WR1 for the Fighting Irish and used both as an inline TE and a slot player (48.7% career snap rate in the slot). A versatile player who is also extremely willing as a blocker, Mayer’s production is strong. In 2022, he accounted for 34% of his team’s receiving yards and a whopping 41% of ND’s receiving TDs.
Before we move onto the athletic testing, it’s also important to point out that Mayer only played three college seasons and earned a 20.2 breakout age, one of the best marks in the class. We tend to look for an early breakout and early declare at RB and WR more than TE, but this can’t be overstated. For reference, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid is a 5th year senior, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave played four years and Sam LaPorta from Iowa also played four years.
|Height||Weight||Age||40-Yard Dash||20-Yard Short Shuttle||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump|
|6’4″||249 lbs.||21.7||4.7||4.44||32.5″||9′ 10″|
At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, Mayer has prototypical TE size, at least when you compare his frame to that of the TEs we’ve find success in the NFL. Per our prospect database, the NFL TE1 collegiate average is 6’4.9” and 252 pounds. Check.
The size is there, but the athleticism isn’t anything to write home about. Mayer’s 4.70 second 40-yard dash ranked in the 73rd percentile for his size. Based on his complete athletic testing profile, Mayer earned a 7.65 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) out of a possible 10. All in all, Mayer is an above average athlete, but he doesn’t have elite testing numbers either.
What’s on Tape
Games viewed: USC (2021), Stanford (2021), Ohio State (2022), Clemson (2022), Syracuse (2022), North Carolina (2022), BYU (2022)
1. Reliable hands in traffic.
It’s sounds so simple doesn’t it? If only it was for tight ends in fantasy, but the truth of the matter is that there’s just not that many who look natural catching the football, especially with a defender trying to make a play on the ball. Michael Mayer has some extremely reliable hands and thanks to his big frame, he’s got the catch radius to match. Per PFF, Mayer led all NCAA TEs in contested catches in 2022. We’ve already mentioned that Mayer isn’t the best athlete, so he doesn’t create a ton of separation, but he knows how to use his body to put himself in a position to make the play almost every time.
In the clip below against UNC, Mayer is lined up the slot, fakes like he’s going to sit down in the zone and then makes a move toward the sideline. The defender is right on his hip and even makes a play on the ball. Great concentration to make a strong hands catch and pick up the first down.
2. Mayer is great as a blocker.
Mayer played a ton as a traditional in-line TE at Notre Dame, so it makes sense that you see a ton of blocking reps on his film. As a run blocker, Mayer is not only willing but strong against defensive ends. This should help him get on the field sooner in his NFL career and his toughness as a blocker could help him earn his coaches’ trust early in his career.
3. Mayer enters the NFL as an experienced route runner.
The Notre Dame primarily operated over the middle of the field (he is a TE after all), but his film is littered with all kinds of different route concepts – sail routes, angle routes, options, out routes, screens etc. He’s not just a TE who’s going to run straight down the seam or float out to the flat. Mayer was a mismatch for college linebackers thanks to his nuanced route running for the position, and the Fighting Irish staff used him in a variety of ways.
In the play below against BYU, Mayer is in motion to the left side of the line, chips the defensive end and then makes the linebacker look silly after faking an out run before getting up field for a beautifull TD grab. Plays like this helped Mayer average 2.44 yards per route run in 2022.
What’s Not on Tape
1. Speed to run away from defenders.
When you watch Mayer play, it’s relatively easy to envision NFL defenders being able to keep stride with him after he has the ball in his hands. That said, there’s plenty of yards after the catch and broken tackles on tape thanks to his toughness. He usually doesn’t go down on first contact, but it’s more because of his physicality; not necessarily because of his speed.
2. Targets and receptions on the perimeter of the field.
Because Mayer profiles as that traditional in-line TE who can flex out to the slot, it’s not surprising to see the vast majority of his targets on film came over the middle of the field. In the NFL, most of Mayer’s damage will be done in the intermediate passing game over the middle of the field against linebackers and safeties.
2023 Fantasy and Dynasty Outlook
We know 90+ percent of fantasy tight ends don’t have a reliable floor, but if there’s one prospect in this class who has the highest projectable floor, it’s the Notre Dame product. Mayer is expected to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and if you couple that with his production profile and ability to contribute as a blocker at the NFL level, Mayer is easily the most well-rounded prospect in the 2023 TE class.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll contribute right away as a rookie in 2023. In fact, if he does contribute consistently for fantasy purposes in year one, Mayer will be an outlier as it generally takes multiple years for a TE to breakout for fantasy purposes. Dynasty managers taking Mayer (or any TE prospect) should understand that this is a play for 2024 and beyond in most instances.