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The Packers need tight ends and 2023 is the draft to take one (or two)

Only two of the last eight drafts have had as much tight end depth on Day 1 and Day 2 as 2023 is expected to have.

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

As it stands today, the Green Bay Packers have a massive need at the tight end position going into the 2023 offseason. While the Packers roster four players at the position, all but Josiah Deguara is slated to hit the open market in the next free agency period.

Marcedes Lewis, who handles most of Green Bay’s in-line work, and Robert Tonyan, the best pass-catcher out of the group, are both going to be unrestricted free agents when this season ends. Reserve tight end Tyler Davis, who plays a significant amount of special teams snaps, is a restricted free agent after 2022. For the price it would cost to tag Davis — a projected $2.6 million — it seems unlikely that the Packers will ensure the right of first refusal on his negotiations.

Here’s the good news for Green Bay fans: Six tight ends are projected to go off the board in the top 100 picks of the 2023 draft. The last time that happened was in 2019 when the Packers took Jace Sternberger with the 75th pick. The time before that was in 2014 when the Packers took Richard Rodgers with the 98th pick.

It hasn’t been all bad news for Green Bay in deep tight end drafts, though. Jermichael Finley was a steal as the seventh tight end off the board and the 91st overall pick in the 2008 draft. Hopefully, the Packers can get something closer to a Finley than a Sternberger or a Rodgers in this upcoming class.

According to the consensus draft board, the following players are expected to be either Day 1 or Day 2 picks next April (sorted by their consensus board ranking):

  • #17 Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
  • #41 Darnell Washington, Georgia
  • #51 Dalton Kincaid, Utah
  • #62 Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
  • #90 Sam LaPorta, Iowa
  • #98 Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

Acme Packing Company recently wrote up why seven prospects should be highlighted as potential first-round selections for the Packers if the team does end up with a selection in the 17th overall range. One of those prospects, unsurprisingly, is Mayer, who led the Fighting Irish in receiving yards this season and was an instant impact player for Notre Dame beginning with his true freshman season in South Bend. For his career, Mayer was able to record 180 receptions and 2,099 receiving yards, despite only having played three seasons at the college level. He will be a viable pass-catcher and run-blocker on Day 1 in the NFL, a rarity for a position that typically needs years of adjustment time for production to match draft pick investment.

Washington is going to be a fan favorite as well, as he’s the prototypical replacement for an in-line blocker like Marcedes Lewis. While the slimmer Brock Bowers (6’4”, 230 pounds) catches passes for the Georgia Bulldogs, the larger Washington (6’7”, 270 pounds) does all the dirty work. Despite catching just 26 balls for 417 yards and two touchdowns this season, Washington was voted Second-Team All-SEC honors — behind Bowers — by the conference’s coaches for his blocking effort during Georgia’s undefeated regular season.

Kincaid started his college career at San Diego, where he earned FCS All-American honors at the non-scholarship program. He transferred up to Utah in 2020 and has been able to post 1,400 receiving yards and 16 touchdown receptions over the last two seasons, despite splitting the tight end position with Brant Kuithe — another future NFL player — in 2021. Kincaid arguably had the best season of a tight end in college football in 2022, but was snubbed when Bowers, Mayer and LaPorta were named the John Mackey Award finalists.

Musgrave, the nephew of former NFL offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, is coming off of a knee injury that cost him all but two games in the 2022 season. Over those two games, though, he was more involved in Oregon State’s passing game and hauled in 11 receptions for 169 yards and a score. At 6’6”, 252 pounds, Musgrave is expected to be a contributor in the running game while also possessing untapped athletic potential as a pass-catcher. Musgrave, who is technically a junior, has decided to declare for the 2023 draft despite his injured 2022 season.

LaPorta hails from Iowa, a tight end factory, where he managed to earn back-to-back All-Big Ten honors. The Hawkeyes’ passing offense has struggled lately (forever?), but LaPorta still managed to put together back-to-back 50-reception, 600-yard seasons. As a receiver at the high school level, LaPorta scored 50 touchdowns and nearly cracked 4,000 career receiving yards.

The final player to keep an eye on is Kraft from the FCS’ South Dakota State. Originally a high school running back and an all-state basketball player, he broke onto the scene with a 773-yard season in 2021 before a quieter 2022 campaign. He has experience lining up in multiple positions and helped push his team into the FCS Championship against rival North Dakota. The game will be played on January 8th, if you want to get an early look at the future pro.