We finish our grading of the offensive skill positions (with apologies to John Kuhn) with the Tight Ends. See our report cards for the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers for reference.
There's an unquestioned starter at the tight end position. After that, it drops off to the backups, who fall into vastly different roles. Our confidence in the backups is assessed accordingly.
Starter: Jermichael Finley
Backup all-around tight end: Andrew Quarless
Depth tight end/H-back: D.J. Williams
Depth blocking tight ends: Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor
Practice squad fodder: Brandon Bostick, Eric Lair
Confidence in starter - High, with slight hesitation: Finley is capable of being a game-changing tight end, a matchup nightmare, and an impressive blocker. He expects a Gronk-like season out of himself this year, and I for one hope that his chemistry problems with Aaron Rodgers will be solved with a full slate of OTAs, mini-camp, and training camp. However, we can't quite shake the slight worry that he can't live up to his full potential, as he drops balls a bit too often and can tend to disappear for an entire game from time to time.
Confidence in backup - Very low: In this case, I'm referring to Quarless only. I don't think he'll be recovered enough to play until the second half of the season at the earliest, and if I were a betting man, I'd have to put my money on him being out for all of 2012.
Confidence in depth - Above average: These players' skills are matched up perfectly with their roles. Williams won't be asked to shoulder a lot of the load in the passing game, but can contribute from time to time; Crabtree and Taylor are very good blockers who are also very good on special teams. It's highly unlikely that any of them will shock the world during training camp, but that's not why they're on the roster. They'll perform well without a whole lot of potential for excelling beyond their roles. The young depth guys are just that - practice bodies who are long-term projects.
Final grade- B: The starter is capable of being one of the best tight ends in the league; we're just not sure if he can put it all together and live up to the hype. The backups, while not flashy, get the job done, aside from one whose injury makes him a major question mark. That gives a positive grade, though one that won't really impress your parents all that much.