Packers’ 2019 Tight End Makeover: Part 3

The Super Bowl is over and the dark days of the offseason are officially upon us. Rather than go gentle into that good night and pretend to care about other sports, its time to look to the future: draft season is in full swing. The NFL Combine is still a few weeks away, but NFL teams know who is available and have plenty of data on the prospects. Despite the fact that mock drafts are mostly nonsense, those beautiful pieces of NFL fanfiction give fans ideas of who their favorite team might claim.

Many early mock drafts generously gift the Green Bay Packers a top tier tight end with one of their two first-round picks. Your mileage may vary on how desirable this is, but the Packers need talent at the tight end position and the 2019 draft is the time to get it.

The Green Bay Packers are blessed with two first-round picks, a second year general manager looking to make the team his own, and a new offensive-minded head coach. The 2019 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at the tight end position. This is the year to spend draft capital on a tight end and give Aaron Rodgers a new weapon. The only question is which one to draft?

T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Age: 21
Career stats: 73 receptions/1080 yards/9 TDs

The versatile tight end from Iowa would be an incredible boon to Matt LaFleur’s offense. Not only is Hock a true ‘do it all’ tight end, but he does it all so very well. He is absolutely dominant as a blocker and has the size, strength, technique, and tenacity to succeed at the NFL level. He could work at IHOP because all he does is pancake defenders. He’s no slouch as a receiver either. Hock is a skillful route runner with great hands. He seems to have an ideal attitude and phenomenal football IQ as well.

Despite tight ends usually having a high learning curve adjusting to the NFL, Hock looks the part and should have an easy transition. Hockenson is the galvanizing player the Packers need. Perhaps the only downside is figuring out when to draft him. Pick 12 could be too rich of a cost for a tight end, but it would be shocking if he’s still around at pick 30.

Noah Fant, Iowa
Age: 21
Career stats: 78/1082/19

The other Iowa TE is also a hot name, and for obvious reasons. Fant has elite athleticism and speed that makes Sonic the Hedgehog envious. He can use his speed to get open all over the field and is dynamite after the catch. He’ll need to learn how to win more with technique and become less reliant on pure speed, but he should have an immediate impact at the NFL level. While his routes could use more polish, his athleticism, great hands, and ability to make contested catches provide tremendous upside. Contrary to popular opinion Fant is a willing and skillful blocker and Green Bay shouldn’t worry about him in that regard.

Fant could be the true middle of the field weapon Green Bay is sorely lacking and would haunt NFC North defensive coordinators for years. Like Hockenson, Fant projects as a first-round pick and could be in an awkward range for Green Bay to draft. Again, 12 might be too high, but it would be unsurprising if he was gone by 30.

Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Age: 20
Career stat: 58/838/10

The Crimson Tide tight end is an enticing option for Green Bay thanks to his polished route running, first-class blocking abilities, and overall versatility. Smith has everything you’d want in a tight end. What stands out on tape is that he’s always where he needs to be: his route running abilities are incredible. He can be used all over the field. While he lacks overall explosiveness, he is suburb after the catch thanks to his strength and intelligence. As a blocker he is tough and unrelenting. Effort will never be a cause of concern. He was a first year starter for Nick Saban, comes from a winning program, and is willing to do anything asked of him.

Smith is a complete tight end with a high floor and high ceiling. He would be an instant upgrade to the Packers’ tight end room. Smith would likely be available at pick 44 and would be a great option if the team addresses other needs in the first round.

After the consensus top three tight ends opinions vary wildly. Other names to watch include Stanford’s Kaden Smith, Ole Miss’ Dawson Knox, Georgia’s Issac Nauta, and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger.

I’ve never been asked to be on The Bachelor (yet), but if I’m passing out red roses mine is going to T.J. Hockenson. He’s the versatile, dominant tight end Matt LaFleur’s offense needs. However, any of the top three could propel the Green Bay Packers’ offense back to championship levels. The Packers need to upgrade the tight end position and the talent is out there. It’s up to Brian Gutekunst to make the move.

Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.
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