The Green Bay Packers recently surprised legions of fans by signing free agent tight end Jared Cook. Many have praised the move and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean Green Bay doesn’t need to add another tight end in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Free agency can be a good way to add to your roster and in this case, Cook should fit nicely in Green Bay. He will have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback throwing to him in Aaron Rodgers and he will play on an offense where he will be the third or fourth option at best.
However, Ted Thompson shies away from free agency for a reason — it’s risky. You never quite know how players will fit into your system and because you are usually getting them in the later part of their career, you never quite know how much they have left in the tank.
When it comes to Cook, he’s 28 years old and should have plenty of tread left on the tires. At least enough for a 3-4 good seasons. Yet, the problem for the Packers is that they signed him to a one-year deal.
That can benefit both parties. If Cook unperforms, then Green Bay can let him go. But, if he excels, he’s going to command a big contract and with players like Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, David Bahktiari, J.C. Tretter, Micah Hyde and Eddie Lacy all set to be free agents, it might be hard to find money for Cook too.
That’s part of the reason why the Packers should still target a tight end in the 2016 NFL Draft and why they shouldn’t shy away from drafting one early.
Unfortunately, when it comes to tight ends, the 2016 draft is pretty weak. Only Arkansas’ Hunter Henry is being projected to be a first-round selection. The only other tight end projected two go in the first two rounds is Stanford’s Austin Hooper.
Both players are intriguing prospects and both come from run-heavy offenses, so they know how to block. Henry caught 51 passes for 739 yards last season and can play all over the field. He could be the true long-term answer at tight end for Green Bay and a favorite of Rodgers for years to come.
Hooper is another player with pass-catching skills. He can split out or play in-line. He’s tough and he’s smart and like most Stanford products, he would be ready to play right away. Hooper may not offer the long-term upside of Henry, but he has starter potential.
After those two players, the prospects are pretty thin. So if the Packers want to find their starting tight end for the next 5-10 years, there are two choices: Henry and Hooper. And in order to get one of them, they will need to spend one of their first two picks to make it happen.
Certainly, if the chance to get impact players at inside linebacker or defensive line presents itself, they should jump at. The Packers just shouldn’t be afraid to pound one Henry or Hooper if the opportunity provides itself in the first two rounds of the draft.