The Bears on Friday selected Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with the 43rd pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Kmet was a three-year contributor and one-year starter for the Fighting Irish. Last season the 6-6, 262-pounder established career highs in all receiving categories with 43 receptions, 515 yards and six touchdowns despite missing the first three games with a broken collarbone.
Kmet also pitched for the baseball team his first two years at Notre Dame, recording a team-leading eight saves as a freshman.
"This is really your classic 'Y' tight end, with the prototypical size and just the athleticism we look for in the position," said general manager Ryan Pace. "He's a big target, natural hands. He's really tough after the catch.
"He really has the strength and temperament we want in the run game. And really we feel his blocking is still improving, so there's a lot of upside in that area. Really with Cole splitting time between baseball and football early in his college career, he's still a young player with a lot of upside."
Kmet is a Chicago area native. He grew up in Lake Barrington and attended St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. His father, Frank, was a lineman on the Bears practice squad in 1993.
The Bears selected Kmet with their first pick in this year's draft. They acquired the choice as part of a blockbuster trade with the Raiders on Sept. 1, 2018 in which they obtained Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Bolstering the tight end position was one of Pace's primary offseason goals. Last year the Bears did not have a tight end compile at least 100 yards receiving for the first time since 1970.
Prior to drafting Kmet, the Bears signed veterans Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris in free agency.
"You guys know how important the tight end position is in this offense and it's something that we stressed going into this offseason," Pace told reporters. "It's something we really wanted to improve. It started with Demetrius and then Jimmy and now with Cole.
"You really have two different styles to tight ends in this offense. You have the 'U' tight end; that would apply more to Jimmy Graham, and you have the 'Y' tight end, which is a little bit more of an in-line guy, good in the run game and he needs to have the size to be able to do that, and that's what we see in Cole. He pairs really well with Jimmy, pairs really well with Demetrius. We're excited to take that position and make it a strength. They all do different things."
Kmet was the only tight end selected in the first two rounds of the draft.
"It's hard to find these tight ends, these 'Y' tight ends that are really well-rounded in that he's an asset in the pass game because of his size and his hands," Pace said. "He's one of those guys that knows how to post up and body, collision and push off. He runs really well for his size. But his blocking, he's just got the frame and the size and the temperament, the demeanor where we all think he's still going to get a lot better as a blocker. To find that well-rounded 'Y' tight end, there's not a lot of them. So for us to get him where we did, it was really advantageous for us."
Given that Kmet is only 21 years old and played both football and baseball early in his Notre Dame career, the Bears are confident that his arrow is pointing up toward a high ceiling.
"A big part of his value is that we really feel like he's getting better," Pace said. "He's just scratching the surface. And to be honest, you could see it [last] year on tape, I think around the Virginia Tech game, you could really feel his game taking off on all levels, and Cole will say that, too. So he's definitely an ascending player.
"I can't imagine a two-sport athlete at a major university like Notre Dame and trying to do both and now just focusing on football. But with the mindset that he has, the drive that he has—I'm sure you guys felt it when you talked to him and you'll continue to feel it. You talk to everybody at Notre Dame, and they just raved about the person that he is and just the approach that he has. I think that's all going to lead to him ascending as we go forward."
With the 43rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bears select TE Cole Kmet