Aaron Nagler speaks with Tom Silverstein about where the Packers stand at tight end heading into next week's NFL draft. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Fourth in a 10-part NFL draft position-preview series looking at prospects who might be of interest to the Packers. Today: Tight ends.
Even though GM Brian Gutekunst signed free agent Jimmy Graham, he needs to pull at least one tight end and maybe two out of this draft. Graham can’t block and after letting Richard Rodgers leave for Philadelphia in free agency, this wouldn’t be a bad time for Gutekunst to think about the future. Graham and Lance Kendricks can hold down the top two positions this year, but both are in their 30s and this would be a good year to use a second-day pick on the position. Kendricks gives a lot of effort, but he’s not good enough in the run game and you have to think that coach Mike McCarthy covets an all-around guy he can develop for the long term. Priority level: Medium.
IAN THOMAS, INDIANA
6-3½, 259 pounds
The good: Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin would probably love to get his hands on Thomas, whose lower-body strength and overall athleticism would give him a chance to become a decent blocker. Thomas has very big hands (10 inches), a long wing span (80 inches) and a decent 40-yard dash time (4.65 seconds). He averaged 15.0 yards per reception in his final collegiate season.
The bad: Thomas attended junior college for two seasons and really only had one season for the Hoosiers in which he was involved in the offense. He caught just 28 passes and only three of them went for 25 yards or more. Though Thomas tested well in just about every department, his lack of production and rawness as a route runner are concerning. Teams wouldn’t mind him being a shade taller.
Projected round: 2-3.
MARK ANDREWS, OKLAHOMA
6-5, 256 pounds
The good: This is the kind of tight end McCarthy loves. A good route runner who is athletic enough to set up routes because of fluid hips. Averaged better than 15 yards a reception in three straight seasons with the Sooners and caught 22 touchdowns during that span. Was extremely good in the red zone and is tall enough to box out defenders on short zone routes. Tied for the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among tight ends.
The bad: Was a wide receiver at Oklahoma before becoming a tight end and blocks like a receiver. He played mostly in the slot so lining up in-line will be a challenge for him, especially when he’s called upon to block. Benched 225 pounds 17 times, which isn’t that great for someone his size. Isn’t as sure-handed as some would like.
Projected round: 3.
WILL DISSLY, WASHINGTON
6-3½, 262 pounds
The good: The second heaviest tight end at the combine, Dissly wasn’t impressive on the bench (15 reps), but he has a lot of natural strength, which is evident when watching him block. Blocking comes natural to some people and Dissly is one of them. He’s got big hands and he runs with a purpose, never afraid of contact after the catch. Has lined up in-line and in the slot.
The bad: His 40 time of 4.87 seconds is bad. He started out as a defensive end at Washington so it’s not too surprising. He’s not going to split seams and make teams fear him running down the middle of the field. He isn’t explosive and probably won’t elude very many people in the NFL. In two seasons at tight end he caught only 25 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns.
Best and bust
General manager Ron Wolf almost missed out on the impact that Mark Chmura made after drafting him in the sixth round in 1992. Chmura suffered a back injury during his rookie training camp and Wolf decided to put him on injured reserve and give him another chance the following year. It was a good decision. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Chmura finished third all-time among Packers tight ends in receptions and was a tenacious blocker in the run game. In the Wolf-Sherman-Thompson era, the worst pick was D.J. Williams, a fifth-round pick in 2011 who played in 35 games and caught a total of nine passes for 70 yards before being released in 2013.
A brief overview of where the Packers stand at the tight end position prior to next week's draft.