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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.

Packers LB Rashan Gary

Nov 3, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs against Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) and defensive back Tony Brown (28) during the second quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Rashan Gary injury

Aug 22, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) leaves the field after suffering an apparent injury during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Investors Group Field. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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16 Comments

  1. Savage57 December 8, 2019

    When the Gary pick was announced, it appeared they hadn’t learned anything from Nick Perry.

    If they were obsessed with taking a Michigan defender, they should have passed on Gary and taken Winovich, the productive one, who was there when they opted for Sternberger.

    Imagine TJ Watt and Chase Winovich in the lineup in lieu of the Smith Brothers, and still having $20-25M of annual cap space to play with for things like ILB’s, TE’s, OL’s.

    1. thomaslind949yahoocom December 9, 2019

      Have you heard that Watt is being touted as a top candidate for defensive player of the year? Could you imagine Watt alongside the Smiths? HUGE f…ing mistake!!!!!!!!!

  2. Carl DeLuca December 8, 2019

    Never draft a non skill player high is a ridiculous motto. Guys like Raji, Clark, Clay, and Buluga have all hugely impacted the team. There are only so many athletic big guys compared to WRs and many have to be taken early. Plus, the line would have a huge hole right now without Jenkins.

  3. Carl DeLuca December 8, 2019

    Should the Rams have passed on Donald because he’s not a skill position?

  4. Jschizl December 8, 2019

    So you would have passed on quenton Nelson then. I disagree with your take. Guards can be stand outs

  5. PF4L December 8, 2019

    Rob was right …..”“Barring serious injuries, either Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, or Rashan Gary is going to warm the bench in 2019. It makes no sense.”
    ……….and this was the problem from jump street. You draft a down lineman def. end. You want to turn him into a stand up OLB in the NFL after signing 2 OLB to high dollar contracts. Of course we knew who would be sitting on the bench. That alone, made your #12 pick a project. You don’t draft a project at #12, period. Especially one with a few flags.
    ***
    I didn’t like this pick from day one, simply because nothing about it made any sense. Unless “potential” trumps common sense. Again, you don’t draft for potential at #12, unless it’s a perceived franchise QB.
    ****
    I said some time after Gute got hired…..That he has a very tough job in filling so many holes, explaining that he had to hit on draft picks, that he had little margin for error. All told…..i’n totality, i’m not impressed with his 2 drafts under those guidelines. Except for one first and one second pick, i look at all those names he drafted, and i’m like “who is that, and where are they?” I mean, are we still under some illusion that Josh Jackson isn’t a bust at a 2nd round pick? Are we thinking Oren Burks is ready to break out any day now?
    ***
    This off season will entail 3 levels of conversation…Citing heavy resources of drafts and free agency, is the defense where we would expect it to be?
    Also…….Will Gute be able to improve on one of the, if not.. the least talented receiving group in decades in Green Bay.?
    With Rodgers having another flunky (average?) season with a passer rating only slightly above 100 and a td/int ratio of 11:1. The only question during the off season, is which one of us will go up to Green Bay and mold and teach Rodgers how to become a winning NFL QB? Someone has to, amirite?

  6. Kato December 8, 2019

    Detroit drafted a receiver in the first round three years in a row. Didn’t do them a whole lot of good

    1. PF4L December 8, 2019

      Not sure what your point is. Because they don’t draft well, we shouldn’t expect to either? You feeling ok?
      *
      That’s Detroit’s problem, we have our own.

      1. Kato December 8, 2019

        My point was more of a rebuttal of Rob’s statement that you don’t draft non positional players early. Draft BPA, or at least BPA at a position of need.

  7. Cheesemaker December 8, 2019

    How about a comparison with guys drafted AFTER Gary? Comparing him to guys we couldn’t have drafted doesn’t make a lot of sense. Show me his production against the next 10-15 guys. Not defending him or the pick (I was against it) but I want to know how other guys we COULD have drafted have fared.

    1. PF4L December 8, 2019

      I think you missed the point.

      1. PF4L December 8, 2019

        How can we know how other guys would have fared if drafted by us? God might know, but i don’t. It doesn’t matter how they “fared” with other teams. Only with us. Are you saying Gary was the best player to draft at 12?
        I’m getting a headache.

    2. Robster December 8, 2019

      Not sure I buy into your premise, but here you go: 13 – Christian Wilkins – DT – MIA – 64.4; 14 – Chris Lindstrom – G – ATL 5.2 (named a starter, broke his foot in Week 1); 15 – Dwayne Haskins – QB – WSH – 40.8 (starter Case Keenum benched in Game 4); 16 – Brian Burns – DE – CAR – 45.9; 17 – Dexter Lawrence – DT – NYG – 63.7; 18 – Garrett Bradbury – C – MIN – 100; 19 – Jeffery Simmons – DT – TEN 25.7; 20 – Noah Fant – TE – DEN -73/8.

      1. Cheesemaker December 8, 2019

        Thanks, Rob. That suggests that Wilkins, Lawrence & Burns would have been more productive – and probably safer picks (I remember a lot of pre-draft caution about Dexter Lawrence so I probably wouldn’t consider him a safer pick). I’m ignoring the offense of picks, since we weren’t going to take a quarterback and I don’t think any of the offensive players taken shortly thereafter are guys anybody would’ve advocated for, with the possible exception of Fant since tight end was/is such a need.This tells me that as much as I didn’t like the Gary pack, and haven’t all season, it might not have been as bad as I’ve thought all along.

  8. Kato December 8, 2019

    I am not writing him off yet, but this isn’t promising. This team was in dire need of impact players, on either side of the ball. Picking him at this spot didn’t make sense at the time, and looks even worse now.

    1. PF4L December 9, 2019

      Yea….i don’t even know why anyone would even debate about it. There are more things you can do with the #12 pick than pick a player at #12 if you don’t think the players there are worthy. Just more deep end thinking from hindsight intelligence
      *
      Plus…It doesn’t matter what player did what after the #12 pick looking in hindsight. At the time, and today….It was a dumb pick on it’s own merit. I dont GAF what the 13th pick is doing today. It doesn’t change the action taken.
      *
      I’m getting another headache.