The Green Bay Packers have a relatively successful history of drafting players later than they, perhaps, should have been. Indeed, finding talent in later rounds is one of the reasons why Green Bay has had so much sustained success over the past 30 years. Sure, having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as your quarterbacks helped, but they mean nothing if the rest of the team isn’t strong.
ESPN recently ranked the top 50 NFL Draft steals of the past 30 years. To be considered for this list, players had to meet certain criteria:
- First-rounders weren’t included, even if they were taken late on Day 1. Undrafted free agents were also excluded since the list would skew in that direction.
- To qualify, a player must have been drafted at least 15 spots — roughly half a round — later than he should have been, and that’s just the floor for the exercise.
Four Green Bay Packers draft picks since 2013 were named on the list, the most of any team in the NFL. Two of them do not play for the Packers anymore, but their play with the team established them as the draft steals they are considered today.
Green Bay Packers 2014 Second Round Pick: Davante Adams
Davante Adams was the highest rated Packers draft pick on ESPN’s list, coming in at number three. Adams was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the 53rd overall pick. Obviously, as arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, that was way too low of a position for him to be taken.
In his career thus far, Adams has 769 receptions for 9,637 yards and 87 touchdowns. He owns just about every single-season receiving record in Packers history, a history that spans over 100 years. Adams has also been named to six Pro Bowls and has been a First Team All Pro three times (in a row).
Green Bay Packers 2013 Fourth Round Pick: David Bakhtiari
David Bakhtiari came in 11th on ESPN’s list of the top 50 draft steals since 2013. He was drafted by the Packers in the fourth round (109th overall pick) in 2013.
Over the course of his tenure with the Packers, Bakhtiari has made three Pro Bowls and has been a First Team All Pro twice. He has also been a Second Team All Pro three times.
Widely regarded as one of (if not the) best left tackles in the entire NFL, many attribute the Packers’ failure to reach and win the Super Bowl in 2020 and 2021 on Bakhtiari’s knee injury. If that does not tell you how impactful he is to the team, I don’t know what will.
Green Bay Packers 2019 Second Round Pick: Elgton Jenkins
Elgton Jenkins was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round (44th overall pick) in the 2019 NFL Draft. He came in 36th on ESPN’s list of the top 50 NFL Draft steals since 2013.
While a second round pick is pretty high, there is no question that Jenkins should have been a first round pick by some team. He is already a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has proven he can play at a Pro Bowl level at every single position on the offensive line.
Due to being an offensive lineman, he probably does not get the level of recognition he deserves (such is the case for all great linemen), but he should have been a top-10 pick based on how good he has been. Fortunately (for the Packers), he was not and they were able to nab him at a bargain.
Green Bay Packers 2014 Fifth Round Pick: Corey Linsley
Coming in at #46 on ESPN’s Top 50 list is former Packers center Corey Linsley. Green Bay drafted Linsley in the fifth round (161st overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. One does not draft a center in the fifth round and expect them to be the starter right away, but that is what happened.
Injuries forced the rookie Linsley into the starting role and he remained the Packers’ starting center for seven years. In his final year with Green Bay, Linsley was named First Team All Pro before signing a big deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Honorable Mentions and One Major Snub
Micah Hyde was named as an honorable mention. He was a fifth round pick (159th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft. After four solid seasons in Green Bay, Hyde has made one Pro Bowl and has been named Second Team All Pro twice as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
The biggest question I have with ESPN’s list is this: Where is Aaron Jones?!?!
Jones was a fifth round pick (182nd overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. Since being drafted, he has rushed for 5,284 yards, the third-most in franchise history. Of all the running backs in that draft, which included Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffery, and Kareem Hunt, Jones has the third-most rushing yards in the NFL. Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon are the only two running backs from that class with more.