* - How well does his skill set carry over
to the fantasy game? For tight ends, a player needs to be a realistic
threat for 60 catches and 800 receiving yards at some point in
their career to be a candidate for a perfect grade. Positional
scarcity at the pro level is also a part of the equation.
Mayer is a throwback tight end if there ever was one. Not only
does he possess grown-man strength and tenacity as a blocker, but
he also doubles as a quality receiver in the short and intermediate
passing game as well as the red zone. (Mayer led all tight ends
with 17 contested catches in 2022, per Pro Football Focus.) He has
probably run every short and intermediate route in the book, although
Notre Dame seemed to like him the most on crossers. Perhaps the
most impressive parts of his game are his body control, play strength
at the catch point and the comfort he shows in playing the ball
in the air. Mayer is by no means fast, but he is very good at transitioning
his speed at the top of his route, creating just enough separation.
(This helps to explain how he led all tight ends with eight deep
catches - throws that traveled at least 20 yards - and 218 deep
yards, per PFF.) Kentucky's Mr. Football in 2019 is more fundamentally
sound as a blocker than the overwhelming majority of tight end prospects,
so it should only be a matter of time before he emerges as one of
the best at it in the NFL. That alone will make him hard to take
off the field. Mayer should have no problem adapting to wherever
he lines up after playing inline on 61.9 percent of his snaps and
38.1 percent of his snaps detached from the formation.
Much like Jason Witten later in his career, it is hard to understand
sometimes how Mayer gets open sometimes because he lacks explosiveness.
The former five-star recruit also does not change direction particularly
well on routes that call for it, which can sometimes make it hard
for him to create separation against any linebacker or safety. Although
he can be a load to bring down, Mayer's ability to pick up yards
after the catch in 2022 (4.8 yards after catch per reception) was
disappointing, to say the least. What this means is he will have
to rely even more on his contested-catch skill at the next level.
While he has all the qualities he needs to be a dominant force as
a blocker, his execution is lacking at times. Sometimes, he takes
a bad angle in his attempt to block. Other times, he starts strong
but does not sustain the block. NFL teams will need to consider
his supporting cast at Notre Dame before letting his school-record
level of production for a tight end (180 catches, 2,099 receiving
yards and 18 receiving touchdowns) factor too heavily into their
Mayer's desire to block and upside as a blocker will be enough
alone to get him immediate playing time at the next level. That
alone will keep him on the field while he earns the trust of his
coach and quarterback as a receiver, which should not take long
considering how big and sure-handed of a target he is. He should
continue to excel in the red zone and contested-catch situations,
further guaranteeing him a hefty amount of snaps every year.
Mayer may never be fast enough to be a true threat down the seam
in the NFL, but he has the potential to be better after the catch
than he showed in college. Some of that improvement may come as
a result of playing at a slightly lower weight since he seems
to be a bit heavy-footed at times. Regardless of whether he plays
lighter or heavier, Mayer should have a long career as a steady
second option in the passing game (third option at worst) who
thrives in the red zone. His ability to be more than that will
depend largely on his ability to improve his overall athleticism.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.