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Versatility sets new Packers tight end Josiah Deguara apart

Third-round pick lined up everywhere at the University of Cincinnati

Packers TE Josiah Deguara
Packers TE Josiah Deguara

GREEN BAY – As Day 2 of the NFL Draft drew to a close, the Packers parlayed their third-round pick into a unique playmaker with the selection of Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara on Friday evening.

While listed as a 6-foot-2, 242-pound tight end, Deguara was equal parts receiver, tight end and H-back during his five years with the Bearcats. Oh, and he also played on every special-teams unit throughout the course of his college career.

The results were prolific. After arriving on campus as a two-star recruit, Deguara graduated this past winter as only the second tight end in school history to eclipse 1,000 career yards. The other? Former Philadelphia Eagle Brent Celek.

So where does such a player project to line up in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense in Green Bay? 

"Everywhere, quite frankly," GM Brian Gutekunst told reporters. "As we went through the process, that's a guy that Matt was very, very excited about."

Although the Packers still feature a traditional in-line stalwart like Marcedes Lewis, the offense has gradually shifted to lighter and faster "move" tight ends such as Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan who can play a wide variety of positions.

That was never more apparent than late last season when Sternberger, a third-round pick out of Texas A&M a year ago, slid seamlessly into an emergency H-back role with fullback Danny Vitale sidelined due to a knee injury.

This offseason, the Packers didn't re-sign Vitale, himself a hybrid whose pass-catching ability out of the backfield was a twist Green Bay wanted in its offense a year ago.

In Deguara, Gutekunst believes he's acquired an intriguing tweener who has a bit more offensive flexibility than Vitale but also the necessary blocking skills to play tight end in LaFleur's scheme.

"I think he'll be able to line up in-line with his hand down, I think he'll line up in the slot, back as a fullback, an H-back," Gutekunst said. "But I think he can be a matchup piece that can move into all those different spots. He's a very smart kid. Obviously, he's been very productive as a pass catcher."

Deguara has an interesting background. He enjoyed a great deal of success at Folsom (Calif.) High School, catching 112 passes for 1,671 yards and 24 touchdowns during an undefeated senior season in which his school captured a Division I state title.

That team had two future NFL players on it – Minnesota quarterback Jake Browning and Cincinnati offensive lineman Jonah Williams – but Deguara's jack-of-all-trades playstyle still didn't garner a ton of college attention.

Deguara settled on Cincinnati and beefed up from around 190 pounds to his current 240 stature. As a redshirt junior, he realized how his versatility could be a strength at a position that is continually asking for tight ends to do more and more.

On Friday, it contributed to Deguara becoming his school's highest draft pick since Travis Kelce (No. 61 in 2013) and the first Cincinnati player to be drafted by the Packers since Brandon Underwood in 2009.

"The offense definitely evolved in my time there," Deguara said. "There really wasn't a position that I didn't play on offense. I played a little slot receiver. I played a little in-line tight end. I was off the ball. I was in the backfield.

"I did a lot of different things and I think that helped me a lot throughout this process and I think it shows my versatility in this game."

Deguara said he received some advice from Kelce, now an All-Pro tight end for Kansas City, during the pre-draft process. He also spoke with Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten, which gave him a strong indication of Green Bay's interest.

While slightly undersized at tight end, Deguara demonstrated key athletic intangibles at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He ran a 4.72-second time in the 40 and registered a 35½-inch vertical with 25 bench reps.

A team captain at Cincinnati, Deguara doesn't see himself as having "one big strength or one big weakness." He believes his well-rounded resume – and a sizeable chip on his shoulder – will enable him to make a Year 1 impact.

"Being a two-star (recruit) out of high school, I played with that underdog mentality throughout my career. I'm going to have that through my lifetime," Deguara said. "Every part of my journey I'm grateful for it. I wouldn't change a thing because that's what got me here today. I'm just blessed to be here."

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