The 2023 NFL Draft is five weeks away, and though we still don’t know the compensation the Green Bay Packers may get in return for Aaron Rodgers, there are several talented players with high potential the Packers could select with the first-round pick they already have.
Today, I review Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, a player who some believe could go in the first round. Tight end is a desperate position of need with the exit of Robert Tonyan.
We’ve already reviewed tight end Dalton Kincaid, a player I’d be excited about in the first round – how does Mayer stack up?
TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
The 21-year-old Mayer comes in at 6’4, 265 lbs. He’s the same height as Kincaid but 25 lbs. heavier. Mayer’s prototype is much more that of a blocking tight end – he himself considers Rob Gronkowski’s game to be an aspiration. At 265 lbs., Mayer’s size is immediately intriguing. He’s also two years younger than Kincaid, meaning he’d only be about 25 by the time a second contract was due, and he’d have a couple more years to develop.
- Stands ground or drives defenders while blocking
- Boxes out defenders at catch point
- Solid separation
- Good hands
- Breaking tackles, falling forward
Mayer’s size and strength is certainly on display on his tape. When he gets good positioning and a good hold on defenders, he rarely gets physically dominated, typically holding his ground for a good few seconds or pushing the defender back several yards. He is even able to hold his own against some defensive lineman. Meyer uses his size in the pass game as well, as he’s able to box out defenders at the catch point.
When Mayer has the ball in his hands, he truly does resemble Gronkowski. Mayer rumbles downfield with the ball, barreling into and over defenders, and loves to whip out a stiff arm. He is rarely pushed backwards with the ball in his hands and does everything he can to fight for extra yardage.
I should clarify that while Mayer does have good hands, he does not have great hands. His hands are not suction cups like Kincaid. He is serviceable in this regard, but there is room for improvement.
- Catch adjustment
- Route running
- Squaring up defenders while blocking
- Whiffs blocks on occasion
With a great blocking tight end, there usually comes deficiencies in the pass game. Mayer is good in many areas, but special in none. He doesn’t have the athleticism to dive for catches, to jump high for contested balls, to contort his body and adjust to a slightly off-target throw. Luckily, his natural size allows some room for error for the quarterback throwing to him.
Mayer’s route running is average at best. The lumbering, rumbling style of his running is great when he already has the ball but allows for quicker defenders to easily keep up in route progression. Mayer will need to break multiple tackles to achieve long touchdowns or yardage gains, as he just can’t get into a gear that lets him outrun defenders.
Mayer has all the tools to be a great blocker and already has some fundamentals down. When he’s got a good hold on a defender, all is well. The trouble is getting into that position. He sometimes comes into blocks too quickly, not taking a second to slow his feet and square up with the defenders to use his size to block their way and drive them backwards. This causes him to completely whiff on some blocks or get a hit in before losing the defender after a second.
Mayer is a good player, no doubt. However, he is not a clear, blue-chip first-round pick. It’s difficult to compare him to Kincaid since they are such different players. I love the way Mayer moves with the ball in his hands, even if he can be a bit sluggish, and he has the potential to be a great blocker. Unlike Kincaid, though, he currently does not possess any skills I would call special.
Truthfully, and unfortunately, Mayer might be the type of player Green Bay would prefer over a guy like Kincaid. The Packers have wanted to be a run-heavy offense under Matt LaFleur, and I think they’d love a piece like Mayer, especially with Marcedes Lewis leaving the team. I say unfortunately because Kincaid, in my opinion, has the potential to be a much more dynamic player. The edge that Mayer has over Kincaid in blocking skills is not nearly as big as the gap between Mayer’s average receiving skills and Kincaid’s special talents in that area.
I like Mayer as a second or even third-round player. I would be disappointed if he were their pick in the first round, as it feels like a reach.