Which rookie will make biggest impact?

Packer Report's Todd Korth explains why Packers fans should keep an eye on new tight end

Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers selected nine players in the NFL draft last weekend mainly to bolster depth at skill positions. A few of the draft picks may have a legitimate chance of breaking into the starting lineup, but it's a longshot at best.

Look for wide receiver Jordy Nelson to be pitching in in multiple wide receiver sets. Cornerback Patrick Lee probably will be used in passing defenses and Jeremy Thompson will be given every chance to beat out Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to rush the quarterback. Those players will have chances to make plays here and there, but not as much as tight end Jermichael Finley.

Finley steps into a situation that is wide open for playing time. Donald Lee is the team's top tight end, but Finley will enter offseason practices, which begin on Friday, as the No. 2 tight end and in position to see a lot of action.

Finley will have to stave off veteran Tory Humphrey, which will be a battle to watch in training camp, but the rookie will have the inside track for the No. 2 spot. Humphrey spent the entire 2007 season on injured reserve after breaking his foot early in training camp. So if Finley holds down the No. 2 spot, it means plenty of playing time in Mike McCarthy's offense and a chance to catch passes and score touchdowns.

The Packers are hoping to get more production from the tight end position this season and the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Finley has a list of attributes that he can utilize to help the offense score points.

Though Finley entered the NFL draft after his junior season and has only two seasons of playing on a regular basis, the Packers were still enamored with his potential and ability to contribute immediately. Some draft experts felt that Finley may have been drafted higher if he would have returned to Texas for his senior season. Who knows, but the Packers feel they may have landed a gem.

"With juniors you always have to be a little cautious because you don't scout them as much as you do seniors," said Thompson. "With seniors, you scout them for a whole year coming up (to the draft) and with juniors you start looking at them in January.

"We felt like he's a talented kid that can get up the field. He's got excellent hands, very athletic and our coaches are very excited about him, getting him going with Donald (Lee) and Tory (Humphrey).

Finley caught 45 passes last season, second only to David Thomas' 50 in 2005, a school record for tight ends at the University of Texas. Though Finley is wearing the same number 88 as departed tight end Bubba Franks, Finley is a big upgrade.

Depending on how quickly he can catch on to the offense, Finley should be able to make an impact from the get-go in 2008.


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