With this week’s signing of backup quarterback Matt Flynn, the Packers have shored up one of their biggest liabilities on offense. That leaves center and tight end as the two biggest areas of concern for the Packers going into the season. And while I believe the starting center job will be JC Tretter’s to lose, tight end still remains an area of concern.
In today’s NFL, the tight end position has become increasingly important. No longer undersized offensive linemen, tight ends are now often closer to oversized wide receivers. Too quick for linebackers to cover and too big to be covered by a corner, the modern tight end is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
With the return of Jermichael Finley looking more and more unlikely, the Packers will need to try to find someone to replace the production, or at least the potential for production, that he brought to the position.
The draft is would be the obvious place to look for Finley’s replacement, but if the Packers stay at the 21st spot in the draft, they may find themselves in a no man’s land when it comes to finding an impact tight end. The top rated tight end in the draft, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, will likely be long gone by the time the Packers pick. The next two tight ends off the board will likely be Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but both would probably be considered a reach at pick 21, but probably won’t make it to the Packers in the 2nd round.
The second tier of tight ends, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and Iowa’s CJ Fiedorowicz, could be options in the 2nd or 3rd rounds, but they are probably better blockers than they are receivers, at least at this point in their development.
There are numerous late round prospects that the Packers could draft and attempt to develop, Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore, USC’s Xavier Grimble or Cal’s Richard Rodgers, could all be available in the 5th or 6th rounds, but none of them are likely to contribute much in the passing game early in their careers.
So that leaves internal options to fill the void at tight end. The Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless to a 2 year deal in March, and the 2010 5th round pick will probably be given the first shot at replacing Finley. Over his 4 year career Quarless has started 13 games, and caught just 56 passes for 586 yards.
The Packers will also be hoping that Brandon Bostick makes a big jump this year. After playing in 11 games last season and catching 7 passes for 120 yards, Bostick suffered a season ending foot injury in week 15. The undrafted former wide receiver has the athleticism and speed you look for in a pass catching tight end, but he has only shown it in glimpses so far.
Rounding out the Packers depth chart at tight end are Ryan Taylor, who is a key special teams contributor, but has not shown any real potential on offense, as well as Jake Stoneburner and Raymond Webber, who will probably be fighting for a roster spot during training camp.
The Packers won a Super Bowl in 2010 without a field stretching tight end, so maybe they can get by without one again this year. But if the Packers have to go through the Seahawks and 49ers defense to get to another Super Bowl, they would be better off having the type of tight end who opposing defenses need to game plan for .——————