The 2014 NFL Draft is a little over three months away and the speculation of where prospects will land, and in which round they will be selected, has begun.
The 2014 draft is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Teams looking for help at a number of positions will be able to find good talent throughout the draft. Some of the positions that are loaded with talent include: wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and the secondary in general.
Also in the mix for consideration is the tight end position, a position which could look extremely different in Green Bay in 2014.
Both of the Packers top two tight ends are set to hit free agency this spring: Andrew Quarless and Jermichael Finley. Both Finley and Quarless possess a lot of talent, but both of their careers have been hampered by injuries. In 2011, Quarless badly injured his knee, which cost him the majority of the 2011 season, and all of the 2012 season. He returned in 2013, but wasn’t as productive as the Packers had hoped, especially after Finley went down in October with a scary neck injury, which cost him the rest of his season.
Now, two players whose careers mirror one another, are set to throw their names into the 2014 free agency pool. In all likelihood Finley won’t be in a Packers uniform in 2014 as it is unknown if he will play at all next season. Even if he did, all signs point to Finley asking for too much money for the Packers to commit to a player who has missed 26 games in his six years in Green Bay.
Quarless might be had for a bargain considering his injury history, but the Packers may decide to just give up on Quarless all together as they usher in an era in which they put more emphasis on players staying healthy and being available.
That leads the Packers to free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft to find a suitable replacement. We can almost count out free agency for Ted Thompson and the Packers as they’ve only signed eight free agents since 2006. Last year they brought in Matthew Mulligan, but surprisingly released him before the start of the season. Thompson could make a similar move this offseason by bringing in a veteran tight end for cheap, but that may not be enough to fix the tight end woes surrounding the Packers.
That leaves us with the draft as the only viable solution to find a replacement for Finley and Quarless. There are two tight ends with first round grades in Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. Both underclassmen declared for the draft with one year of eligibility left. Both could be difference-makers right away in the NFL, but it would be difficult to see Thompson drafting a tight end in the first round instead of addressing major needs along the defensive line and at safety.
The hope for the Packers finding a tight end that can contribute right away shouldn’t end with those two players, because here are three “under the radar” prospects the Packers could get in the middle to late rounds of the draft.