GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense got their first new weapon of the NFL Draft Friday night: Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger.
The Packers took Sternberger with their third-round pick (No. 75 overall), having spent their two first-round picks on Thursday night on defense (Michigan edge rusher Rashan Gary and Maryland safety Darnell Savage) and having added Mississippi State offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins in the second round earlier Friday.
The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Sternberger, who’ll turn 23 in June, was late to develop in college, starting his career at Kansas before leaving the Jayhawks and landing at a junior college, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, before moving on to Texas A&M, where he caught 48 passes for 832 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns.
Packers co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan called Sternberger a “late-bloomer,” having redshirted at Kansas in 2015 and catching only one pass in 2016.
Sternberger was one of the 30 players the Packers brought to Green Bay for an official pre-draft visit, and he also met with the Packers at the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February as one of the team’s 60 allotted interviews there.
“Immediately when I got to Green Bay, I felt that family atmosphere. That’s an environment I want to be in,” Sternberger said. “I had a really successful visit there.”
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Sternberger was the sixth tight end taken, but Sullivan made it clear that the Packers were high on him and that they didn’t rank Sternberger far lower than Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom went in the first round.
“We felt like he was comparable with the better tight ends in this class,” Sullivan said. “He is a very competitive kid. It’s important to him to be a well-rounded football player. His value is as a pass-catcher today, but he’s willing to block. He’ll get in there and mix it up. I think he’ll fit in well with our group.”
Sternberger joins a tight end room with two veteran tight ends — Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis — at the forefront, and while he’ll have a chance to play early if deserving, the Packers don’t see the need to rush him onto the field after just one year of college production.
“I don’t think there’s pressure for him to come in here and be Superman,” Sullivan said. “But we definitely think he has the skill set to do that if needed.
“He’s got a very exciting skill set. He’s a guy that we feel like is an ascending player. We were really glad to get him. He was a riser at Texas A&M. He was a late bloomer, is what he was. Didn’t have much of a career at Kansas, moved on to junior college and then burst onto the scene this year.”
Said Sternberger: “What better opportunity can you have? I’m just trying to get in and learn everything I can from them. Anything they’re saying to me — even if they’re being hard on me — I’m going to be taking it in. What two great role models to have.”