Once the Super Bowl is in the books and the first week of free agency ends, the NFL draft is the focal point of positive news for fans. Often, if you are a glass half full type of fan, it can be the happiest few weeks to be a Packer fan. Your team is undefeated, the draft could potentially cure all of your team’s failings, and every prospect has a story that can make you root for their success.
Last year’s draft day burst that bubble for Packer fans. News of the rift between Rodgers and the front office poisoned the day turning promise into panic. Waiting for round three to draft a wide receiver helped fuel more complaints along with the first round pick of CB Eric Stokes who some analysts said was the second best CB on his college team. Tyson Campbell, drafted in round 2 by Jacksonville, was seen by many as a better player.
Drafting Josh Meyers as the second center off the board in the second round, was a need selection, but pundits like Walter Football had Myers as the sixth ranked center. Center Creed Humphrey was taken one pick after Myers by the Chiefs and the next true center, Kendrick Green, was drafted 23 picks later by Pittsburg. After one full season it is time to review the Packers 2021 draft.
Round one: CB Eric Stokes
Stokes was looked to be a luxury pick for the Packers due to the standout play of Jaire Alexander and the alleged potential of Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan. Stokes was forced into a starting role early due to injuries to both King and Alexander. Stokes improved to the point where offensive coordinators stopped targeting him and came up big in the playoffs with an interception against San Francisco. He is the starting left corner of the future. If Alexander can come back from his shoulder injury the pair could be the best in the NFL next year.
The pundit argument that Campbell was the better prospect is still a good debate. In week 15 Stokes played well, coming up with a critical two point conversion stop and allowed only one first down for a total of 35 yards. Campbell was even better. Campbell had a great interception and limited the Texans to nine total yards in his team’s loss. Campbell was recognized twice in the final weeks of the season for outstanding performances.
Round two: Josh Myers
Myers started from the first snap but his progress was limited by losing playing time to injury. He returned for the playoffs but no one would say the offensive line had a good day against the 49ers. Myers did show improvement during the season and would never be labeled a bust, but he did not play at the level of Pro Bowler Corey Linsley whom he replaced.
Creed Humphrey made All Pro in his rookie season for Kansas City. Humphrey allowed 12 pressures, no sacks, and had the best run blocking grade for centers at 92.5. Kendrick Green has not been successful at center for Pittsburgh. He only had three college starts at center and his inexperience at the position contributed to Ben Roethlisberger publicly stating he believed Green should be moved to guard.
Round three: Amari Rodgers
Packer fans who wanted a top wideout were not satisfied with a third round pick who stood 5’9”; 210 lbs and mostly played a gadget role in college. As a third round pick Rodgers gave no indication he will become the next James Jones. He was less than impressive as a return man and never cracked the rotational lineup for targets by Aaron Rodgers. His entire stat line for his first season on offense resulted in four catches for 45 yards. His two fumbles also failed to impress. Drafted one pick after Rodgers, Nico Collins has impressed. Thirty three catches on 60 targets for 446 yards on a bad Texan’s team. He is 6’4” and 225 lbs. Anthony Schwartz, drafted by the Browns two picks later is labeled a bust but his 145 reception yards more than triple Rodgers.
Later pick Amon Ra St. Brown, brother of Packer receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, had multiple big games for a bad Lions team. His 90 receptions and six total touchdowns blow his older brother’s four year career totals (33 catches/2 TD’s) out the window.
The next two Packer picks have exceeded expectations. Fourth round pick, guard Royce Newman, started early due to injuries and displayed starting talent while learning from rookie mistakes. Stats on Newman vary, but he gave up at least 3.5 sacks and had four penalties. He may have the potential to start at right tackle, his college position, in the future.
T.J. Slaton kept improving during the season and was a main reason the Packers jettisoned Kingsley Keke. Against Baltimore, Slaton had 4 tackles and against the 49ers in a small amount of snaps he had a tackle for loss. The next defensive tackle drafted, Marlon Tuipulotu from USC, had one total tackle for the season. Usually a fifth round nose tackle would need development to see an NFL field. Slaton has already contributed more to the Packers than 2017 third round pick Montravious Adams did in three seasons.
The rest of the picks are all unproven. Shemar Jean Charles played a high number of special teams snaps on the worst special teams in the league. His struggles tackling do not bode well for a bright future.
Cole Van Lanen saw a few snaps against Minnesota which should mean the coaches saw NFL potential in the young hometown pick. If he can become a starter this draft blossoms into potentially a generational draft.
Isaiah McDuffie played special teams and his potential is unknown. Packer GM Ron Wolf said a successful draft is defined by three starters. Newman, Stokes and Myers will allow this draft to meet that definition if they stay healthy. If Slaton and Van Lanen blossom into starters then this draft will be remembered as a classic. Only time will tell at this point. This year’s draft may require a generational Packer draft for the team to overcome their salary cap woes. Let’s hope Gutekunst and company have at least four more starters on their draft board that fall to Green Bay.