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2022 Very Deep Sleeper Report #1: A Different Dynasty Look at the Packers’ Tight End Situation for FF 2022…

Published:
May 10, 2022 11:04 AM
May 10, 2022 11:00 AM
Updated:
May 10, 2022 11:04 AM

2022 Very Deep Sleeper Report #1: A Different Dynasty Look at the Packers’ Tight End Situation for FF 2022…

 

We (the football general public) entered the 2022 NFL offseason assuming the Green Bay tight end situation was approx. as follows: Robert Tonyan is set to return from his ACL tear (halfway through the 2021 season) and the Packers will probably look to add a tight end in free agency or draft one at some point.

The Packers did neither.

Green Bay went to the 2021 season playoffs led by soon-to-be 38+ year old Marcedes Lewis as their starting tight end with 2nd-year TE Josiah Deguara splitting time pretty evenly with Lewis, and Deguara providing more of a receiving punch (a very minor punch). Green Bay will likely carry both these TEs into 2022 along with Tonyan…Lewis has too much guaranteed money due to cut (in his 18th season) and Deguara is on the 3rd-year of his four-year rookie deal.

It's a tenuous situation at TE for Green Bay for 2022…and beyond…

For 2022, they have to hope Tonyan returns to full strength or close enough…for one more run with Aaron Rodgers. It’s a big ‘if’/hope coming off a major injury. Lewis is a crafty veteran but he’s going to be one of the oldest players in the NFL this season. Deguara is fine but not shown anything special. If Tonyan is delayed in his return and Lewis starts succumbing even more to age…then Deguara is going to have a lot on his shoulders.

…or is he?

Enter Packers tight end Tyler Davis into the discussion.

Davis has taken an unusual, interesting path to get to the Packers…and get into this discussion for 2022+, but let’s back up to his college days and then run the story forward…

 -- An All-State (NY) high school quarterback, the #5 prospect in the state in 2015…he signed with UConn as a quarterback.

 -- Davis redshirted his 2015 season and was a backup QB in 2016, but he also started working as a WR (6’4”/252) some.

In 2017, he became a full-time WR…but a backup for the Huskies. The seeds were also being planted for Davis as a conversion to TE.

In 2018, he converted full-time to TE and had a breakout season…22 catches, 237 yards, and 6 TDs (led the team) for a not-very-good UConn offense/team.

In 2019, he graduate-transferred (was an Academic All-Conference in the AAC as well) to Georgia Tech…wanting to get a master’s in economics. Georgia Tech had as bad/a worse passing game than UConn and Davis had a quiet season despite being a Mackey Award watch list and Senior Bowl watch list tight end.

 -- Davis seemed to be lost in the shuffle as an NFL prospect after his senior season. Surprisingly, in COVID 2020 offseason, Davis was a 6th-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Davis played well enough in the preseason to make the 53-man roster and saw random snaps on-and-off in the 2020 season, mostly on special teams.

 -- In 2021, football savant Urban Meyer came in and had one of the worst runs of personnel decision-making in the history of football. Among his brilliant decisions, to little concern to anyone at the time, was to cut Davis before the 2021 season start.

The Colts quickly scooped Davis up off waivers and they planted him on their practice squad for the 2021 season start.

Now, this is going to get a bit interesting…

 -- Roughly four weeks after the Colts grabbed Davis and stuffed him on the practice squad, the Packers claimed him and thus signed him to the main roster. A bit of an odd move…you usually don’t see teams just go and sign/lock into another team’s practice squad guy early in the season -- unless an injury forced their hands.

Davis was signed weeks before Tonyan would tear his ACL. Lewis and Deguara were healthy and playing. TE Dominique Dafney was on the active roster as well. So why did Green Bay jump up and add Tyler Davis, a 5th TE, out of the blue?

Answer = they wanted to…they scouted this out and pounced…not to fill a need or in an emergency, this was a savvy grab/claim/poach from Indy for a potential future TE hope/prospect.

