We are finally edging closer to the 2014 NFL draft, which will start on May 8. Believe it or not, we are now just a little over two weeks away from the event.
One of the positions that Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers could be looking at is tight end. Although the Packers did re-sign Andrew Quarless, it looks as though Jermichael Finley's career in Green Bay is over.
When the free-agency period started, Finley visited the Seattle Seahawks, but he was not signed because he still has not been cleared medically to return to football after the neck injury he suffered last season.
Finley needed a fusion procedure after the injury, which is similar to the one done on former Packers safety Nick Collins in 2011.
The procedure was between the C3 and C4 vertebrae, which is higher in the neck, and that means that there is a fairly high amount of risk in returning from this type of injury and playing football again.
That's why Collins was never medically cleared by the Packers and was later released.
I also had a neck fusion procedure, but mine was between the C5 and C6 vertebrae (which is lower in the neck). That was the type of procedure which was done on safety Sean Richardson in 2012 and most recently on defensive lineman Johnny Jolly.
Richardson was eventually cleared to play last season for the Packers, while Jolly is also optimistic that he, too, will be cleared to play again.
Because of the type of injury to Finley and the fact that the team never cleared Collins with the same type of injury, it would seem doubtful that the Packers would even attempt to re-sign Finley, who is currently an unrestricted free agent.
So the team now has Quarless as the number one option at tight end. No. 81 had his best season of his career with the Packers in 2013, when he had 32 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
It also looked like Quarless had fully recovered from the devastating knee injury he suffered late in the 2011 season. That injury caused him to miss all of the 2012 season.
The Packers also have Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner on the depth chart at tight end.
Taylor is a special teams dynamo who is mostly used in blocking situations on offense, while Bostick and Stoneburner both have some potential to help the passing game.
Still, I expect the Packers to select a tight end in the upcoming draft.
I wanted to get Landry's take on a couple of tight ends who are not among the upper echelon of the available prospects at that position but are not too far removed from that area, either.
I wanted to get an opinion from Chris on both Troy Niklas from Notre Dame and C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa.
Niklas from Notre Dame is another big, athletic Notre Dame tight end. He's 270 pounds and he's a good receiver. He's a good blocker and he's an in-line tight end with enough athletic ability to be a factor as a receiver.
C.J. Fiedorowicz is a 260-pound guy who has good size as his dimensions would indicate. Big hands, good balance, good body control and I think he's tough in traffic. Smart, not real athletic or elusive, and he's a good all-around tight end who really needs to develop a little bit. He's unlike most of the Iowa guys. Most of the Iowa guys are the lunch-pail overachievers. This guy doesn't play quite as hard with the type of mentality which comes out of the Kirk Ferentz system. But I do think he represents good value, somewhere in the third round.
I think Niklas could go second round. I only think there are two or three tight ends, with Eric Ebron of North Carolina being a first-round guy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington being a late first- or early second-round guy and then the kid from Texas Tech [Jace Amaro] who I may be a little too high on him. Those are the only three guys who I could see going before Niklas and Fiederowicz.
If one looks at the ascending collegiate careers of both Niklas and Fiedorowicz, one can see why Landry is high on both of these players.
Niklas really blossomed in 2013, as he had 32 receptions for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Niklas started out his career at Notre Dame as a linebacker, so you know that he loves to be physical in the running game as a blocker.
Fiedorowicz also came on strong in both his junior and senior years at Iowa, as he had 75 catches for 732 yards and seven touchdowns. He is also a solid blocking tight end.
I don't expect to see the Packers select a tight end in the first round, although they might if Ebron somehow fell to the 21st pick of that round.
But I could see the Packers looking to help their passing game fairly early in the draft at both wide receiver and tight end.
The Packers would also love to have a tight end who can help out both in the running game and the passing game.
Both Niklas and Fiedorowicz have those capabilities.
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