Should the Rams Trade All Their Picks for a Great Tight End?

Going All In

In my opinion, the very first thing an NFL team should do when looking at the draft is just take out a piece of paper and write down the names of every prospect they think has a good chance at being a future Hall of Famer. If they are being realistic, that list shouldn't be very long. How many actual HOFers on average come out of a single draft class? From the 2003 draft, which was 20 years ago, there is only one current HOFer. Eventually, it is possible we'll see about 5 more. Perhaps that is a bit generous, but for sake of discussion let's just say there will be 5 HOF players from that draft. If we go back a decade before that to 1993, there were 5 HOFers. The Rams drafted one of those players, Jerome Bettis. 5 out of 224 selections and the Rams got one of them. Can't complain about that. Two of the other guys were offensive linemen who at one point played together for the Chiefs, part of what probably was one of the best OLs of the modern NFL era. I'm extremely confident that Cam Akers could put up monster rushing stats if the Rams had Willie Roaf and Will Shields blocking on our OL.

Obviously, our predictions will likely not be perfectly accurate or even mostly accurate. People were putting Reggie Bush into the HOF before he was drafted, yet he arguably wasn't even a true starting RB, he was just a complementary weapon in the NFL. Some of the best players might come out of the later rounds or even be UDFAs. In 2003, one of the better players was Robert Mathis, an undersized pass rusher who played at an HBCU, taken in the 5th round. Tony Romo was an UDFA who played at the FCS level. Antonio Gates was an UDFA who was a mid-major basketball player.

If we made such a list for 2023, I have no idea how many players would make it. 5? 10? 15? Maybe zero? Only one? Whatever the number, that list should be the true "Top Tier" of the draft.

Notice, I'm not even technically talking about "1st round" graded players, we are simply asking which prospects look so good that you are willing to project them as future HOFers, regardless of which round they might be taken. I thought Tom Brady was going to be a top 10 pick in his draft. He didn't get selected until the end of the 6th round. But, he potentially could have been on the list for that year, even though he wasn't a 1st round selection.

Any player who makes your list, that prospect gets a "must draft" star next to his name. It is malpractice to pass on any such player to draft a different prospect who isn't on that top line. Isn't that just common sense? Why would you ever pass on someone you thought would be a HOFer? Oh, no, we don't need another HOF WR, we already have Cooper Kupp. Really? Would you not draft Torry Holt, just because you already had Isaac Bruce? Would you pass on Steven Jackson if Marshall Faulk were younger and still in his prime? Would you pass on Dan Marino, because you had Terry Bradshaw or Tom Brady, because you already had Drew Bledsoe? Or Aaron Rodgers if you had a young Brett Favre?

The only current HOFer from 2003 is Troy Polamalu, who was the 16th overall pick. The Steelers didn't trade their entire draft for Polamalu, but they did trade up for him, giving up a late 3rd round pick and a 6th round pick. The 1st rounder they traded became Larry Johnson, who at one point was one of the best RBs in the NFL. The 3rd rounder could have turned into Chris Brown, who had a 1,000 yard rushing season as the starting RB for the Titans his 2nd NFL season. The 6th rounder could have turned into Josh Brown, a starting kicker, including for the Rams. It was a risky move by the Steelers, but because they were right about Polamalu, it eventually paid off big time.

If we slightly changed the facts, we could flip this same question on its head. The Eagles traded up to the slot right before Polamalu was taken, in order to get a pass rusher, Jerome McDougle. to get that pick, Philly shipped to the Chargers a pick near the very end of the 2nd round. Right in the same area of the 2nd round, Philly happened to have another pick and used it to draft a TE. For discussion, let's just pretend that Philly didn't have that extra 2nd round pick, so by trading up for a DE, they missed out on taking a TE in the 2nd round in 2003. Do you know who they potentially would have missed out on landing if they had traded away that 2nd rd pick to the Chargers? Jason Witten, who was an early 3rd round pick.

