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Michael Mayer Declares for 2023 NFL Draft, Will Skip Notre Dame's Bowl Game

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 7, 2022

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 12: Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) reacts with frustration after an offensive play during the Notre Dame Fighting Irish versus Navy Midshipmen game on November 12, 2022 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer has declared for the 2023 NFL draft and will not play in the Gator Bowl against South Carolina.

Mayer told Pete Thamel of ESPN about his decision to go pro.

The junior finished the 2022 season with 67 receptions for 809 yards and nine touchdowns. His 180 career receptions are the most all-time for a Fighting Irish tight end after Mayer surpassed Tyler Eifert this year.

Tyler Eifert @tylereifert

Met <a href="https://twitter.com/MMayer1001?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MMayer1001</a> back in the day. By the size of that neck as a sophomore I knew he was going to break all my records! Tried to give him professional advice to sit out this year, he didn’t listen. 😂📈 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GOIRISH?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GOIRISH</a> <a href="https://t.co/e5TdQUdBUN">pic.twitter.com/e5TdQUdBUN</a>

Eifert had high praise for Mayer in an interview with The Athletic's Pete Sampson, comparing him to NFL great Rob Gronkowski:

"It's obviously a pretty crazy comparison, but he just reminds me of Gronk in a lot of ways. If you watch Gronk, he actually doesn't run very good routes, at all. But he just knows how to use his body. Some guys try to create separation at the top of the route by running away or putting like some juke or head fake or something. But the bigger tight ends, they want you to be close to them so they can use their body to create separation. And I think Mike does a really good job of that. For how big he is, he can also go up and get the ball and make those really tough contested catches, too."

Like Gronkowski, Mayer will be difficult to cover thanks to his physical attributes. At 6'4" and 265 pounds, he's too big for cornerbacks, and he has the speed to outrun linebackers.

Mayer is not only the best tight end on Bleacher Report's 2023 big board, but he is also the No. 5 player overall with an 8.8 grade. Projecting him to land 16th overall with the Cincinnati Bengals, Derrik Klassen described him as "a tank with the ball in his hand."

"He doesn't have terrifying speed, but his balance of agility, balance, and strength at that size is elite," he wrote.

Notre Dame Football @NDFootball

Hang it in the Louvre<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalTightEndsDay?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalTightEndsDay</a> <a href="https://t.co/4jZo6ldmgA">pic.twitter.com/4jZo6ldmgA</a>

It's tough to compare any college tight end to Gronkowski because the four-time Super Bowl winner was arguably the most dominant player ever at the position, but you can see why Eifert drew the parallel with Mayer.

Notre Dame finished the season strong and left you wondering what might have been if the Fighting Irish hadn't fallen apart against Marshall and Stanford. You wouldn't blame Mayer for feeling like he had unfinished business in South Bend.

Given how highly he's rated, though, suiting up for the Fighting Irish in 2023 wouldn't have done much for his NFL draft stock. Declaring now was probably an easy call.