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Packers Draft Recap: Head-Scratchers, Sure Things and the Ultimate Under Dog

Written by Tanner Johnson

The draft is over and I’ve had some time to digest each pick my beloved Packers made this year. I’m not giving 2nd-year GM Brian Gutekunst the same benefit of the doubt I once gave his predecessor, Ted Thompson. Aaron Rodgers is 35 years old and his hand is barely shining with one ring. Green Bay can’t afford a bad draft

Here’s the 2019 draftees of the Green Bay Packers:

  • 1st Round – Pick 12 – Rashan Gary – LB – Michigan
  • 1st Round – Pick 21 – Darnell Savage, Jr. – S – Maryland
  • 2nd Round – Pick 44 – Elgton Jenkins – G – Mississippi State
  • 3rd Round – Pick 75 – Jace Sternberger – TE – Texas A&M
  • 5th Round – Pick 150 – Kingsley Keke – DT/DE – Texas A&M
  • 6th Round – Pick 185 – Ka’Dar Hollman – CB – Toledo
  • 6th Round – Pick 194 – Dexter Williams – RB- Notre Dame
  • 7th Round – Pick 226 – Ty Summers – ILB – TCU

1st Round: Pick 12 – Rashan Gary – LB – Michigan

Rashan Gary reminds me a lot of some former Packers 1st rounders, namely Justin Harrell in 2007 and Datone Jones in 2013. All 3 of them were highly-ranked high school prospects coming out of high school. All 3 of them were known for their flashes of athleticism in college but are remembered for their underwhelming collegiate performances. Harrell and Jones both had short, disappointing careers in the NFL, Gary could be next.

It’s obvious what the Packers fell in love when scouting Gary, he’s a freak athlete and there’s no denying it. If the draft was about selecting guys solely for their potential, then the Packers aced this one, but sadly there’s way more to it.

The Packers desperately need a pass rush, and they did address that in free agency this year, but they didn’t use the 12th overall pick on a player to just be athletic and hand fight with tackles. Watch Gary’s college film and you’ll be confused as hell. One play he’s the fastest guy off the ball pushing a RB inside, the next he’s slowest off and using no moves to shake free.

The Gary defenders will say he drew more attention than anyone else on the Michigan defense; which limited his stats, but I’m not buying it. Know who else brought the most attention on their defense and still made plays? Jadaveon Clowney, J.J. Watt, and most great pass rushers in today’s game. They were able to split double teams and still make plays, Gary did not.

The verdict is still out, but I’m not confident in this pick at all. Grade: C- Hey Rashan- prove me wrong and I’ll support any charity of your choosing!

Pick 21 – Darnell Savage, Jr. – S – Maryland

I. Love. This. Pick. Darnell Savage, Jr. was a ball hawk for the Terps, a team that doesn’t belong in the Big Ten, but he played Big Ten football. I saw him run at the combine and was blown away with his speed and agility (4.36 40 – 7.03 3-Cone Drill).

I saw people griping early on about trading up to get him, but there were teams in front of us that were in need of Safety and Savage has been climbing up big boards for weeks now. What they gave up was justified for Savage. I can’t wait to see this kid fly around and smash receivers.

Last year the Packers suffered at the Safety position, especially after trading HaHa Clinton-Dix. They were tied for 2nd-to-last in team interceptions last year with 7. I see that changing in a big way with the young core they’ve assembled in our secondary. Throw in Gramps, Tramon Williams, and I see the fear in the eyes of opposing QB’s already.

This is an extremely gutsy prediction, but I see a lot of former Packers Safety Nick Collins in Darnell Savage. Nick Collins will forever be my favorite Packer and it was mainly due to his ball-hawking and smash mouth style at Safety. Hopefully Savage wears #36 because he has the ability to perform just as well as Collins.

The Packers secondary will have lots of hype going into camp. Grade: A-

2nd Round-: Pick 44 – Elgton Jenkins – G – Mississippi State

If I said I knew much about Elgton Jenkins, I’d be lying. Looking at some film and checking out stats, I’m surprised I didn’t know more about him before the draft.

Jenkins is 6’5 and 310 lbs. He started 26 games at center, 5 at left tackle and 2 at left guard. Not only is he versatile and durable, but he’s also credited with allowing just one sack over the last 2 season for the Bulldogs, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jenkins translates well as a guard in the NFL, and he’ll be the most capable back-up at the center position since Corey Linsley took over that starting job. The Packers have an opening at right guard going into camp, although newly-signed Billy Turner is the immediate favorite, Jenkins will definitely have his name thrown in the ring for that spot.

A year learning from the sidelines and filling in where he can could be a great thing for Jenkins, who started every game for Mississippi State the last two years. He may not agree, but the NFL is a much faster game than college, and he’s got some great veterans to learn from. I like his future.

As far as names go, Elgton has to be one of the best Offensive Lineman names I’ve ever heard, so he’s already got that going for him. Grade: B+

3rd Round: Pick 75 – Jace Sternberger – TE – Texas A&M

This one has me perplexed. I obviously wanted us to go after 1st Round talent at Tight End, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t get overly excited about Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample or Josh Oliver so I was glad they didn’t go after them in the 2nd round.

When I saw Sternberger’s name on the board heading into the 3rd, I assumed we had no chance in hell at getting him at 75. Sure enough, the stars aligned and Gutekunst made the right decision.

The 3rd round is when you go after potential upside and athleticism, much like they did in the 1st with Rashad Gary, because you’re not passing up sure things and soon-to-be franchise players. I’ll stop ranting about our 1st pick antics, eventually…

Back to Sternberger, he started his college career off at perennial laughing stock, Kansas, and promptly left because they just suck, plain and simple. I would have chosen junior college over Kansas too, so I hold nothing against him there.

