SportsNFLGreen Bay Packers


"Game Breaker": South Dakota State tight ends coach discusses new Packers tight end Tucker Kraft

"Game Breaker": South Dakota State tight ends coach discusses new Packers tight end Tucker Kraft
Posted at 6:01 PM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-03 19:29:21-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — The Packers came into last weekend with a gaping hole at the tight end position and in the third round they took their second tight end when they selected FCS National Champion, tight end Tucker Kraft out of South Dakota State.

NBC 26 caught up with Kraft's tight end coach at SDSU, Chris Meyers, to get insight into what Kraft brings to the Packers organization. His best year with the Jackrabbits came in 2021 when he amassed 773 yards on 65 receptions and six touchdowns. Injuries limited him during his final season as a Jackrabbit.

“It was awesome,” Meyers said of winning the national title. “It was a special group of guys. It was a close-knit group but it was an awesome experience. There was a lot of talent but they just had an unbelievable amount of belief in each other so it made it easy.”

Kraft was an integral part of the Jackrabbits national championship success.

“We did a lot of things to move him around to make him a focal point (of the offense),” Meyers said. “He was equally as important for getting pressure off of everyone else so they could go make a play.”

Brian Gutekunst emphasized versatility in the draft. Kraft is as versatile as they come at the tight end position.

“He could do a lot of different things for us,” Meyers said. “He could put his hand in the dirt and be a traditional “Y” tight end and man-handle a defensive end. We could also flex him out. There wasn’t a safety or corner that could cover him. He gave us a ton of versatility from that point and gave us kind of a game-breaker at that position.”

Kraft hasn’t been playing tight end for long, he was a star running back at Timber Lake high school, but it’s that running back mindset that has led to his success at the tight end position. Kraft was first-team all-state his senior year after rushing for 1,405 yards and 24 touchdowns.

“When you turn on the tape, he’s dynamic with the ball in his hand,” said the SDSU coach. “Guys that size just really aren’t make ya miss guys, usually they kind of run over you or run away from you. He's the guy who has the ability to use his off hand, use his stiff arm. You see that run after catch ability is kind of just natural to him.”

If you want to get playing time in Matt LaFleur's offense, you better be able to block, and according to Meyers, Kraft brings the juice in that area of his game. 

“He's exceptional,” Meyers said of Kraft’s blocking ability. “That's what I think sets him apart from everyone else in the draft class. He's that guy you talk about being that sixth offensive lineman. He's just incredibly strong, incredibly strong hands, plays with violence. He loves to finish people. I think he’s going to be an exceptional blocker from the day he gets there because I think he’s got the right mentality for it.”

Meyers says Kraft is a great team chemistry kind of guy. Despite suffering a significant injury in SDSU’s first game of the 2022-2023 season that kept him out for over a month, that didn’t stop him from helping out his team.

“The injury thing was a big growth for him, just staying involved, being a great teammate during that time of helping younger guys get things – was really an assistant coach for me during those couple of weeks of just kind of helping bring the young guys a long, coaching points, staying mentally prepared for when he came back,” Meyers said.

Meyers thinks Kraft is a perfect fit for the smallest market team in the NFL, where they can find plenty of puns for his cheese-related name.

“There's some guy that’s in advertising that’s just been – he’s got a scratch pad that’s halfway full right now for Tucker, cheese-related puns for Instagram captions, so that will be great.”