If you’re looking for reasons to be excited about this year’s Packers, beyond the obvious arrival of the Jordan Love Era, you might want to have a look at the tight end spot, where Green Bay will be lining up rookie Luke Musgrave, a second-round pick out of Oregon State who has the physical build (6-foot-6 and 253 pounds) and the speed to match the star tight end/receiver hybrids that have grown in stature around the NFL.
And, according to one analyst, the Packers’ attachment to Musgrave is strong.
“They absolutely are obsessed with Luke Musgrave,” said Peter Bukowski, a longtime Packers reporter who hosts the “Locked on Packers” podcast. “I have never seen Matt LaFleur light up talking about a rookie the way he’s lighting up talking about Luke Musgrave. They absolutely love him. They think he can be their George Kittle, their Travis Kelce—let’s flex him out in the slot, attack the middle of the field.”
Musgrave’s Size-Speed Combo Has Impressed
That’s high praise for Musgrave, whose senior season was ruined by a torn MCL after just two games. In all, Musgrave played in 34 games for the Beavers, and recorded 633 yards on 47 catches, with two touchdowns in those games. That hardly sounds like a guy on the verge of pro stardom, but it’s common for very good collegiate tight ends to put up modest numbers. (Kelce totaled 835 yards receiving in 35 games in college, and Kittle had 737 yards in 25 games.)
The main thing is that Musgrave can run, even at his size and even after knee surgery. He posted a 40-yard time of 4.61 at the NFL Combine, which was a tick faster than two of the Packers’ rookie wide receivers, Dontavyion Wicks and Malik Heath.
The expectation is that the Packers, after running a lot of two tight-end sets (12 personnel in football jargon) last year, will do so again this year, and will feature Musgrave.
“He is good enough to be OK in-line (blocking),” Bukowski said. “They were one of the league leaders in 12-personnel last year and I think you’re going to see them lead the league again. But we’re going to see them in 12 and empty, and they’re just going to live in 12. And I am really excited to see it.”
LaFleur: ‘We’re Going to Throw as Much at Him’
In training camp, LaFleur said that the team had no plans to treat him as a rookie. Expect the Packers to introduce some wrinkles to take advantage of Musgraves’ speed. He might not be Kelce or Kittle right away, but that won’t be because LaFleur was afraid to call his number.
“We’re going to throw as much at him until we’re like, ‘All right, that’s probably too much,’” LaFleur said. “Right now he’s doing a great job of being able to handle it, so we’re going to keep pushing him.”
And Musgrave has a football brain. His father, Doug, was a quarterback at Oregon for two years, and his uncle, Bill Musgrave, was a four-year starter for the Ducks who went on to play in the NFL and coach in the league for more than 20 years.
“Every time he goes out there, if he makes a mistake, he definitely — he hasn’t made many of the same mistakes twice,” said LaFleur. “He’s super into it, very intentional and deliberate about his work. Invested. He continues to show progress every day and, certainly, he does have an elite trait that he can flat fly.
“He’s a big, long target. We’re really excited about him and the progress he’s made up to this point and we’ve got to continue to push him.”