South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft taken by Green Bay Packers in third round of NFL Draft

Timber Lake native is third Jackrabbit selected in last two years

Tucker Kraft celebrates getting picked by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Draft with his mother, Tausha Kraft, and fiancee, Baylee Jandahl, on Friday, April 28, 2023 in Timber Lake.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

TIMBER LAKE, S.D. — Tucker Kraft is a Packer.

The former South Dakota State tight end was picked in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers with the 78th overall pick on Friday evening.

The former 9-man high school football standout received the call surrounded by friends, family and well-wishers at the AirKraft Spraying airfield and hangar in his hometown.

A chant of "Let's-Go-Packers" broke out immediately after the pick was announced on television.

In a draft that's considered loaded with quality tight ends, Kraft watched five of them come off the board in the second round (Utah's Dalton Kincaid was the only tight end taken in the first), but just when the 6-foot-5, 256-pound, 22-year-old seemed to be getting restless the phone rang and he got the call of a lifetime.


"Everyone be quiet," Kraft said into a microphone, before fielding the call and thanking the Packers representative for "making this small town boy's dreams come true."

"I've been working a long time for this," Kraft said. "I'm ready for it. I'm going to try to be the best tight end in that room, to be one of the best receivers on that offense, and eventually be one of the best players on that team, and carry that forward. I want to be an All-Pro tight end, win a Super Bowl. I want to be the best tight end and best teammate I can. I can't wait to get to work."

Tucker Kraft is congratulated by teammates moments after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers on Friday, April 28, 2023 in Timber Lake.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Kraft is the third Jackrabbit tight end to be taken in the first three rounds of the draft, joining Dallas Goedert (2018) and Steve Heiden (1999). He's also the fourth Jackrabbit picked since 2018, joining Goedert, Jordan Brown (2019) and Pierre Strong and Chris Oladokun, who were both taken last year.

Kraft's mother, Tausha, and step-father, Guthrie Ducheneaux, are both lifelong Vikings fans. But they're ready to trade in their purple for green.

"We can't wait," Tausha said. "I'm so happy for Tucker. So proud."

Kraft entered the draft despite still having a year of eligibility remaining, and despite missing much of his junior year due to a foot injury. But he still caught 27 passes for 348 yards in nine games, helping lead the Jackrabbits to their first FCS national championship.

Tucker Kraft (center) shares a moment before the NFL Draft with his mother, Tausha Kraft and cousin Ross Kraft on Friday, April 28, 2023 in Timber Lake.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

That came after a 2021 that saw Kraft catch 65 balls for 773 yards. After that breakthrough season he had lucrative NIL offers from several major conference schools to transfer, but Kraft chose to stick with the Jacks and win a ring. Now he'll begin his pursuit of similar success at the next level.

"No one works harder than Tucker," Ducheneaux said. "He's been preparing for this for years. We couldn't be more excited for him. Nobody is more deserving."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, and began a long career in amateur baseball and sports reporting. Email Matt at
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