Green Bay Packers tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft have the chance to break a franchise record this season. With Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis no longer with the team and Josiah Deguara spending most of his time at H-back or fullback, there are many opportunities for the two rookies to get quality snaps at tight end. If they do get enough playing time, then both Musgrave and Kraft have a chance to break the Packers franchise record for most catches by a rookie tight end.

Tight end is considered a difficult position for rookies to learn. NFL playbooks are much larger than their college counterparts and the plays are more complex. Tight ends also have a lot to learn because of the nature of the position. In addition to running pass patterns, tight ends need to block on running plays and must know how to pass protect when they’re not running a pattern.

The Packers Tight End Rookie Record

The Packers franchise record was set by Bubba Franks back in 2000. That year, the former first-round pick out of Miami (Florida) caught 34 passes from Brett Favre (and his backups) for 363 yards and one touchdown. Franks started 14 games that season starting with Week 2.

His best performance came in Week 5 in the Packers 27-24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. He caught five passes for 54 yards in that game. That was Franks’ season-high in both catches and yards.

The only touchdown Franks scored came against Tampa Bay in Week 11. He caught a 27-yard touchdown toss from Matt Hasselbeck early in the fourth quarter that put the Pack ahead 15-14 in an eventual 20-15 loss.

Other Recent Challengers

Since then, Packers rookie tight ends have not accumulated big numbers and didn’t have large roles. In 2008, Jermichael Finley caught six passes in his rookie campaign for 74 yards and a touchdown. He played behind veteran starter Donald Lee.

In 2014, Richard Rodgers started five games and caught 20 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers selected him in the third round of that year’s NFL Draft. He was behind veteran Andrew Quarless on the depth chart.

Other recent high draft picks at tight end include third-round pick Jace Sternberger who played only six games and didn’t catch a pass as a rookie. Deguara caught just one pass in his rookie year for 12 yards while playing in just two games.

The Opportunity Is There

Musgrave and Kraft have the opportunity to get significant snaps this season. If Deguara continues to be an H-back and fullback, he can be on the field with the rookies but would not necessarily take away significant snaps from either.

The Packers also have a new starting quarterback in Jordan Love who is expected to be more willing to throw passes to receivers in the middle of the field. This is something Aaron Rodgers was reluctant to do in recent seasons. That should mean more targets for tight ends as well.

Head coach Matt LaFleur was impressed by Musgrave when he saw the Oregon State alum at OTAs and called him “different” from the players the Pack had at the position in recent seasons.

“He’s a really, really intelligent player,” LaFleur said. “If he makes a mistake, he hasn’t made many of the same mistakes twice because he’s super into it. Very intentional. Deliberate about his work. Invested. He continues to show progress every day.”

He also added that Musgrave “Can flat fly. And he’s a big, long target. We’re really excited about him and the progress he’s made up to this point, and we have to keep pushing him.”

Kraft has also garnered praise from the Packers brass. His had a relative athletic score (RAS) of 9.68 and has all the tools to be a difference maker once he gets up to speed.

“I will say, Tucker is very good with the ball in his hands after the catch,” GM Brian Gutekunst during his press conference after the second day of this year’s draft. “He’s a really good basketball player coming out of high school. I think he has really good balance and strength to break tackles to keep himself alive.”

Musgrave and Kraft both have the potential to stretch the field. This is something the Packers haven’t had at tight end since Finley’s career ended prematurely by injury back in 2013.

If either of the duo picks up the offense quickly, they have a good opportunity to break Franks’ franchise record for catches by a rookie tight end. The challenge awaits.



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