It’s only November but there’s already a lot of noise between the Cincinnati Bengals and one of the best prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. That doesn’t happen too often but this has been a perfect storm of circumstances within the franchise and outside factors.
The player in question is Notre Dame’s star tight end, Michael Mayer. The guy who sounded like an absolute leader of men on Saturday’s interview with College Gameday is seen by many as the best prospect at his position for next April’s NFL Draft.
He’s the center of attention for the Fighting Irish, who target him more than anybody else on offense. He leads the team in receptions with more than double that of the guy who ranks second. Mayer is also a force in the running game thanks to his willingness to block.
Here’s how ESPN’s Todd McShay describes Mayer who ranks as the 9th-best overall prospect in his early Draft rankings:
“Mayer’s best traits are his toughness and strength after the catch. He’s a bulldozer with the ball in his hands, and he generates yards by breaking tackles and carrying defenders — 365 of his 840 yards last season came after the catch. Mayer shows a lot of route-running savvy in setting up defenders at the top of the stem and locating soft spots in zone. He does a very good job adjusting to the ball outside his frame, and he shows strong hands in traffic and on contested catches, helping him score seven TDs in 2021. Mayer also has an edge as a blocker, though his technique is still a work in progress.”
So why is he connected to the Bengals?
Although he’s seen as one of the best prospects this year, you never know how much tight ends can drop because of positional value. And Cincinnati is expected to be looking for a tight end this offseason.
Hayden Hurst signed a one-year deal ahead of this season and while he’s been a key contributor, chances are the Bengals could be looking for some upside even if they re-sign Hurst for another year. Keep in mind, Hurst will be 30 years old next season.
And it turns out, Mayer would love to wear Stripes at the next level. When asked in a recent interview which was his favorite NFL team, he replied without one hint of hesitation, “Cincinnati Bengals.”
Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer says his favorite football player is Joe Burrow and favorite team is the Cincinnati Bengals 👀— Malik Wright (@Wrightreportt) November 11, 2022
Draft season should be fun ❗️ pic.twitter.com/BqaodynYJa
For now, we can ignore the fact that he failed to spell Cincinnati. Fortunately, that’s not something they’ll ask him to do on the playing field at the next level.
If the season goes the way the Bengals want it to go, they’ll have a tough time finding Mayer on their board when it’s their time to pick. But if for some reason Mayer drops or the team picks in a higher spot than expected, expect the Notre Dame tight end to be firmly in the conversation.
If the season ended today, the Bengals would hold the 17th overall pick.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports