The Packers have played 8 games in what is now a 17 game regular season. While it is still way too early to estimate the 2022 Packer draft class productivity in three years, we can at least review the impact each player has had on the 2022 Packer team.
Starting a draft review requires two different focus of analysis. Player potential and contributions to the team in the current year. Drafting players always has risk and not every player blooms to NFL quality production, much less stardom. Ron Wolf’s standard for a successful draft was measured by how many quality starters the team selected. Three quality starters were Wolf’s magic threshold number in deciding if the team had a successful draft.
The two defensive draft picks from Georgia, the 2021 college’s best defense, seemed like safe picks that could both contribute early. Wyatt, at age 24 when drafted, looked like he could slot into the porous defensive line of the Packers. Walker looked like a huge upgrade from 2021’s starter, UDFA Krys Barnes. Walker took the starting role from Barnes, but his play has in many ways contributed to the failures of this year’s defense. The run defense has not improved. Walker does not make plays at or near the line of scrimmage. His inability to unlock his focus from the quarterback and see shallow crossing route runners has been the bane of the pass defense.
If you watch his body language, he is clearly a frustrated player. His stupid reaction on the Bills sideline after a tackle that resulted in his ejection has to make fans wonder about his intelligence. Walker scored a 9 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test. An average NFL player scores a 20. Wonderlic Inc. states that any score lower than ten indicates illiteracy. Many scouts praised the player, but the ones with concerns stated they saw poor run and pass instincts. One scout actually said he thought his instincts and diagnosis skills “suck”. In eight games there is no doubt Walker has struggled in diagnosing both run and pass plays. It may not be a coincidence that the best defensive stretch for the Packers came in Buffalo after his ejection.
Wyatt is starting to see the playing field, with 10 snaps against Buffalo. Currently Wyatt is behind Reed, Lowry and Slayton on the D-line. Wyatt also had a low Wonderlic score (8) but his scouting reports did not have the concerns that Walker’s tape generated. The concern for Wyatt was that he was 24 when drafted and was a one year starter. Wyatt doesn’t have as much time as other rookies to catch on. He is only 2 ½ years younger than Kenny Clark. Wyatt has 4 total tackles in 7 games. He has not had a sack, TFL, or quarterback hit. Defensive tackles can take time in the NFL so his potential will be interesting to watch as the season progresses.
The small school phenom has so far been a fragile egg since joining the Packers. Knee surgery, combined with multiple hamstring and concussion problems, has limited Watson mostly to the bench. The more time he goes without a significant contribution, the more that initial dropped pass on the first play of the season seems to define him. Naysayers will use the “B” word soon if he doesn’t heal and contribute.
Rhyan has to be the biggest disappointment from this draft. A third round selection that has had starting opportunities due to multiple O-line injuries, Rhyan has not seen the playing field. The Packers said they drafted him to play guard, but he has been beaten out by struggling Zach Tom and the benched Royce Newman. Packer fans remember when 7th round draft pick Mark Tauscher stepped in at right tackle as a rookie and held his own. While the Packers have spent a large number of draft picks on the offensive line in the past few years, besides Elgton Jenkins, there have been no Tauscher sightings in the group.
The Packers may have struck gold in round four. Doubs had one bad game against Washington, but he made two elite catches against Buffalo that had to bring Sterling Sharpe flashbacks to Packer fans. Doubs is on tracks to have the best Packer rookie wideout season since Rodgers joined the team. His potential is All-Pro level and his contributions, and ascension in 2022, may have the success of the team on his shoulders. Or, at least he may feel that pressure. If he responds positively to this challenge, he could be great.
Zach Tom has already shown he can play better than Royce Newman at guard and tackle. Tom’s run blocking against the Bills looked solid. He did have a couple of rough snaps in the passing game, but for his first start at guard, again with only last-minute notice he was starting, the kid has shown resilience beyond his age and stage.
Enagbare has been a pleasant surprise for the Packers. Two sacks in eight games and ten tackles are more production than the Packers have received from a second string OLB in eight games in years. He still needs to work on his recognition skills, but when he does diagnose quickly, he fights to set an edge. Enagbare may get his first chance to start against Detroit if Preston Smith cannot overcome his shoulder injury. How Enagbare plays when given a starter’s snap count will be an interesting game within the game. Just for a fun reference, Enagbare has already outperformed former Packer fifth round pick Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in the seven games he played as a rookie.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Packer draft picks have not had sufficient time on the field to display their talents. Carpenter is listed as the third string strong safety. He has been active for two games but has not accumulated any stats. Walker is a backup to left tackle David Bakhtiari, but Tom and Jenkins would probably get the playing time ahead of him. Ford is listed as the third string nose tackle. The potential of all three is currently known only to the coaching staff.
While Walker has had his struggles, he has also been thrown into the fire. He has time to learn both the system and how to read and react to his keys. Olivadotti, his position coach, has 20 years of experience and helped De’Vondre Campbell reach All-Pro status last year. Only the coaching staff knows how much time they will give him to improve. Doubs will undoubtedly get ample opportunities to build on his break out game against the Bills. Tom must stay ready as Bakhtiari’s knee is one practice away from missing another game. The biggest question for the rest of the season surrounds Christian Watson. Will he be able to shake his injuries and contribute? If given playing time, can he make big catches or will the initial drop contribute to his spiral into another J’mon Moore. Only time and the Packers medical staff can answer that question that may be crucial to the Packers dwindling 2022 success.