TIGHT ENDS FOR GREEN BAY by Jerry Gilbert
Unless Bubba Franks can rediscover his ability to score touchdowns, the Green Bay Packers would appear to face major issues at the tight end position. With the departure of David Martin, who outplayed Franks in 2006, there is no one else to be an every down tight end. There are some candidates on the roster who may contribute, but expect the Packers to draft at least one tight end in 2007. They will have to be very good or very lucky to find much immediate help in this Draft.
The top guy is thought to be Greg Olsen of Miami, but he has shown nothing as a blocker, and he is not worth being selected at number 16. A possibility in round 2 is the second guy on most charts, Zach Miller 6-5 256 4.87 from Arizona State Miller appeared to be a pretty good blocker in college, but he was only able to lift the 225# bar 16 times at the combine. However, Miller surpassed Todd Heap's record for career receptions at Arizona State, and has the size and hands to be a short yardage and endzone threat. The Packers may agree with my friend Joe Coaty and select Miller in round 2.
However, if they wait till later rounds, there are some players who could be of interest. The Big Ten featured two very large tight ends. Iowa's Scott Chandler 6-7 270 is the better prospect, but the former wide receiver has been very slow in timed workouts, And his size and great hands may not be enough to keep him in the first day. Some believe he will improve as a pro, and Chandler could prove to be a steal if he slips past the third round. Minnesota's Matt Spaeth was All American in 2007, but concerns about his speed and inability to perform following last season due to shoulder surgery, have put him very low on most charts. However, Spaeth was cleared for workouts recently and ran a 4.81 forty and leaped 33.5 inches while catching the ball very well. At 6-7 262, Matt Spaeth is an excellent college tight end who has a chance to help a team in the NFL.
Small schools have also produced some possibilities. Kevin Boss 6-7 252 4.78 from Western Oregon is a favorite with many draft watchers who say he has great hands and enough moves to be a threat. He does not have the speed to go long, nor is he a proven blocker, but Boss has some skills and will make some team. He is another player who was hampered by injuries in the post season. Whitworth's Michael Allen 6-6 255 4.71 is also a star from a very small college, but he had a chance to show himself at the East West Shrine practices, and he proved to be valuable for short passes and hauled in a down the middle bomb over two shorter safeties. Allen followed up by catching everything during drills at the combine. Both Boss and Allan could be chosen before the fourth round of the draft is history.
Another small school tight end prospect, Julius McClellan 6-4 246 North Carolina Central, has unusual speed for the position, having been clocked at 4.46. In college he ran back kicks and ran from scrimmage as well as playing tight end. His athleticism is demonstrated by the fact that he was the point guard on his high school basketball team.
McClellan is the type of player who would play on special teams and be an extra tight end or fullback who could stretch the field. Fans will remember that David Martin was a late round draft choice after playing wide receiver at Tennessee. This year, the Big Ten has produced two big receivers who could become tight ends in the pros. Ohio State's Roy Hall is the best prospect. At 6-3 238, he could grow into the position, and Hall was a decent third receiver for Ohio State. Because he runs a 4.46 forty, Hall would be a threat to split the seam, and his proven hands and wide receiver moves could make him difficult for defenses to handle. Roy Hall had an excellent pro day in April, and he could be a good candidate to be drafted in the late rounds.
The other college wide receiver is Matt Trannon 6-6 216 4.57 from Michigan State. Trannon played varsity football and basketball for three years at State, and it was hard on his often-injured body. Having dedicated himself to football, Trannon could be drafted late as a possession receiver who might grow into becoming a tight end.
Tight end is not a particularly strong position in the 2007 NFL Draft, but the Packers are likely to find at least one player who can help them this season.