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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 28 Michael Mayer

Michael Mayer
Michael Mayer (© Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on Thursday in Kansas City, so Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move on to our projected No. 28 – Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, who was a four-star prospect in the 2020 class.


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No. 28: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Where they were ranked: The Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic standout was a high four-star tight end right outside of five-star status along with being the top player in the state rankings and third in the position rankings behind five-stars Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington.

Recruitment: Notre Dame offered Mayer late in his sophomore year, he visited South Bend in January for junior day and then by the summer before his junior season, the four-star tight end was committed to the Irish. Many of the major national powers were also after Mayer but he was enamored with Notre Dame from the start.

“They are obviously Tight End U. and produce tight ends in the NFL while getting a good education,” Mayer said at the time. “If football doesn’t work out in the end, then you still have a good degree. … They’re always up there year-in and year-out. It’s an unbelievable experience to know they want me on their team.”

Biggest question: This has been a question with Mayer since his high school days: Is he fast enough and twitched up enough to produce at the highest level in the NFL?

Michael Mayer
Michael Mayer (Nick Lucero/

Memories: Mayer was in five-star consideration right until the very end of the rankings process for the 2020 class and his performance at the All-American Bowl that year made the final decision even tougher since he was so steady and productive in San Antonio.

I fear we made the wrong decision. If a tight end is taken in the first round it looks like it will be Mayer. He did not blow me away with his athletic ability at the all-star event but he had a highly productive career at Notre Dame and is definitely worthy of a first-round grade.

We just loved Gilbert and Washington more in that class based off projection and their freak athletic abilities. Gilbert looked like a can’t-miss type prospect because he was so big, so filled out physically and moved so incredibly well but off-the-field issues plagued his college career.

Washington was such a physical freak at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds in high school that he looked like an NFL player when he was a junior at Las Vegas (Nev.) Desert Pines. While he was a tad more lumbering he still moved incredibly well for his size and had great hands. From a projection standpoint, it would’ve been hard to turn those two down for Mayer, who was highly-skilled but not nearly as athletic.

It is a good learning lesson for us even if there are still questions about Mayer’s athletic ability in the NFL. Falling in love with what you see from a physical standpoint can only be one consideration in projections. With hindsight being 20/20, putting Mayer as a five-star (if he does go in the first round, if not then we were dead-on accurate) would have been prudent. But at the time Gilbert and Washington just looked they had so much more upside.