NFC North: Troy Niklas

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Armed with three selections on Day 2 of the NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers are spending the day plotting their strategy for picks Nos. 53 (second round), 85 and 98 (both in the third round).

After taking Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round -- a move that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called one of the winners of Day 1 Insider -- the Packers reset their draft board to reflect the best players still available.

If their grades on the players still available at 53, 85 and 98 fit their needs, here is who they might consider:

Linebackers: Notes: Borland, Brown and Skov would all project as inside linebackers in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. Kiper Jr. ranked Van Noy, an outside linebacker, as the fifth-best player still available Insider, and Borland as the 12th. In his second-round mock draft Insider, Kiper Jr. predicted Borland to the Packers at No. 53. He wrote: “This would be a steal. He's not a physical freak, but Borland is a football freak. Slots in next to A.J. Hawk.”

Tight ends:
Amaro
Notes: If the Packers are going to get an impact tight end, they probably need to do it on Friday, because the drop off after these four is significant. Seferian-Jenkins and Amaro are receiving tight ends in the mold of Jermichael Finley, while Fiedorowicz and Niklas are more traditional players. Scouts Inc. has the Packers taking Amaro in its updated second-round mock draft Insider.

Receivers:
Lee
Notes: Lee could be one of the first players off the board when the draft resumes, so it's unlikely the Packers would be in position to take him unless they traded up. Keep in mind that they cannot trade No. 98 because it is a compensatory pick at the end of the third round. Lee and Landry are smaller receivers in the 5-foot-11 range, and Ellington is even smaller at 5-9 3/8. The Packers might want to go bigger at this spot, because they already have a dynamic slot receiver in Randall Cobb.

Centers:
Notes: The Packers are high on second-year pro JC Tretter as their possible next starting center, but the former collegiate tackle has yet to play an NFL snap at any position. There is a good chance all of these centers will be available at No. 53, with Martin and Richburg as likely late second-round picks who also could slip into the third round.

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Packers 

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
12:15
PM ET
The Green Bay Packers' greatest needs would seemingly be on the defensive side of the ball.

Even with the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, they likely need to upgrade a few more spots in order improve on its 25th overall ranking last season. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that in ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft , version 4.0, he has the Packers taking offensive players not only with their first-round pick but also with their second.

INDIANAPOLIS -- One by one, the top tight ends in this year’s NFL draft rolled through Lucas Oil Stadium as part of Thursday’s interview session at the scouting combine.

There was Eric Ebron of North Carolina, Jace Amaro of Texas Tech, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, Troy Niklas of Notre Dame, C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa and on and on.

Most, if not all, were asked which NFL tight end they admired, emulated or resembled.

For some, like Ebron, it was San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsCarolina likely would have to trade up in the first round of the NFL draft to have a shot at selecting Eric Ebron.
For others, like Amaro and Fiedorowicz, it was the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski.

For Seferian-Jenkins, it was the New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham and the Denver Broncos’ Julius Thomas, who like him had a background in basketball.

Not one of them, however, mentioned Jermichael Finley.

Yet if the Green Bay Packers don’t bring back their starting tight end, which is a likely course of action given his neck injury and his expiring contract, one of those players could become the next Finley.

Most of the top tight end prospects said Thursday that they had either visited with the Packers or planned to talk with team representatives this week at the combine.

So too will Blake Baratz, the agent who represents Finley, but the Packers may have already decided that Finley’s neck fusion surgery was too much of a risk to bring him back. If that’s their plan, then there are plenty of viable options in this draft, which features playmaking tight ends of all sizes.

It starts with the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ebron, who likely will be the first tight end taken in the draft and could be gone before the Packers pick at No. 21.

“I’m very fast; I’m very different,” said Ebron, who along with the other tight ends will do their on-field testing this weekend. “I play the tight end role like no one else.”

In some ways, he plays it like Finley, whose physical presence is similar to Ebron’s.

Amaro (6-5, 255) is as much receiver as he is tight end. Most of last season, when he caught 106 passes for 1,352 yards (the NCAA record for a tight end), he played standing up away from the line of scrimmage.

“That’s why I’m so unique,” Amaro said. “It’s kind of a revolution into the game and how the tight ends are coming in across the board. I like to see myself as both a tight end and a receiver.”

But can he block?

That’s not an issue with Fiedorowicz (6-5, 265), who was more of a blocking tight end in Iowa’s run-heavy offense.

“A lot of tight ends in the NFL are either blocking tight ends or receiving tight ends,” Fiedorowicz said. “I like watching Rob Gronkowski. He can dominate both the line of scrimmage and down the field.”

Seferian-Jenkins (6-5, 262) said he was asked to do both last season at Washington, where he played basketball as a freshman.

