Having worked with Cole Kmet the past three years, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is convinced that the Bears landed a special player with their top pick in the 2020 draft.
"What they're getting is an athletic tight end that is going to impact their offense immediately," Kelly said Tuesday during a conference call with the media. "He's smart. He's got the capabilities to get better and better as he continues to develop."
The Bears selected Kmet, a Lake Barrington native who attended St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, with the 43rd pick in the second round of the draft, making him the first tight end off the board.
Kmet was a three-year contributor and one-year starter at Notre Dame. 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.
Kelly believes that Kmet is capable of becoming an elite tight end like three other players Kelly coached in college—the Chiefs' Travis Kelce at Cincinnati and the Jaguars' Tyler Eifert and the Vikings' Kyle Rudolph at Notre Dame.
"I've had a number of tight ends that are doing exceedingly well and have been All-Pros in the NFL," Kelly said. "Cole Kmet will be in line with all of those guys."
Kelly refuted a report by a draft analyst that Kmet doesn't possess enough speed to excel in the NFL.
"He's got plenty of speed," Kelly said. "He'll be able to utilize it against safeties and nickel matchups, so speed will not be the issue with Cole Kmet."
Kmet showed toughness and resiliency last year after sustaining a broken collarbone in practice the first week of August. In his first game back, he caught nine passes for 108 yards and one touchdown against Georgia, then ranked as the No. 3 team in the country.
"What I learned about him more than anything else is that he's fearless," Kelly said. "He never really worried about the injury. There were a lot of people worried about how he would come back: Would he be hesitant? Would he be feeling his way around? Watch that Georgia game. He wasn't feeling around anybody. He was knocking people around. I just think his fearlessness, his toughness really showed out in that game. It just told you a lot about Cole Kmet's mentality."
Kmet also pitched for the baseball team his first two years at Notre Dame, recording a team-leading eight saves as a freshman. Now that he can focus solely on football and is no longer playing baseball or taking a full load of classes, his former coach believes the sky is the limit for the 21-year-old.
"Remember, this is a full-time job now," Kelly said. "He doesn't have to worry about academics. He'll be much better at route-running. Inline blocking, the technique associated with combination blocks, working with the offensive line, all those areas he's going to be able to really elevate his game. He's a smart football player. He's an athletic football player. So I think the technical things you'll see great improvement."
With the 43rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bears select TE Cole Kmet