2017 Green Bay Packers: Tight Ends and Fullbacks

Tight End and Fullback are more-or-less interchangeable in the Packer’s scheme, and the players who will sit atop the depth chart for next season appear to be largely set.

At Tight End, Martellus Bennett is one of the best in the entire league. He will give Aaron Rodgers a safety net, and a player he can hit down the middle of the field. Bennett is phenomenal in the Red Zone, and also is like an extension of the offensive line in the run game. If healthy, I would expect Martellus to be a Pro Bowler. Lance Kendricks will get to play as a movement Tight End. I would expect the Packers to utilize him in the same way as the Patriots utilized Aaron Hernandez. He might be on the line one play, as a Fullback the next, and flexed out as a Wide Receiver on the third. Kendricks still has the athleticism to stretch the field, and gives the Packers another Red Zone option. Richard Rodgers is likely the 3rd TE. He is a solid blocker and route runner, and has really good hands. He doesn’t have the athletic talent ability to be a true number one TE. My thoughts are that the Packers keep him to be reliable depth if Bennett or Kendricks were to go down.

Beau Sandland was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 7th round in 2016. He was signed to the Packers Practice Squad in November of last season. Sandland is an athletic player who showed a willingness to block in college. If he shows an improvement in route running and ability to make aggressive plays on the ball, he has an outside chance to make the active roster, and a pretty good chance to spend another season on the Practice Squad. The other TE on the roster is Aaron Peck. Peck is a converted college Wide Receiver from Fresno State. If Peck shows some promise during Training Camp and the Preseason he could make the Practice Squad.

Aaron Ripkowski has developed into a good NFL Fullback. His hard-nosed blocking gives the offense an edge that has sometimes been lacking in the past. “The Ripper” demonstrated the ability to be a good runner when called upon, and has become a key Special Teams contributor. Joe Kerridge provided a solid lead blocking option during the second half of the 2016 season (at times lead blocking for Ripkowski). McCarthy loves to keep two Fullbacks, but the depth at other positions may make keeping Kerridge impossible.

Despite losing Jared Cook, Tight End may be the most upgraded position on the roster. Mike McCarthy loves using FBs and TEs in a variety of ways and the position group looks to be an extremely strong one for the 2017 season.

Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig
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  • James C. Drumheller III

    Ripkowski is turning into the next Kuhn. He’s not only good on special teams but gives you everything he’s got on every down running or pass blocking for Arod. You just can’t help but one someone like him on your team.

    • Andrew

      Rip has a chance to turn the corner and become a Pro Bowl FB.

      • James C. Drumheller III

        I here you!! Ty Montgomery is going to be a beast this year and I can’t wait to see what he brings. Ripper blocking for him will make short yardage down at the goal line much easier to obtain.

      • Mike Sherman

        already at the pro bowl level right?

  • Pandabucks

    I would DEFINITELY cut Rodgers and keep Sandland.

    Your 3rd TE must be an athletic Special Teamer, whereas Rodgers is a terrible athlete offering nothing on Special Teams. He’s also a below-average blocker (the article was mistaken on this point), and his great hands mean next to nothing for a 3rd guy who will barely play. Why on earth would we throw to him instead of Bennett, Kendricks, Jordy, Davante, Randall, etc.???

    Sandland can catch the ball too, and is a drastic upgrade athletically–ideal for Special Teams, role flexibility, and developing offensive skills.

    Oh, and SANDLAND’S A LOT CHEAPER.

    Anyone who thinks we should keep Rodgers is insane. Yep, I said it. In-freaking-sane.

    • Andrew

      Rodgers has proven that he’s a capable NFL TE. Sandland hasn’t…yet. The one upside is that Sandland has a year of PS eligibility, so you don’t have to show him the door.

      • Pandabucks

        Capable of what? Having good hands while failing to separate, block adequately, or play any useful role on Special Teams? On what planet does Rodgers’s skillset translate for a #3 TE?

        The moment Cook returned last year, our offense exploded. Then Ted grabbed Bennett and Kendricks rather than go back to horrendous stagnancy.

        Rodgers is capable of leaving–now. Nothing against the guy personally, but there is absolutely no rationale for keeping him. None. It would be insane to do so.

        • Mike Sherman

          Rodgers stays this year because he is a willing blocker (replaceable) and has some of the best hands on the team (not replaceable). Those 2 traits, along with experience, size, and good attitude, make him a near lock. He’s cheap too. Unless Sandland blows up in preseason, you can likely sneak him to PS, not Rodgers. Also, give rodgers some credit, as much as he sucks in the open field, he is good in the redzone.