Given that preface, aren't Rams fans looking at the 2023 draft entirely backwards? The question shouldn't be "Who should the Rams draft at slot 36?" The question should be who do we think are the very best players in the 2023 draft, the maybe 5 players or so who will ultimately end up in the HOF? From that list, is there any possible way the Rams can draft one of those guys? Can we get our next Jerome Bettis?

All other draft considerations and decisions should come secondary. There is only one overriding "team need" in every single NFL draft: acquire Hall of Fame talent. That goal completely trumps everything else. True, that goal is extremely narrow, because once those 5 or so guys are gone, now what are you going to do? If there are 260 selections, that means 98% of the players aren't going to the HOF. You have to do the best you can to get value from the rest of the pool. But, if you hit that huge jackpot, like Ronnie Rivers playing 3 card poker, the payoff will probably make up for any other mistakes you make that year in the draft.

If you think one of those players will only be a 3rd round pick like Cooper Kupp, then the decision making becomes much easier. The Rams could take that guy in the 2nd round or maybe even the 3rd round and not have to make any type of trade. Normally, however, the best players are all congregated in or near the 1st round. There aren't going to be many Tom Brady type steals in the later rounds. So, unless the Rams want to rely on the "lottery ticket" method of drafting, the better odds lie with trying to make an aggressive trade to move up and grab a certain player. But, is there any prospect in the 2023 draft worth targeting and would that player fall far enough to be within range? There isn't any reasonable way the Rams could move all the way up into the top 10. How far could the Rams trade up in 2023 without using any 2024 draft picks or throwing in any veteran players?

If we add up the Rich Hill draft trade chart value for all the projected Rams picks (we have to guess a bit, because compensatory picks and slots haven't been finalized) it would come out to be approximately the 19th overall selection in the 1st round, held by the Tampa Bay Bucs. Worth noting that Detroit, with Brad Holmes having his Rams connections, holds the 18th slot.

So, we're looking for 2 things: 1. A player we think is going to be really great; and 2. He can't be so great that he's drafted high in the 1st, we need someone who might make it to slot 19 or lower. Based on that criteria, let's now talk about one possible candidate.

Ugly Baby

Two years ago, I did a draft profile on Notre Dame QB, Ian Book. At the time, I wrote, "Notre Dame has a freshman tight end who looks like a future 1st round pick and potentially a very good NFL player." The player I was talking about was Michael Mayer, who at that time was a true freshman.

Mayer wasn't draft eligible until 2023. If Mayer had actually been in the 2021 draft, even after only one year in college, I bet he still would have been a top 20 pick in the draft. Same thing in the 2022 draft. Last year's draft was very deep at the TE position, but it wasn't strong at the very top. Trey McBride, the first TE off the board, wasn't taken until late in the 2nd round. My guess is Mayer might have been somewhere between pick 15 to 20 in the 2022 draft.

I don't have a good feel for where Mayer will get drafted in 2023. I know nothing about many of the top prospects this year. For discussion, let's just assume that Mayer would be pick 20. That is right on the edge of how far the Rams could trade up if they bundled all of their 2023 picks. At least 1 of the 2 required elements would be satisfied.

In Lance Zierlein's mock draft, Meyer is pick 18. He's not even the first TE off the board, Luke Musgrave of Oregon State goes ahead of him. JMS is pick 20. Dalton Kincaid, another TE, is 24. In Daniel Jeremiah's mock, Kincaid at pick 21 is the first TE off the board. Mayer is pick 24. Bucky Brooks has Mayer as pick 14. Eric Edholm has Mayer at 15 overall. If those mocks are accurate, there might be a run on TEs and by the time the Rams pick at 36, none of the higher tier TE prospects will be left, they all will be off the board.

Mayer was nicknamed "Baby Gronk" by fans. The moniker is a bit misleading, because Mayer isn't a very good blocker, while Gronk is a great blocker. Maybe the baby part is right, because Mayer isn't quite as big as a true big TE. Mayer is about 6'4'' tall and a bigger NFL TE is typically about 6'6'' to 6'7'' tall.

