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PACKERDRAFT 2008 TIGHT ENDS

Jerry Gilbert

Following what looked to be a breakout season, Green Bay Packer tight end, Donald Lee, is being counted on to anchor the position for years to come. On the other hand, veteran Bubba Franks was released, which leaves the team, that likes to feature 2 tight ends, with no proven support nor an adequate back up for Lee. Unless a free agent surprise emerges, we can expect the Packers to attempt to draft a tight end in the early rounds. Fortunately, a number of candidates will be available.

The top prospect all season set the single season reception record for USC and received the Mackey Award as the top tight end in the nation. However, Fred Davis was steady but not outstanding at the Senior Bowl and has not distinguished himself in post-season workouts. At both the Combine and his pro day, Davis was unable to catch the ball on a consistent basis and his route running was a disappointment. As a college player Davis, 6-3 255, was both an adequate blocker and an elusive down field threat as a receiver. However, some scouts are not convinced that he will be as effective against better athletes on defense in the NFL. Probably still a first round selection based on college production, Davis does not seem to be a good value for the Packers at pick 30. However, should he drop into the second round, they might consider him.

The consensus number two tight end has been Martellus Bennett 6-6 259 Texas A&M. While he presents a great target as a receiver and has some speed to go deep, Bennett prides himself on his blocking. He has said, if you want to be called a tight end, show me some dirty hands. My knuckles are dirty. A former basketball star who considered making himself available for the NBA Draft last year, Bennett could be a red zone dynamo as well as an every down tight end. Some services have moved Bennett above Davis in the rankings. The college junior is not a finished product and may not be a fit for Green Bay unless he drops to the bottom of Round 2.

A player I came to like very much while watching the Senior Bowl and Combine is Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam 6-8 270 who ran an impressive 4.63 forty, which was faster than either Davis or Bennett. The main problem with Cottam is that he missed nearly all of last season due to a wrist injury. Packer General Manager Ted Thompson may be reluctant to select another injury prone player from Tennessee following the problems he had with his first choice last season. With his combination of size and speed and a demonstrated willingness to block anybody, Cottam could be a very good second round selection for the Green bay Packers.

Two possibilities for the end of day one are John Carlson 6-5 251 Notre Dame and Red shirt sophomore, Jermichael Finley 6-5 243 Texas. They were opposites at the combine. Carlson ran a surprisingly slow 40 and was average in other respects. Finley was among the most impressive receivers in the drills. Asked what teams were talking to him Finley replied, Green Bay, theyve been on me; theyve been on me real hardthats whos showing me the most love. Barely 21, Finley has years ahead of him to add weight and learn techniques. Carlson is probably a better prospect to provide immediate help.

Toward the end of the draft, some other tight end prospects may be considered. Joe Jon Finley of Oklahoma 6-6 254 caught the ball well at the East West Shrine practices after starting for two years at Oklahoma. An injury cut short his time at the Senior Bowl. Not a speedy player nor an outstanding blocker as of now, Finley will likely make a team as a special team performer while he learns the pro game.

One intriguing prospect for the later rounds played wide receiver in college but has the size to be a tight end as well. Mario Urrutia 6-6 232 had a couple of pretty good seasons at Louisville but opted for the NFL Draft after his Junior season. Slowed by injuries last season, he was much more effective as a sophomore. Urrutia ran a 4.59 forty at the combine which is slow for a wide receiver but great for a tight end. He is a very interesting late round prospect.

With Torey Humphrey returning from injury and Ryan Krause available as a blocker and possession receiver, the Packers could be okay without production from a rookie tight end. On the other hand, another pass catching threat could be a big help for Aaron Rodgers who seems to use tight ends more than Brett Favre has used them in recent years. Brad Cottam or Jermichael Finley could look very good in a Green Bay uniform.

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