Packers select Tucker Kraft in third round of NFL Draft


Joclyn Haven

Jackrabbit tight end Tucker Kraft scores a touchdown against North Dakota State Nov. 6, 2021 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

Skyler Jackson, Co-Sports Editor (He/Him)

Former South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft is heading to the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers selected the Timber Lake native with the 15th pick in the third round, and 78th overall, in the NFL Draft Friday.

Heading into the draft, Kraft was ranked as the sixth-best tight end prospect by ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper and was a projected second or third-round pick. At the NFL Combine in early March, Kraft ran a 4.69 40-yard dash and had a 34-inch vertical jump.

He improved on both those numbers at SDSU’s Pro Day March 31 in Brookings. He ran an unofficial 4.6 40 time and improved his vertical jump to 36.5. He also participated in receiving drills and didn’t drop a single pass. That performance likely caught the attention of the NFL scouts in attendance and raised his draft stock.

“Come draft day I want my name to be called early,” Kraft said at the SDSU Pro Day. “I’m not doing any of this for me, I’m doing this to set my family up, my future kids and their kids, generational wealth, and trying to create something here and establish something. A legacy in my name to take care of my friends, my family, and my community.”

The 6-foot-5 254-pound tight end declared for the draft last season. He caught 37 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last year as he helped lead the Jacks to the national championship.

The previous season was when Kraft started to get the attention of NFL scouts. In 2021, he caught 65 balls for 773 yards and six touchdowns, and he was named a first-team All-American by Stats Perform.

Kraft is now the second Jackrabbit tight end to be selected in the NFL Draft in the last six years, joining Dallas Goedert, a second-round pick (49th overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.

“Dallas has paved the way for guys like me, I say that over and over again,” Kraft said. “When I was a kid, I was 17-18, I used to get annoyed with all the comparisons because they were prevalent. But I realized that I had the success I did at South Dakota State because of Dallas Goedert.”

Other recent Jackrabbit draft picks were cornerback Jordan Brown in 2019 and running back Pierre Strong Jr. and quarterback Chris Oladokun last year.

Kraft is heading to a Packers team coming off an 8-9 season last year and barely missing the playoffs. They also recently traded four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. Kraft could provide some needed help to the Packers offense and new starting QB Jordan Love, who will enter his first season as a starter.

Green Bay’s previous draft picks through the first three rounds were Iowa linebacker Lukas Van Ness (13th overall), Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave (42nd overall), and Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed (50th overall).