SOUTH BEND – 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, Kmet is the first Notre Dame player drafted by the Bears since 2001 (Mike Gandy, offensive guard).
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.
The Chicago Bears also drafted Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson with the 50th pick in the draft, taking him 18th overall in the second round.
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 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).
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.
The Indianapolis Colts were also busy on Friday night, making three picks. The Colts took USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th pick, then traded with the Lions to select Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor seven picks later at No. 41. In the third round, the Colts selected Utah safety Julian Blackmon.
Recapping the first round, No. 1 overall was Joe Burrow, the quarterback from LSU going to the Cincinnati Bengals. The SEC had a record nine of the 15 picks in the first round and had 15 total players selected in the first 32 picks.
The NFL Draft will wrap up Saturday with rounds four through seven.