This isn't meant as a pure prediction of who the Packers will select in April's draft. Instead, this is meant as a way to introduce you to some of the names who could fill holes on the roster. Our round projections are based on our conversations with three scouts and Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko.
How important is the Senior Bowl? In the last five drafts, the Packers have selected 11 Senior Bowl players, including their top selection three times and eight of their 12 choices in the first two rounds. Casey Hayward participated in the 2012 Senior Bowl, Derek Sherrod and D.J. Williams played in the 2011 game, Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson were part of the 2010 game, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and Quinn Johnson suited up for the 2009 game, and Jordy Nelson, Brian Brohm and Pat Lee played in the 2008 game.
The Packers have no shortage of tight ends, especially with Andrew Quarless coming back from a knee injury that cost him all of the 2012 season.
Nonetheless, coach Mike McCarthy loves tight ends — he was one at Baker University, after all — and Colorado's Nick Kasa has some outrageous upside.
Kasa was a five-star recruit as a defensive lineman and stayed home by enrolling at Colorado. With three games remaining in his junior season, having not broken through on the defensive line and eager to make some sort of impact, Kasa went to Jon Embree, who at the time was the Buffs' first-year head coach and recently was hired by the Cleveland Browns to coach their tight ends.
"I feel like I can do a lot more for this team," Kasa recalled. "I'm a big body and I can move pretty well. I'll play every special teams. If you want me to help out at any other positions — I know we're light at tight end right now and I think I can help out at least with a physical presence in the running game. That's kind of how it started out."
Kasa caught one pass as a junior before breaking into the starting lineup as a senior. He caught 25 passes for 391 yards. His 15.6-yard average led the team, he had a 70-yard score among his three touchdowns and he recorded three of the Buffs' 10 longest plays from scrimmage.
"The first game of this season (against Colorado State), I really struggled," Kasa said. "I wasn't doing the things that I had practiced and I really got frustrated with myself. Just watching that game, I was really embarrassed. I think that second game, I started to get it down. Every game of the season, I got a little bit better at something. That was my motto: I've got to get at least one thing better with each game. I think I did that."
Kasa is an enormous target at 6-foot-5 1/2 and 271 pounds. Even with limited experience at the position, he's an outstanding blocker. To improve upon that strength, he's been working with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater. With McCarthy going to more of a balanced attack on offense this season, a powerful blocker would be an asset. At the Senior Bowl, however, Kasa showed he's more than just a mauler. He runs well and flashed surprisingly good hands.
"Being a D-lineman, you get cast as (having) stone hands so I'd do a ton of work on the JUGS and with the quarterbacks, just sighting the ball all the way in to the tuck," Kasa said. "I think I did a bazillion JUGS. I'd do 200 before and after every practice."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.