From studying for exams to studying his wedding vows to studying the Green Bay Packers’ playbook, Jermichael Finley’s life has changed more in the last four months than most people’s lives will change in four years.
In January, the athletic tight end made a life-changing decision when he told University of Texas coach Mack Brown he was turning pro, despite completing just his redshirt sophomore season.
About the same time, his then-girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child, a boy named Kaydon.
Last month, Finley, who fathered one other child, turned the landmark age of 21.
Three weeks ago, he got married.
On Sunday, he was drafted in the third round by the Packers, who see him as a potential game-changing tight end. He entered the draft early because he said he was “ready for bigger challenges in life, on an off the field.”
What, planning a wedding, going to class and changing diapers didn’t pose enough challenges?
If there’s one rookie who’s in position to make a sudden impact for the Packers, it’s Finley. The Packers love two-tight-end packages, and with Bubba Franks now with the New York Jets and Tory Humphrey unable to stay healthy in his short NFL career, there’s a chance for Finley to earn some significant playing time with starter Donald Lee.
That’s if he’s ready. Finley was the full-time starter for just one season.
“He’s a very young man, a true junior,” Packers GM Ted Thompson said on Sunday. “It wasn’t overly concerning to us. With juniors, you have to be a little bit cautious, because you don't scout them as much as you do seniors. Seniors, you scout them for a whole year coming up.
“Juniors, you start looking at in January, so sometimes you have to worry about that. But we felt like he was a talented kid that can get up the field. He's got excellent hands, very athletic, and our coaches were very excited about him joining Donald and Tory.”
Certainly, Finley has the tools. He was recruited by Arizona to play both basketball and football, so you know he’s athletic. He’s 6-foot-4, and at his age, there’s plenty of time to add another 5 pounds of muscle to his 243-pound frame. That will help his run blocking, which even he admits needs to improve. His speed, at least in testing, should improve in time, as well. He ran a 4.82 in the 40 at the scouting combine, and 4.76 at his campus workout.
“He plays a lot faster than that, but the time didn’t concern me,” tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said. “He ran better later on at his pro day. I think his best days are ahead of him as far as his speed and explosiveness and things like that. I think that’s something he’s going to improve as he goes on, and you can see that by how fast he plays the game, not necessarily in his 40.”
If that’s the case, then the Packers will have a third-round steal on their hands. Last season, he caught 45 passes for 575 yards and two touchdowns. At Texas, he frequently was used as a slot receiver, similar to what the Colts do with Dallas Clark on occasion. If that skill level translates to the NFL, he’ll add several dimensions to Mike McCarthy’s playbook.
“He's just scratched the surface," McAdoo said.
Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org