Jace Sternberger returns but expectations should be tempered

Green Bay Packers

It’s no secret that the tight end position has been an issue for the Green Bay Packers for a number of seasons now. From not being able to re-sign Jared Cook, to the Martellus Bennett mess, and the latest with Jimmy Graham who certainly hasn’t lived up to his 3 year – $30 million contract.

It’s a problem that needs to be solved and with Graham and Marcedes Lewis likely gone after the 2019 season, to hopefully help solidify the position for future seasons, the Green Bay Packers would spend their third-round pick in this year’s draft on Jace Sternberger out of Texas A&M.

During his only year as a starter, Sternberger would total 832 receiving yards at a whopping rate of 17.3 yards per catch and he was a huge weapon in the red zone hauling in 10 touchdown passes as well.

Many Green Bay Packer fans were thrilled at the prospect of Aaron Rodgers finally having a dynamic tight end in the passing game. Which is something that this team hasn’t had since the days of Jermichael Finley.

Unfortunately for Sternberger, he suffered an ankle injury during the preseason that landed him on the IR. But a recent report suggests that Green Bay will designate him for return in the near future and he has since returned to practice.

While without a doubt the Green Bay Packers could definitely use another weapon in the passing game, I’m here to tell you that Sternberger likely isn’t the answer in 2019.

For one, outside of quarterback, the transition from college to the NFL for tight ends may be the next most difficult jump to make. And that holds true for even the top tight ends in each draft class.

As a matter of fact, only two tight ends in the last 15 seasons have totaled over 600 receiving yards during their rookie years. It’s a position that requires those who play it to be effective blockers as well as reliable receivers. And when it comes to refining all facets of those skill sets coupled with all of the responsibilities involved, it is just a lot to ask of a rookie.

We also have to take into consideration that Sternberger hasn’t been practicing this whole season because of the injury. For any player but especially for a rookie, the best way to improve is to be on the field and that just hasn’t been the case.

Not to mention that the biggest knock on Sternberger coming out of Texas A&M was his ability – or lack thereof – as a blocker, and we all know how important that aspect is to the Matt LaFleur offense. Even during OTA’s, Packers’ tight end coach Justin Outten discussed how “steep of a learning curve” this offense was for young tight ends.

Now with all of this said, I do think that Sternberger has the skill set to become a weapon in this offense. However, based on what we’ve seen from rookie tight ends over the years along with what will be asked of him in this offense, it’s not likely to be in 2019 and expectations should be tempered. But hopefully I’m wrong.

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