With the regular season over for the Green Bay Packers and the playoffs right around the corner, it is a good time to look back on how the Packers did in the 2019 draft. A lot has been said about the Smith Brothers, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner in free agency, but you can’t fix all of your issues in free agency. The Packers have stayed true to their draft and develop ways, but under second-year GM Brian Gutekunst, they have looked for talent in the draft that can make an immediate impact. He also uses the waiver wire and undrafted free agents to put the best team he can on the field every Sunday. This led to the Packers going 13-3 and winning the NFC North.
First Round (12) Rashan Gary (Michigan) Outside Linebacker
Rashan Gary plays a position that is focused on sacks and playing the run well, but the sample size is small as he is rarely on the field because of the reps given to the Smith Brothers. However, he does have two sacks on the season: one in week three against Joe Flacco and another in week 15 against Mitch Trubisky. For someone that was drafted in the top twelve, you would expect a bigger impact on the football field. The Packers did draft him with the idea that he would be a project. It is why they have the Smith Brothers.
I, personally, would have preferred if Packers had drafted Montez Sweat or Brian Burns who have made more of an immediate impact. However, the Saints did trade up for Marcus Davenport (with the Packers in the 2018 draft), and he was considered a project at the time as well. I hope I’m proven wrong, and I’m not ready to call him a bust after one season, as that would be silly. However, he needs to do more in the playoffs and in 2020. He can’t be “just a guy,” which is what he looks like right now. A lot of what was said about him in college is looking to be true in terms of him having all of the talent, size, and speed in the world, but it’s not translating to the football field.
Packers Draft: First Round (21) Darnell Savage Jr. (Maryland) Safety
It is always a luxury to have two first-round picks, and this is exactly what the Packers had after trading with the Saints last year. They traded up to get their guy this year, and they seem to have found a player that has made an impact on the field with lighting fast speed and great instincts. Darnell Savage Jr. also has two interceptions on the season. If he had held onto a few balls throughout the season, he might have had five of six interceptions. He needs to work on his open field tackling as well. Once again, he is a rookie and the sky is the limit for this young, talented safety.
The Packers have been looking for that big-play safety ever since Nick Collins was forced to retire due to a neck injury in 2011. I believe the Packers have their guy with Darnell Savage Jr. One benefit for him: he’s working alongside a reliable pro in Adrian Amos, which is going to help him out a ton in the playoffs and in the next few years of his career. The sky is pointing up for Darnell Savage Jr. He’s only going to get better.
Second Round: (44) Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State) Guard
The offensive line does not always get the attention it deserves until they screw up. Thankfully, Elgton Jenkins has been reliable and steady. Even though Lane Taylor was the starter to begin the season, it became clear when Elgton Jenkins stepped in, after Lane Taylor went on injured reserved after week two, that Jenkins was the man. The fine folks over at PFF (Pro Football Focus) have come out and said that Jenkins has not allowed a sack in his 571 pass-blocking attempts. That is incredibly impressive for a rookie. That is what you want out of a young player. You want them to step in and become a force on the field. Along with Darnell Savage Jr., they have both made the PFF 2019 All-Rookie team. He’s been about as close to perfect as you can get for a rookie in the NFL.
Packers Draft: Third Round (75) Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M) Tight End
This is the guy they are looking to for the future at the tight end position with Jimmy Graham showing next to nothing week in and week out and Marcedes Lewis nearing the end of his career by playing more of a blocking role than a pass-catching threat. Robert Tonyan has shown flashes and glimpses of being a good player, but injuries and inconsistent play have held him back from being a reliable tight end. Jace Sternberger started the year on IR, but he returned to action in November for the Packers. He has yet to catch a pass, but he did drop a touchdown pass on his one and only target of the year in a game at Lambeau against the Redskins.
I don’t quite feel he has earned a grade yet due to limited game action and opportunities. They will need more from him next year. They need a reliable tight end in the passing game, which they have struggled to find since Jared Cook left after the 2016 season. This has become like the safety position for the Packers, except they haven’t found their guy yet. He might be the guy, but an injury and limited chances have made him hard to judge.
Grade: Incomplete Due to Injury
Fifth Round (150) Kingsley Keke (Texas A&M) Defensive Tackle
I don’t recall seeing Kingsley Keke doing a whole lot with his snaps for the Packers. With Kenny Clark playing so much snaps, along with Dean Lowry, they could really use Kingsley Keke to step up and play here and there. One thing is true with Mike Pettine: he will not give playing time to someone that is not going to get the job done on the field despite their draft status. You can look at Montravius Adams, their third round pick in 2017. The Packers need to see more out of him on the field to justify this pick. At this point, it would just be nice to see his name called once in a while. Let’s hope that changes in his second year. As stated, he needs to earn his playing time.
Packers Draft: Sixth Round (185) Ka’dar Hollman (Toledo) Cornerback
The Packers are pretty stacked at corner with Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Chandon Sullivan, and Josh Jackson. Ka’dar Hollman is buried on the depth chart. Because of his competition, he’s going to need to step up next year. They will need him as well if the Packers do not resign Tramon Williams. He’s only played in four games this year with his few snaps mostly coming on special teams.
In terms of special teams, he had five snaps in the games against the Cowboys and the Raiders. He had eight snaps against the Lions on Monday Night Football and a career-high fifteen snaps in the season finale against the Lions. As a matter of fact, his four defensive snaps have come in one game against the Raiders. Because of this, he is also going to earn an incomplete grade.
Sixth Round (194) Dexter Williams (Notre Dame) Running Back
Dexter Williams has not endeared himself to the coaching staff of the Green Bay Packers. In the week four loss to the Eagles, the Packers were down to one running back when Jamaal Williams took a nasty hit early on in the game. They seem reluctant to play him. Considering how much the Packers love to use the running back in Matt LaFleur’s offense, it is surprising they have only had two running backs up for most games. That is until they claimed return man/running back Tyler Ervin off waivers, who is getting more snaps on offense lately.
I would like to see more from Dexter Williams, but that is entirely up to the coaches. In four games, Dexter Williams has five rushes for eleven yards. He will have to refocus himself in the offseason to show he can get on the football field more often.
Packers Draft: Seventh Round (226) Ty Summers (TCU) Inside Linebacker
B.J. Goodson and Blake Martinez have played the majority of the snaps at inside linebacker with the occasional mix of Oren Burks thrown in. Ty Summers has been more of a special teams guy, as he has zero defensive snaps. He has been effective on special teams and played a lot of snaps on that side of the ball. He is part of a unit that has improved as the season has gone on, and the coaches seem to trust him on special teams to make the tackle and be in the right spot. He seems to have good upside. Depending on what happens this offseason with their inside linebackers, he might get a chance to compete for a starting job.
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