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From Jerel Worthy to Justin Harrell, Packers have struggled drafting D-lineman early

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In the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2000, Green Bay has swung and missed on defensive linemen far more than it has hit.

Green Bay Packers v Houston Texans Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When the NFL Scouting Combine concludes next week, names like Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns, Montez Sweat, and Rashan Gary might well end up as some of the hottest commodities on the draft market this year. As the Green Bay Packers delve through the list of top linemen as they address their defense, they must do so carefully.

Since 2000, the Packers have drafted 13 defensive linemen in the top three rounds. While Green Bay reaped benefits from some of its selections in the years between 2009 and 2012 with players such as B.J. Raji in 2009 (1st) and Kenny Clark in 2016 (1st), the team has struggled mightily with the majority of their defensive linemen picked in the draft’s first two days. While defensive end-turned-linebackers Mike Neal (2010, 2nd) and Nick Perry (2012, 1st) have provided mixed results, there are more than a handful of names that truly did not pan out in a green and gold uniform.

Here is a look back in time at Green Bay’s tough luck as it hopes to change that chain of events in 2019.

2000 (3rd): Steve Warren, DT, Nebraska

A quad injury limited Warren over his first two years in Green Bay, including a full 2001 season. He appeared in 25 total games for the Packers over three seasons before being released prior to the 2003 season after additional injury concerns landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform List. He collected just 14 tackles and a sack in his career.

2001 (1st): Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State

One of the larger draft busts in Packer history, Reynolds lasted just three years in the NFL after being taken 10th overall. Reynolds saw the field in just 18 games, recording three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, most of those stats coming in his first season. Injuries limited Reynolds as the lean defensive end struggled to hold up against NFL offensive tackles despite his speed around the corner.

2003 (2nd): Kenny Peterson, DT, Ohio State

Peterson had a longer-lasting NFL career than the players ahead of him on this list, but, like the others, only three seasons came in a Packer uniform. In 34 games, Peterson tallied three sacks and two forced fumbles, all coming in his final season in 2005. A surprise fall from first-round territory in the 2003 NFL Draft ultimately landed Peterson in Green Bay as a third-rounder, but he failed to live up to any of those expectations. His final four NFL seasons came in Denver, where he recorded at least one sack each season.

2004 (3rd): Donnell Washington, DT, Clemson

Part of a disastrous 2004 draft that featured Ahmad Carroll and B.J. Sander among others, Washington was the largest pitfall. Green Bay moved up in the draft to select Washington, a boom-or-bust prospect. Unfortunately for the Packers, it was all bust. Washington never once played in an NFL regular season game amid concerns about his weight and motivation. Although his frame and playing strength were more than adequate for the NFL, Washington never put those tools to use.

2007 (1st): Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee

Harrell is right on par with Reynolds as one of Green Bay’s larger first-round blunders. The Tennessee Volunteer came into the league with injury issues, tearing his bicep tendon in college. After showing up to camp out of shape, Harrell immediately came under scrutiny by the Packer faithful and his play on the field did not help. In four years, Harrell appeared in just 14 games and posted 28 tackles and two for a loss. After a back injury in the 2009 training camp wiped out Harrell’s season, a torn ACL sidelined him for all of 2010. In the end, any promise Harrell did have was lost to injury.

2012 (2nd): Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

Green Bay traded up to draft Worthy after an All-American junior season for the Spartans. Yet, the chaos he created in the Big Ten never showed up in the NFL. Worthy played just two seasons for the Packers before being traded to New England, suiting up for 16 games and notching 2.5 sacks. He would play with four NFL teams in seven seasons, but the optimism surrounding Worthy as a second-rounder dwindled into disappointment.

2013 (1st): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Although Jones was not a complete miss, he never lived up to his first-round billing. The UCLA product totaled nine sacks and 16 tackles for a loss for the Packers after lining up at defensive end and edge linebacker in the “elephant” package. Jones battled with Mike Neal for playing time on the edge but did not follow in Reggie White’s footsteps as he once aspired to do. Since leaving Green Bay, Jones has been with three other teams, including a one-game stint with Dallas in 2018.

2014 (3rd): Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Miss

Late riser or not, Thornton was a surprise pick in the third round and did not prove the doubters wrong. Thornton lasted just one season in Green Bay and actually never played a regular season game, injuring his hamstring in the final preseason game of the 2014 season. After being waived by the Packers in 2015, Thornton played for three seasons in Detroit as a rotational player, but never fulfilled his third-round grade.

2017 (3rd): Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn

The jury is out on Adams, who just finished his second season with Green Bay. Like many other players above, Adams suffered a rookie injury that slowed him from the start. While Adams showed flashes at times during his 16-game sophomore campaign in 2018, he has a lot yet to prove for Green Bay to justify giving him a roster spot next season. He will battle with former undrafted free agents Fadol Brown and Tyler Lancaster in training camp.