If Mayer is Baby Gronk, he's kind of an ugly baby as a draft prospect. Mayer isn't very fast or quick, he's not a consistent and reliable blocker, he's not a super athletic pass catcher like Pitts or even as smooth and fluid as Hunter Henry (35th overall, early 2nd round 2016). If you randomly watched a single ND game, you might think "I don't get it, this guy isn't any good, what's the big deal?" On paper, Joe Klopfenstein (Rams 2nd round 2006) might look like the better prospect. Klopfenstein is taller, with good Combine results (4.65 second speed, 4.21 sec shuttle, 36'' vertical and did 27 bench reps.)

If Mayer is so unimpressive as an athlete and as a blocker, why is he almost universally ranked as a top 15 prospect in this year's draft? Mayer is nearly unstoppable in the short and intermediate area. One of the most common NFL comps offered by draft experts is Jason Witten. I like this comp, though it isn't the one I'm going to use. When Witten was in college, he wasn't a particularly good run blocker. He only developed his blocking skills after he entered the NFL. In 2003, Witten was only the 5th TE drafted. The top TE was speedy Dallas Clark, who was a very good receiving threat, but not big enough to be a good blocker. The draft profile on Witten used by ESPN lists as his weaknesses: not fast, inconsistent blocker, can improve running after catch, should have stayed in school another year.

If the comparisons are right and Mayer becomes the next Jason Witten, would you trade all of the Rams draft picks to get him?


Name: Michael Mayer. Early entrant, true Junior. Turns 22 years old in July.

School: Notre Dame

Size: Listed 6'4 1/2'' tall, 265 pounds. Per NFLDB 10'' hands, 32 5/8'' arms, 76'' wingspan, 4.65 sec (40 time)

Witten is nearly 6'6'' tall. Gronk is just over 6'6'' tall and has really long arms. Tyler Higbee has a nearly 81'' wingspan. So, even though Mayer is big relative to college players, he's not really a true "big TE" by NFL standards. Good size, but not a massive guy. In some ways, I actually prefer it that way. In an earlier era, DEs were taller with more length, many teams had a 4-3 system. TEs were used primarily as run blockers and pass catching wasn't the premium skill it is today. Since TEs in 2023 aren't asked to block as many guys who look like Michael Strahan and are used more like big WRs, I think it can be a disadvantage to be too tall. George Kittle is just under 6'4'' tall and scouts thought that he'd be too small to be a starting TE, that he was only a TE2 in the NFL. In my mind, there's nothing wrong with being a 6'4'' TE today, that might be the perfect sweet spot in terms of height in today's game.

4 and 5 star recruit from Kentucky. Played both offense and defense in high school. Basketball was his first love, not football. Was a Kevin Durant and OKC Thunder fan. Older brother is a college QB for a mid-major school.

One of 6 ND team captains in 2022. Hip strain in 2021, missed one game. Opted out of bowl game 2022. Had 92.5 PFF grade in 2022. His 82.1 run block grade was 4th best among FBS tight ends. Yeah, whatever PFF.

2020 (12 games): 42-450-2, one fumble

2021 (12 games): 71-840-7

2022 (12 games) 67-809-9, one fumble

2 fumbles on 180 catches, one for every 90 catch. In the NFL, Witten fumbled once every 136 catch and Gronk fumbled once every 124 catch.

Mature and grounded personality. Gives good interviews. Professional attitude, detail oriented, wants to be challenged by coaches, driven and focused on improving his game and being a great player. Made deliberate effort to be a more vocal leader in 2022. Shows good football IQ.

Steelers Depot: 1st round grade. Willing to take hits over middle. Great technique. Runs through contact. Fluid, versatile, good size and length. Not a drive blocker. Poor hand placements. Lethargic at top of route and when QB extends play. Drops passes vs smaller DBs. Possession target, not a YAC guy.

