Green Bay Packers beat writer Paul Imig will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Packers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
NOTE: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players, but rather it’s a list of which players mean the most to how Green Bay will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered.
NO. 19 – BRANDON BOSTICK, TIGHT END
AGE / EXPERIENCE
25 / Third NFL season
WHY HE’S NO. 19
Brandon Bostick is an X factor for the Green Bay Packers this season. Since being picked up as an undrafted rookie free agent two years ago, Bostick has only shown flashes of his ability while being given limited opportunities. Last season, he had seven receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown. Those are also his career numbers, as Bostick spent his first season in Green Bay on the practice squad.
Under ordinary circumstances, an undrafted player with such a small amount of statistical backing to his name wouldn’t be ranked so high in a list like this. However, Bostick is not an ordinary talent. He had such hype surrounding him going into last season that there were reports of other NFL teams offering the Packers future draft picks for Bostick. That is very unusual for a player who had not accomplished anything during an actual game yet. But that once again demonstrates just how good Bostick has the potential to be.
If Bostick has a breakout season by leading Green Bay’s tight end group in receiving, it would be huge for the Packers. Andrew Quarless is a steady performer and is the presumed starter at tight end, but he doesn’t have the ceiling to be as good as Bostick.
It’s also possible that Bostick doesn’t do much this season. His range of statistical projection is as wide as any player on the roster. Bostick is No. 19 on this list, though, because the difference between him being a key contributor and him being a non-factor is very important for a Green Bay team that’s looking for someone to step up in what is all-but-assuredly the post-Jermichael Finley era.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2014
It’s unfair to expect Bostick to be a star in 2014. But with his ability, the mere possibility that he could be a star is what is so enticing about him.
Head coach Mike McCarthy stated this offseason that Bostick was the Packers’ best blocking tight end last season. That is a significant compliment and is one that could go a long way in Bostick quickly evolving into an every-down tight end. By comparison, Finley was a major threat in the passing game, but in obvious run situations, he wasn’t on the field. For Bostick to be the biggest receiving threat and the best blocker among the tight ends is impressive and can’t be overlooked.
Bostick is just now (in mid-June) returning from a foot injury — and subsequent foot surgery — that landed him on injured reserve late last season. But unless an injury sets him back again, Bostick should surpass his 2013 snap total of 144 by no later than Week 4.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT HIM?
In the event that 2014 is not a breakout season for Bostick, one benefit for the Packers is the options they still have at tight end. Quarless is the top one, and Green Bay can rest comfortably knowing that he’d get the job done at an acceptable level more often than not.
The Packers invested a third-round pick in tight end Richard Rodgers, too. Expecting Rodgers to be Green Bay’s best tight end right away as a rookie is unrealistic, but he has the skills (some of which he’s already shown during offseason training activities) to be the Packers’ long-term answer at the position.
Ryan Taylor is back in Green Bay for his fourth NFL season, though his career has been more about special teams contributions than anything he’s done on offense. Taylor is unlikely to play anything more than the 174 snaps he did as a tight end last season.
Jake Stoneburner is back for Year 2 after struggling to find himself as an undrafted rookie. Stoneburner will compete for snaps, but he’ll need to find a niche for himself in order to remain a part of the roster — and improved special teams play is a good place for him to begin.
Colt Lyerla is a wild card in the equation. The undrafted rookie tight end with a checkered past has all the talent to become a great NFL player, but it could take him at least one year as a minor-role type of player before he makes a significant impact.