GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here’s a look at the Green Bay Packers’ tight end situation ahead of the NFL Draft, including pertinent history that suggests which draft-worthy prospects might not be a target.
State of the Packers
Green Bay is set at tight end – for this year, anyway. Robert Tonyan presumably will be back as a restricted free agent, Marcedes Lewis is back as an unrestricted free agent, and former third-round picks Josiah Deguara (2020) and Jace Sternberger (2019) will vie for roles after rough seasons. Even the bottom of the depth chart is intriguing, with Dominique Dafney beating out Sternberger for playoff playing time. The group is rounded out by Georgia’s Isaac Nauta and former BYU defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi.
However, Tonyan will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2021 season. Considering the top-heavy structure of the Packers’ salary cap, can they afford another big contract if he gets close to duplicating his 2020 success? And how long can Marcedes Lewis, who will turn 37 next month, keep playing at a winning level?
Draft Position Ranking
10th out of 11. This is a horrendous tight end class, even by recent tight end standards. For years, it’s been said that the fullback position is going extinct in the NFL. To a lesser extent, the tight end position is going extinct on the college level. That, of course, trickles down to the NFL. Florida’s Kyle Pitts might be the best player in the entire draft but the drop-off is like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner off a cliff and suddenly realizing he’s no longer on solid footing.
Update: Jones Loses Necklace Honoring Father After Second of Four Touchdowns
There was an important update to this story a few hours after Packers running back Aaron Jones completed a four-touchdown performance against Detroit.
History Says You Can (Maybe) Forget These Guys
In the 16 drafts conducted by Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst, the Packers selected nine tight ends. While the prototypical tight end might be 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, the Packers have drafted two “short” tight ends: D.J. Williams (6-foot-2 1/8) with a fifth-round pick in 2011 and Deguara (6-2 3/8) with a third-round pick last year.
Eight of the nine ran the 20-yard shuttle faster than 4.50 seconds, with Andrew Quarless (4.55) being the outlier. Deguara ran his in 4.35 seconds last year.
Seven of the nine had hands measuring at least 9 3/4 inches. Heading into last year’s draft, Kennard Backman (9 3/8) was the lone outlier. Deguara’s hands measured just 9 inches. Because of that, we put him on the “maybe you can forget” list. Oops, but that’s the fun of this exercise.
The slowest of the drafted tight ends was Richard Rodgers, who ran a 4.87 in his 40-yard dash. At least Rodgers’ 10-yard time of 1.69 seconds was a tad faster than the historic average. Boise State’s John Bates (4.82), Virginia’s Tony Poljan (4.83), TCU’s Pro Wells (4.83), N.C. State’s Cary Angeline (4.88) and LSU’s Tory Carter (4.88) all were slow over 40 yards as well as 10 yards.
In case you were wondering, Tonyan measured 6-foot-4 5/8 and 236 pounds before the 2017 draft. He ran his 40 in 4.58 seconds and his shuttle in 4.34 seconds. With 10 1/4-inch hands, it’s little wonder why he didn’t drop any passes last year.