 

By 2021 season’s end, with Tonyan gone since Week 9, Davis started playing a decent number of snaps…

Weeks 15-18, 2021 season, including their one playoff game, Green Bay TE snap counts (snaps per game, starting with Week 15 and ending with the playoff game):

(30.2 per game) 35-33-30-29-24 = Deguara

(23.0) 31-25-13-20-26 = M. Lewis

(19.4) 19-13-32-24-11 = Tyler Davis

(9.0) 0-3-19-15-8 = D. Dafney

 

From being cut by the Jags to practice squad poach to working in a tight-end-by-committee 10+ weeks later for the top team in the NFC…not bad. It’s not ‘nothing’.

Here’s video of Davis’s big catch (only catch of the game) from Week 15 of the 2021 season, a minor play that caught my attention at the time…with the nice movement skills and solid catch in a crowd: https://youtu.be/CaYOoVglz3o?t=280. I say it caught my attention, but as quickly as it impressed me -- I went on forgetting about Davis. I was really not seeing or thinking about Davis’s future potential, but I was speaking to a source this offseason and he brought up Davis…and after Green Bay made ZERO moves at tight end through April, I knew I needed to re-look at this case.

Also, there’s this from the Packers’ GM…

Following the draft, Brian Gutekunst was asked about not adding to the tight end position and was quoted as saying: "TD -- Tyler Davis -- we picked up early in the year, and as his opportunities grew not only in the games but in practice, think we really have something there. So, I'm excited about that."

I went back and looked at some of Davis’s UConn and Ga Tech work, sparse as it was…and looking at it with refreshed eyes, I can see the potential here. Davis really does move well for a TE his size. I get why Jacksonville took a shot on him in 2020 – the tall, thick, mobile QB turned WR turned TE can play. Urban Meyer cutting him shouldn’t be seen as a negative…really, it should be seen as a positive…because Urban was such a personnel and coaching moron. Many good players for the Jags were dumped by Urban in 2021. Davis was lucky to get gone.

 

I’m thinking this might be more a 2023+ story for the Packers…that Davis is being seen/groomed as a tight end of the future. Tonyan and Lewis will have their contracts expire at the end of 2022. Deguara will be entering the final year of his contract. For 2023, as of now on contract, it’s Deguara-Davis-Dafney…and certainly Green Bay can add a tight end by various means, but right now Davis (among the other two as well) has a shot to impress and seize the inside track for the starting TE role in 2023.

For 2022, Tonyan should be the lead with the veteran Lewis providing support…but if Tonyan can’t get back in time or get back ‘right’, and/or if Lewis is running out of gas…there might be a path for a minor shock Tyler Davis story in 2022.

Davis looks to me like most of the starting NFL TEs…6’4”/252, solid movement skill (a 4.7+ runner with 7.19 three-cone). Already successful TE NFL comps for Davis are Hayden Hurst and Foster Moreau (who has a bright future) with some Pat Freiermuth and Daniel Bellinger comps too (I cherry picked the recognizable names among a broad analysis in our database, to give a better idea/concept of Davis). Davis has that typical TE size/speed…all that’s left then is whether he has the technical skills and work ethic to rise to NFL impact starter.

And Davis has nice grades in blocking in the NFL so far, which the NFL craves, salivates over with TEs, and he seems to have pretty good hands and athleticism overall…not bad for a high school/college QB who only started playing tight end in 2017.

I’m not pushing Davis as a for sure/must get right now future star for Fantasy. He’s more in the ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ category…to be aware of, to keep an eye on, and in deeper roster leagues he’s an ‘add’ consideration to sit on for a bit and see how this shakes out.  

 

YouTube UConn highlights: https://youtu.be/2-CyE_fzvE8

Long-form, recent interview with Davis, if you’re bored and want some noise to half pay attention to while performing another task: https://youtu.be/JT_ozRh5wcw

It seems odd to have this Tyler Davis curveball thrown out there at you right now with a million things going on post-NFL Draft, etc., but I’m getting little birdies telling me to watch out for him there in Green Bay and I wanted to get it out to you ahead of the crowd (who some will now start writing about it with no credit to FFM for the concept…).

 

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