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Cole Kmet

End-zone looks can only increase

It's difficult to get too high on the Bears offense, with a developing young quarterback, suspect offensive line and sketchy group of pass catchers. But somebody is going to have to catch the occasional pass behind No. 1 Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet looks as likely to be the 2nd option as anyone else.

Kmet was a second-round pick two years ago, but any emergence has been blocked both by the Bears' anemic passing game and also the presence of veteran Jimmy Graham. But Graham is finally gone, which will help Kmet see more looks -- especially around the end zone.

A year ago, Kmet had just 4 passes thrown his way inside the 10-yard line all season. That's despite the Bears throwing 13 passes to tight ends in that area of the field, which ranked 8th in the league. The leader in targets on the roster at the position, of course, was Graham, with 5 in that area of the field. Makes sense to assign most of those to Kmet, effectively doubling his looks. Last year, the leading tight ends for 26 of the other 31 teams saw more passes inside the 10 than Kmet. That should change, giving him some solid breakout potential.

Table below is sorted by passes thrown to tight ends inside the 10-yard line; leading receiver for each team in that area is also shown.

TIGHT ENDS INSIDE THE 10-YARD LINE, 2021
TeamTgtsLeaderTgts
Baltimore17Andrews15
Tampa Bay17Brate9
Kansas City16Kelce9
L.A. Chargers16Cook8
Cleveland14Hooper6
New England14Henry9
Pittsburgh14Freiermuth10
Chicago13Graham5
Dallas13Schultz9
Indianapolis13Doyle6
Buffalo12Knox10
Tennessee12Pruitt5
Miami11Gesicki5
Atlanta10Pitts7
Denver10Fant5
N.Y. Giants10Rudolph6
L.A. Rams9Higbee9
Washington9Seals-Jones6
Green Bay8Lewis5
Philadelphia8Goedert4
Seattle8Everett7
Arizona7Ertz7
Las Vegas7Waller6
New Orleans7Trautman4
San Francisco7Kittle5
Detroit6Hockenson6
Jacksonville6Hollister3
Minnesota6Conklin5
Carolina5Tremble5
Houston5Akins3
N.Y. Jets4Griffin3
Cincinnati3Uzomah3

Among the interesting things (to me): The Bengals threw the fewest passes to tight ends inside the 10-yard line in the NFL last year. That might have played into the team letting C.J. Uzomah walk, and is a reminder not to get too high on Hayden Hurst -- the Bengals won't likely be featuring the position around the end zone.

Also, the Bucs threw 17 passes to tight ends inside the 10, tied with Baltimore for the NFL lead. Cameron Brate actually led the team with 9 targets in that area (only three tight ends saw more last year). In the wake of Rob Gronkowski's retirement, Brate is currently the nominal starter in Tampa Bay. Gronkowski saw 6 targets last year in that area of the field. Barring a noteworthy addition (which is possible), Brate could be in line to be one of the most heavily targeted tight ends around the end zone.

But Kmet, who already looked like a key receiver in Chicago's passing game (such as it will be), should be in line for a nice uptick in targets around the goal line.

--Andy Richardson

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