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Who won Bears tight-end battle between Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham

Has second-year pro Cole Kmet unseated Jimmy Graham as the Chicago Bears’ top tight end?

NFL: Chicago Bears Minicamp Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the Chicago Bears used a second-round pick — their top selection in the 2020 NFL Draft — on Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. The move came less than two months after the team invested a two-year, $16 million contract into veteran Jimmy Graham. While the tight ends could share the field, it seemed like one’s work in the passing game would come directly out of the workload of the other.

Graham ended up seeing the lion’s share of the targets for the position that year, but Kmet’s emergence late in the season suggested the balance might flip in 2021.

Verdict

Just as the Bears will start Andy Dalton over the more impressive Justin Fields at quarterback, it seems Graham will hold a larger role in the offense than Kmet early in the season. Even so, Kmet should see more snaps than he did a year ago and will get plenty of chances to seize the top job. The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain highlighted Kmet’s athletic prowess when discussing the team’s most impressive offensive players, an attribute which could make him a favored target of Fields when the QB change inevitably occurs.

Fantasy football implications

Graham’s penchant for delivering touchdowns near the goal line — six of his eight touchdowns in 2020 came on plays within 10 yards of the end zone — will give him streaming value, but Kmet looks like the smarter play in season-long leagues. Even if lacks Graham’s length, Kmet probably exceeds him in most other relevant areas at this point in their respective careers.