CBSSports: One of the top prospects in the draft, regardless of position. All around TE without a true weakness. Great size, strong hands. Gets upfield quickly after catch. Won't test well, but zero wasted motion. A bear to bring down in space. Sufficient blocker.

NFLDB: Fights past press at LOS. Quick, violent hands, good balance, smooth, quick off snap. Speed to attack seam. Bursts out of breaks to separate. Good blocking technique and power when his hands hit the target. Can be split wide. Best blocking TE in the draft. Soft hands, excellent ball skills. Effortlessly catches balls away from frame. High point catches, strong hands, controlling ball while getting hit. Red zone threat. Average athlete, lacks speed. Not dominant strength. Blocking technique not always clean. Not expansive route tree. Super high floor. A can't miss prospect. Guaranteed 1st rd pick. Mark Andrews NFL comp.

Sports Illustrated: Extreme physicality after catch. Easy separation. Inconsistent run blocker.

TDN (Kyle Crabbs): Clutch player, delivered in "must have" circumstances. Needs an accurate QB. Limited athlete. Not as dominant a blocker as Gronk. Jason Witten NFL comp.

PFF: As polished a TE as you'll see in a draft.

Lance Zierlein 6.48 draft grade (good starter within 2 years). Jason Witten comp. Sinks suddenly into zone voids. Maintains speed through route turns. Plays big to win contested catches. Ideal frame for Y tight end. Sluggish release and acceleration. Won't generate much separation. Occasional slips. Below average run after catch talent.

Per the database, there were only 6 TEs from 2014 through 2022 who received draft grades higher than 6.4: Kyle Pitts (7.19), Hunter Henry (7.00), OJ Howard (7.0), Eric Ebron (6.8), TJ Hockenson (6.8), David Njoku (6.8). Gerald Everett was one of several prospects who had 6.4 draft grades.

LZ has Dalton Kincaid virtually tied with Mayer, giving Kincaid a 6.45 draft grade. LZ says Zach Ertz is Kincaid's NFL comp. I've only seen highlights on Kincaid, haven't studied his games. Essentially, LZ says that Kincaid is a very good receiver, but a liability as a run blocker.

The player LZ likes the best is Luke Musgrave, with a 6.70 grade, comparing him to Dallas Goedert. LZ likes his route running, but says he needs to get stronger to be a blocker. Like Kincaid, I've only seen highlights on Musgrave.

The way LZ has the players graded, the 2023 draft could be the strongest TE draft class in the last decade. There were only 6 "plus" prospects in the prior 9 years, and now there are 3 all in the same draft. Moreover, the way LZ has them mocked, none of those 3 players will even come close to falling to the Rams at 36. Whichever of the 3 you like, the only way the Rams could get one of those guys would be to make a substantial trade up, because LZ has the last of the 3 being taken at pick 24. Not even staying at 36 for other TST favorites, like JMS, would work, because LZ has several of those guys all going in the 1st round as well. The presence of all 3 highly ranked TEs (we haven't even talked about that huge guy from Georgia, so maybe there are 4 really good TEs, I don't know how LZ has him graded) in the same draft could push 1 of the 3 considerably lower than they otherwise would have been selected, opening the door for the Rams to try to swoop in.

We could pose the exact same trade up question, just swap out Mayer for a different prospect, whether Kincaid, Musgrave, JMS (if you think he's a HOF center) or whoever else you like in that range. If you liked the player enough to take him at 36, do you love the player enough to trade the entire Rams draft to get him circa pick 20?

ESPN 11th overall

CBSSports 9th overall

PFF 17th overall

SH 16th overall

BB 11th overall

Drafttek 17th overall

PFN 11th overall

TDN 10th overall

NFLDB 12th overall

As you can see, Mayer is a top 20 prospect on all of these draft boards. On most of them, he's in the top 15. Despite those high rankings, it is very easy to envision scenarios where he's only the 3rd TE (who knows, maybe only the 4th) taken in the draft. Just rearrange the order in LZ's mock and Mayer instead of Kincaid would be the one taken at slot 24.


