From one Fighting Irish football product to another.
That’s what awaits new Las Vegas Raiders offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in the desert. The Silver & Black play caller had success developing and deploying Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet the past two seasons with the Chicago Bears and now, Getsy gets his hands on Michael Mayer.
Getsy made Kmet, a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a focal point in Chicago and Las Vegas is banking on the new offensive coordinator to do the same with Mayer, a second-round pick in the 2023 draft.
The 24-year-old Kmet drew 90 targets this past season for Chicago — good for second on the team in that category — hauling in 73 of those passes (81.1 percent catch rate) for 719 yards and six touchdowns. About half of his total receptions were first downs, showcasing the value Kmet brought to quarterback Justin Fields and Getsy. In 2022, Kmet paced the Bears with 69 targets. He caught 50 of those passes (72.5 percent catch rate) for 544 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kmet was the most consistent and reliable pass catcher for Chicago that 2022 season as he led the team in all the major receiving categories (targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns). The tight end had a supremely productive 2023 campaign thanks in large part to the addition of wide receiver D.J. Moore, who led the team in targets (136), receptions (136), yards (1,364) and touchdowns (eight). A dynamic wideout forced the opposition’s primary defensive focus from Kmet allowing the 6-foot-6 and 260-pound tight end more room to operate as a receiving option and get more snaps as a blocker, too.
Getsy noted Kmet is becoming a complete all-around tight end this past October and the player proved the coach right.
Which shifts the pendulum over to Mayer.
The 6-foot-4 and 265-pound tight end finished fourth on the Raiders in targets with 40. He caught 27 of those passes (67.5 percent catch rate) for 304 yards and two touchdowns. If those receptions, 19 were of the first-down variety providing an ample target to move the chains. According to Pro Football Reference, Mayer was charted for only one drop in his rookie season. Mayer did arrive to the Raiders as an all-around type tight end prospect. As his initial season in the NFL progressed, the 22 year old did showcase progression that glints at him becoming a receiving and blocking tight end for Las Vegas in the future.
Getsy plays a huge hand in that.
Getting Mayer consistently involved in the aerial attack in Year 2 adds another must-account-for for opposing defenses. Testing how much the opposition can focus and defend pass catchers like wide receivers Davante Adams (team-leading 175 targets, 103 receptions, 1,144 yards, and eight scores) and Jakobi Meyers (106 targets, 71 catches, 807 yards, and eight touchdowns), and potentially running back Josh Jacobs (54 targets, 37 receptions, 296 yards) can open things up for Mayer.
Getsy showed how fruitful having a dynamic wide receiver (Moore) did for his tight end (Kmet) in Chicago. And with the offensive coordinator familiar with and having coached Adams (when both were with the Green Bay Packers during the 2019-21 seasons), he can provide a similar environment for Mayer in Las Vegas.
For his part, Mayer needs to get back to full strength and 100 percent this offseason. The promising tight end landed on injured reserve with a toe ailment and ended his rookie campaign with 14 games played (12 starts). Then comes attacking the offseason by refining his abilities as both receiver and blocker, which would make Mayer an overall force for the offense helping both passing and ground attacks.
Mayer has the opportunity to cement himself as TE1 in 2024, no matter what the Raiders do to bolster the tight end position group. Las Vegas currently has Zach Gentry, Cole Fotheringham, and John Shenker as the other tight ends on the roster alongside Mayer. Free agency, the 2024 NFL Draft, undrafted free agency, and perhaps camp cuts will likely add more talent to the position for competition.