As ex-Bears tight end Trey Burton succinctly told me back in November: “Usually when this type of offense is doing well, the tight end’s doing well.”
The Bears’ offense was atrocious in 2019. It got next to nothing out of its tight ends. That’s not a coincidence.
It wasn’t the only reason why last year was so dismal, of course. But fixing that position was clearly at the top of Ryan Pace’s offseason to-do list.
So enter Demetrius Harris. Then Jimmy Graham. And now Cole Kmet with the 43rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Bears can envision Graham as their No. 1 at the “U” (move) spot vacated by Burton, who was cut last week. Harris and Kmet should be the primary “Y” (in-line) guys, supplanting Adam Shaheen, who was on borrowed time in Chicago even before the Kmet pick.
The goal for the Bears is not just to get better production from their tight ends. The goal is to make Matt Nagy’s offense operate better.
Consider this: The Bears used 12 personnel (two tight ends, two receivers, one back) on just 13% of their plays in 2019. That was the third-lowest in the league. The two offenses most similar to Nagy’s, the Eagles and Chiefs, were top five in the league in using 12 personnel (Philadelphia was first, Kansas City was fifth).
Don’t worry about the mountain of tight ends on the Bears’ roster right now. That number will obviously be trimmed as the offseason rolls on and then into training camp. It’s easy to poke fun at the Bears for that, but it doesn’t really matter much here.
Kmet was the best tight end available in this year’s draft, and has the athletic and physical profile to succeed in the NFL. Kmet ran a 4.7 40-yard dash — impressive given his 6-foot-5, 262 pound frame.
So you can see what the Bears saw in Kmet, and how they envision him bringing out the best in Nagy’s offense. But drafting tight ends with high picks is a risky game. Over the last decade, tight ends taken in the first two rounds have, as rookies, averaged 27 catches, 306 yards and 3 TDs.
We probably need to temper expectations for Kmet in Year 1. But if he can prove worthy of even just being on the field (meaning he can block and be a reliable enough pass catcher), it could pay off in a big way for the Bears.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.