Michael Mayer is a highly touted tight-end prospect from the University of Notre Dame. Since August, ‘first-rounder’ has been a title stamped next to Mayer’s name. The other title often given to the Junior tight end has been ‘Baby Gronk.’ Has he done enough to earn that moniker? Let’s take a look at his profile to figure that out!
- College: Notre Dame
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 265 lbs.
- Age: 21
- Year: Junior
- Draft Projection: First-Round Pick
High School & Personal Life
Mayer is from Independence, Kentucky, and played at Covington Catholic High School. In 2019, he was named the Gatorade Kentucky Football Player of the Year after putting up an astonishing 15 touchdowns on only 49 receptions. He chose to attend Notre Dame despite having offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Georgia, and many other schools. Mayer was the second-ranked tight end in the nation for his recruiting class, according to 247Sports.
Mayer dominated while at Notre Dame from the second he walked on campus. He led the team in both targets and receptions in his freshman year. Not only was he finding success at Notre Dame, but he was also top-ten in the country at the tight end position in both targets and receptions. For dynasty fantasy football purposes, we love when players can dominate the opportunities from a young age. That year he was sharing the field with eventual NFL players Tommy Tremble, Bennett Skowronek, and Kyren Williams. To dominate over players that were eventually drafted is a huge plus to his prospect profile.
Mayer continued improving as a player in both 2021 and 2022. He topped 800 yards in both of those seasons. Mayer even broke Tyler Eifert’s record for career receptions by a tight end at Notre Dame. He was named to the 2022 All-American team. He was also a finalist for the 2022 John Mackey award. This is given to the top tight end in the nation.
Strong Hands To Haul In Catches In Traffic
There are many cases on tape of Mayer catching passes in high-traffic areas of the middle of the field. He takes many shots immediately at the catch point, but his hands are strong enough where that isn’t much of an issue. Despite the hits he takes, he very rarely drops the ball in this scenario.
In this clip, Notre Dame’s offense starts the game by targeting Mayer. He runs a shallow route across the middle of the field and takes advantage of the open space created by the three wide receivers on the wide side of the formation. A defender immediately pops him, but he maintains control of the ball to the ground despite getting hit on the hands.
Extraordinary Body Control
Mayer can contort his body to catch anything that comes his way. This is an invaluable skill for a tight end to possess as they are often asked to provide a dump-off option for a quarterback who may not have the time to set his feet.
This clip is from Mayer’s freshman season, which is nice to note because he has improved greatly since this game. He can get low to haul in a pass during the Rose Bowl against Alabama. His body control gives his quarterback enough confidence to place the ball in a spot that only Mayer can make a play on it.
Uses Hands To Disengage Defensive Backs
This seems like such a simple thing, but you need to see more players mastering this technique. This play results in an incompletion, but if you pay attention, you can catch a nuance of Mayer’s game. The corner in this play tries to get his hands on Mayer. However, he uses a chop motion to disengage and create separation. You will see examples of this all over his tape.
One defender rarely brings down Mayer. At 265 pounds, he is one of the largest players on the field and knows how to use this size to his advantage. In this clip, he can easily shed the first defender, which eventually takes upwards of three players to bring him to the ground.
Areas To Improve
Many in the industry have been giving Mayer the ‘Baby Gronk’ moniker. While his pass-catching may be just as elite, his blocking still needs to be at that level. Many times Mayer will rely on his size to make a block. He could work on engaging defenders more with his hands to establish dominance on the field.
This clip from the 2020 Rose Bowl shows that exact scenario playing out. Mayer cannot engage the defender, creating uncertainty for the running back trying to race to the edge. The back bails inside and, luckily, can fall forward for a gain of a couple of yards. You would like to see Mayer get his hands involved more to gain control of the defender and drive him back.
Mayer is not going to be beating anyone with his speed. He is a traditional large-frame tight end who wins in other ways. He can work on this if he wants to add it to his toolbox, but he will be asked to block too much to afford to shed any weight. While not necessarily a massive negative to his game, it is worth mentioning that you shouldn’t expect anything special regarding straight-line speed.
Projected Draft Capital & Role
Mayer has been projected as a first-round pick in the NFL draft for the 2022 college football season. He is locked into first-round draft capital and may even go as high as a top-fifteen pick. For dynasty fantasy football, this draft capital is ideal.
Mayer’s first-round pick status guarantees him the opportunity to produce as early as year one. Whether he does anything with that opportunity is another question. We have seen past first-round tight ends, TJ Hockenson, change teams on their rookie contract, and still get the opportunity to produce. He will have every chance to finish as a top-twelve tight end starting immediately in his rookie season.
Dynasty Rookie Value
Mayer will be a top-twelve dynasty tight end the second his name is called in Kansas City. His prospect profile, combined with the projected draft capital, will be enough to secure that spot. In most rookie mocks, he has been going in the back end of the first round into the early part of the second round. He is the perfect rookie pick for a contender because you know you will be getting a useful fantasy asset as early as Week One of the 2023 season.
However, we must remember that tight end is a position often takes a year or two to emerge fully. With players having to learn a combination of blocking and receiving, it is a lot to put on the plate of a young player. Anyone who is a fan of Mayer and cannot get him in the rookie draft must be on the lookout for a buy window. That window can open as early as this year if he doesn’t meet expectations to start the season. He becomes much more valuable in leagues that use any tight-end premium scoring.
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I hope you enjoyed this piece in our 2023 Rookie Profile series. Be sure to check back often, as we will cover all fantasy-relevant prospects. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!