The Patriots have basically nothing at the tight end position at this point. They’re currently slated to have Matt LaCosse or Ryan Izzo as their starting Y tight end. In a free agent period that had slim pickings, the top players signed lucrative deals while the Patriots were unable to land any veterans. That approach either suggests they’re going to try to land a player in the draft or will sign a journeyman option after the draft.
One of the players that could appeal to the Patriots in the draft is Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. Kmet has ideal size and athleticism for an in-line (Y) tight end, although he’s very raw at the position overall.
Name: Cole Kmet
Position: Tight End
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6’6” 262, 33” arms, 10 1/2” hands
Combine numbers: 4.70 40, 37” vertical, 10’3” broad jump, 4.41 5-10-5 shuttle, 7.44 3-Cone
Strengths: Kmet has the size and athleticism to line up as either a Y or F TE. Against linebackers and defensive backs, Kmet is a mismatch due to his ability to box out defenders at the catch and high-point the football. After the catch, Kmet is a tough tackle as he can bounce off arm tackles or out of control defenders to gain more yards.
Weaknesses: Kmet is more advanced as a pass-catcher than run blocker. At times, Kmet can be beaten at the line of scrimmage with jams and re-routes by edge players or aggressive defensive backs. Kmet will need to learn how to be more physical as a run blocker and pass receiver to put himself in a better position to take advantage of his strengths as a receiver. Despite the upside, Kmet will have to be slowly brought along as a rookie while he works on technique as a blocker and route runner.
Expected Round: 2nd
How many downs can he contribute? Eventually, Kmet will contribute on all three downs on offense as a run blocker and pass receiver as well as contribute on special teams in some capacity. His special teams fit will be on the FG unit and also part of punt protection and kick returns. His athletic abilities translate well to the kicking game.
Who does he have to beat out? Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse are the only players at the position and Kmet has more longer term upside than both of them.
2020 Role: Kmet would be utilized in very specific packages as a rookie. His weaknesses as a run blocker would put him #2 on the depth chart. However his coverage mismatch potential could allow for McDaniels to call some plays out of formations that isolate Kmet against inferior coverage schemes/players. Expect him to mostly be a receiver in the red zone and a move blocker.
Long Term Role: Assuming Kmet becomes a more physical route-runner and a more capable blocker, he would become the top option at TE and play the Y role as an inline guy. It will be at least 2 years before Kmet will develop into that type of player. On special teams, he could see time on the kick return and punt units as well.
Why the Patriots? The team has no long term plan at the position thanks to Gronk’s retirement last year and the inability to sign free agents at the position the last two off-seasons. At some point, they’re going to have to chase upside in the draft and Kmet could be one of the better values near the end of the second round. While Kmet won’t be a major contributor for his first two years, he has the potential to be one of the best receiving TEs in the game if things go well.
Why not the Patriots? The team may be more willing to trade upside for certainty at the position. The team would have to make a longer term commitment in hopes that Kmet can be at least half the player Rob Gronkowski was. While the draft isn’t high on upside at the position, there are plenty of low-ceiling guys who will be able to contribute more over the next two years.
Verdict: I don’t know how comfortable the team is with taking a player with a sky-high ceiling, but very raw technique. Kmet would give the Patriots a potential coverage mismatch they missed in 2019, but it will take time for him to develop at the NFL level. If the team is planning on double-dipping the position then I like the selection more if the second TE is more NFL-ready.