How did Notre Dame football tight end Michael Mayer fall out of NFL Draft's first round

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Michael Mayer rewrote the Notre Dame football record book, but there’s one distinction that eluded the All-America tight end’s grasp on Thursday night: First-round NFL Draft pick.

When the three-day draft reconvenes on Friday night in Kansas City, Mayer will be among the highest-rated players available, according to most draft pundits. An early entrant who opted out of the Gator Bowl with two seasons of remaining eligibility, Mayer is the top-rated tight end still on the board.

A perceived lack of athleticism is the primary wart on Mayer’s draft profile. 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.

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer will have to wait until Friday night to hear his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, who went 25th overall to the Buffalo Bills, was the only tight end among this year’s 31 first-round picks. The Bills traded up to grab Kincaid, which only increased the speculative frenzy connecting Mayer to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 26.

After the Cowboys took Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith, Mayer slipped past potential landing spots in Jacksonville and hometown Cincinnati as well.

2023 NFL Draft overview:Michael Mayer's NFL Draft slide confounds Notre Dame teammate

Tyler Eifert, who went 21st overall to the Bengals in 2013, suggested via Twitter that Mayer might wind up following in his footsteps. Instead, Eifert remains the only Irish tight end to go in Round 1 since Irv Smith went 20th overall to the New Orleans Saints in 1993.

Four other Notre Dame tight ends have earned first-round distinction: Derek Brown (1992), Tony Hunter (1983), Ken MacAfee (1978) and Monty Stickles (1960).

Mayer appears likely to become the eighth Notre Dame tight end to go in Round 2, joining Cole Kmet (2020), Troy Niklas (2014), Kyle Rudolph (2011), John Carlson (2008), Anthony Fasano (2006), Dave Casper (1974) and Jim Kelly (1964).

That group did more as a whole in the NFL than Irish tight ends picked higher.

Just two Notre Dame products at any position have been first-round picks in the five most recent drafts: Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton in 2022 and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in 2019.

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