Ball magnet hands. Some catches, it is as if the ball gets sucked up into his hands like a vacuum cleaner. Calm, quiet hands even fully extended away from his body, catching the ball at absolute limit of his catch radius.

Made circus catch while a defender was draped all over him like a sweater.

Snatched high pass out of air on medium 3rd down. Really good ability to catch high passes above his head, has both hand eye coordination and strong hands. Concentration on ball even if defender flashes in front of him going for INT.

Ball typically won't come out even if he gets hit simultaneous with making the catch. Arms fully extended, ball sticks to his hands and he holds on as he's tackled to the ground. Holds on even after some big hits.

Big, sturdy receiving target with wide body frame.

Underrated athleticism with body control and light feet relative to his size. Can "low hurdle" defenders trying to tackle him and jump over players lying on the ground. Able to drop his pads and make nifty moves with his feet and legs in anticipation of hits, so that instead of getting chopped down or knocked off balance, he survives the contact, stays on his feet and can keep running. Avoids collisions if he he has to move his body sideways. Can fake like he's going to block while on move, then sidestep the defender to slip past and release into his route.

Faster than you think, because he has build up speed. So, if he has enough runway space in front of him, he'll accelerate and become difficult to tackle, because he's carrying so much momentum due to his size. ND even used him on jet sweeps, which you wouldn't think would work, because he's not a speedy WR, but once he gets around the corner and turns upfield, you don't want to be the CB on that side in his path.

Shrugs off tackles after the catch. Can stiff arm defenders.

Upper body flexibility to turn at the waist and adjust to the flight of the pass.

Changes speeds in middle of routes. Can disguise break point, but suddenly burst forward on wheel routes to create separation downfield.

Defenders normally cannot reroute him. They try to push him, but he's heavy and it has no effect, he just keeps going on his route.

Very good route runner. Head nods and hard jab steps are effective to deceive defenders and camouflage true break point. Smooth fakes and cuts on skinny posts, slants, short square-ins, out routes, spot routes. Threat to go up seam or run fade routes. Able to sink his hips and snap off routes to turn back towards the QB.

Outstanding jerk route, then snatches catch away from his body. Good wiggle in his hips to shape routes and make double moves. Faked out route, then went vertical on fade up the sideline.

Very good ability to track and adjust to the flight of the ball. Makes play design irrelevant, creates a playground element where you can just tell him to run down the field, have the QB throw the ball up and there's a decent chance Mayer will win if it is 1 vs 1, even if the ball isn't well thrown.

Great hand fighter to defeat jams. Windshield wiper hands swipe away defender's arms. Uses physicality to push off at the top of the route to create separation. Understands how to create leverage using his size and physicality when necessary to create space vs condensed zone coverage, helping the QB fit the pass between 2 defenders.

Money on 3rd and 4th down situations. I see this as a very important factor and we'll revisit the topic when we talk about his NFL comp.

Defense paid extra attention to him, which opened up opportunities for other ND receivers.

Who needs separation? Contested catch champ. Boxes out defenders like a basketball center getting a rebound. Catch with 2 guys all over him. Catch in a crowd between 4 defenders. Very nearly made an amazing circus catch with zero separation and safety all over him. Maybe not as good as Tony Gonzalez, but still, there is almost no such thing as Michael Mayer not being open. Doesn't matter if 2 guys are standing right next to him, if your QB is good enough to throw the ball accurately, it is possible to just throw the ball up for grabs and Mayer has a decent chance at beating the DBs to make the catch.

One of the most exciting things about Mayer to me is he shows the necessary traits to be a good option route runner in the NFL. He can read the coverage and his style of route running doesn't give away the route early. Medium 3rd down, he's part of a bunch set. His neutral body position through his step does not tip off what he's about to do, then makes a fluid inside turn, the pass is behind him, but he adjusts and makes the catch for a first down. This is part of how Travis Kelce and Mahomes destroy defenses. Kelce's not running a predetermined route on some plays, he just goes upfield and makes a decision on the fly what to do next.

