Packers: Why Green Bay’s 2019 Draft was a success

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 21: Troy Fumagalli #81 of the Wisconsin Badgers is brought down by Darnell Savage Jr. #4 of the Maryland Terrapins during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 21: Troy Fumagalli #81 of the Wisconsin Badgers is brought down by Darnell Savage Jr. #4 of the Maryland Terrapins during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

We are now halfway through the offseason. The draft is complete and free agency is still going, but the offseason is halfway over. Did the Green Bay Packers come out with a successful draft class or will be wanting more by the end of the year?

The Packers started the draft with 10 picks overall, including two in the first round. Due to some wheeling and dealing, they came away with eight total draft choices.

While it will take a couple years to figure out how good this draft really was, it’s not too much of a stretch to see if this draft, on paper at least, was a success or failure.

To recap, the Packers drafted:

  • RD 1: OLB Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage
  • RD 2: OL Elgton Jenkins
  • RD 3: TE Jace Sternberger
  • RD 5: DL Kingsley Keke
  • RD 6: CB Ka’dar Hollman, RB Dexter Williams
  • RD 7: LB Ty Summers

The focus of the draft seemed to be on the continued rebuilding of the defense. The Packers haven’t had a defense that could complement their offense since the 2014 season, and have not had a difference-making defense since their Super Bowl season of 2010.

GM Brian Gutekunst is determined to give defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as many jars on the shelf as possible. Between free agency and the draft, the defense has gotten a complete revamp that on paper looks like it should be formidable once again.

After spending big at edge rusher in free agency, Gutekunst went there once again with his first pick with Rashan Gary. He also filled a need for a centerfielder with a fast, rangy, versatile defender in Darnell Savage. Gutekunst didn’t completely ignore the offense as he got a lineman that can play up and down the offensive line and snagged a tight end that could pose a huge threat in the middle of the field.

Determining if this draft was a success or not will go much further than the first four picks of the draft, but as first through third-round picks, these players will be expected to contribute right away, while the middle through late-round picks will be given more leeway to find their groove in the lineup while contributing on special teams.

A draft can be successful by finding one or two starters and be considered a home run should one of those players become a difference maker for the team.

I firmly believe the Packers have found at least one difference maker in this draft, but more on that in a second. This draft at first blush was a bit of a head-scratcher, but after taking some time away from the emotion of the team not taking the player I hoped they would, I found this Packers draft could be just what the team needed.

Not every player will make it past their first contract and some may not make it past training camp, but I believe the Packers have found some missing pieces for the team.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t all that thrilled when the Packers drafted Rashan Gary. The reports about his shoulder becoming a problem gave me flashbacks to some more recent picks that came into the league with injury problems that didn’t pan out. Guys like Justin Harrell, Nick Perry and at least for the moment, Kevin King. All those measurables without production had me worried. But after some thought and looking fully at the situation, I’m starting to come around on the pick.

When Clay Matthews came into the league, he was seen as a late bloomer who had the tools to become a solid player. He didn’t have the production you would like to see in college but once he caught on in the NFL, Clay became a difference maker for the Packers and a vital contributor on the number two-ranked defense that helped the team win the Super Bowl. I feel Gary can do the same thing.

The best part for Gary is, he doesn’t have to start right away this year. The Packers spent big money on the two Smiths (Za’Darius and Preston) and they won’t be backups at their price tags. The Packers also have last year’s team sack leader Kyler Fackrell coming back. With those players in front of him, Gary can come along at his speed and be used where Pettine sees fit.

If his shoulder is an issue and he needs to be used sparingly, the Packers can afford to be patient and use him as more of a role player and eventually develop into a starter. He may have in fact been drafted into the best situation for him.

With their second first-round pick, the Packers may have found the missing link to their defense. The Packers’ safeties last year left a lot to be desired. If not for a late-season switch by Tramon Williams, the safety group would have been a complete mess. Kentrell Brice never panned out as a viable starter, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was traded at the deadline. A few short weeks later, his replacement was cut for bad conduct on the field.

The Packers had a bunch of at-the-line safeties and even though Tramon filled in admirably at free safety, his best position is still cornerback. Enter Darnell Savage.

Some may feel Green Bay gave up too much for a player that could have possibly been there at 30, but if Savage plays to his potential, those two fourth-rounders will be a distant memory.

Savage gives the Packers something they have lacked since Nick Collins‘ sudden retirement due to injury — speed and range on the back end. The Packers were burned deep, and often, early last season, and it wasn’t until Williams move to safety that the big plays finally stopped.

Savage can be the remedy for those problems. He is a rookie and will make mistakes, but his speed will allow for him to make up for some of those mishaps. Of the two first-round picks, Savage has the ability to make the biggest impact this year.

Those two picks right there can make the draft a success. Luckily for the Packers, there were six other picks.

Of those remaining six, the one who can make the biggest contribution is cornerback Ka’dar Hollman. Now I know what you’re thinking, he’s a sixth-round draft pick stuck behind very talented players. That is true, but I’m not thinking in ways of contributing on defense, I’m thinking more about special teams.

Hollman has the perfect size and speed for special teams. He can hold up as a gunner as well as on kickoff coverage. The same can be said for the Packers’ last pick Ty Summers. Both players can help make the Packers’ bottom-ranked special teams improve.

The Packers’ second and third-round picks are both in the same boat. They were drafted with the future in mind. Of the two, second-round pick Elgton Jenkins will have the best chance at a starting job. He’ll get his chance to earn one of the starting guard spots, but having him back up this year and serving as a super sub will be just fine for the team.

An offensive line playing every snap together is a rare feat, but one we all hope happens. If not, the Packers now have a prospect who could possibly play every position on the line while developing for future seasons.

Jace Sternberger may not see the field much this season. He has two veterans in front of him, as well as second-year player Robert Tonyan. But like Hollman and Summers, Sternberger can contribute on special teams and learn his craft. I don’t expect Sternberger to be a spectator for very long but for right now, his major contributions will be in the future. With that said, he has the makings of being a very good tight end and threat in the middle for Aaron Rodgers and the offense.

Kinglsey Keke is a player who is stuck behind one of the deepest positions on the Packers roster, the defensive line. The Packers have two studs in Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, as well as an ascending player in Dean Lowry. Green Bay already has depth at the position with Tyler Lancaster and Montravius Adams. Both players came on late in the year and will look to make a second and third-year jump.

The scouting reports on Keke are favorable, and should the Packers lose Daniels to free agency next year, they have a player ready to step up to fill the void.

Aaron Jones‘ injury history suggests that Dexter Williams will get his chance at some point this season. Williams comes with off-the-field concerns (arrested for marijuana in 2016, posses of a hand gun) so he will have to prove that stuff is behind him. Williams was thought by some scouts to be a second or third-round pick if it wasn’t for the off-the-field stuff. So the Packers may have gotten a steal in the sixth round.

To his credit, it seems Williams did not back down from any question asked about the incident and could provide nice depth behind Jones and the other Williams.

The Packers may have found a few missing pieces. It’s a lot to ask for one draft class to fill in all the gaps on a team, but the Packers did a good job to answer some of the questions facing this team. All eight picks, coupled with the free agent class, should make a difference on the field for the 2019 Packers.

If there is one knock, it’s that the Packers did not seem to answer or add a prospect to the slot receiver position. I have no doubt Coach LaFleur has something cooked up despite no new talent added via the draft.

Next. Packers 53-man roster predictions following 2019 NFL Draft. dark

A deep dive into the 2019 draft class shows the sum of the parts should mean a successful class for the 2019 Packers draftees.