Well-stocked though the Green Bay Packers’ roster may be, they’ll still be counting on young players to make a significant contribution this year. Who will make the biggest splash? We asked our writers what they thought. Here’s what they had to say.
Shawn Wagner: Josh Myers
This might not be a surprise pick, but I think it is the right one. On an offensive line that already will be looking to be effective without David Bakhtiari for an uncertain amount of time, the ability for the rookie Myers to lock down the center position is paramount. If Elgton Jenkins is to take snaps at left tackle, Myers becomes an even more important cog in a shuffled interior Packers line. Just this past week, Aaron Rodgers acknowledged that Myers needs to think and play a little faster when Rodgers is under center, but overall the former Buckeye has filled in quickly and admirably. For Green Bay to be the kind of offensive juggernaut it was last season, Rodgers will need the protection and command of the huddle that comes from the center position and Myers in particular.
Tex Western: OL Royce Newman (among Day 3 picks)
Because of Myers likely starting at center, I’m going to adjust the question a bit for my own purposes and say the prompt asks which rookie drafted on day 3 will have the biggest impact. There, I think one can make the case for a number of different players, but I’ll go with another player who is a potential day-one starter on the offensive line in Newman.
It seems that Lucas Patrick has slipped in the eyes of the Packers’ coaches. With neither he nor Jon Runyan Jr. stepping up and taking charge of the starting guard spots, that has allowed Newman to work his way into the lineup with the ones, both in practice and in the most recent preseason game. He has played both guard spots in practice, and I will not be surprised in the least if he starts in week one. Newman may not remain a starter throughout the season, particularly when the Packers shake up the offensive line upon David Bakhtiari’s return, but he looks to be at worst one of the first men off the bench on the interior should injury strike, and I expect him to start at least half of the team’s games this year.
Kris Burke: WR Amari Rodgers
The Packers finally drafted a wide receiver early(ish) and he’s set to have a big role.
With the emergence of Kylin Hill, Rodgers might not be the jet sweep/gadget guy many had him pegged to be, which means he might be used more as a traditional wide receiver and I’m willing to bet he succeeds there.
The Packers are deep at the position now (especially with Randall Cobb back) but Rodgers will get his chance to climb the depth chart when injuries inevitably occur. Davante Adams hasn’t played in 16 games since 2016 and that means Rodgers could be thrust into a start at some point. Throw in the fact that Cobb has been a mentor to Rodgers and the rookie has a path to being “in” with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, something many rookie receivers have struggled to achieve.
The numbers might not be massive but I really think Amari Rodgers makes several impactful plays throughout the season and gives Green Bay another talented pass-catcher now and in the future.
Matub: DL Josh Avery
Editor’s note: This entry was submitted prior to the Packers’ latest round of roster cuts. The author has supplied this update:
Jon Meerdink: DL T.J. Slaton
Kenny Clark has needed a running mate up front pretty much since Mike Daniels was unceremoniously dumped just before the start of the 2019 season. He may finally have one in T.J. Slaton.
The only player physically comparable to Clark, Slaton has already shown the power and quickness that made him an intriguing pick. Sure, he’s still a bit limited in his overall skill set, but no more so than any other Packers lineman, and his ceiling seems significantly higher than Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, or Tyler Lancaster, just to mention guys that played a noteworthy role last year.
If Slaton does nothing more than free up Kenny Clark to do Kenny Clark things, that’s a win, and if he can contribute anything more than that, it’s all but a home run for a lineman taken on Day 3 of the draft. Given what we’ve seen so far, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be doing more than occupying blockers as Clark’s sidekick. I’m excited to see what he can do in 2021.
Paul Noonan: CB Eric Stokes
You may have noticed that Kevin King is still standing out there on the field opposite Jaire Alexander. It’s frankly ridiculous, and it’s not hard to argue that King creates a ceiling on just how good this team can be. Last season they had the best offense, a great number one corner, but against a great team like the Bucs, they just picked out ol’ Kevin and that was pretty much it.
The team drafted the speedy Eric Stokes to take this job. If he can actually do it, and be at least average, you’ve got a Super Bowl-winning caliber team. If he can’t beat out Kevin King, you have a complete bust as a draft pick and another likely flameout in the playoffs. No rookie is more important, and no one will have a bigger impact for good or ill.