Even after signing Jimmy Graham to a big free agent contract last offseason, the Green Bay Packers still need more help at the tight end position.
T.J. Hockenson is being regarded as the best tight end prospect in years, according to many NFL scouts. Similar hype surrounded David Njoku, who became a first-round pick of the Browns two years ago out of Miami. This year, the Green Bay Packers are in prime position to draft the nation’s best tight end and use him as a long-term piece going forward.
Jimmy Graham had a very, very down year in 2018. He’s now 32, and has clearly lost just a little bit of straight line speed and isn’t as imposing a presence in the red zone. But, to be fair, a tight end group of Ozzie Newsome, Kellen Winslow, and Tony Gonzalez would have had a down year in Green Bay last year too.
The Green Bay Packers offense under Mike McCarthy became the most predictable, uncreative, and vanilla unit in the entire league. The utter incompetence of the coaching staff to draw up a single play that could get a receiver open and the inexplicable marriage to Jamaal Williams over Aaron Jones threw Graham out of sorts entirely.
The Packers will likely cut Graham after this coming season, as doing so will save them $8 million against the salary cap, according to Over The Cap. If the team can secure Hockenson on draft night, then cutting ties with Graham will be a no brainer at season’s end. The Packers, even after re-signing Marcedes Lewis, are still in dire need of a blocking tight end who can service the running game.
Graham, while an elite receiving tight end, can’t block to save his life. Hockenson, undoubtedly the best receiver in the draft, is also a very skilled blocker who propelled Iowa’s running game forward substantially. Noah Fant, also from Iowa, is also rising up many teams’ draft boards and is perhaps Hockenson’s only competition to be the first tight end drafted.
The Packers could solve both a short-term and long-term need by drafting Hockenson. Packer fans hoping Matt LaFleur will be the next Sean McVay or Matt Nagy might be disappointed pretty early. LaFleur did not exactly run the world’s most diverse playbook in Los Angeles or Tennessee, and might find it hard to gel with Aaron Rodgers right away. The arrival of Nathaniel Hackett as the offensive coordinator should help smoothen the transition, however.
Aaron Rodgers badly needs another pass catcher. Davante Adams and what is left of Jimmy Graham simply isn’t good enough to truly scare opposing defenses. The Packers shouldn’t be too scared of drafting another true receiver at number 30 if they get the opportunity either, but adding an extremely capable receiver who can also allow the team to move on from Jimmy Graham at the end of the season would do them well.