The Green Bay Packers could look drastically different at tight end next season, which is why general manager Brian Gutekunst could go after a star at the position in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.
Even with the current tight ends the Packers have on their roster, none of them have had a massive impact in 2022. Robert Tonyan is considered the team’s top weapon at tight end, but has only racked up 47 catches for 389 yards and one touchdown.
Trevor Sikkema with Pro Football Focus had just the solution at tight end for the Packers in his latest mock draft, having Green Bay take Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer.
“No, it’s not technically a wide receiver, but this pick might help the Packers the most with both Johnston and Addison off the board,” Sikkema said. “Mayer’s limited straight-line athleticism will curb how high he will be drafted, but he was one of the most reliable pass catchers in all of college football over the past few seasons, so I’d expect him to be an immediate impact player in Green Bay’s offense.”
Other recent mock drafts have suggested wide receivers like Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, but a player like Mayer could have a bigger impact given the team’s young playmakers in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
Why Do the Packers Need a Tight End?
It may not seem like a position of need right now, but the Packers are going to have a serious need at tight end in 2023.
Tonyan hasn’t been the same player since returning from a torn ACL he suffered in 2021. While the team was able to bring him back on a one-year deal, the 28-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 looking for a bigger long-term contract. Given the team’s salary cap constraints, Tonyan is more likely to find that somewhere else.
Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis is also a free agent after this season, but is more likely to not return for different reasons. The former first-round pick is 38 years old, and given the physical nature of the position, there’s a very real chance that he decides to retire rather than find another short-term contract in the NFL.
Third-year tight end Josiah Deguara is the only noteworthy tight end currently under contract for 2023. While the former third-round pick isn’t as involved in the passing game, his abilities as a run blocker and the lack of depth at the position almost guarantees him a spot on next year’s 53-man roster.
Still, with the lack of an impact pass catcher at the position, drafting a player like Mayer would make a lot of sense.
Why is Michael Mayer a First-Round Prospect?
Tight end isn’t the most impactful position, and it’s rare for a prospect at the position to stand out as a first-round pick. However, Mayer checks enough boxes that he should have an impact almost immediately at the pro level.
Mayer’s career with the Fighting Irish took off almost immediately as a true freshman, catching 42 passes with a pair of touchdowns. Despite his plans to forego his senior season, Mayer is leaving Notre Dame as the all-time leading pass catcher at tight end with 180 receptions. He was also named a unanimous All-American this season, the first Notre Dame tight end to do so since 1976.
At 6’4″ and 265 pounds, Mayer has a special ability to create separation off of his release with impressive movement skills. He’s also a willing and capable blocker, giving him the all-around skillset to make him the top tight end prospect in the 2023 draft class.