As with any new NFL season, there are always new NFL players. Green Bay had eight selections during the 2019 NFL Draft. While there were other additions to the team, most notably during the free-agent period, the focus in this article will strictly be on draft picks. Here is the recap of the Packers 2019 draft class.
Rashan Gary – OLB – Michigan
1.12 (12th overall) – 6’4″ – 277 lbs.
Arguably, the most important aspect of any NFL defense is the pass-rush. The Packers certainly addressed that this year with their free agent additions. Furthermore, Green Bay used the 12th overall pick on Rashan Gary, a player who was able to get after the QB in College. At Michigan, Gary played on the defensive line, and he was listed as a defensive lineman for several sites pre-draft. However, when making this selection, the Packers listed Gary at outside linebacker, which makes sense considering that they do play a 3-4 defense. The early news from OTAs indicates that Gary has been used on the edge but that he has also been moved to defensive end as an interior pass rusher. That type of versatility will allow defensive coordinator Mike Pettine the ability to get as many impact players on the field as possible.
Darnell Savage – S – Maryland
1.21 (21st overal) – 5’11” – 198 lbs.
The Packers have a recent history of taking defensive backs early in the draft. Between 2014 and 2018, Green Bay selected seven defensive backs in the first two rounds. That trend continued this season as safety Darnell Savage was taken in the 1st-round. The track record has been inconsistent with those early selections used on the secondary. Last year’s 1st-round selection, Jaire Alexander, looks like a franchise piece that the Packers nailed at the 18th overall spot. However, the range of outcomes is as low as 2015 2nd-round selection Quinten Rollins who is now without a team. Hopefully, Savage will have an impact that is closer to Alexander than it is to Rollins. Savage may even get a crack at a starting safety job as a rookie.
Elgton Jenkins – OL – Mississippi State
2.12 (44th overal) – 6’4″ – 310 lbs.
With the belief that Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the game today, then it makes sense for the Packers to prioritize protecting him. They have not made a 2nd-round investment in the offensive line since 2016 when they drafted Jason Spriggs, a tackle who can play on either side.
Once again, the Packers are putting a premium on offensive line versatility. In his final two college seasons, Elgton Jenkins played center. However, so far in OTAs, Green Bay has him playing at guard. Entering the season, that would make Jenkins the primary backup to either Lane Taylor or Billy Turner. If Jenkins can play any of the interior spots, that would allow the Packers the ability to shift players around. For instance, Turner slid over from right guard to right tackle during an OTA session after Bryan Bulaga was given some rest. Jenkins has a chance to make an impact in 2019.
Jace Sternberger – TE – Texas A&M
3.12 (75th overal) – 6’4″ – 251 lbs.
Packers rookie Jace Sternberger will probably find that the NFL is a tough place for rookie tight ends. Look no further back than 2017 to highly touted 19th overall pick O.J. Howard. Even while playing in 55.8% of offensive snaps in 2017, Howard only managed to catch 26 passes for 432 yards. During his second season, that increased to 34 receptions and 565 yards, even though he played in four fewer games.
Howard was a more well-rounded prospect coming out of college and offered more as a blocker than Sternberger does at this point. Therefore, Sternberger will need to compete against Jimmy Graham for work in the receiving game. Now, the Packers could have saved some money by cutting Graham earlier in the offseason. They did not, so it appears that he will be a big part of the offense in 2019. However, the Packers can save 8 million in cap space by releasing Graham during the next offseason. That would open the thing up for Sternberger to be starting for Green Bay in 2020. Getting a potentially important offensive weapon of the future in the 3rd-round is a good value.
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Kingsley Keke – DL – Texas A&M
5.12 (150th overal) – 6’3″ – 288 lbs.
Mike Pettine wants the interior pressure to be one of the strengths of this Green Bay defense. “It’s something I learned from Rex (Ryan) a long time ago,” Pettine said. “You have to have guys winning inside. Even if you have great edge rushers, great speed rush, if the pocket’s not collapsed, it’s a clean pocket to step up into. It’s paramount that you have guys that can win inside.”
While there are several other defensive linemen who will be counted on to consistently produce for the Packers, rookie Kingsley Keke could still play an important role this season. He’ll be competing for the backup nose tackle spot against third-year player Montravius Adams and a 7th round pick from last year, James Looney.
Ka’dar Hollman – CB – Toledo
6.12 (185th overall) – 5’11” – 196 lbs.
It has been common practice for the Packers to draft two defensive backs in the same class. Over the last six NFL drafts, 2016 was the only year where Green Bay failed to spend two selections on the defensive secondary. In 2019 we saw the Packers use that same strategy. In an era of inflated passing totals and the proliferation of the spread offenses, teams are using more and more nickel (5 defensive backs) and dime (6 defensive backs) defensive formations. That requires teams to invest even more resources into the defensive secondary in order to assure adequate depth at defensive back.
Ka’dar Hollman does have a pretty great opportunity for a 6th-round pick. The top three cornerback spots on the Packers are well established with Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Kevin King. However, after that, Hollman is competing against several undrafted free agents and a couple of players who have already been waived twice each by different teams. As with other players in this article, versatility is key for Hollman. He has the potential to play outside or in the slot. It appears that positional versatility was a priority for the Packers in this draft.
Dexter Williams – RB – Notre Dame
6.22 (19th overal) – 5’11” – 212 lbs.
As I mentioned in my rookie RB article, Dexter Williams had the 3rd-lowest film score among the 33 rookie running backs that I watched. Two of the aspects that led to such a low score were his footwork and his ability to make defenders miss. Williams’ combine results somewhat ease the questions about his physical abilities as he scored well in certain areas. Specifically, he had an 86th percentile burst score (a combination of broad and vertical jump) and a 78th percentile agility score.
However, Williams’ footwork is still concerning to me. Looking at the college film, Williams does not always keep his feet moving when taking contact. Even as a rookie, Williams has the frame to be able to break tackles in the NFL. He just needs to continue his forward momentum by churning his feet, even when being tackled. Fortunately for Williams, he will get time to develop his technique as he will likely be behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams for at least the next two seasons.
Ty Summers – LB – TCU
7.12 (226th overal) – 6’1″ – 241 lbs.
One of my big wishes from the draft was for the Packers to make an early investment at the inside linebacker position. Alas, they did not, which says a lot about what the team is expecting from Oren Burks. A 3rd-round pick from 2018, Burks only played in 11.5% of defensive snaps as a rookie. He needs to step up for Green Bay in order to help stabilize the middle of the defense next to Blake Martinez. Behind those two, the depth chart is wide open at the inside linebacker position. 7th-round selection Ty Summers has a great opportunity not only to make the final 53-man roster but to play some snaps on defense if needed. If he is able to impress the coaching staff, Summers could contribute significantly throughout his rookie contract. His only competition to be a primary backup are a couple of undrafted free agents.
Thank you for reading this Packers draft recap for 2019. Be sure to check out all of the football content available on Full Press Coverage, both in the offseason and during the NFL season.