Grading Thompson on the Tight Ends

Without investing a premium pick at the position, the Packers have received good but not great play from their tight ends.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 11th draft atop the Green Bay Packers, meaning there’s a decade’s worth of history to examine as this year’s draft approaches. We are taking a position-by-position lookback to see where he and his scouting department have turned up gems and where they have turned up fool’s gold.

Tight ends

2007, 7th round — Clark Harris, Rutgers (6-6, 261): Harris was a lousy tight end but has been a darned good long snapper. Harris, the 13th and final tight end selected, didn’t make the roster as a rookie but has been the Bengals’ long snapper since early in the 2009 season. Grade: F.

2008, 3rd round — Jermichael Finley, Texas (6-5, 243): Finley never quite lived up to expectations due to his penchant for dropping passes. However, he put up numbers that rivaled any tight end in franchise history. He caught 55 passes in 2009, 55 in 2011 and 61 in 2012. He was off to big starts in 2010 (torn ACL) and 2013 (what appears to be a career-ending neck injury). Finley was the seventh of 17 tight ends selected. His 223 career receptions rank third on that list, even with the injuries. Grade: B.

2010, 5th round — Andrew Quarless, Penn State (6-4, 254): Quarless has done what he could to pick up the slack left by Finley’s injuries, catching 21 passes as a rookie to help the Packers win the Super Bowl and 32 passes in 2013. As the No. 1 tight end last season, he caught 29 passes for career highs of 323 yards and three scores. He’s played in every game since missing the end of 2011 and all of 2012 with a knee injury. Quarless was the 11th of 19 tight ends selected; his 85 career catches are by far the most among the final 10 selections. Grade: B-minus.

2011, 5th round — D.J. Williams, Arkansas (6-2, 245): After a superb collegiate career, Williams has been a major disappointment with nine receptions with four teams. All nine catches came with Green Bay in 2011 and 2012. He is unsigned. Williams was the seventh of 13 tight ends drafted. Only three have fewer receptions. Charles Clay, who was taken 33 picks after Williams, has 161 receptions and 14 touchdowns. Grade: F.

2011, 7th round — Ryan Taylor, North Carolina (6-4, 254): Taylor caught eight passes in his first three seasons and was released about one-third of the way through last season. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine the team didn’t miss his presence on special teams in 2014. The disaster at Seattle might not have happened had Taylor been on the roster. After spending time with Cleveland and Baltimore last year, he’ll try to make it with Miami. Of the 13 tight ends selected, only two have less than his eight receptions. Grade: B-minus.

2014, 3rd round — Richard Rodgers, California (6-4, 257): It will be interesting to see if Rodgers can become more than what he was as a rookie. He was a bad blocker and provided just about nothing after the catch. But he knows how to get open and catches the ball, traits that will forever have value. Of the 10 tight ends selected, he ranked fourth with 20 receptions, third with 225 yards and tied for first with two touchdowns. Grade: C.

Overall grade: Considering the resources used at the position, Thompson has done relatively well. Finley was the 91st overall selection in 2008 — the earliest of his tight end picks. It looked like Finley had it all figured out when he went down against the Browns in 2013. The only major gaffe was taking Williams. It remains to be seen if Rodgers is the answer but he should be a quality piece to the puzzle, if nothing else. Grade: B-minus.

What it means (if anything) for 2015: The only short tight end selected by Thompson was Williams, who bombed. Will that mistake mean Thompson won’t even conisder a pass-catching threat like Southern Illinois’ Mycole Pruitt or Iowa State’s Emmanuel Bibbs, who are both less than 6-foot-2? Then again, other than Harris, Thompson hasn’t taken any towering tight ends, either, with Finley being the tallest at 6-foot-4 1/2. Someone to complement Rodgers — either a rugged blocker or someone who can stretch the field — would be a nice addition to the offense.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


Packer Report Top Stories