Many Chicago Bears fans love the team’s second-round pick, tight end Cole Kmet. Some may have unrealistic expectations for the rookie, however.
The moves that the Chicago Bears made this offseason have widely been panned. They gave $9 million guaranteed to Jimmy Graham. They signed two offensive linemen who struggled on their previous teams. Even their biggest signing, outside linebacker Robert Quinn, was criticized for giving all that money to a soon-to-be aging player (according to the “experts”).
The draft choices weren’t received any better. They drafted cornerback Jaylon Johnson, someone most expected to go in the first round, at 50th overall. The reason he dropped was his injury history.
That takes us to the Bears’ first draft pick, number 43 overall, tight end Cole Kmet. He was only a one-year starter and is still raw. Those same experts felt the Bears reached in picking him there.
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Many Chicago Bears fans disagreed, however. They felt ecstatic about having a local boy end up playing for his hometown team. It doesn’t matter what those people outside of Chicago think of the pick, Kmet is one of them and it’s great having him on the team.
One of the things that happen when a big portion of the fan base loves a player is the expectations they have for that player. Remember Tanner Gentry? He signed with the Bears as an undrafted rookie free agent back in 2017. Fans fell in love with him during camp and he was going to be the next great underdog who’d succeed. Well, he played in four games and made three catches.
Now the same is happening with Kmet. Many feel he’ll be the next Rob Gronkowski, arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL. They feel Kmet will step on the field and get 800 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Keep expectations realistic
What we need to keep in mind is that tight ends usually take time to develop. They aren’t big contributors right away. Here is a list of some of the well-known top tight ends today their performances in their rookie seasons.
- Jermaine Gresham: 52 catches, 471 yards, 4 TDs
- Rob Gronkowski: 42 catches, 546 yards, 10 TDs
- Jason Witten: 35 catches, 347 yards, 1 TD)
- Jimmy Graham: 31 catches, 356 yards, 5 TDs
- Travis Kelce: 0 catches
- George Kittle: 43 catches, 515 yards, 2 TDs
- Austin Hooper: 19 catches, 271 yards, 3 TDs
As you could see from above, most rookie tight ends aren’t breakout stars right out of the gate. Of course, Gronkowski is the outlier. A realistic expectation should be about 35 catches, 300 or so yards, and 3-5 touchdowns. That is a good expectation.
As I mentioned, Kmet is still a little raw, but he has some great tools. A player who weighs at least 260 pounds and runs a sub-4.7 second 40-yard dash is rare. In fact, there are only 10 prospects in the history of the NFL Combine who did that.
The above stats are why Graham is on the team. He’s been successful in his career and he understands what a rookie tight end with high expectations goes through in his rookie season. He’ll help Kmet’s transition to the NFL and help polish his skills so Kmet can be the lead tight end in 2021. That’s when we see him begin to blossom.