In terms of looking at the list of team needs for the Green Bay Packers going into the 2016 NFL draft, which will take place starting on April 28, the tight end position is high on the list.
Yes, second-year player Richard Rodgers put up some decent numbers with 58 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. But that adds up to only a 8.8 yards receiving average, which was buffered by the 61-yard game-winning Hail Mary pass he caught versus the Detroit Lions in Week 13.
Rodgers has trouble adding yardage after the catch for two reasons. His lack of speed and his inability to break tackles.
That is why the Packers are looking at adding another tight end to compliment what Rodgers can do. That would be a seam-stretching tight end who can hurt a defense down the middle of the field. Very similar to what the Keith Jackson (the deep threat) and Mark Chmura (the short-yardage threat) duo did for the Packers in 1995 and 1996.
The tight end talent in the 2016 draft is not very deep. The top target in that class is Hunter Henry. I had the Packers taking Henry in the first round in my initial mock draft a couple of months ago.
The Packers also brought in veteran tight end Jared Cook for a visit a couple of weeks ago. So far, the Packers, nor anyone else in the NFL have signed Cook as of yet.
Cook has the ability and speed to be that seam-stretcher the Packers are looking for. Cook will turn 29 on April 7. In his NFL career, the 6’4″, 235-pound Cook has 273 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Cook is coming off a disappointing 2015 season with the St. Louis Rams, as he had just 39 catches for 481 yards and no touchdowns. But much of that lack of success can be laid at the feet of the very inconsistent and unproductive play at quarterback for the Rams.
As a rookie out of South Carolina at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2009, Cook ran a 4.50 40-yard dash. Cook had reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and posted a 39.5-inch vertical leap in 2007 at South Carolina.
This is not to say that Cook still has that great speed currently, but he is still plenty fast if you watch tape of him.
So, will the Packers sign Cook or not? That is a good question. One would believe that he would be much better off as a receiver with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, especially compared to the quarterbacks he has had to play with recently.
Ben Sirmans, the new running backs coach of the Packers, was with Cook in St. Louis for three years, as he held the same position with the Rams the past four years.
Between that situation and how the meeting between Packers and Cook went, it appears that Green Bay is mulling over the possibility of signing Cook. If I had to guess, I would say that money is the biggest obstacle right now. Most likely, guaranteed money.
Whether or not the Packers sign Cook, I would think the team will still look for a tight end in the 2016 draft. If Cook is signed, the Packers would look for more depth later in the draft. If not, the Packers might strike earlier, depending on how the draft board plays out for them.
Currently, it appears that veteran Andrew Quarless will not be coming back to the Packers. The Packers also have Kennard Backman, Justin Perillo and Mitchell Henry on the roster at the position. But except for Backman, no one can really fill the deep-passing threat option down the middle of the field at the tight end position.
But Backman was inactive most of the 2015 season as a rookie, and in seven games did not have a single reception.
One player that might interest the Packers at the tight end position in the draft is Tanner McEvoy of the Wisconsin Badgers. The odd thing about that scenario, is that McEyoy never really played tight end at Wisconsin.
The 6’6″, 230-pound McEvoy played quarterback, safety and wide receiver for the Badgers. In three years with the Badgers, McEvoy showed how athletic he was at these positions.
At quarterback, he wasn’t a great passer, as he had just five touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 709 yards. But when it came to running the football as a QB, he was very dangerous. McEvoy ran for 706 yards on just 82 carries (8.6 average) for eight touchdowns.
McEvoy got to play some wide receiver at Wisconsin in 2015, and he had 10 catches for 109 yards. The reason his stats were so low was because he was a starting safety for the Badgers, as he had six interceptions, which was second in the Big 10 and sixth nationally.
Most scouts think McEvoy would be better suited to play tight end in the NFL due to his size and athleticism. Those attributes would also be a big reason why he would also excel on special teams.
In addition to that, McEvoy has the talent to help the offense on two-point conversion plays as a runner and also as a deep defensive back when the opponent has to try a Hail Mary pass. His abilities as a safety in college, not to mention his 6’6″ frame would be definite assets.
“He [McEvoy] is an athletic guy,” Landry said. “I think he can play tight end. He’s a project. I think he’s more of a later-round guy. But I do have him and I’ve done a lot of work on him this spring.
“I do think he does have some value later in the draft. I’ve got him as a fifth-round guy and I’ll update my boards in a little bit. I’ve got a 5.4 grade on him and I think he and a couple other kids, like the [Darion] Griswold kid from Arkansas State, have a lot of ability.
“They’ve [Wisconsin] done a really good job with tight ends in the past. They understand blocking, which is important. He’s not a guy who is going to be a great receiver, but I think he can develop into more of a polished receiver and understand blocking.
“So, I think you are right on it with with a late-round project.”