Lined up different spots in formation. Wing, split wide, slot, In-line, multiple TE sets. Used as sift and move blocker, folded around on short pulls, blocked in space.

Flashes ability to knock smaller defenders backwards and finish them with attitude, shoving them to the ground. Made a bad block against CB in space, ducking his head, but stuck with it, eventually put the CB on skates, drove him back, then pancaked him.

Flashes strength and power when he gets technique right. Nice rep as in-line blocker where he lifts defender's arm up, moved feet well to sustain, really nice run block. Generated movement on DE on combo block by pushing him in hip area. As move blocker going to outside, he decked a LB. Blasted Sauce Gardner at the point of attack.

Flashed ability to be solid short yardage seal blocker. Near GL, nice job to get to inside gap and once he got to spot, too big for defender to get around him.

Good effort as a blocker. Even if he's downfield and has to run and hustle, gives effort to try to block. Wide base in his blocking stance. Has good blocking range, can flow out wide and block in space on zone runs.

Displays a very good understand of his block fit, even when it isn't a basic play. This really impressed me and gives me hope that he potentially could be a good blocker in the NFL, despite his inconsistency in college. Seems like he has good football IQ, just needs more coaching and experience.

Receiving talent underutilized, because ND didn't have good quarterbacks. I had Ian Book as a late round prospect. He was drafted in the 4th round, but waived by the Saints after only 1 season. He's now the 3rd string QB for the Eagles. The other QBs after Book weren't very good. Frustrating to watch the games, the QB would either miss Mayer, didn't see him or didn't have the courage to make tight window throws to give him opportunities to make plays. One snap, Meyer was literally like 2 yards in front of the QB and the QB threw the ball into the ground. Mayer was super wide open other plays and the ball wasn't even remotely close to him. What's going on at ND these days? They can't find a guy who can throw the ball straight?

Mayer runs an out route. QB scrambles forward in the pocket. TE slips up the sideline and is all alone in space, wide open for potential 40 yard TD. QB misses the throw. How do you miss that throw? There's no defender anywhere close to the TE.

Mayer had very good receiving stats in college, but his stats could have been even better if he had played on a team with a different offensive system and a better QB. Mayer spent a ton of his time not doing anything besides blocking, which seemed like a waste, because he's not that great a blocker. As good as he was at ND, honestly, I think he could be better in the NFL, because the pro game is better suited for his skill set. Pair him with Tom Brady in his prime on those Patriots teams, I think he would have been a great fit there.

A matchup problem. Too big for smaller DBs, too good to use a LB who isn't agile and can't keep up. His former ND teammate, Kyle Hamilton, maybe that guy could stop Mayer, but aside from elite safeties and LBs, I think he's going to eat up NFL defenses if they try to solo cover him with just average defenders.

Average age for draft prospect. Appears to have relatively clean injury history. Gronk had a bunch of injuries during his career, so maybe Mayer will have the edge in terms of durability.

Good football character and work ethic.

I don't know much about many of the other top prospects, but it is possible that Mayer has the lowest bust potential of any prospect in the entire draft. Even if he never becomes an All Pro, unless he gets hurt, you'd think that at the very minimum he is an NFL starting TE.

Could be a Day 1 starter in the NFL, ready to contribute immediately. Doesn't need a redshirt season.


Semi-drops and fumbles sometimes crop up on tape. Wildly bobbled catch in flat on pass that was behind him. Drop on pass that was low to his knees and behind. Drop on slant pass that was behind him. I call them semi-drops, because he didn't have a single drop I saw that I'd describe as an easy catch, they were all on passes that were at least slightly off target.

Nearly fumbled when hard hit knocked ball loose in his arms, almost slid down his side for what would have been costly fumble near the GL. Another play, defender slaps down on the ball as Mayer is running downfield, knocking the ball loose, Mayer struggles to regain the handle and it slips out of his hands like a wet bar of soap.

