Michael Mayer: The Next Great Tight End?
The Las Vegas Raiders selected Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer with the 35th overall pick of the 2023 NFL draft. Mayer will presumably step right in for Darren Waller as the starting tight end in Las Vegas after Waller was traded to the Giants back in March. Here’s an early look at Mayer’s fantasy football value in the NFL.
Click here for more 2023 Player Profiles!
Michael Mayer’s Profile
Heading into the draft, Mayer was considered as one of the two top tight end prospects along with Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, so it was quite the surprise when Mayer fell out of the first round and was the third tight end taken off the board (behind Kincaid and Sam LaPorta). Mayer is a prototypical tight end. Standing at 6’5 and nearly 250 pounds, he can out-physical nearly any defender and has an almost Rob Gronkowski-like way of never being tackled after the catch. In his three-year college career, Mayer racked up 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning All-American honors in 2022 while also leading all tight ends in contested catches with 17. Mayer is capable of lining up nearly anywhere in the formation—he took 463 snaps inline, 202 snaps from the slot, and 63 snaps from out wide last season.
The Raiders Offense with Mayer
Mayer joins a Raiders team that has an absolutely loaded passing attack. The Las Vegas wide receiving corps consists of Davante Adams, arguably the best receiver in football, as well as Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow. This is a little bit concerning for Mayer as all three receivers are bound to receive a decent amount of volume—Adams, Meyers, and Renfrow have each had seasons with at least 100 targets. Throw in the fact that reigning 1st-team All-Pro Josh Jacobs will surely continue to receive plenty of carries on the ground, and Mayer might not see as much volume as some of the other premier tight ends in the NFL.
While volume might be a potential drawback for Mayer, one thing is certain: schematically, he is a perfect fit for the Raiders. He should be able to fit right into Darren Waller’s empty shoes as the starting tight end in this offense. I don’t want to keep comparing Mayer to arguably the greatest tight end of all time, but Rob Gronkowski did have his most dominant seasons with Josh McDaniels, the current head coach of the Raiders, as his offensive coordinator. This is a great sign for Mayer because it’s clear that there is a role cut out for him in the offense—it will simply be a matter of whether he can assert himself as the #2 option in this offense to maximize his production, especially considering quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has proven to have an affinity for targeting the tight end position after he helped George Kittle become one of the best tight ends in the league.
One interesting factor to keep in mind with Mayer is the rookie tight end learning curve in the NFL. Because tight ends essentially have to learn two positions—offensive line and receiver—the amount of rookies that have immediate success is far lower compared to other positions. Only three rookie tight ends have ever eclipsed 700 receiving yards in their first season this century—Kyle Pitts, Jeremy Shockey, and Evan Engram. Mayer certainly has the talent to add his name to the list of outliers, but fantasy managers should understand that it might take some time for him to fully blossom.
As for the other players in this offense, I think Mayer’s presence leads to a slight knock to both Meyers’ and Renfrow’s fantasy value. Davante Adams is dominant enough that he’ll be able to produce regardless of the people around him, but Meyers and Renfrow will likely see a dip in volume. I’d treat them both as low-end WR3s/FLEX options that are only worth considering in half-PPR and PPR leagues.
Assessing Mayer’s Fantasy Value
Currently, Mayer is being drafted as the overall TE20 according to Underdog ADP. He looks to be a great value pick at that spot—Mayer is going behind guys like Juwan Johnson, Greg Dulcich, and Tyler Higbee, who, while not bad options, will be in far worse offenses than Mayer and will be rather inconsistent. Obviously, fantasy managers know by now that the tight end position is a wasteland and nearly impossible to get right, but I’m willing to bet on Mayer’s talent considering the opportunities he is bound to receive. He won’t see the volume necessary to be in the elite tier of tight ends just yet, but should easily be able to compete with guys like David Njoku and Pat Freiermuth to be a low-end TE1.
The Bottom Line
- Michael Mayer is an extremely solid tight-end prospect with physical traits similar to Rob Gronkowski.
- Mayer joins a Raiders offense that is already stacked in the receiving game, so he will certainly have to compete for targets.
- Mayer will benefit from being in Josh McDaniels’ tight-end friendly system and has the chance to buck the trend of disappointing rookie tight ends in fantasy.
- At his current ADP of TE20, Mayer could be a steal: he has the talent and opportunity to leap-frog some of the tight end streamers and become a startable option week in and week out.