Among the Packers’ draft selections in 2019, no one has been the cause of more controversy than Rashan Gary, the 6’5” 275 pound outside linebacker out of Michigan. Brian Gutekunst jumped on him with the 12th overall draft selection – the Packers haven’t had such a high draft pick since 2009, when they used the ninth overall pick on B. J. Raji.
Critics were extremely quick to question the choice, especially since Gary didn’t have a particularly notable career with the Wolverines. In fact, many of you continue to question it on a weekly basis.
Yours truly was among the immediate doubters. Not so subtly (strange word, pronounced subtle-y), in the emotion of the moment I titled my post “Is Gutekunst Off His Rocker?” My complaint, however wasn’t so much about Gary, who I didn’t know much about. Rather, it was because we had just invested around $150 million (I was temporarily incapacitated, they cost a mere $118M, Amos added another $37M) for the “Smith Brothers,” two edge rushers who have lived up to their billing. Here’s a portion of that rant:
“Barring serious injuries, either Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, or Rashan Gary is going to warm the bench in 2019. It makes no sense. Heckuva job, Brian. . . Gutekunst, President Mark Murphy, and the rest of the suits have repeatedly stated they want to win now. I think that goal slipped their mind last night.”
My secondary gripe related to finances. See: On Draft Day, Packers Should be Thinking “Instant Starter.” Posted shortly before the 2019 draft, this ran 1,870 words, maybe a TP record. Here’s a snippet:
“It’s financially advantageous to get as much playing time as possible out of players while they are operating under their rookie contracts. Finances aside, it’s a waste of resources to plant a first-rounder’s butt on the bench for a year or two.
. . .GM Brian Gutekunst showed us with his free agency signings that he is committed to winning now – not building up for 2020 or 2021. For this and other reasons, Green Bay should be aiming to send one, and if possible two, of its 2019 draftees out on the field as starters on September 5.”
Alas, my fears have become reality. Let’s go to the number of snaps (offensive or defensive) the top dozen picks of 2019 have had: (Pick # – Name – Position – Team – Snap percentage)
1 – Kyler Murray – QB – ARI – 99.6%
2 – Nick Bosa – DE – SF – 71.7%
3 – Quinnen Williams – DT – NYJ – 48.8%
4 – Clelin Ferrell – DE – OAK -66.3%
5 – Devin White – LB – TB – 64.2%
6 – Daniel Jones – QB – NYG – 83.7%
7 – Josh Allen – LB – JAX -63.1%
8 – T.J. Hockenson – TE – DET – 62.8
9 – Ed Oliver – DT – BUF – 52.4%
10 – Devin Bush – LB – PIT – 82.3%
11 – Jonah Williams – T – CIN – Injured Reserve
12 – Rashan Gary – LB – GB – 23.7%
As you can see, all eleven of the players drafted ahead of Gary in 2019 (except Jonah Williams, on Injured Reserve) have been on the field much more than has Gary. The next least used player has been Quinnen Williams, but his snap percentage is more than double that of Gary – and he missed Games 2 through 4 due to an ankle sprain suffered in the season opener.
Ed Oliver, the second (uninjured) least used high draft pick, is sharing time almost equally with veteran DT Jordan Phillips, who already has 7.5 sacks on the year. Phillips has only participated in 50.3 percent of the defensive snaps, while Oliver is at 52.4 percent.
T.J. Hockenson, the third least-used high draft pick, is also on injured reserve, due to suffering an ankle injury against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day. He also missed the entire previous game due to a shoulder injury. Bad ankle injuries might be replacing ACL tears as the NFL’s most common serious injury.
Gary, a participant in all 12 Packers games, has largely avoided injury. Interestingly, play has been halted a number of times while he has been helped off the field, only to have him return later in those games.
Receivers for Bargains
Hell, we could have traded that #12 pick for two or three round 2 picks – and obtained at least two talented receivers. As I said at the time my choices were (in order) D.K Metcalf (chosen 64th) and A.J. Brown (chosen 51st), both out of Mississippi State. Metcalf, with the Seahawks, to date has 44 catches for 705 yards, 5 TDs and a 16 yards per catch average. He could wind up with 1,000+ yards in his first season.
A.J. Brown, playing for the Titans, and thrown to by a combination of Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, has 34 catches for 626 yards, 4 TDs and an 18.4 catch average. Rookie Brown is sixth in the league, and Metcalf is thirteenth, in yards per catch – they are game-changers.
Either would have been a bargain at #44. Yeah, we would have missed out on Elgton Jenkins, but my rule is to never use a high draft pick on a non-skills position player. A top guard simply doesn’t have the impact of a top wideout.
Each of the above picks is getting better and more comfortable by the week. Both these guys were considered raw, and in need of “development.” Imagine where the Packers might be – now and over the next ten years – if they had just one of these two big, strong, and fast big-play receivers on the roster.
Mark my words: D.K. Metcalf will become an All-Pro, and this Seahawk will come to haunt the Packers for the next decade or more.