Yesterday, we began our series looking back at general manager Brian Gutekunst’s five draft classes during his tenure as the top decision-maker with the Green Bay Packers. Today’s focus will be grading out the eight draft picks from the 2019 class, including two first-round choices. Thanks, New Orleans Saints!
Let’s get into it.
#12 Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan
At the time, the selection of Rashan Gary was an interesting one by the Packers in the first round. The team had just signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to long-term contracts in free agency, which meant that Green Bay was using their highest first-round pick in some time on a player who was to come off the bench. In his first two years in the league, Gary played 24 percent (2019, rookie season) and 48 percent (2020) of the defense’s total snaps until Za’Darius was kept off the field in 2021 due to a back injury. By the 2022 season, though, Gary had developed into a player who looked like he was on pace for his first Pro Bowl in his career, proving the Packers correct. Unfortunately, a non-contact ACL tear on turf ended his past season too early.
#21 Darnell Savage, Jr., SAF, Maryland
There isn’t a pick you can analyze more than Darnell Savage. First of all, he was a much better fit as a coverage player in Mike Pettine’s man-based defense than Joe Barry’s quarters-heavy defense, which appears to have hurt or stagnated his development. He was benched for a stretch in 2021, but the team thought enough of him in 2020 to pick up his 2022 fifth-year option worth $9 million, meaning he’s a returning starter on the team.
Was that option the right choice in hindsight? It doesn’t appear so, but should that impact your grade on the selection? Probably not. What should be accounted for, though, is that the Packers actually traded up for Savage, meaning they gave up the 30th overall pick and two fourth-round picks to select Savage, which simply isn’t good value.
#44 Elgton Jenkins, OL, Mississippi State
Elgton Jenkins is a two-time Pro Bowl left guard who also was named to the All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers of America back in 2019. He’s started in 53 of his available 55 games, just signed a multi-year contract with the Packers and has a chance to be the team’s long-term left tackle if David Bakhtiari is let go in 2024 due to Bakhtiari’s projected $40.5 million cap hit. By all accounts, this is a slam-dunk draft choice.
#75 Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
One of Brian Gutekunst’s notable misses in the third round is Jace Sternberger. The former All-American was thought to be a true Y prospect who could eventually develop into a full-time in-line tight end, but the emergence of Robert Tonyan and the continued reign of Marcedes Lewis did not afford him much playing time. In 2021, he was suspended with a substance-abuse violation and was waived by the team upon his reinstatement. Since then, he’s spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Football Team and Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently on the roster of the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL. In total, he played just 18 games for the Packers and recorded 12 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.
#150 Kingsley Keke, DL, Texas A&M
Kingsley Keke’s situation was very interesting. In his second and third seasons with the Packers, he played in 27 games with 17 starts. At that point, he had earned the role of Green Bay’s second defensive end opposite Dean Lowry and the squad’s third defensive lineman behind Kenny Clark. In Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2021 season, though, Keke was made a healthy scratch before missing the season finale while being on the reserve/Covid-19 list. He was waived once healthy and it was later reported that “Keke had a disagreement with the coaching staff about [his] practice role...coming off [a] concussion [and] Covid.” You can argue that 2021 Keke played better than Lowry and 2022 free agent signing Jarran Reed played last season, which makes evaluating this draft choice even more complicated.
#185 Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo
Ka’Dar Hollman only played in 18 games for the Packers but did contribute on both defense and special teams during his sophomore season in the league. After that year, the Packers ended up trading Hollman to the Houston Texans for a seventh-round draft choice, despite the Texans waiving him a week later. His career in Green Bay ended up amounting to the swap of late-around draft choices for a two-year rental, which isn’t bad considering how deep he was selected in the draft. Hollman is now back with the Texans after stints with the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.
#194 Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams from the jump, Dexter Williams was never more than the third running back on the depth chart during his Packers career. After his rookie season, Green Bay drafted AJ Dillon in the second round, which pretty much sealed his long-term fate with the squad. In total, Williams played in seven games and recorded seven carries for 19 yards during his Packers career. He spent part of the preseason with Green Bay back in 2022 — after injuries occurred at the position — following stints with the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. Currently, Williams is back on the Stars’ roster.
#226 Ty Summers, LB, TCU
So Ty Summers played a decent amount of football for the Packers, but I’m not sure he did it well. We’re going to give him some credit here, since he was a seventh-round pick, but you could argue that Keke Kingsley and Darnell Savage are better football players despite their selections being lower-graded than Summers’. Summers suited up for 46 games in Green Bay and made one start, contributing 908 special teams reps to 205 defensive plays. Since his 2022 release from the Packers, he’s played 105 special teams plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints.
Join the conversation by scrolling to the comments and let us know if there’s a grade you disagree with.