Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 [or maybe he will be?], but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 12 Cole Kmet
Position: Tight end
NFL Experience: 2nd year
Looking back: As was to be expected, Bears rookie tight end Cole Kmet eased his way into the NFL. Between learning routes and learning blocking schemes, the tight end position can be a tricky position for rookies. The first half of the season, Kmet played only about one-third of the Bears’ offensive snaps. By the end of the season, he was playing 90% of snaps.
Kmet caught 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He coughed up one costly fumble in a Week 17 loss to Green Bay, but otherwise limited his mistakes. It was a solid first year of growth for the 2020 second-round draft pick from Lake Barrington. Kmet spent his offseason working toward finishing his Notre Dame degree and flying helicopters with tight end Jimmy Graham in Miami.
Looking forward: The 2021 season will be a big year for Kmet. The Bears want to see even more offensive output from him. If he can emerge as a threat in the red zone, that would ease the potential loss of Graham, should the Bears choose not to re-sign Graham after the 2021 season. Ideally, the Cole Kmet-Justin Fields connection will be evident by the end of 2021. The Bears hope they have a dangerous young duo in the red zone, much as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kmet was the Bears’ highest draft pick in 2020. After a learning year, the team is hoping to see its investment pay off for the offense and for a young quarterback in Fields. Kmet is one of the key young players to watch in 2021, in terms of development for the future. This season should give the Bears a better understanding of what exactly they have in Kmet.