Packers should avoid taking tight end in first round of 2023 NFL Draft

One of the most popular mock first-round picks for the Green Bay Packers in the 2023 NFL Draft is Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. Nothing personal against Mayer, but Green Bay should do everything possible to avoid taking a tight end in the first round.

Draft analysts use the following words to describe Mayer: Well-rounded, quality pass-catcher, blocker, value pick, and complete tight end. Although those are nice adjectives for any draft prospect, I’m looking for it in the middle rounds, not with the 15th overall pick.

Mayer could very well develop into a player who can block at the line of scrimmage and catch some passes, but tight end is a luxury position for a team like Green Bay, not a top need. They have bigger fish to fry at positions like wide receiver, safety, and edge.

The Green Bay Packers have a big need at tight end, but should avoid taking one in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Furthermore, tight ends are extremely hit-or-miss (more often miss) and often take years to develop. Here are the eight tight ends who were drafted in the first round over the last 10 years and how they fared in 2022:

  • Kyle Pitts (4th overall in 2021) (28 receptions, 356 yards, and 2 touchdowns)
  • T.J. Hockenson (8th overall in 2019) (86 receptions, 914 yards, and 6 touchdowns)
  • Noah Fant (20th overall in 2019) (50 receptions, 486 yards, and 4 touchdowns)
  • Hayden Hurst (25th overall in 2018) (52 receptions, 414 yards, and 2 touchdowns)
  • O.J. Howard (19th overall in 2017) (10 receptions, 145 yards, and 2 touchdowns)
  • Evan Engram (23rd overall in 2017) (73 receptions, 766 yards, and 4 touchdowns)
  • Eric Ebron (10th overall in 2014) (Didn’t play in NFL in 2022)
  • Tyler Eifert (21st overall in 2013) (Hasn’t played in NFL since 2020)

Here’s where some of the top tight ends in today’s NFL were drafted:

  • Travis Kelce (3rd round, 63rd overall)
  • Mark Andrews (3rd round, 86th overall)
  • George Kittle (5th round, 146th overall)
  • Darren Waller (6th round, 204th overall)

The better approach for the Packers would be to target the position in the middle of the draft and bring back Marcedes Lewis to mentor that young player. General manager Brian Gutekunst has often paired a veteran player with a top draft pick to ensure the process goes more smoothly. That would be a great idea in this scenario, giving the tight end at least one year to adjust to the NFL game.

There’s no denying Green Bay has a need at the position. Robert Tonyan underwhelmed in 2022 following his return from an ACL injury. Marcedes Lewis is a great blocker, but provides little to nothing in the passing game. Both of those guys are unrestricted free agents. Josiah Deguara is more of a fullback than a tight end.

The need is there. However, the strategy to fill the need should not be to draft a tight end in the first round. That’s been proven to be an inefficient use of resources.