FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig provides complete coverage of the Packers and the 2014 NFL Draft in his 14-part preview. You can find the entire series here.
TODAY’S POSITION: Tight Ends
Importance (1-to-10 scale): 7
On the roster
The biggest question for the Packers at tight end surrounds the health and free-agent status of Jermichael Finley. With a cautious medical staff in Green Bay that didn’t clear Nick Collins from the same injury (C3-C4 fusion surgery), it seems highly unlikely that Finley’s career will continue with the Packers. Perhaps another NFL team is willing to take a bigger medical risk, but Collins has found out the hard way that getting clearance after that injury is not easy. Either way, Green Bay’s starting tight end will probably be someone other than Finley in 2014.
There are two good choices currently on the roster to take over the starting job — or perhaps to split time somewhat evenly. Andrew Quarless had a full, healthy 2013 season after missing all of 2012, and he was valued enough by the front office that the Packers re-signed him this offseason. It wasn’t a lot of money (two years, $3 million), but Green Bay wouldn’t have offered him anything if there won’t plans to have him involved.
The other top choice currently on the roster who might be able to step in for Finley is Brandon Bostick. Undrafted in 2012, Bostick has quickly developed as the team’s most promising tight end. Coach Mike McCarthy stated this offseason that he believed Bostick to be the Packers’ best blocking tight end last season. Combine that with his potential playmaking ability and Bostick could be the next big target for Aaron Rodgers to work with down the middle of the field.
Ryan Taylor has settled into a special teams role, and aside from another 166 or so snaps on offense, it’s likely that his involvement remains mostly on the kick and punt units. Jake Stoneburner has potential, but he mostly struggled in his few opportunities as an undrafted rookie in 2013. Raymond Webber, a 6-foot-2, 237-pound tight end who was most recently in the Canadian Football League, was signed in February and will get a look in training camp.
Last five tight ends drafted
Philosophy at the position
For a while, general manager Ted Thompson was drafting tight ends in bulk. Despite having Finley in tow as the starter, the Packers selected one tight end in 2010 and two in 2011. Then, Thompson took two years off from adding any tight ends through the draft (though he did sign Bostick and Stoneburner as undrafted free agents).
Regardless of the team’s hopes for Bostick and Quarless, and even if Finley somehow winds up back in Green Bay, this still seems like the year that the Packers once again take a tight end in the first three rounds. Finley was a third-round pick, and though he had his detractors for inconsistent pass-catching production, it’s difficult to have the 91st overall pick in the draft be as productive as Finley was. Expecting a seventh-round pick (Taylor), fifth-round picks (Williams, Quarless) or an undrafted player (Bostick) to become stars is a recipe for failure. Of course it could happen, but the likelihood is small.
Tight end is one of the Packers’ four biggest needs in this draft, and Thompson will likely pick one up before Day 3 begins.
Day 1 name to remember (Round 1)
Jace Amaro, junior, Texas Tech (6-5, 265). The top tight end in this draft, Eric Ebron, will not make it to pick No. 21. He may not even still be around by the 10th overall pick. Amaro and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins are the top two options behind Ebron. However, taking either Amaro or Seferian-Jenkins in the first round could be a reach, as one of the two of them has a chance to drop into the late second round. So unless the Packers have a very strong preference, waiting is probably the way to go. Amaro has the college record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season, and with his size, he should be ready to contribute at the NFL level right away.
Amaro on whether he’s a tight end or a wide receiver: "I think I’m a mixture of both. I think that’s why I’m so unique. It’s kind of a revolution to the game now with what tight ends can bring across the board. I like to see myself as both a tight end and as a receiver."
Day 2 name to remember (Rounds 2-3)
C.J. Fiedorowicz, senior, Iowa (6-5, 265). He’d be a steal late in the third round. Fiederowicz shouldn’t drop a lot of passes, but he also isn’t the type of receiver that Amaro is. Fiederowicz is athletic for his big frame and moves well enough that he was also recruited to play basketball in the Big Ten.
Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7)
Jacob Pedersen, senior, Wisconsin (6-3, 238). Pedersen isn’t a great athlete by NFL tight end standards and will be undersized for the position at this level. However, he should get drafted somewhere in the final two rounds for his toughness, willingness to work and blocking ability.
FOXSports.com’s draft expert Peter Schrager says:
"Tight end could make sense for the Packers and I like Amaro, the do-everything 6-5 target out of Texas Tech. If North Carolina’s Eric Ebron surprisingly slips to 21, the Packers could have the card in early."