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Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer has Jason Witten-like potential

Scott Procter Scott Procter BVM Sports Senior Editor/Journalist

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (BVM) – No one in NFL history has played more games (271) at the tight end position than Jason Witten. In fact, Witten has the second-most receptions and receiving yards by a tight end ever, behind only Tony Gonzalez.

While Witten never blew defenders away with elite athleticism or speed (he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash), he made 11 Pro Bowls and had a six-year stretch from 2007-2012 where he averaged 92 catches and 1,018 yards per season.

Pro Football Focus’ lead draft analyst Mike Renner believes Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer is not only one of the safest picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he has the potential to be one of the league’s best like Witten was for years.

“Mayer is going to go high (in the draft) because he’s just NFL ready; tomorrow, he’s going to look like an NFL starter,” Renner said on an episode of BVM Sports’ Real Spill. “That’s rare to say for a guy who’s just a junior coming out.”

At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Mayer totaled more than 2,000 receiving yards in three years with the Fighting Irish and put together back-to-back seasons of at least 800 yards. His 138 catches and 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons are evidence of his ability to command a large target share and make the most of his opportunities. Despite blazing speed and some athletic limitations, Mayer’s 20 receptions on targets 10-plus yards downfield are the most among tight ends in the 2023 class.

As talented as Mayer is as a pass catcher, like most great tight ends, he’s also a polished blocker. His 82.1 run-blocking PFF grade ranks fourth among tight ends in the FBS, a rarity from a third-year player.

Mayer’s combination of size, pass-catching chops and blocking ability makes him a lock for the first round and the top tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Maybe he’s not going to look like Travis Kelce because he’s not that athletically, but he’s going to do a lot of things you want and be a productive NFL player,” Renner said. “Obviously, tight end is not a position where a lot of guys have big years coming right into the NFL, it’s a difficult position to transition to, but I’d put my money on him starting out hot as a rookie.”