The Green Bay Packers might have themselves a burgeoning star in Jermichael Finley.
Last season Finley began showing the kind of playmaking talent that teams search for high and low. Then in the offseason, the Packers saw signs that at age 23 he might be ready to take off in 2010.
"He’s really taken ownership of the offense from a knowledge standpoint," said Ben McAdoo, the Packers’ tight ends coach. "We’re working on the fundamentals and the details now, we don’t spend much time talking about assignments. That’s exciting because when you have a chance to polish up the way you play the game, that’s when you really make strides."
Finley came into the NFL in 2008 as a talented but wholly unprepared rookie after his redshirt sophomore season at Texas, and the issue with him from the start has been maturity. He played only two seasons of college football at a college program that has a reputation for being something of a country club, and thus his rookie year was an unsurprising washout.
But in the final eight games of 2009, including the Packers’ playoff loss at Arizona, he caught 44 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns. Over a 16-game season, that projects to 88 receptions, 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns, which among all NFL tight ends in ’09 would have ranked third, second and tied for fourth, respectively.
The remaining unknowns are whether he can sustain a high level of play over 16 games, and just what heights he can reach. Whether he’s crossed some sort of professionalism threshold over the past nine months will be proven on game days, but the Packers were encouraged this offseason by his improved attention to detail, which is one of the markers of how seriously a player is taking the game.
We have Finley at number six in our rankings, and he's got the upside to approach the top spot. But his current ADP has him being taken ahead of players who have a better base of history on their side, meaning Finley could be a slight disappointment. He seems highly unlikely to be a bust, but don't reach for him.