There's a lot more pressure on the Bears' pair of 2020 second-round picks than in most seasons. Usually, it's the first-rounders who begin training camp with expectations consistent with instant-impact rookies, but in Chicago, that burden falls on the shoulders of tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Ryan Pace finished paying his first-round debt to the Raiders for Khalil Mack this year, and even though the Bears didn't have a top-32 selection, Kmet (who was drafted 43rd overall) feels very much like one. Maybe it's a byproduct of Chicago's woefully underperforming tight ends over the last few seasons, or maybe it's because Matt Nagy's offense puts a spotlight on pass-catchers at the position. Either way, Kmet has to produce in 2020 for the Bears to reach their ceiling on offense.
Fortunately, Chicago has a strong veteran presence in the tight end room with free-agent signing, Jimmy Graham, who can help Kmet along. While Graham will shoulder the bulk of the starter's load this season, his biggest impact may come via his tutelage of Chicago's prized rookie.
Their relationship appears to be off to a good start, according to the former Golden Domer.
"He's been awesome to me," Kmet said of Graham. "He's helped me out a lot. It's pretty cool being around a guy like that who's been in the league as long as he's been, and obviously he knows a lot and has seen a lot. So any knowledge that I can get from him is going to be a huge benefit for me. He's been more than willing to help me, and I'm really excited to get going and continue learning from him throughout the season."
Kmet appeared in 10 games for Notre Dame last year, catching 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns. He's still a raw and developing player, so landing on a team like the Bears who have established veterans like Graham and Demetrius Harris on the roster should only help his development this season and into the future.
"Listening to those guys and listening to the coaches has been really beneficial," he said.