NFL Draft review: Green Bay Packers
The 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone. As a die hard fan of the draft, I’m now left with a void until next draft season when I can feel this excitement all over again. Time to start prepping for the 2020 Draft, I guess.
All kidding aside, let’s talk about the Green Bay Packers. The Packers came in to the draft with 10 picks and left with eight, trading up nine spots in the first round while losing both fourth rounders. On paper – like every team in the NFL likes to believe after making their selections – the Packers added talent. They filled some needs and added some depth. It’s the recipe of a good draft. It now becomes a matter of did they hit on their draft picks, or are these just promising names on paper?
Let’s take a look at the Packers’ draft picks. I’ll give what I like about each pick, what I don’t like about each, and a grade for each pick. Enjoy.
ROUND 1, PICK 12
- Rashan Gary – LB/DL – Michigan – 6-4/277 LB
What I like: Gary is an athletic freak based upon his combine numbers, and the Packers need athleticism on defense. The Packers get a near 280-pound human who can run as fast as many NFL receivers. A Packers scout made an interesting point that in studying film, Gary was double and triple teamed a lot during his time at Michigan, so having better players around him should help alleviate those double teams. The Packers get another pass rusher, and Gary could fill the Julius Peppers role the Packers had a few years back. Gary likely made players around him at Michigan better just by his presence on the field.
What I don’t like: Gary’s lack of production in college. Was it a result of the aforementioned double and triple teams? Maybe. Or maybe he’s just overrated. Also, speculation of a labrum tear in his shoulder. Gary claims he’s fine, but so did Shaq Lawson from the Buffalo Bills before he was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. Same injury as Gary, and Lawson required surgery just a month after being drafted. Something to monitor. And taking him 12th? I really hope the Packers knew what they were doing here, especially since Clemson DL Christian Wilkins – who I was way higher on than Gary – was taken on the very next pick.
Summary: Where will Gary play? Will he be a stand-up rush linebacker? Or will he play with his hand in the dirt? I am hoping Gary isn’t a “project” for the coaching staff. I’m also hoping the lack of production is a result of seeing a lot of attention from opposing offenses focused on stopping him. All I know is, all this hoping I’m doing is starting to scare me. Prove me wrong, Rashan.
ROUND 1, PICK 21 (TRADE UP FROM 30)
- Darnell Savage, Jr. – S – Maryland – 5-11/198 LB
What I like: I’ve been high on Savage during the entire pre-draft process. I mocked him to Green Bay in the 4th round of my first mock, and at pick 30 in my final mock. Savage was flying up boards in the weeks leading up to the draft, separating himself in a weak safety class. Savage is extremely fast and athletic, had seven INTs over the past two seasons, and can play all over the field. HC Matt LaFleur described him as “an eliminator.” He has production and played in a conference known for playing defense.
What I don’t like: There isn’t really a whole lot I don’t like about Savage as a player or the pick itself, but if there was anything, it would be losing both fourth round picks to move up to get him. There’s a chance he would have been there at 30, but sources said the Ravens at pick 22 and the Colts at pick 26 were high on Savage. I can’t really be mad at the selection, since it filled a need and Savage was the highest rated at his position.
Summary: Savage should step in and start immediately. Paired alongside free agent signee Adrian Amos in the secondary, I believe the Packers have solidified their safety position for the next four years.
ROUND 2, PICK 44
- Elgton Jenkins – C – Mississippi State – 6-4/310 LB
What I like: Jenkins fills a need for a high-quality offensive lineman in the Packers’ rotation. Jenkins will compete for a starting spot at one of the guard positions and will likely be a starter in week one. Jenkins only allowed 19 QB pressures over the last three seasons and is a paver in the run game. Can play all three interior line positions. A safe and solid pick.
What I don’t like: As a selfish fan, I was hoping for something a little more…sexy. There were some big name skill players still on the board here, and I thought Green Bay would go that route. Not disappointed by the pick, but the selfish part of me wanted something more exciting.
Summary: Elgton (pronounced “Elton”) will be a mainstay on the Green Bay line for the next eight seasons. He played in the highly competitive SEC and didn’t allow many of the high-powered pass rushers in the conference to get to his QB. With Aaron Rodgers under center, Jenkins is exactly the kind of guy you need up front protecting the face of the franchise.
ROUND 3, PICK 75
- Jace Sternberger – TE – Texas A&M – 6-4/251 LB
What I like: Sternberger was an All-American at the tight end position last season, putting up a 48-832-10 (17.3 avg) stat line; the production is there. Picking Sternberger in the third gives the Packers a player who doesn’t have the pressure of having to be “the guy” immediately at tight end, where Sternberger can learn behind veterans Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis. He’s a good route runner and should be a very good match-up tight end in LaFleur’s offense. The pick was a perfect union of value and need, as Sternberger was expected to go somewhere in this area of the draft.
What I don’t like: Sternberger needs work on his run blocking, but like I mentioned above, he doesn’t have to step in immediately and can ease into the position. He’s a bit slow, but makes up for it in precise route running. Again, the selfish fan in me would have liked one of the more complete Iowa tight ends, but you can’t get everything you want. I was really hoping Memphis running back Darrell Henderson fell here, but he was swooped up five picks earlier after the Rams traded up to snag him.
Summary: A very solid pick in terms of value and need, Sternberger could have a lengthy career in Green Bay. Green Bay had visited with Sternberger twice pre-draft, so they were obviously pretty high on the kid. If he works on his run blocking, he already has above-average receiving skills and could morph into a top-tier tight end in the NFL.
