With the Green Bay Packers settled at the running back position, we’ll turn our attention in the second edition of our combine notebook to offensive linemen, which are a bigger need for the team. Considering the fact that the Packers have one of the league’s best one-two punches with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon coming out of the backfield, there’s no reason to think that the team will address the position in the 2023 draft with Kylin Hill and Patrick Taylor Jr. still on cheap contracts.
On the flip side, offensive line contributors Dennis Kelly and Lucas Patrick are set to be unrestricted free agents this month and should open up some roster spots for rookie linemen to potentially fill. Add on the ACL recovery concerns of left tackle David Bakhtiari and tackle/guard Elgton Jenkins, along with the potential but unlikely release of right tackle Billy Turner, and the position is clearly more of a squeaky wheel than running back.
Traditionally, the Packers have been very predictable in terms of which types of offensive linemen they like in the draft, dating back to Ted Thompson’s days as general manager. Over the last 15 years, the Packers’ offensive line draft picks in the top 135 selections of the draft have had the same background: They have run a 4.75-second short shuttle and a 7.77-second three-cone at either the combine or a pro day and they have played tackle at the college level for at least some duration.
This makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, athleticism is never a bad thing and you could argue (I would) that the agility drills are the most important athletic measurement at the combine. Second, Green Bay as an organization likes flexible linemen that allow them to fill holes in-house as issues arise rather than drafting or paying players who only play rigid positions.
Generally, Packers’ draft trends have been consistent over Thompson’s and Brian Gutekunst’s tenure as general managers and are only firm through the first four rounds. The only exception to this offensive line rule over the last 15 drafts in the top 135 picks has been 2021 second-round pick Josh Myers, a true center who did not run last season due to a toe injury.
Despite never picking an offensive lineman in the top-20, the Packers have used these guardrails to find value on players like Jenkins, T.J. Lang, David Bakhtiari, J.C. Tretter and Josh Sitton outside of the first round. For reference, according to MockDraftable, a 4.75-second shuttle ranks at the 52nd percentile among offensive linemen while a 7.77-second cone ranks at the 47th percentile among offensive linemen. Mind you, these are minimums, so the Packers typically only look at players who are at least average in both agility drills and have some sort of a tackle background, even if they kick inside at the professional level like Jenkins, Land, Tretter or Sitton did.
Using the perceived Packers’ guardrails, we can narrow down the 2022 offensive line class now that they have participated at the combine. Some of the top offensive linemen in the draft, like tackles Ickey Ekwonu (NC State) and Charles Cross (Mississippi State) or guards Tyler Smith (Tulsa) and Kenyon Green (Texas A&M), would not qualify as “Packers linemen” after their times on Friday. Other top prospects, like Alabama’s Evan Neal and Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, won’t be ruled on until after they test at their pro days.
13 offensive linemen, in a shockingly athletic class, though, did pass the Packers’ athleticism bar in Indianapolis. Another, UTSA’s Spencer Burford, tested well in the short shuttle but did not participate in the three-cone.
Below are the 13 linemen and their current rank on the consensus draft board:
- #28 Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
- #29 Zion Johnson, Boston College
- #36 Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
- #85 Abraham Lucas, Washington State
- #143 Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
- #147 Cole Strange, Tennessee-Chattanooga
- #200 Cade Mays, Tennessee
- #210 Nick Zakelj, Fordham
- #213 Zach Tom, Wake Forest
- #225 Luke Wattenberg, Washington
- #238 Logan Bruss, Wisconsin
- #263 Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech
- #287 Zach Thomas, San Diego State
12 of these 13 linemen played tackle at some point in college, with the exception being Boston College’s Lindstrom. The good news for the Packers is that out of these 13 linemen, only four of them are expected to go on the first two days of the draft. Seeing as how Green Bay will likely draft their first offensive lineman in the third round at the earliest, considering more pressing needs than line depth, this works right to their advantage in a seemingly deep and athletic class.
Johnson, Strange, Mayes, Wattenberg, Bruss, Deaton and Thomas all have experience at guard while Lindstrom, Strange, Tom, Wattenberg and Deaton have played center at the college level. Only Penning, Raimann, Lucas and Zakelj have exclusively played tackle up to this point in their careers.
From this point forward, whether you’re working off of a watch list to find a sleeper to latch onto or building out a mock draft, this should be the list of linemen you’re working off to find the next Packers pass protector. Personally, I haven’t seen much of these linemen yet, but when I do take a look at the hog mollies I’m going to be looking at this list to decide where to spend my time best.