“At the tight end position, you’ve got a lot of great players [in this draft],” he said. “But what I think I do is if you watched me play, I split out and played receiver. I’ve done fullback. I’ve played in line. I think I’ve showed I’m very capable of being a playmaker down the seam and run regular routes as a receiver, and I’ve shown the capability of being a blocker.”

Niklas (6-6 , 270) might be the biggest bruiser of this bunch. He began his college career as an outside linebacker.

“I can block, and I enjoy blocking,” Niklas said. “I think it’s something I can use to my advantage.”

Further down the tight end pecking order is Jacob Pedersen of Wisconsin. He grew up just north of Green Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He’s a late-round prospect who would love the chance to be the Packers' next tight end.

“Growing up 45 minutes away from Green Bay, obviously it’d be a childhood dream to play for your home team,” said Pedersen, one of six Badgers invited to the combine. “But I’m just hoping to get drafted by a team. Whoever takes me, they’re going to get my best effort.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Brandon Pettigrew presents a conundrum for the Detroit Lions.

On one side, Pettigrew is one of the tight ends in the NFL who can run routes and also line up on the offensive line and block oncoming defenders. But with what Detroit might run in the future, with the base being the New Orleans Saints offense that used Jimmy Graham in the slot often, the question remains of how Pettigrew might fit with the potentially-new-look Lions.

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
“Pettigrew, he’s a talented guy. Big, talented,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said during the NFL combine Thursday. “Can block you at the line of scrimmage but also can catch the ball as well. He’s a talented guy.

“Across the board, I think you find guys that have certain skill sets. He’s got a real fine skill set and [I] obviously think you’ve been able to see that through the years.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Detroit will bring him back, though. Caldwell wouldn’t give an indication one way or another whether he would have the Lions try to retain the Oklahoma State product, who has caught 284 passes for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first five years in Detroit.

If the Lions are unable to retain him, the team would have two tight ends returning to the team -- Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams. Williams spent last season on injured reserve with a broken hand and Fauria played mostly in passing and red zone situations.

When asked if he intended to try to re-sign Pettigrew, however, Caldwell became very vague.

“We’ve got to look at every option and that’s one of the things,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to have contingencies for every single thing and that’s one of the things. We have to have contingencies for every single thing so we look at it on both sides of it and see how things work out.”

The Lions may also look to fill tight end needs through the draft. The tight end pool is a deep crop, led by North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas. Niklas told ESPN.com on Thursday he was scheduled to speak with the team at some point during the combine.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Green Bay Packers' contingent of coaches, doctors, executives and personnel evaluators is on the ground at the NFL combine – and so is ESPN's NFL Nation – and therefore we have come to the conclusion of our countdown.

The first three parts focused on the Packers many defensive needs, from safety to defensive line to linebacker.

The final part before we turn our attention to the events at Lucas Oil Stadium for the remainder of the week will focus on what could be the biggest need on the offensive side of the ball for the Packers: tight end, a position group that will meet with reporters here on Thursday.

Why the Packers need help: It all hinges on the Packers' plans for Jermichael Finley, who has said he expects to be cleared soon from his neck fusion surgery. But that doesn't mean the Packers -- or other NFL teams -- will clear him. With Finley headed toward free agency next month, the Packers could simply decide not to re-sign him, regardless of the medical report. But they would be walking away from their most athletic, big-bodied tight end, and therefore would need to find a replacement. Andrew Quarless, who also is scheduled to be a free agent, probably didn't show enough in the second half of the season after Finley's injury to convince anyone that he can be that guy. He's a serviceable player who could return for a modest contract, but he's not a potential difference-maker like Finley. Of the Packers' three other young tight ends, Brandon Bostick has the most potential because of his athleticism and receiving skills, but he remains raw. Ryan Taylor is a solid blocker and top special teams player, and Jake Stoneburner has a ways to go. They also signed street free agent Raymond Webber this offseason. The Packers struggled in the red zone last season, ranking 25th in the touchdown percentage (50.8 percent), and missing a big target like Finley was one of the reasons.

Tight ends the Packers should be watching:

Eric Ebron, North Carolina: In his first mock draft Insider back in December, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had the Packers taking the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards last season. At that time, the Packers were projected to have the 18th pick in the draft. Now that they're locked into No. 21, it appears Ebron could be gone before the Packers pick.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: The 6-5, 260-pound Amaro caught 103 passes last season. He lined up in the slot position most of the time, much like Finley did for the Packers.

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: More of a pure blocker than Ebron or Amaro, but the 6-7, 270-pounder has the potential to grow into a split-out role. He averaged 15.6 yards per catch on 32 receptions last season.

SPONSORED HEADLINES