By: Chris Terlop
The evolution of the tight end over the past four or five years has been amazing. They have turned from a glorified lineman, to an irreplaceable commodity. They have to block like a tackle and catch and move like a wide receiver. When you have a truly talented tight end, it can change the whole game.
The Packers and Jermichael Finley will be together for at least one more year, and that will probably be it. He is going to have a high asking price heading into free agency next year and will most likely not be worth it in the Packers’ eyes. With unproven guys behind Finley on the depth chart, and a deep tight end draft, I expect the Pack to take one this year as an insurance policy for when Finley departs. If either Zach Ertz or Tyler Eifert are on the board at 26 Ted Thompson and his staff will have to give them a thought. I am going to focus on three other tight ends that will be available a little bit later.
TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 250 lbs 40: 4.65 Bench: 22 reps
Notes: Eifert came to Notre Dame as a wide receiver and is leaving as the nation’s top tight end this past season. He has great hands and goes up and gets the ball in a crowd and does well getting position on shorter routes. Eifert is very good at getting off the line and has experience in the slot. As most receiving tight ends in college, needs to work on his blocking, although is willing.
Projected: 1st Round
TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 254 40: 4.78 Bench: 12 reps
Notes: Escobar is a natural pass catcher and was a Mackey award semi-finalist this past year. He has had two years of productivity, leading San Diego State in catches, yards, and touchdowns the past two years. He is the perfect candidate to run the seam and create mismatches for any defense. He needs to get stronger, as he struggles to sustain blocks. Also, he lined up in the slot often for San Diego State, while that can be utilized with Finley still on the Packers, he needs to work on getting off the line to become a feature tight end.
Projected: 2nd to 3rd Round
TE Dion Sims, Michigan State
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 262 lbs 40: 4.68 Bench: 22 reps
Notes: Sims is the best blocking tight end in this whole class and possesses the speed and size to be a very good receiver. He has good hands and broke tackles after the catch on a consistent basis last season. Two things have held him back, first off is durability, missing significant time his sophomore and junior years. Also, in 2010 he missed the whole season due to a felony concealing stolen property charge. Sims is said to have matured, but that is a question that will be discussed. If the Packers can get him on day three, they would have a chance to develop a physically gifted player.
Projection: 4th to 5th Round
TE Zach Sudfeld, Nevada
Ht: 6-7 Wt: 253 lbs 40: 4.71 Bench: 11 reps
Notes: I like Zach Sudfeld. I think he could be a steal at the back end of the draft. Physically at 6-7 he may be the tallest tight end taken, he needs to continue to get stronger and fill out his frame. He came to Nevada at 200 pounds and has consistently put on weight. He missed two seasons due to injuries and has had six surgeries over his six years at Nevada. He had a healthy senior season, catching 45 passes for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. He lettered in basketball, tennis, and track in addition to football in high school. He is mature (will be 24 by draft day), which can be a positive and a negative. If Sudfeld can remain healthy, and that is a big if, he can be a difference maker. If the Pack can get him at the back of the draft, it would be worth it.
Projection: 6th to 7th Round
Others to Watch for: TE Zach Ertz, Stanford; TE Vance McDonald, Rice; TE Travie Kelce, Cincinnatti
You can hear Chris on Sportsline Monday-Friday and Saturday Mornings at 8 am. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisTerlop