Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2020 season. Today, we examine the outside linebackers.
Since Ted Thompson’s return to the organization as general manager, the Green Bay Packers have been known to use late-round draft picks as fliers on athletic outliers, often from small schools. Frequently, these players have been edge rushers. Before he was a regular in the New York Giants’ defensive line rotation, Dave Tollefson was a seventh-round draft pick of the Packers after earning a RAS of 9.1. Remember Brad Jones? He started out as an undersized edge rusher with a 9.15 RAS of his own.
Brian Gutekunst has continued the late-round lottery ticket approach, first drafting Kendall Donnerson out of Southeast Missouri State in 2018 and snagging Jonathan Garvin from Miami in 2020. The latest of these athletic edge rushers fell into the “disappointing production” category rather than being from a small school, but Garvin’s selection was clearly another shot at a player with great physical upside.
With two veterans and an ascending second-year player providing the bulk of the snaps on the edge, the Packers did not see that position as a major need in 2020, choosing to invest only a late-round pick at the position. Here’s a look at what they got out of that selection.
How Acquired: Seventh-round selection in 2020 NFL Draft (#242 overall)
Contract: 4 years, $3.374 million
2020 Stats: 8 games played, 5 total tackles
Like each of the players mentioned above, Garvin recorded a RAS above 9 with his workout measurements. In particular, he impressed with his explosiveness, with excellent vertical and broad jump results at the 2020 Combine.
But the challenge of switching from 4-3 defensive end to stand-up edge rusher always meant that Garvin was going to take some time if he would make an impact with the Packers. He did play early on in the year, splitting time with Randy Ramsey as the fourth EDGE behind the Smith Brothers and Rashan Gary. However, his snaps were necessarily limited, as he took the field for just 85 defensive plays and recorded five tackles over the first half of the season before being a healthy scratch after week nine.
The impressive physical tools are there, and opportunity may be knocking for Garvin in 2021, particularly if the Packers deem it in their best financial interests to move on from Preston Smith. That could free up some substantial playing time for young edge rushers to capitalize on. But although Garvin’s role in year one was minimal, that is to be expected of a seventh-round draft pick. Hopefully he can take a significant step forward this offseason and become a regular and productive member of the rotation in 2021 and beyond.