NFL Prospect Profiles: Michael Mayer
In our latest look at prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, we shift our focus to the tight end position. This is one of the deepest groups in this year’s class. The talent starts at the top with former Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. So it seems appropriate to begin our look at the top players at the position with Mayer. So let’s do just that.
Mayer ticks the very earliest box an NFL tight end prospect can possibly tick. Namely, he used to play basketball. Mayer played hoops at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky and hoped his deeds on the court would land him a basketball scholarship somewhere.
After some persuading, he eventually took to football, particularly the tight end position. Indeed, Mayer was seen as a 5-star prospect out of high school and gained college offers from elite programs. Places like Alabama, Arkansas, Cincinnati, and Georgia tried to land him, but Mayer eventually decided to attend Notre Dame.
Mayer made an almost immediate impact with the Fighting Irish in 2020. He caught 42 of the 61 targets sent his way, tying Javon McKinley for the team lead. Mayer amassed 450 yards and scored two touchdowns. In his next two seasons, Mayer eclipsed 800 yards receiving in both years, with 840 in 2021 and 809 in 2022. Mayer commanded a whopping 31.1-percent target share last season, setting a career-high with 12.1 yards per reception. All told, Mayer caught 180 passes for Notre Dame, breaking the record set by Tyler Eifert for the most by a tight end in school history. Indeed, only two players have caught more balls for the Fighting Irish than Mayer. These grabs brought him 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns. Mayer finished his college career with a 67.9-percent catch rate.
Reasons to be Cheerful
The thing to love most about Mayer is the track record of dominant production. His 35.8-percent College Dominator rating is in the 95th percentile, according to our records. Mayer also broke out fairly early, with a Breakout Age of 20.2 (76th percentile). He has shown that he was capable of being the focal point of a passing offense, as evidenced by his 31.1-percent target share in 2022. This number puts him in elite company at the tight-end spot. Only Trey McBride (45.3-percent) and Quintin Morris (35.2-percent) rank higher among true tight ends according to our Data Analysis tool.
Reasons to be Wary
For all his production, Mayer put in a slightly disappointing showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Now, I must stress straight away that Mayer’s testing did NOT show him to be a poor athlete. Far from it. It just did not show him to be an exceptional one.
From a testing point of view, Mayer was somewhat overshadowed by other prospects in Indianapolis. His 4.70 40-time was the No. 9 fastest among 13 prospects who took part. He was No. 13 out of 13 with a 1.66 10-yard split and No. 12 of 14 with a 32.5-inch vertical. He posted a 9-foot-10-inch broad jump, good for No. 10 among 15 participants. As the image above shows, he is in fact the least athletic of this year’s crop of tight ends. His 115.9 Burst Score is not something he should look upon as a badge of honor either.
Player Comparison and Draft Outlook
Mayer not being a top-tier athletic prospect should not hurt his draft stock too much. His stellar track record of producing as a receiver should see him do quite well once he enters the NFL, and it looks like he won’t have long to wait on draft night to find out which team he will be on. Mayer is a top 32 prospect on our Big Board and has an average draft position of 25.6 according to our Mock Draft Index. It will not be a surprise if he ends up as the first tight end drafted.
Mayer’s closest comparable player is another tight end who could not be classed as an out-and-out athlete at his position. Zach Ertz made his bones as a receiver, both with the Stanford Cardinal and in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
Travis Kelce is the only tight end with more receptions and receiving yards than Ertz since 2013. If Mayer can come close to replicating his production then whatever team drafts him will consider it a pick well made.