NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Two Notre Dame skill players went early in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft Friday, as the Chicago Bears selected tight end Cole Kmet with the 43rd overall pick, and wide receiver Chase Claypool went to the Pittsburgh Steelers 49th overall. Defensive lineman Julian Okwara was selected in the third round (67th overall) by the Detroit Lions.
The first tight end selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, Cole Kmet went as the 11th pick of the second round (43rd overall) to the Chicago Bears. A Lake Barrington, Ill. native, Kmet is the first Notre Dame player drafted by the Bears since 2001 (Mike Gandy, OG).
In 35 games played for the Irish, Kmet reeled in 60 receptions for 691 yards (11.5 avg). No tight end in program history totaled more touchdown receptions in a season than Kmet’s six in 2019 (tied – Ken McAfee, 1977).
With Kmet’s selection, every Notre Dame week one starting tight end since 2003 has been drafted, beginning with Anthony Fasano.
Kmet became the 10th tight end in Irish history to have 400 or more yards in a season (first since Troy Niklas in 2013), and posted 43 receptions in 2019, the sixth-highest number of receptions by an Irish tight end in a single season, over eleven games. Kmet missed the first two games of the season with a collarbone injury.
Kmet posted four catches for 65 yards vs. Virginia, totaling 13 receptions over two games (vs. Virginia and at Georgia). Just two Irish tight ends have totaled more receptions over a two-game span (most was 16 by Kyle Rudolph in 2010 vs. Michigan and Michigan State) since 1996.
The Irish tight end totaled a career-high nine catches at Georgia, which tied the program mark for receptions in a single game by a tight end. He tallied 108 receiving yards and a touchdown (seven receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown coming in the first half), and was named the John Mackey Award’s Tight End of the Week in Week 4.
While a student at Notre Dame, Kmet also was a pitcher on the Irish baseball team, seeing action for 65 innings over two seasons and totaling 66 strikeouts. He led the team with eight saves as a freshman in 2018.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected the reigning Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP Chase Claypool with the 17th pick of the second round (49th overall).
The 2019 Camping World MVP, Claypool made his mark on Irish record books, ending his career as seventh in Notre Dame history in career receptions (150). In 2019, the Canada native led the Irish with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns while playing in all 13 games. His 13 receptions in the endzone were the sixth-most in a season by any Irish player.
After his final game in an Irish uniform, he had totaled the seventh-most touchdown receptions in Notre Dame history (19). Claypool also passed the 2,000 career receiving yard plateau in 2019, totaling 2,159 career receiving yards. Just five receivers in Notre Dame history have posted more touchdown receptions in a season than Claypool’s 13 in 2019.
Claypool posted a career-high four touchdown receptions vs. Navy this season, tying for the most in a single game by an Irish receiver with Maurice Stovall (vs. BYU, 2005). Three of those receptions came in the first half, marking the first time an Irish player has scored three receiving touchdowns in a single half since at least 1950.
Claypool passed the 400-yard receiving mark for the third consecutive season. He is among only four Notre Dame wideouts since 1996 to accomplish this feat (joining Michael Floyd, Rhema McKnight and Malcolm Johnson).
The newly-minted Steelers rookie will join fellow Domers Stephon Tuitt and Jarron Jones in Pittsburgh.
The Detroit Lions selected defensive lineman Julian Okwara with the third pick of the 3rd round (67th overall). Okwara will be reunited with brother and former Irish player Romeo Okwara in Motor City.
Chosen as a team captain for the 2019 season, Okwara made productive work of his time at Notre Dame, playing in 45 games and totaling 77 tackles (46 solo), two interceptions, four forced fumbles and 15 sacks.
In 2019, Okwara was tabbed as an AP Preseason Second-Team All-American and played in nine games before a season-ending injury at Duke. His three-sack and two-forced-fumble performance in Week 5 vs. Virginia earned him Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week and Pro Football Focus (92.3 grade) National Defensive Team of the Week honors, as well as the team game ball.
Okwara’s performance contributed to a defense that posted the most fumble recoveries and second-most takeaways in the FBS in 2019. In addition, Notre Dame has held 25 of 26 opponents over the past three seasons to 30 points or less. That includes ranked opponents LSU, Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia, Virginia and Navy.