Doesn't burst off of the LOS into his route. Can't explode out of breaks on pivot routes or make sudden change of direction moves.

Sometimes slow out of his stance after the snap. Not a great short yardage run blocker, despite size. Not fast reacting to snap, poor footwork, not able to consistently drive forward and generate movement. Late out of his stance on short yardage 4th down snap.

At times, not fast enough as a move blocker to get all the way across the formation to cut off DE.

Has to rely on size and effort to make up for very sloppy blocking technique. His size and length completely wasted at times due to poor timing, technique or lack of quickness and agility. Tends to run to defenders, not through them when blocking on the move. Seemed like he almost never had to pass block, just run block and run routes.

When blocking head to head as in-line, he extends his upper torso too early with his feet too far back. This releases stored energy too early, prior to contact, instead of transferring the power into striking the defender. One play, I estimated that his feet moved forward 2 to 3 inches from his initial stance. If he had properly stepped to load, his feet should have moved forward at least a foot. Since this put him too far away from the defender, he couldn't engage his hips and uncoil into the opponent, robbing him of power and strength on the block.

Frequently misses placement with his outside hand, both his left and right hand. Wild hands flail outside the frame of the defender. Hand sometimes goes to the back nameplate of the defender, then he doesn't fix his poor hand placement. Hits targets too high. Some plays, it is like he's a blocker with no hands or feet, unable to control the block, the LB easily disengages and tackles the RB. "Catches" defenders on some blocks instead of striking them.

Some of his blocks look like a tickle fight. His hands aren't inside, locking up the defender like clamps, weak hand placements and inability to replace his hands makes it look like he's trying to tickle the ribs or arm pits of the defender.

Beaten by smaller defenders on run blocks. LB punches first, sheds his block. Trying to block in space on a jet sweep, doesn't bend at knees, pads high, upright body position, the LB blasts him off his feet, knocking TE off balance. Doesn't show sufficient agility to make small adjustments while blocking to stay with quicker defenders in tight quarters. A fast 2nd level defender attacking the LOS can sometimes beat him as Mayer can't slide over in time to protect the inside gap. Ducked head and LB flung him away. Ducked head after snap and EDGE swam over top of him.

Head gets way over his toes at times. Ducks his head into the block or leans forward. Crosses over with his feet instead of sliding his feet laterally. Back not at proper angle, both into first contact or as he tries to sustain. No hip snap. By leaning into defender and not keeping his feet square, he allows the defender to use countermoves and disengage from the block. Loses leverage battles, allows the defender to get lower, under his pads and be in more powerful body positions,

Enters move blocks as if he's trying to tackle the defender, with his helmet off to the side and his head ducked, trying to use his shoulder to hit the defender, sometimes causing him to whiff or weakly bounce off. I don't know why he would do this, seems like you should keep your head up so that you can see what you're blocking, then get your hands inside the frame.

Makes the block more difficult than it needs to be. Sometimes, all he needs to do is keep composure, slide his feet laterally, protect the blocking angle and force the defender to go through him or around him. Mayer gives "too much effort" at times blocking, trying to run his feet through the block, lunging towards the defender, then he gets off balance and out of position and the defender sheds the block. Pushed a CB backwards on a WR screen, but instead of settling down and sliding his feet, he overruns the blocking angle with poor footwork, allowing the CB to get by him. He had it, he was making a really good block at first, then he blew it by trying to do too much.

Needs more attention to detail with his blocking angle. Sometimes it is perfect, other times he's too far inside or too far outside.

Occasionally slips and loses his balance. Slipped and fell trying to run shallow cross, throwing off timing of play and contributing to an INT.

When going across the formation, doesn't have enough short area burst to stress the defense and make then feel like they need to race out to the flat to cut him off before he can turn the corner. If it is say a play action pass and the EDGE crashes in on the QB, the pass can become difficult, because the QB has to throw it over or around the defender and if the TE can't run fast enough, the angle isn't right, there is less margin for error or the QB might bail on it entirely and just throw the pass into the ground. Sometimes, you can't float it over the top, because there might be a 2nd defender lurking who could run under the TE and go for an INT. So, even on a short pass at the LOS, there are situations where Mayer's lack of speed can be a limitation.