He eventually found his way to Texas A&M and more importantly, with Jimbo Fisher who is known for utilizing tight ends in his offensive schemes. In one year, Sternberger put up monster numbers: 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 17.3 yards per reception in the SEC. Those numbers were enough for him to earn 1st-Team All-SEC and 1st-Team All-American honors.

His body of work is not huge, but it is impressive. The Packers knew what they were getting in Sternberger. He’s not a bruising run-blocker, he’s a pass-catching weapon and he’s going to line up all over the field. Don’t be surprised to see him in the backfield at H-back, in the slot, out wide as a 3/4 receiver or lined up tight, he will do it all.

For the first time since maybe Bubba Franks, the Packers drafted a Tight End who is known for actually catching the ball. I approve. Grade: B

5th Round: Pick 150 – Kingsley Keke – DT/DE – Texas A&M

Keke’s known for his ability to play inside and outside; which will come in handy because Mike Pettine doesn’t let anybody play in just one position, or so it seemed in his first year. At TAMU, he cut weight and moved to the edge; which really gave him a chance to shine last year as he racked up 7 sacks.

Packers Scout Charles Walls had his eye on Kinglsey for some time, and he had this to say about their 5th rounder, “He’s a broad man with plenty of room to grow. He can be whatever weight we want him to be and play whatever position we want him to on the defensive line.”

If he proves that he’s as flexible as advertised, he could find his way on to the top of the depth chart quickly. Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry are the only 2 Packers players besides Pro-Bowler Mike Daniels who have seen major playing time.

I have my reservations about Kingsley, especially in his run-stopping abilities, but there’s some reason to believe he can develop into a play-maker for the Packers. Grade: C+

6th Round: Pick 185 – Ka’Dar Hollman – CB – Toledo

Ka’Dar Hollman may have done more than any other player in the draft to get here. Coming out of high school, there were 0 scholarship offers and 0 walk-on offers. That almost guarantees the NFL is out of the picture, but not for Hollman.

Ka’Dar continuously sent his film to every D-1 coach he could get in contact with and eventually received a walk-on offer at Toledo. It only took him a year to earn a scholarship and started every game for the next 3 years.

The draft process wasn’t easy for Hollman either. He didn’t get invited to the combine. He didn’t get invited to the Senior Bowl. This guy probably didn’t get invited to his own graduation, Sheesh! But he put on a clinic at his pro day and turned enough heads to get his name called on Saturday.

That’s the kind of perseverance and dedication I want to see in my late-round draft picks. This kid doesn’t just have a chip on his shoulder, he knows what it’s like to work an actual job. He knows what it’s like to not have a single thing given to him. To say I’m rooting for Holland to make the team and get some early reps is an understatement.

He’s got wheels (4.37 40) and hops (39″ vertical jump) so I could see him stealing a roster spot. Grade: B

Pick 194 – Dexter Williams – RB – Notre Dame

This was where the Packers were supposed to draft Wisconsin’s own Alec Ingold. To draft a schlub from Notre Dame here was just a slap in the mouth to every blogger who told them to draft Alec Ingold.

Williams had decent speed and excellent acceleration at the combine (4.57 40 – 10’10 broad jump). Williams just never shined bright in college. He was part of a committee approach for 3 years and when he finally got a chance to be the feature back, he started the season suspended for undisclosed reasons. There is a legitimate reason to have concerns here.

There’s also legitimate reason to have some faith that the Packers did their homework, interviewed Williams extensively and got to know the individual. For a 6th Round pick, the Packers could have done much worse, but I still don’t forgive them for letting Alec Ingold slip through their grasps.

Williams has a great shot at making the team with the lack of depth at the running back position. Grade: C

7th Round: Pick 226 – Ty Summers – ILB – TCU

Ty Summers is a big (6’1 240 lbs), athletic linebacker who tested well. His 4.51 40 is probably the biggest reason he got drafted and hopefully he finds a way to utilize it.

There’s some reason to be excited about his athletic ability and his size, but every scout that covered the draft knocked him on his pass coverage abilities. In today’s NFL, that is the most important skill an ILB must have. A linebacker who can’t cover the pass today is like a Power Forward without a jump shot in today’s NBA, it just doesn’t translate.

Maybe his size and speed make him a weapon on special teams, but that’s a big maybe. The Packers have all but failed to address their need at ILB and if Summers is their plan to fill that void, the Packers defense will not be as great as it should have been in 2019. Grade: D+

Looking at the Packers draft in its entirety, they made some great moves. That doesn’t mean they went without flaws, but there are some positive takeaways from this class. I could look back at this class in a year, Rashan Gary could put up Khalil Mack numbers, and I’d proudly say I was wrong.

There’s just a lot of uncertainty surrounding our First pick that it makes judging this class difficult. Were the needs of the team met and will the players chose to fill that need work out in the long run? The short answer is, mostly.

Going into the draft, the Packers biggest needs were Safety, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Interior Linebacker, and Cornerback. They picked at least one of each of those, except at Wideout; which wasn’t that surprising if you remember that they took 3 of them in last year’s draft.

The team got a lot better at Safety, Tight End and the Offensive line and that does deserve some praise. The rest of the team’s needs are yet to be solidified so there will be extra attention during camp and pre-season on those spots.

Despite not taking my advice with tight ends, and basically ignoring the ILB position, the Packers did address several needs. If Rashan Gary lives up to the hype, this class could be graded out with an A or A- possibly. With all that said, this draft had plenty of room for improvement.

Final Grade for the Packers 2019 Draft: B-

Agree or Disagree? I want to hear your thoughts Cheeseheads!

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About the author

Tanner Johnson