The Green Bay Packers have draft trends, as we’ve explained in our wide receiver and offensive line combine recaps, but their front seven trends are harder to explain. The reason for this is because so many shapes and sizes come into the NFL’s defensive fronts, even after indexing players as defensive tackles, edge rushers or off-ball linebackers.
To help explain their trends, I’m going to use a tool called Relative Athletic Score, which grades players based on their athletic numbers within their position groups, including their size.
Since former general manager Ted Thompson took over the Green Bay Packers, the team has drafted 28 front-seven players in the first five rounds of the draft. Only five of them had an RAS of less than 7.0, which you should think about as a 7/10 score for athleticism relative to size. In fact, here are the averages of these players by the three position groups within the defensive front-seven:
- Edge Rushers: 8.99
- Defensive Line: 7.27
- Linebacker: 7.09
To put it plainly, yes, the Packers like athletic players in the front seven. Like we have seen with other Green Bay draft trends, what was true under Thompson also seems to be true under current general manager Brian Gutekunst. None of Gutekunst’s front-seven picks through the fifth round of the draft have come in with an RAS of less than 7.0 in his tenure as a general manager. The closest player was actually Florida defensive tackle Tedarrell “TJ” Slaton at 7.96 in the 2021 draft class, who is a great athlete for his size.
The Packers have actually drafted more front-seven defenders who are scored as 9.0s or better (seven) than defenders who scored less than 7.0 (five) since 2005 in the first five rounds of the draft. So if you’re wondering if the combine seems to matter for the Packers within these position groups, the answer is overwhelming yes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top draft picks’ combine performance — by position — with that RAS perspective now established.
Top-64 Defensive Tackles
|35||DeMarvin Leal||Texas A&M||5||-||4.49||7.75|
One narrative you’re going to hear over and over again coming out of this combine is how much these players and agents hate the new workout schedule, which leaves the agility drills to be done until the end of the night after a long day of poking and prodding. Because of this, more and more players are opting out of them in general. For example, only six of the “DEs” and five “DTs” ran the three-cone in Indianapolis. This sucks. These are arguably the most important drills at the event.
This led to only four of the seven projected top-64 defensive tackles, according to the consensus big board, participating in either of the agility drills. Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, Houston’s Logan Hall, UConn’s Travis Jones and Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis all ran the shuttle but only Hall and Jones participated in the three-cone drill.
With that being said, the star of the day was Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis, who didn’t run the agility drills at all. At 6’6” and 341 pounds, Davis ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and posted a 10’3” broad jump, which are rare air for any defensive tackle let alone one built to his size. Depending on his agility drills as at Georgia’s pro day, he may be the most athletic defensive tackle prospect ever, adjusted for weight.
Had Davis not stolen the show, we’d be talking more about Hall, Jones and Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt, three players who all ranked at 9.65 or above in RAS on the day. The closest thing to an upsetting performance by the defensive tackles on Saturday was Leal, who still ran a 5.00-second 40-yard dash and ran a 4.49-second shuttle as a 283-pound tweener.
Top-64 Edge Rushers
|18||Jermaine Johnson||Florida State||4.58||-||-||9.56|
|55||Cameron Thomas||San Diego State||-||-||-||-|
|60||Arnold Ebiketie||Penn State||-||-||-||-|
|62||Kingsley Enagbare||South Carolina||4.87||-||-||6.49|
The trend of skipping agility drills was also seen in the edge-rushers group. NFL Network made a big deal about potential number-one pick Kayvon Thibodeaux pulling himself out of workouts after his 40-yard dash time, just to see only two of the class’ top 11 edge rushers run the three-cone in Indianapolis.
Among the players who can be given an RAS at this point, seven of the eight projected top-64 players passed the athletic threshold of 7.0 which is perceived as the Packers’ trend. The only player to fall short was South Carolina end Kingsley Enagbare who ran a shockingly slow 4.87-second 40-yard time at 258 pounds.
We will need to wait until pro days to get a look at USC’s Drake Jackson, San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas and Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, who did not run a single timed drill at the combine.
With a lack of agility drills by the group as a whole, the two big winners at the top of the draft class from Friday were Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia’s Travon Walker.
Hutchinson participated in every drill but the bench press and scored roughly in the top 10 percent of every drill other than the 40-yard dash (4.74) and broad jump (9’9”.) He did extremely well in the vertical jump (36”), short shuttle (4.15) and three-cone (6.73) which should cement him as the top pass-rusher in the draft class. Walker, a raw athlete who often played out of position for the Bulldogs, registered a 4.51-second 40, a 35.5” vertical and a 6.89-second three-cone which should push him to be a lock to be drafted in the top half of the first round.
Among the five linebackers who are expected to go in the top two rounds, at this point, only one of them, Wyoming’s Chad Muma, ran any agility drill on Saturday. He did well, recording a 7.06-second three-cone and a 4.28-second short shuttle to go along with a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, giving him an RAS of 9.79 for the day.
Utah’s Devin Lloyd (4.66), Alabama’s Christian Harris (4.44) and Georgia’s Quay Walker (4.52) also ran the 40 but did not participate in agility drills. Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, a projected first-round pick, did not participate in any drill but showed up to Indianapolis at 5’11”, 229 pounds. That number is light, but not as light as Harris, who weighed in at 226 pounds.
Keep an eye on Walker, one of my favorite prospects in the draft. Should De’Vondre Campbell leave in free agency, I think Walker, who plays like a thumper but runs at Pro Bowl speed, would be a great fit in Green Bay. He was often asked to take on guards on stunts and picks in the Bulldogs’ blitz-heavy defense and may translate better to NFL play than the consensus All-American Dean, who is five inches shorter and over 10 pounds lighter.