With Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett overseeing the Green Bay Packers’ offense, there figures to be plenty of “12” personnel sets in 2019. And to be effective, the Packers need talent at the tight end position.
With Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan returning in 2019, Green Bay has the bodies necessary for two-tight end sets. However, an influx of young talent could be just what the doctor ordered for the Packers’ offense to return to its potency of the early 2010s with Jermichael Finley.
Fortunately, there are several potential instant contributors planning to hear their names called in the first round Thursday night. But for the Packers to select one of them, it would require a major break from tradition.
In the modern draft era, Green Bay has not drafted a tight end in round one often. Two times to be exact. They last did so in 2000 with Bubba Franks, who went on to play eight seasons with the Packers and reach three Pro Bowls after being drafted 14th overall. Before that? One would have to go back to 1970 when the Packers selected Elon’s Rich McGeorge with the 16th pick.
In fact, Green Bay has been much more inclined to wait until after the first three rounds to draft the tight end. Since that same timeframe of 1970, the Packers have chosen the position just three times in rounds two and three. Meanwhile, they have spent 16 selections in round four or later. Kennard Backman, in 2015, was the last tight end drafted by the Packers.
The Packers certainly will have their options in 2019, with Iowa’s duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant leading the charge. Behind them, Alabama’s Irv Smith, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger, and Ole Miss’s Dawson Knox figure to make up the next wave of selections. With three picks in the top 44, Green Bay owns a unique opportunity to draft a future starting tight end without sacrificing the ability to bolster other positions in the first two days. Well-noted by many draftniks is that Green Bay’s offense could be assisted by the presence of additional receiving weapons. A tight end with the ability to stretch the field could be just as game-changing as any wide receiver in this draft class.
With Lewis on a one-year deal and Graham carrying a much more advantageous out in his contract after year two, the Packers will need to address the tight end position at some point in the near future. And with a few weapons at the top of the draft this week, Green Bay could certainly pick the position in the opening round for the first time in nearly two decades.