For a lot of NFL draft picks, a fourth season with their respective teams is supposed to be a significant one. For most, it’s a “contract season” with a lucrative second contract on the line as they begin surging into the prime of their careers.
But for the Green Bay Packers, there are not many fourth-year players to speak of.
A shocking two players remain in the organization from the eight-man 2015 draft class, which enters its fourth year: Ty Montgomery (round three), and Jake Ryan (round four). Montgomery, while a jack-of-many-trades, may not be re-signed following the season. Ryan will sit out the year after tearing his ACL early in training camp.
New General Manager Brian Gutekunst has also swung two trades in his short time in charge involving two members of the class in Damarious Randall and Brett Hundley. The final two picks of that draft class, Christian Ringo and Kennard Backman, failed to make it past year two. Second-rounder Quinten Rollins and sixth-rounder Aaron Ripkowski were the latest casualties, released in final cuts on Saturday (Rollins being waived with an injury settlement). It has not been a lengthy or very productive stay for the 2015 crew.
That trend of disappointment does not bode well for the Packers’ 2017 class, either. Just one year in, five of the 10 players selected have been released. An easier view of both the 2015 and 2017 drafts can be seen in the tweet below.
Meanwhile, a look at the #Packers' 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts, the final three of Ted Thompson's regime: pic.twitter.com/eNTJhxLmsR— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) September 1, 2018
The releases of Vince Biegel, Devante Mays, DeAngelo Yancey, and Kofi Amichia this weekend, coupled with Malachi Dupre’s release after last year’s training camp, has put a damper on the Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy. The Biegel release in particular cuts deep for the Packers, not just because he is a former Wisconsin Badger but because the Packers desperately need pass rushing depth. Still continuously in search for production, the Packers spent the coveted first pick of Day Three on Biegel instead of the sliding Carl Lawson. As Biegel nursed a foot injury throughout his rookie campaign, Lawson tallied 8.5 sacks for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yes, the third day of the 2017 draft has already been mostly a failure, with running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones acting as the saving graces. Still, the jury is still out on both after just one season in which each took turns stepping up in the other’s absence.
And the Packers’ first three picks last season? Well, they are far from certain to have an impact on the team in the long term.
Kevin King played in only nine games a year ago, as a nagging shoulder injury was the one that finally ended his rookie season prematurely. Though his size, speed, and athleticism certainly give King a chance at developing into a solid pro, he was raw as a rookie and the Packers’ 2018 draft picks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, already seem more polished in limited preseason action. For the Packers, who have experienced the ups-and-downs of 2015 draft picks Randall and Rollins, the unknowns surrounding King are a bit concerning.
Second-round safety Josh Jones had a monster training camp as a rookie, providing enormous optimism for his role as the “Nitro” linebacker. But issues in coverage and poor angles in run support doomed Jones in his first season. A prompt return to safety ensued for Jones after Mike Pettine’s hire in Green Bay and, once again, there were high hopes for him to earn a starting job in 2018. But so far, Jones has not separated himself at all from the likes of Kentrell Brice or Jermaine Whitehead. That is very unsettling at this juncture.
Although Montravius Adams flashed some signs of becoming a reliable depth player on the defensive line this preseason, the former third-round pick was either injured or unheard from as a rookie. That isn’t a great sign for Packers fans who have seen defensive linemen like Donnell Washington and Jerel Worthy take similar paths after being drafted in rounds two and three.
It’s very early, but the Packers’ 2017 draft class is trending dangerously similar to the underwhelming group from 2015. While the 2018 class has impressed as a collective whole thus far, Green Bay needs its remaining 2017 players to take a second-year leap due to the positions and roles they play. History cannot repeat itself.