Thompson, McCarthy love to draft tight ends

Today is the seventh day of two weeks of Green Bay Packers coverage leading up to the April 25 beginning of the NFL draft.

April 12: Five best draft moments in the past 25 years
April 13: Five worst draft moments in the past 25 years
April 14: Quarterbacks position preview
April 15: Running backs/fullbacks position preview

April 17: Guards/centers position preview
Today: Tight ends position preview
April 19: Wide receivers position preview
April 20: Defensive linemen position preview
April 21: Linebackers position preview
April 22: Cornerbacks position preview
April 23: Safeties position preview
April 24: Ted Thompson’s draft strategy
April 25: Forecasting the first-round pick
Importance (1-to-10 scale): 5
On the roster
Starting tight end Jermichael Finley will be back in 2013 to play out the final year of his current contract and will be on the field a lot. The drop issues that slowed Finley’s progress for more than a year disappeared late last season. During the final six games, he caught 25 passes and didn’t drop a single pass. If that continues, he could be one of the Packers’ most valuable players in 2013.
With Tom Crabtree now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay still has other talented backup tight ends. Andrew Quarless will be returning from a serious knee injury that kept him sidelined the entire 2012 season. Quarless is still only 24 years old and has Finley’s frame. How well he plays post-surgery will be a question mark, however.
D.J. Williams, who was college football’s best tight end in 2011, has yet to get on the field much in the NFL. He’s undersized but is a talented pass catcher. Williams must earn some snaps this season before it’s too late.
The Packers also have Ryan Taylor returning, but he is mostly a special teams player. Green Bay recently added 28-year-old tight end Matthew Mulligan on a one-year deal to provide some quality run-blocking for this unit.
Last five tight ends drafted
2011 — D.J. Williams, Arkansas: fifth round (141st overall) — still with the Packers
2011 — Ryan Taylor, North Carolina: seventh round (218th overall) — still with the Packers
2010 — Andrew Quarless, Penn State: fifth round (154th overall) — still with the Packers
2008 — Jermichael Finley, Texas: third round (91st overall) — still with the Packers
2006 — Clark Harris, Rutgers: seventh round (243rd overall) — released in September 2007; currently with the Bengals
Philosophy at the position
General manager Ted Thompson likes to draft tight ends, and coach Mike McCarthy seemingly can’t get enough of them on his roster. The Packers have drafted three tight ends in the past three years despite having Finley on board and waiting to live up to his full potential. 
But, after not drafting a tight end in 2012, don’t expect that to happen again. Finley is in the final year of his expensive contract, Quarless is an unknown factor based on his major injury and Williams — for reasons difficult to understand — has not yet done anything in the NFL. 
That could open the door for the Packers to draft a tight end — perhaps even in the early rounds — with the hope and expectation that he is ready to become the full-time starter in 2014.
Day 1 name to remember (Round 1)
Tyler Eifert, senior, Notre Dame (6-5, 250). Eifert is the only tight end deserving of being a first-round pick this year and is the clear-cut top player at his position. Eifert has good size and speed and is a true pass-catching threat. For a player with his play-making ability, he’s also a good blocker. There’s really nothing that Eifert doesn’t do well.
Eifert could be long gone before the Packers are up at No. 26, but if he falls that far, this could be Green Bay’s pick. He’s too talented to pass on late in the first round — even with greater needs elsewhere — and would almost certainly qualify as Best Player Available at that point. 
Eifert says: “I’m lucky to be coming in at a time where the type of tight end that I am is being used quite a bit — in the passing game but also as a guy that can stay in the game on every down throughout the game and can also block (and) create mismatch problems in the passing game. … I strive to be a complete tight end. I don’t think I’m there yet, but guys like Jimmy Graham, (Rob) Gronkowski, (Kyle) Rudolph, those guys; I like to watch and see myself being similar players to them.”

Day 2 name to remember (Rounds 2-3)
Zach Ertz, junior, Stanford (6-5, 249). Like Eifert, Ertz has good size for the tight end position in the NFL. Unlike Eifert, Ertz is not fast and isn’t as good as a blocker right now. Ertz has shown an ability to get open as a receiver and make difficult catches. So, though he’s not as solid as Eifert, picking up Ertz in the second round would be a very good get for the Packers. Ertz could be gone early in the second round, though.
Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7)
Joseph Fauria, senior, UCLA (6-7, 259). Fauria is a tall, long player with decent athleticism. He’ll need to get better as a blocker and add strength, but in the fifth or sixth round, Fauria would be a good pickup for the Packers. However, I suspect that if Green Bay doesn’t add a tight end in the first three rounds that Thompson will wait until next year to address this position higher up in the draft with a top-tier prospect.’s draft expert Taylor Jones says: “I’m surprised D.J. Williams hasn’t been more of a factor. I thought he was a great pickup by them. Maybe they do have plans to use him more often, but I thought he’d be a Dallas Clark type. I thought he’d have a bigger impact, especially with Finley’s contract situation. 
“I’m not sure if Eifert is a game-changer from Day 1, but he’s definitely serviceable. Ertz struggles so much in in-line blocking. I likened him to (Cincinnati’s) Jermaine Gresham. Ertz is a liability in all blocking schemes, run and pass.”

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