For the second year in a row, the Green Bay Packers used a third-round pick on a player who had visited the team in the pre-draft process. Last year, they traded up to snag linebacker Oren Burks. In 2019, it was Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger who was the pick, chosen with the 75th overall selection.
The Packers wasted no time at all in rushing their card up when going on the clock at 75, however, a sign that Sternberger was the player they were targeting on their board as the picks counted down. Indeed, the team’s brass expressed great excitement about being able to land the athletic tight end prospect with that pick, saying that he was at the top of their draft board. “He was the best player available for us at this time,” said co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan. “It worked out, because it was a position that we value, and we needed to get a young guy in the mix.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the concept of need at the position, saying that the team did not feel compelled to draft a tight end if the board did not allow for it. “It wasn’t something that I felt like we had to add in this draft,” he said. “He was the best player on our board, so that’s the way we went.”
The current depth chart at the position includes veteran players like Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis, who will likely do the heavy lifting for the 2019 season, as well as young rising cult hero Robert Tonyan. With that group in place, Sternberger will be expected to contribute early on without being on the top line of the depth chart. As Sullivan described it, “I don’t think there’s pressure for him to come in here and be Superman.”
Sternberger, for his part, sounds thrilled to play behind established veterans. On a conference call with Packers reporters, he expressed plenty of excitement about his new teammates. “What better opportunity can you have?” he asked. “Anything, any advice that they give me, anything they tell me, even if they’re being hard on me, I’m going to take it in.”
Described as a “late bloomer,” Sternberger started off his career at Kansas before moving to junior college. “I was on my third offensive coordinator at Kansas,” he said, describing the circumstances of his circuitous route to College Station. “(It just wasn’t the best fit overall. I felt like me going the juco route was my best opportunity to get recruited by everybody.” Recruited he was — landing at A&M early on in the process. “Coach (Jimbo) Fisher gave me the opportunity to be the number one tight end at A&M, and I took that opportunity head-on and it worked out for the better.”
Now, after one year as a college starter, he’s a third-round pick and a Packer. It may even take some time for that to sink in for him. “If you were to tell me that Aaron Rodgers was going to be my quarterback in about four years,” he said, ““I would have laughed at you and called you a liar.”
Nobody’s lying to you now, Jace. Welcome to Green Bay.