GREEN BAY, Wis. — Why ought to the Packers care that Rob Gronkowski referred to as it quits?
They don’t play the New England Patriots in 2019. Or in 2020 and even 2021.
Except there’s a Packers-Patriots Tremendous Bowl, they received’t play once more till the 2022 season.
Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson is the consensus prime tight finish prospect within the draft. Joe Robbins/Getty Photographs
Nonetheless, Gronkowski’s retirement, which he introduced over the weekend, might make issues tougher for the Packers this offseason.
The Packers at the moment are in direct competitors with the Patriots for one of many prime tight ends in subsequent month’s NFL draft. And though Packers basic supervisor Brian Gutekunst has two picks — Nos. 12 and 30 — earlier than the Patriots are on the clock with the final decide within the first spherical, New England’s Invoice Belichick has loads of draft ammunition — 12 picks in all — to maneuver up and steal a kind of tight ends from Inexperienced Bay.
What’s extra, the highest two tight finish prospects — Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson — each come from the College of Iowa, the place the Patriots have robust ties. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz served as Belichick’s offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns. One in all Ferentz’s sons, Brian, labored for Belichick on the Patriots’ teaching workers for 4 seasons earlier than he returned to Iowa. One other son, James, is an offensive lineman for the Patriots.
With out Gronkowski, the Patriots’ present tight ends are: Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse — a foursome with 71 mixed profession catches. Gronkowski had 71-plus receptions on his personal in a season 3 times.
With the free-agent market virtually dried up, the Patriots will both need to swing a commerce for a decent finish or use a excessive draft decide.
Which is the place the Packers are available. Though they paid Jimmy Graham’s $5 million roster bonus on March 15, guaranteeing they’d maintain him round for 2019, they usually re-signed veteran Marcedes Lewis, tight finish stays considered one of their largest wants heading into the draft. Graham is 32, and Lewis will flip 35 in Might. Graham regarded far much less athletic final season than he did for many of his profession, and Lewis was little greater than a blocker (he caught solely three passes regardless of enjoying all 16 video games in 2018). Behind them are Robert Tonyan and Evan Baylis. Tonyan has 4 profession catches for 77 yards and a landing, whereas Baylis has performed in only one NFL recreation and didn’t catch a cross.
When: April 25-27
The place: Nashville, Tennessee
How you can watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App
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ESPN’s Todd McShay had the Packers taking Hockenson at No. 12 in his most up-to-date mock draft.
McShay wrote: “Sure, the Packers re-signed Jimmy Graham, however he’s 32 years outdated and his manufacturing has declined. Hockenson combines measurement, velocity and energy on the place, and he would give Aaron Rodgers an actual weapon within the passing recreation.”
Different mock drafts have the Packers taking Fant at No. 12 and even taking considered one of them at No. 30. Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. additionally could possibly be a decent finish chance within the late first spherical or second spherical.
If the Packers don’t take a decent finish with their first decide, they might danger dropping one other one earlier than their second decide comes up. Belichick, with two picks within the second spherical and three within the third, might simply transfer forward of Inexperienced Bay at No. 30.