Brian Kelly thinks Bears rookie TE on par with Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph

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When the Bears drafted Notre Dame Cole Kmet in the second round, he moved into a crowded room at the Bears facility.

But his old college coach believes he’ll be in a far more select club soon.

Via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he believes Kmet will be among the top tight ends in the NFL — having coached several of them himself.

“What they’re getting is an athletic tight end that is going to impact their offense immediately,” Kelly said. “He’s smart. He’s got the capabilities to get better and better as he continues to develop. Having a lot of tight ends on your roster is one thing. Having Cole Kmet, well, that’s another.

“I’ve had Travis Kelce (at Cincinnati), Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Durham Smythe. I’ve had a number of tight ends that are doing exceedingly well and have been All-Pros in the NFL. Cole Kmet will be in line with all of those guys.”

The Bears have tried to hoard tight ends like toilet paper, but they’re stuck with a bunch of single-ply. Last season, their tight ends combined for 46 catches, 416 yards and two touchdowns, and when they drafted Kmet, he became the 10th one on the depth chart. They’ve since cut one to get back to nine, but after signing Jimmy Graham and using their top pick on Kmet, they clearly want to make it a priority.

Kmet had 43 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games last year, and also 10 saves as a pitcher for the baseball team.

“This is a full-time job now,” Kelly said. “He doesn’t have to worry about academics. He’ll be much better at route running, in-line blocking, the technique associated with combination blocks, working with the offensive line — all those areas, he’s going to really be able to elevate his technical game.

“He’s a smart football player. He’s an athletic football player. I think the technical things, you’ll see great improvement.”

And that could put him in the class of those other tight ends Kelly has coached, which would be great news for the Bears as they look for someone to stand out in a crowded field.