In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected two defensive players to help solidify a defense that gave up 25 points per game last season, 22nd in the league. With the 12th pick, the Packers selected defensive end Rashan Gary out of Michigan and with the 21st pick(obtained from trading up via Seattle Seahawks), the Packers selected safety Darnell Savage, Jr out of Maryland.
Rashan Gary – DE (Michigan)
Gary was one of the top recruits coming out of high school in 2016 after being named the top defensive player in New Jersey in both 2014 and 2015. He made an immediate impact as a freshman in a back up role. Gary played in every game, recording a sack, five tackles for loss of yardage and 27 tackles overall. As a sophomore, Gary gained recognition at the college level, making first-team All-Big Ten after recording six sacks and 66 total tackles. Although his overall numbers dropped in 2018, Gary repeated first-team honors with seven tackles for loss of yardage and 3.5 sacks.
Gary brings explosiveness and strength off the line, which should make him a very good defender against the run. It has been noted that Gary prefers the bull-rush technique and needs to work on other moves to enable him to work the outside and be an effective NFL pass rusher. Gary shows side-to-side quickness but often plays too fast and out of control, putting him in bad position for misdirection plays. At 6′ 4″ and 277 pounds, Gary should be an immediate starter and has the potential to develop into a top tier defensive end.
Many are skeptical of the pick, but going into the draft, a lot of Michigan fans had predicted that Gary would be a top 10 pick. They were mostly ignored, but it turns out they were more or less correct. Another experimental freak project as a draft pick. You decide.
Darnell Savage, Jr. – S (Maryland)
Savage was an outstanding two-way high school player at Caravel Academy in Delaware, rushing for nearly 1,300 yards as a senior and making 54 tackles. Playing mostly as a back up at Maryland in his freshman season, Savage made 12 tackles in 10 games. He became a starter as a sophomore and had four passes defensed, 59 tackles and an interception. Savage gained recognition by the Big Ten conference as a junior making the all conference team after recording three interceptions and a team best eight broken up passes. He excelled again in his senior season, intercepting four passes and making 5.5 tackles for loss of yardage.
At 5′ 11″ and 198 pounds, savage has an athletic, strong build and has good quickness and sub 4.4 speed to cover both quick and big receivers. He displays good cover skills knowledge and has great ability to close in on passes, as displayed by his interception totals at Maryland. Savage could have issues covering tight ends if asked to be used in that role and needs to improve his open field tackling skills. The potential is there to be an NFL starter and could be perfect for covering slot receivers.
This pick was less controversial, as it well should have been. Savage, Jr. will potentially add much needed speed to the Packers secondary.
“I’m fast, I like to hit. I like to be around the ball. I like to make plays. I just love to play the game of football."