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 host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig