GREEN BAY – After missing all but Oregon State's first two games last season due to a knee injury, Luke Musgrave was determined to get back on the field for the Senior Bowl in late January to prove he belonged near the top of an impressive group of tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The dedication paid off, as the Packers made him the fourth tight end selected with the No. 42 overall pick Friday night, the highest pick Green Bay has used on a tight end since taking Bubba Franks in the first round back in 2000.
"We're excited about what he brings to the table in terms of speed, the ability to stretch the field," Packers vice president of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan said. "He comes from a football background. Smart kid, wired right."
That wiring helped him power through a post-MCL-surgery rehab, and he said doctors "reluctantly" cleared him two weeks before the Senior Bowl.
A month after that, he ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, impressive for a player with a 6-6, 253-pound frame. His 10-yard split of 1.54 was the fastest of all the tight ends.
In a tight end class that has been generating buzz for months now, speed was the standout trait with Musgrave.
"It's a flavor thing to a point," Sullivan said of choosing from such a strong group at one position. "If you ask me what separates him: vertical speed. You've got to see it. Everybody's talked about it."
Getting all that movement back after losing his 2022 season after two games – in which he caught 11 passes for 189 yards and a TD and appeared headed for a big year – helped put the knee injury even further in the rear-view mirror.
"The big reason I went to the Senior Bowl was I wanted to play football again," Musgrave said. "I tried to prepare my best. I'm so excited to get back on the field in a few weeks, maybe less. I think I'm the most excited to get back on the field that I've ever been."
The Packers sensed that when they met with him during the pre-draft process, and that contributed to their belief in the upside of a player with rather pedestrian college statistics – 47 catches for 633 yards and two TDs in 34 games (15 starts).
Sullivan believes Musgrave could help the Packers' offense right away as it transitions to new QB Jordan Love, with Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis the only current veterans on the roster ahead of him.
But what this draft investment also suggests is the player on the field as a rookie – however much he plays – won't be the same one everyone sees in a few years.
"It's always a projection with all these guys," Sullivan said. "We really liked the skill set. Watching that kid move around, watching him block, watching him run routes …
"We feel like where he is now and where he can go is exciting. He will only grow and get better as time evolves."
Take a look at Packers TE Luke Musgrave during his college career.
Musgrave trained prior to the draft out in California with Utah's Dalton Kincaid, the top tight end in the class who was the only one drafted in the first round.
His athletic background includes racing as a downhill skier, which he credits with building up his leg strength, particularly the quadriceps that contribute to his speed. He picked up that sport from his mom, and meanwhile in the football realm his uncle is longtime NFL and college coach Bill Musgrave.
He played some special teams in college as well, blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown in 2021. He sees himself potentially being thrown into that mix as a rookie, too.
"I just know that from Day 1 I am going to work my butt off and come with my best foot forward every day," Musgrave said.
The Packers have no doubts about that, nor about his knee.
"We had a great interaction with him at the combine," Sullivan said. "You can feel it when you talk to the kid. He's got a chip on his shoulder. He's ready to prove to the football world that he is a very good player and that he can stay healthy.
"He's got to get out there and do it. There's no guarantees with any of these guys. He's got to get out there and do it, but we're excited about where he can go."
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