His technique can improve, but he has inherent athletic limitations, so is he already close to his ceiling? Is there much developmental upside to his game besides just becoming a more consistent run blocker?

A younger brother, Mayer doesn't have a natural "alpha" personality to take charge and be a local leader from the front of the pack. He has good leadership skills, but I bet if he had his preference, he'd be in more of a lieutenant role than be the team general and try to command the room in front of the entire roster.

If you are a Mayer skeptic, you might argue that in reality he belongs on a similar tier as Drew Sample, a run blocking TE the Bengals drafted in the 2nd round in 2019. Most projections had Sample as about a 4th to 5th round prospect. The Bengals thought he'd be a good all around TE who would be a good blocker, had upside developmental value as a receiver and had great football character. Sample failed to establish himself as a starter and then suffered a season ending knee injury in 2022. Sample was drafted in between AJ Brown and Miles Sanders. He was 9 slots ahead of Taylor Rapp. Sample wasn't the only TE in that draft who flopped. Josh Oliver was a 3rd round pick. He hardly played as a rookie, making 3 catches. He broke his foot, missing his entire 2nd season. The Jags then traded him for a 7th round pick. That selection eventually ended up in the hands of the Rams and became Daniel Hardy.

Draft Grade and Pro Comp

1st round grade. Heath Miller (30th overall 2005, Steelers, Virginia)

Miller was an 11 year starter for the Steelers. He only averaged about 600 receiving yards per year. He ran 4.79 seconds in the 40. Miller was an important member of two Super Bowl championship winning teams. Whenever the Steelers needed to convert a 3rd down pass, it felt as if they only threw the ball to one of 2 players: Hines Ward or Heath Miller. Defenses couldn't stop either of those players.

Miller might not have been as good a receiving TE as Todd Heap of the Baltimore Ravens (31st overall, 2001), he wasn't the next Tony Gonzalez or Travis Kelce. He played on run oriented Steeler teams and wasn't targeted as much as some of their talented WRs, such as Antonio Brown. But, don't let that fool you, Heath Miller was a very good player and a critical component of their offense.

It feels cheesy to go with someone like Jason Witten for a comp. An answer that begs the question. So, I force myself not to use that comp, even though I think Witten is a very fair comparison.

Witten wasn't the starting TE for Dallas his rookie season. Dan Campbell, the current Detroit Lions coach, was the starter. Campbell was a run blocker, not much of a receiver.

You might think that okay, maybe Jason Witten is the ceiling for Michael Mayer and Heath Miller could be the floor. Is that true, or just perception? Over the course of his career, Witten had a catch rate of 71.4%, 7.6 yards per target and 54.1% of his receptions went for 1st downs. Heath Miller had a catch rate of 71.8%, 8.0 yards per target and 59% of his catches resulted in 1st downs. Across the board, you could argue that Miller was more efficient than Witten, even though Witten had almost exactly twice as many career receiving yards than Miller.

In our minds, we probably think of Jason Witten as this fantastic, star player and Miller of just a steady, solid player, but perhaps Miller was a really good player too, just the way the Steelers were set up and his role on that team, he was never going to be featured the way Witten was in Dallas. Maybe it doesn't matter at all whether we use Jason Witten or Heath Miller as the NFL comp for Michael Mayer.

The question remains, is there a great prospect the Rams could grab in the lower part of the 1st round and if so, would you be willing to trade the entire 2023 draft to get that player? Is Michael Mayer, Kincaid or Musgrave worth such an aggressive move? Which of the 3 TEs do you like best? Is at least one of the TEs so good that he'll ultimately wind up enshrined in the NFL HOF? If so, will we someday look back and blame Snead for not trying harder to get that player? Or, will Snead indeed cash in all his 2023 draft chips for one prospect, causing TST to lose their collective minds?