If you are a tight end near the top of the rankings for prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, odds are that you have been to Green Bay — or that you will be soon. This year, the Green Bay Packers are doing a remarkable amount of research on the incoming rookie tight end class ahead of the draft, focusing a significant portion of their 30 in-person prospect visits on the position.
Historically, the only players projected early in the draft who would receive an invite to Green Bay for a formal pre-draft visits those with major off-the-field questions. Outside of that, the team generally used the remainder of the visits on late-round prospects or potential undrafted free agents. That has not been the case in the last few years, however, as Brian Gutekunst and his staff have been much more willing to bring in larger groups of highly-ranked players. A year ago, the Packers drafted six players who had pre-draft visits in Green Bay, including two players drafted in the first 34 overall selections: Devonte Wyatt and Christian Watson.
It is therefore worth monitoring the Packers’ visits more closely than in past years, and one trend has stood out in the list of 20 or so prospects who have reportedly visited the Packers over the past few weeks: the team is prioritizing the tight end position.
Five different tight ends are on the current list of reported visits, and three of those players are projected as first- or second-round draft picks. That top group includes Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, and Darnell Washington from Georgia, all of whom are a bit different as prospects. Washington is a huge in-line player who was used only sparingly as a receiving threat; Mayer was the top option in the passing game for the Irish and was split wide or in the slot a great deal; and Kincaid was also primarily a receiver who likely fits as a wing or detached from the line.
In addition to that group, the Packers have also hosted a tight end viewed as a mid-round prospect (Josh Whyle of Cincinnati) and a likely late-round pick or UDFA (Baylor’s Ben Sims. In total, that’s five of the team’s 21 allotted visits used at the tight end position, with another nine slots still yet to fill.
The extent to which the Packers are examining this position group is a tell, much like the way the team’s front office focused on wide receivers a year ago. The trends across the two years and the two groups is even more pronounced when examining the distribution of the prospects that came (or are coming) to town:
- 2022 Wide Receivers: 4 players drafted in the top-60; two drafted between 60 and 150; one drafted after pick 200
- 2023 Tight Ends: three players ranked in the top 50 on Arif Hasan’s Consensus Draft Board; one player ranked just inside the top 150, one player ranked as a likely late pick/UDFA
In 2022, the Packers drafted one of those four top receiver prospects, trading up for Christian Watson. They also drafted one of the mid-round visitors, Romeo Doubs at #132, and their late-rounder in Samori Touré (#258).
With how closely the trend for the team’s tight end visits track with last year’s receiver visits, it is entirely reasonable to expect the Packers to draft one of these early-round tight end prospects, as they did with Watson last year. Doubling down on the position with a mid-round pick on a player like Whyle would be comparable to the selection of Doubs in round four.
There are still more formal visits yet to be reported, and it’s entirely possible that another one or two tight ends end up making a trip to Wisconsin in the next two weeks. If last year’s receivers are any indication, one or more of them could well be coming back in May to spend a much longer period of time there.