Bears TE Cole Kmet’s NFL transition is already winning over coaching staff

Bears TE Cole Kmet’s NFL transition is already winning over coaching staff

The least surprising early development with Cole Kmet is that Bears head coach Matt Nagy already loves him.

“I have yet to trump him in a Zoom meeting on a question. I can’t trick him. He knows it all,” Nagy said. “I guarantee you -- and I’ll put it out there -- he will know this playbook inside out. That’s not going to be the issue.”
During the NFL Draft scouting process, it was impossible to find anyone who had a bad thing to say about the former Notre Dame tight end. Even the baseball scout that didn’t land Kmet loved him so much that he’s still very close with the family.

But what remains to be seen is how quickly Kmet can make the tough transition to the NFL field. There’s always an extra learning curve for tight ends and patience is needed.
“What he’s going to have to grow with is understanding the defenses in the NFL, understanding how strong a defensive end is that he’s going to have to block as a 9-technique, or a 7i technique on a blast play to the outside,” Nagy said. “It’s different, what the speed’s like, when the ball comes on you, when the coverage changes.”

RELATED: Hoge's 10 Bears Things: Cole Kmet, ‘The Natural,’ and 2020 NFL Draft conclusions

The good news is that the Bears believe Kmet can be an immediate contributor in the passing game and the tape backs that assertion up. In evaluating college tape, it’s important to take into account a player’s toughest test and the fact that Kmet’s best tape came on the road at Georgia in 2019 is encouraging. In analyzing that tape (shown in the accompanying video), you can see Kmet’s ability to make himself a quick open target, especially when lined up in the “Y” position. This is a key for the Bears in 2020, especially if Mitchell Trubisky is the quarterback. A tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, in part because he’s often the closest available target. Without adequate tight end play in 2019, too many of Trubisky’s first and second reads – and most reliable options – were farther away, making it harder to read defenses and find completions. 

Notable in that Georgia game is that Kmet was playing in his first game since breaking his collarbone in training camp. You would never know it. He has a knack for seeking out contact after the catch and not going down easy. He showed no hesitation with the collarbone against the Bulldogs. The tape also shows Kmet’s versatility to line up in the slot and find open spaces in the defense. His hands and catch radius were on display on a botched 4th-and-1 that turned into a touchdown when he intercepted a pass intended for his teammate behind him.

“We look at him as more of a ‘Y’ that can play ‘U,’” Nagy said.

From a pass catching standpoint, the only complaint I have is that Kmet sometimes lets passes come to him instead of attacking the football. This could be seen in the gauntlet drill at the NFL Combine. It’s a nit-picky criticism, but the defensive backs and linebackers are faster at the next level, so every inch matters. The good news is that is a coaching point that can be fixed.

The blocking will be the biggest adjustment for Kmet, as Nagy noted. The Bears believe he has upside in that area because he already plays with physicality and he’ll no longer be juggling baseball, as he was doing at Notre Dame. The want-to is there as a blocker and the strength can certainly follow. 

Overall, the best comparison for Kmet is Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, a well-rounded “Y” tight end that has brought nothing but class and production to Minnesota for a decade now. If that’s what the Bears drafted at No. 43 overall last month, they’ll be thrilled. 

Bears' offense ranks among the NFL's worst analytically, new study finds

Bears' offense ranks among the NFL's worst analytically, new study finds

The Bears' offense was bad last year. I know that. You know that. The Bears (hopefully?) know that. 

But *extremely 30 For 30 voice* what if I told you just how bad they really were? Would you be interested in that? You wouldn't be? Sorry, got a quota to hit. 

In a fascinating new study written by Rotoworld's Hayden Weeks, the lack of modern wrinkles in Chicago's offense are made painstakingly clear. Weeks took an analytically-slanted look at every NFL offense, and friends, it's a rough read: 

4th Down Aggressiveness: 23rd
Pass Rate on Early Downs: 9th
Pass Rate While Trailing: 13th
Play-Action Rate: 27th
Downfield Pass Rate: 16th
Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 5th
Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 30th
Outside Run Rate: 20th
Shotgun Run Rate: 5th
Offensive Pace: 22nd

Overall, Weeks ranks the Bears as the 22nd best offense in football based on the above metrics. If there's any hope whatsoever, it comes from his short write up of Nagy's offense – but still, temper your expectations: 

If I incorporated the front office, the Bears would be much lower, but I think Nagy holds his own in terms of in-game analytics usage. He’s just been dealt a horrible hand at quarterback and with the offensive line. Nagy opted for a decent pass rate on early downs (9th) and while trailing (13th), plus uses shotgun a lot and targets the middle of the field (5th). There are a few things holding him back from jumping into Tier 3, however. The Bears weren’t aggressive enough on fourth downs (23rd) and didn't use play action (27th) or pre-snap motion (30th) nearly enough. Maybe the quarterback change sparks change.

Bears: Use play action! Just try it! I promise you'll like it. 

Did Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' mega-deal actually leave money on table?

Did Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' mega-deal actually leave money on table?

Patrick Mahomes forever altered the sports contract landscape with his landmark 10-year, $450 million extension that became official this week. It made all the sense in the world to lock up the 2018 MVP whose team could very easily be coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles if not for a nail-biting loss to the eventual-champion Patriots in the 2019 AFC Championship game. But Brad Spielberger, who does extensive salary cap research and writing for, believes Mahomes could have massively cashed in again if he took a different approach to these negotiations

Coming in, we knew this was going to be a groundbreaking deal in some respects... I really didn’t think he was going to give up that many years of control – it’s basically a lifetime contract. Again, I know it’s maybe up to half a billion dollars, so it sounds crazy to maybe question his thinking there, but in 5, 6, 7 years down the road, he probably could have gotten another deal that would have made this one look small in comparison.

Every team in the league would love this deal… every front office in the NFL would say, the fact that they have this much time on this deal is the best part about it. Again, it’s a monstrous deal and there are outs at certain points so it’s not so strict as to say he can’t get out of it or he can’t work with it. If I’m his agent, I would push for 5 years, $200M fully guaranteed; let’s go mega-Kirk Cousins on steroids, let’s change the game, and then let’s see if we can sign a deal for $50M a year when that one runs out.

The scenario painted there is an interesting one, and might have allowed Mahomes to reset the quarterback market twice in a decade… but we’ll never know. For more from Spielberger, including how the Mahomes deal impacts the Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson negotiations and what the Bears’ offseason moves tell him about the mindset of Ryan Pace’s front office, listen to the most recent edition of the Under Center podcast here or below.