Mel Kiper Jr: Notre Dame Football Tight End Tommy Tremble ‘Plays Like A Linebacker’ And Has Plenty Of NFL Draft Intrigue
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Tommy Tremble ‘Plays Like A Linebacker’ And Has Plenty Of NFL Intrigue

Tommy Tremble came to Notre Dame with buzz around his upside as a receiver and left with everyone impressed by his blocking.

It caught the NFL’s attention too.

So much so that Tremble, a two-year contributor at tight end for the Irish, declared for the 2021 NFL draft after three years despite a junior season with limited pass-game contributions. He was sixth on the team in catches and yards, didn’t score a touchdown and played the second-most snaps among Notre Dame tight ends. He made them count, though, with his obvious affinity for contact in the run game.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football junior tight end Tommy Tremble
Tremble had only 35 catches at Notre Dame, but stood out as a blocker. (Andris Visockis)

“Plays like a linebacker,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Great blocker, one of the best blocking tight ends you’ll see.”

In terms of draft stock, Kiper and other draft analysts think his offerings are worthy of a mid-round pick at worst. Kiper slotted him as the No. 8 tight end in his position-by-position rankings, while The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has him fourth. A day-two selection remains a strong possibility.

“I think no later than the third or fourth round,” Kiper said. “Some think second round. That might be just a little high, but there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be in that second group of tight ends with Pat Freiermuth from Penn State, Hunter Long from Boston College, Tre’ McKitty from Georgia. No reason Tommy Tremble can’t be graded right after Freiermuth and be the third tight end taken.”

NFL teams have demonstrated a willingness to overlook modest production in favor of traits at tight end in recent years. In the last three drafts, there have been seven tight ends taken who had 35 of fewer career catches in college. Tremble hopes to be the eighth. Of the prior seven, five were drafted before the end of the fourth round.

In some of those instances, the draft pick was a raw player or someone new to the tight end position who displays high receiving upside. In others, the blocking was too impressive to ignore, even if that meant a potential limited receiving impact. Elsewhere, it was someone who was blocked on the depth chart until later in his career or shared snaps.

The 6-3, 252-pound Tremble falls into a bit of all three. He’s coveted for his physicality and blocking ability, but there’s still an intriguing tool kit to be an impact receiving tight end. He ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at The Opening Atlanta regional in 2017, the fastest of any tight end at a regional that year. He’s nearly 30 pounds heavier now, but examples of him running past safeties and linebackers show up on his 2019 and 2020 tape.

“Although his production is lacking, his tape is enough to get evaluators excited,” Brugler wrote. “He displays the competitiveness to be a bulldozer as a run-blocker and ties up defenders in pass pro. He needs to mature as a route-runner and finisher, but he flashes the athleticism and body control to work past underneath defenders and make himself available as a target.”

After redshirting in 2018, Tremble caught 35 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns from 2019-20. Freshman star Michael Mayer seized a passing-game role in training camp and led Notre Dame tight ends in snaps (564) and catches (42, tied for the team lead). He was the primary tight end in Notre Dame’s 11 personnel, which the Irish used on about half their snaps.

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That meant fewer targets for Tremble, who played in multi-tight end formations out of which Notre Dame ran the ball more often than it threw it. Tremble played 472 snaps in 12 games and was targeted 28 times, which also ranked sixth on the team. He had 19 catches for 218 yards.

NFL teams understand it’s important to look at those numbers in the context of his playing time and Mayer’s presence, but the production still leads to some questions. If he is capable of providing big plays and has receiving upside, why wasn’t he more impactful in the passing game even when he was playing?

“He had some drops this year,” Kiper said. “He’s not as dependable and reliable catching the ball as you’d want. He made some improvement, and he knows he has to work on that to be a complete tight end. He has a chance to be a really good player in this league. If he can become more of a dependable player catching ball – you know he will be as good a blocker as you’ll find – he has the size, presents a good target to the quarterback and plays hard every down. There’s a lot to like.”

And enough to suggest his best days may be ahead of him.

“Overall, Tremble was underutilized as a receiver in college and therefore unrefined in areas,” Brugler wrote. “But he is an ascending pass-catcher and displays the point-of-attack skills to be an asset as a blocker. He projects as a better pro than a college player as he continues to develop.”

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