Tucker Kraft and the Green Bay Packers are a match made in football heaven
Timber Lake native and South Dakota State grad sure to be a fan favorite among Cheeseheads
TIMBER LAKE, S.D. — In the hours leading up to his selection on the second day of the NFL Draft, Tucker Kraft insisted he didn't have much of a preference to where he would land.
But once he was picked in the third round by the Green Bay Packers, it felt like the perfect match.
First of all there's the whole Kraft/cheese/cheeseheads thing. Perfect.
Then there's Kraft's smalltown upbringing, rugged outdoorsman personality and the fact that he played at a smaller school that just won a national championship, a perfect fit for a Midwest franchise playing in the smallest city in the NFL and has been nicknamed 'Titletown.'
On the morning he was picked, Kraft lifted weights in his brother's garage in Timber Lake (pop. 500) under the watchful eye of various deer and pheasants that became hunting trophies over the years, and from there he and friends and family hopped in their F150s and drove to a clay pigeon shooting range next to the town's rodeo facilities.
Kraft's draft party was held in the family "airport" outside of town, and when Packer fans saw video of the 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end in a King Ropes baseball cap, surrounded by a beer-drinking blue collar community in the rustic surroundings it was love at first sight. When Kraft admitted to Packers communications director Sarah Quick over the phone that he'd had a few drinks waiting to hear his name called, the fans of green and gold knew that Kraft was already part of the family.
When he performs his first Lambeau Leap, he'll get an enthusiastic reception from the Cheeseheads.
But being a folk hero is one thing. Kraft wants to be an All-Pro, and take his place among the best tight ends in the NFL. And the consensus seems to be that he's a good fit in Green Bay from a football standpoint as well.
The Packers, of course, will be undergoing a major offensive transition this year, having traded future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers to the Jets last week. Jordan Love is expected to take over the starting role, and Green Bay brass made an obvious move to surround him with weapons. They took another tight end, Luke Musgrave, and wide receiver Jayden Reed in the second round before picking Kraft, then later added two more wideouts and a running back.
Green Bay has four returning tight ends on the roster in Tyler Davis, Josiah Deguara, Austin Allen and Nick Guggemos, but Musgrave, out of Oregon State, and Kraft, have a good chance of being the team's starter or co-starters. Taking two tight ends with their first four picks raised some eyebrows, but the Packers lost the productive Robert Tonyan (another former FCS player out of Indiana State) in the offseason, and haven't had a vertical tight end threat since Jimmy Graham or perhaps even Jermichael Finley.
In Musgrave and Kraft, the Packers have a pair of tight ends both of whose strength is versatility. They can move the chains, they can get open in the seam, they can run after the catch and they can block, both downfield and on the line of scrimmage.
“They are similar. They’re both all-around tight ends that can kind of do everything,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “They’re not pigeonholed into only being able to be a receiving tight end or a blocking tight end. They can do it all. They both have very good size, very good speed, so I’m excited. I do think most of their best football is ahead of them for different reasons, but I think they will complement each other and they’ll be a good fit for our room that we already have.”