GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 47: TE Robert Tonyan (6-5, 237, third season, Indiana State)
A player’s greatest ability is availability. Availability was Tonyan’s big issue last season.
The potential-packed Tonyan had a 28-yard reception in Week 1 at Chicago and a 22-yard catch at Dallas in Week 5. By far the most athletic player at the position, those plays should have been jumping-off points for Tonyan. Instead, he suffered a hip injury on that catch against the Cowboys and missed the next five games. When he returned, he was a nonfactor with five catches for 34 yards in the final six regular-season games and no catches in the playoffs.
In 11 games, Tonyan caught 10-of-15 passes (66.7 percent) for 100 yards (10.0 average) and one touchdown. The injury limited him to 193 snaps. He didn’t drop any passes but also didn’t break any tackles.
Tonyan perhaps faces a make-or-break training camp. A team can’t wait on potential forever. The team used third-round picks the past two drafts on tight ends Jace Sternberger and Josiah Deguara. Sternberger and veteran Marcedes Lewis figure to enter training camp as the primary players at the position.
“He’s a really talented player,” coach Matt LaFleur said of Tonyan late last season.
Will Tonyan ever put that talent together? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. To be sure, he has a superb toolbox at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds and 4.58 speed in the 40. Of course, a lot of talented players with a lot more experience than Tonyan haven’t panned out, so raw ingredients don’t always make a finished product. A former quarterback and receiver at Indiana State, the injury not only took him off the field for a big chunk of last season but it robbed him of development on the practice field.
Fortunately for Tonyan, he’s been surrounded by wise veterans. Jimmy Graham and Lewis have been willing mentors, and Tonyan is spending his second offseason working out with San Francisco’s George Kittle, who is perhaps the best tight end in the NFL.
“It’s just nice because it gives me hope I can do it,” Tonyan said last year of his time with Kittle. “Going through the training that he does and competing with him every day, whether it’s in the weight room or on the field, he puts positive thoughts in my head like you can do this.”
Why he’s got a chance: Sternberger figures to enter training camp as the starter but that’s more projection than production. As was the case with Tonyan last year, injuries ruined Sternberger’s season. With height and speed unmatched by the team’s other tight ends, Tonyan remains a potential X-factor. Time on the field with Aaron Rodgers should give him an early edge over Deguara.
“How he sees things is much different than how the normal quarterback sees things,” Tonyan said last year. “So how he wants us to run routes, sometimes he just wants us to go be football players. And I love that and respect that about him. That means he trusts us to go out and make plays for him.”
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