Pros, cons of Las Vegas Raiders taking Notre Dame football's Michael Mayer in NFL Draft

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football tight end Michael Mayer was selected by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 35th overall pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday night.

He was the third tight end taken as the Buffalo Bills drafted Dalton Kincaid of Utah with the 25th overall pick and the Detroit Lions took Sam LaPorta of Iowa with the 34th overall pick. Kincaid was the only tight end selected in Thursday's first round in Kansas City, Mo.

At 6-foot-4 ½ and 249 pounds, Mayer was projected to be the program’s seventh all-time first-round pick at the tight end position. Tyler Eifert, who went 21st overall to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, had been the only former Irish tight end to go in Round 1 since Irv Smith went to the New Orleans Saints in 1993.

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) celebrates after making a touchdown catch against BYU during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The positives

Mayer’s productivity is his top selling point. In just three seasons at Notre Dame, the Covington, Ky., product became a consensus All-American and broke every significant receiving record for his position at a place that calls itself Tight End U.

Despite drawing extra attention from opposing defenses, Mayer showed a knack for getting open. He has reliable hands that measured at 9 ½ inches, excellent ball skills and is a load to bring down after the catch.

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His blocking improved significantly last season as did his vocal leadership in the role of team captain. Mayer, who led the nation’s tight ends with a Pro Football Focus blocking grade of 92.5, even volunteered for the “hands team” on kickoff return that closed out four wins last season.

The concerns

Despite frequently lining up in the slot and even being split out wide, Mayer has faced questions about his athleticism. He ran a 4.70-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his 32.5-inch vertical also left him near the bottom of the tight end testing heap.

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His overall athleticism ranked 15th at his position among those testing at the combine. Mayer played last season at 260-265 pounds and has admitted to feeling “a tad bit heavy” for his expanded role.

“I’ve been telling teams, ‘I can play at 265, I can play at 240. I can play at whatever (weight) you want me to play at,’“ Mayer said at Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 24. “It’s very easy for me to gain weight and to lose weight.”

Final thoughts

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Mayer is a fierce competitor with football instincts to match his brawn. His traits should translate well to the NFL as he seeks to continue Notre Dame’s legacy at the position that includes Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Mark Bavaro, Dave Casper and Ken MacAfee.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.