The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
For nearly thirty years, Bengals' tight end Tony McGee held a dubious distinction as the only tight end with 130-plus targets but fewer than three touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons. Bears tight end Cole Kmet joined McGee in that inauspicious club last season.
Touchdowns are a volatile metric and are nearly impossible to predict year-to-year. Instead, we hunt players who pull volume and hope touchdowns follow.
Last year, Kmet cleared the volume concerns, ranking eighth in targets and sixth in snaps. He also ranked ninth in air yards and sixth in deep targets. The Bears' outgoing coaching staff rarely asked Kmet to block. He played 28.2-percent of his snaps out of the slot, the fifth-highest rate among all tight ends.
Despite his high-end usage, Kmet has yet to finish higher than TE20.
Drafted out of Notre Dame as the first tight end in his class of 2020, Kmet has a promising pedigree. He has improved in each of his first two seasons. Following the recent departures of Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham, he should be one of the most targeted options in the passing game and, more specifically, the red zone. Despite a compelling growth trajectory, undeniable pedigree, and increasing target share, he's only being drafted 18th at the position. That's the definition of value.
Good players get targets, and targets turn into touchdowns.
Cole Kmet's History
As a 2020 second-rounder with high hopes, Kmet disappointed. But we should expect that from rookie tight ends. The Bears brought in 34-year-old Jimmy Graham that offseason, who usurped the lead role. Graham out-targetted Kmet 76-to-44 and hauled in eight touchdowns to Kmet's two. Surprisingly, the front office kept Graham around for Kmet's second season, too.
We were all really excited about a Cole Kmet last offseason and then the Bears chose not to opt out of Jimmy Graham’s contract. Graham is a free agent after this season.— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) January 4, 2022
Let the 2022 Cole Kmet hype commence.pic.twitter.com/45WErb38vx
Despite Graham's presence, Kmet climbed atop the tight end depth chart. He garnered 93 targets, second-most on the team behind only Darnell Mooney. Unfortunately, Kmet didn't score on 93 targets. Backups Graham, Jesper Horsted, and Jesse James combined for six touchdowns on a mere 34 targets. In a head-scratching move by the Bears coaching staff, Kmet saw just 12 red-zone targets last year while the remaining tight ends totaled nine. Coaching may have been a slight impediment for Kmet, but it was frankly bad luck that kept him out of the end zone.
With many vacated targets up for grabs in Chicago this year, it's easy to project another target boost for Kmet after seeing 44 and 93 in his first two years. He was just seven targets away from hitting 100 targets last year, which nearly ensures a top-12 finish.
Here's the list of tight ends who hit 100 targets last year and where they finished in PPR formats:
|Tight End||Targets||Finish (PPR)|
What if everything goes right? What if Justin Fields breaks out? What if the new coaches supercharge the system? Let's say Kmet can pull an extra 32 targets (125 total) in 2022. Given the lack of competition in the Bears' receiving room, it's very possible. Since 2012, 19 tight ends have been targeted 125-plus times. Only Zach Ertz (2019), Gary Barnidge (2015), and Martellus Bennett (2014) finished lower than TE3. That's right. The 125-target benchmark has an 84-percent hit rate of producing a top-three fantasy tight end!
Projecting 125 targets is a stretch, but Kmet can quickly cement himself as Justin Fields' safety blanket, with the Bears' depth chart wide open. There's more appeal with Kmet than simply a reliable floor. He's just over one target per game away from elite usage and production.
Last year, the Top 12 tight ends scored 75 touchdowns on 1,208 targets. At that rate (1 touchdown per 6.2 targets), Kmet's 93 targets should have produced 5.8 touchdowns. If we add that expected touchdown total to his end-of-season finish, he'd jump from TE20 to TE13. Kmet was already putting up borderline TE1 usage last year.
But isn't the Bears' Offense Bad?
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