ROUND 5, PICK 150
- Kingsley Keke – DT – Texas A&M – 6-3/288 LB
What I like: Keke provides another big body on the defensive line. Keke led the Aggies with seven sacks in 2018. Projected to go in the third or fourth rounds, getting him midway through the fifth was a great value. Keke – like the two earlier defensive picks – provides the Pack with a highly athletic defensive player. Keke ran a sub-5.00 40 (4.95), which for 288 pounds is pretty dang good. Keke should see snaps early on.
What I don’t like: Keke played defensive tackle at A&M, but looks to transition to end in the NFL. Learning new gap techniques and line positions could slow his growth. Another potential Packer “project.”
Summary: Drafting Keke and Gary likely signals this will be Mike Daniels’ last season in Green Bay, and likely that Muhammed Wilkerson will not be re-signed. Keke, Gary, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Montravious Adams will all be under age 26 after next season, giving the Packers plenty of hope in the defensive trenches for the future.
ROUND 6, PICK 185
- Ka’Dar Hollman – CB – Toledo – 6-0/190 LB
What I like: Following a trend for the draft, Hollman is crazy athletic for the CB position. Hollman tore up his pro day, running a 4.39 40 with a 38″ vertical and 6.81 three-cone. The forty time would have been fourth fastest, three-cone would have tied for fifth, and vertical would have been in the top-12. Projected as a fifth rounder, the value is there. I love that Hollman had 27 passes defended in three years as a starter and allowed just a 40% completion rate in 2018. Hollman received no scholarship offers out of high school and worked his way into a sixth round pick. I love a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder and worked to get where he’s at.
What I don’t like: Two career interceptions. With all the passes defended, it’s surprising he didn’t have more. Also, Hollman will be a 25-year-old rookie. Not that that’s a terrible thing, but most rookies are finishing their first rookie contract at age 25. Also after using first and second round picks on three CBs over the previous two drafts, a bit surprising the Packers added another corner to the already crowded CB room.
Summary: Hollman has a knack for knocking down passes and finding the ball. If he can put together a nice camp over the summer and maybe pick off Aaron Rodgers a few times, his play could spell the end for Tramon Williams. His selection leads me to believe the Packers are looking for a back-up plan to the Kevin King experiment, which could be entering its final season.
ROUND 6, PICK 194
- Dexter Williams – RB – Notre Dame – 5-11/212 LB
What I like: Williams has very few “miles” in terms of usage in college, with just 257 carries while at Notre Dame. He averaged 6.4 YPC over four years (6.3 as a senior) and had 22 career rushing touchdowns (12 as a senior). Has good size for the position and provides Green Bay with an above average replacement behind starters Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Plays faster than his 4.57 40 time. Was expected to go higher than sixth round, so getting him here is an extremely good value.
What I don’t like: Has an arrest (2016) and four-game suspension (2018) in his background, a possibly reason for falling to sixth round. Also, his small sample size. He was just a one-year starter, so can he handle a possible larger role in the NFL?
Summary: This may be my favorite pick. The Packers didn’t have a dire need at RB, but getting Williams is a superb value and insurance policy if Jones or Jamaal Williams get hurt. The Packers felt strongly enough to see past his earlier character issues and draft him. If you haven’t heard the story of Williams’ relationship with his ailing mother, take a minute to look that up – it’s one of the better feel-good stories from the draft. Williams should be an impact player for Green Bay when called upon.
ROUND 7, PICK 226
- Ty Summers – LB – TCU – 6-1/241 LB
What I like: The Packers get a solid player to play on special teams and possibly compete for playing time at a thin position. Yet again, Summers is another athletic player drafted for the defense. The production is there too, as Summers had eight sacks over his final two collegiate seasons from the inside linebacker spot with 317 tackles over four years. With Blake Martinez the only sure-fire player in the middle, Summers is a solid need/depth pick. A good value in the seventh, too, as he was projected in the fifth.
What I don’t like: The Packers waiting until the seventh round to address the middle linebacker position. This isn’t a knock on Summers, because we don’t know what he’ll bring, but the Packers haven’t addressed a high pick on the middle in quite some time. I’ve read he’s not great in coverage, so being a liability in that department could limit him to a two-down role to start his career.
Summary: Summers should be an instant special-teamer due to his athleticism. Time will tell, but due to the lack of bodies at the inside position, Summers could get playing time by default. I just hope that doesn’t come back to haunt the Packers should Martinez get hurt and Summers is relegated to a larger role.
Defense- One thing was obvious for the Packers in the 2019 draft: get faster and more athletic on the defensive side of the ball. They did just that while also filling valuable needs at safety and the front seven. With Mike Pettine entering his second year running the defense, the pressure to succeed is on as he’s loaded with plenty of young players at his disposal, from this year and previous drafts. The foundation is in place, now let’s see if the results translate.
Offense- The Packers filled two needs with Sternberger and Jenkins and got a luxury pick with Williams. All three were safe and solid, and each provided good value where they were selected. Gutenkunst felt comfortable with the receiver position by not selecting one this year after taking three in last year’s draft. In what is a loaded 2020 receiver class, maybe Gutey is waiting until next year to take one. It’s now on LaFleur to use what the offense already has and get the them back to elite status.
Overall draft grade: B+ After two drafts in the books, Gutekunst has done a very good job making the picks. I like this year’s version better than last, and time will tell which one produces; as Packer fans, hopefully they both do. All-in-all, a very solid 2019 class.