Today, we continue our week of evaluating Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst’s draft classes by taking a look at the 2021 draft. I believe this is Gutekunst’s first class without a true stud selection, which ends up being reflected in the grades we handed out to individual draft choices.
If you haven’t already checked them out, here are the links to the first three draft reviews that we’ve published:
29: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Eric Stokes has had an interesting career so far. As a rookie in 2021, he was able to record 14 pass breakups, which set the bar high for his career. As a sophomore, though, he never ended up recording a single pass breakup and had his season cut short due to an ankle injury. Based on head coach Matt LaFleur’s words at the owners’ meeting a week ago, it seems like there’s a real question of if Stokes is going to be ready to play in the season-opener in 2023. At best, there are mixed messages surrounding this pick and Stokes’ final grade is going to depend on how he responds on the field post-ankle injury.
62: Josh Myers, OL, Ohio State
Josh Myers has started every single game that he’s been available for in his Packers career. Unfortunately, he missed 10 games as a rookie with a torn MCL and also another game due to a finger injury that led to an infection. Last season, he was available in all 17 games, though. You could argue that he’s the “weak link” in Green Bay’s preferred offensive line of David Bakhtiari-Elgton Jenkins-Myers-Jon Runyan Jr.-Yosh Nijman (left to right), which — obviously — is less than ideal. Despite playing consistently, it’s uncertain if his on-field performance is going to warrant an extension beyond his rookie contract. For that reason, we’re going to call this second-round pick average.
85: Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
Amari Rodgers was maybe the worst punt returner in Packers history. Rodgers had a total of seven official fumbles in Green Bay, despite only touching the ball eight times offensively. He handled 40 punts for 305 yards and a long of 23 with the Packers before his mid-season release in his second season.
Interestingly enough, when the Houston Texans picked him up off of waivers, they used him almost exclusively on the offensive side of the ball rather than as a returner. He didn’t make one return in his six games with his new team in 2022. He did, though, bring in 12 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown on offense. Unfortunately for Rodgers, the Texans have since added Noah Brown and Robert Woods to a receiving room that already included Nico Collins and John Metchie, meaning that Rodgers has an uphill climb to get to 2023 playing time.
142: Royce Newman, OL, Ole Miss
Due to the range in which he was selected, I’m willing to call the selection of Royce Newman average. Newman was benched for the vast majority of 2022, when the team was shaking up the offensive line on a week-to-week basis, but he did start for the majority of his rookie season of 2021 as a guard. In total, he’s started in 22 games and played in all 34 since his selection, meaning that he’s never missed a game with an injury.
Newman often struggled with stunts as a pass blocker, which is why Yosh Nijman is now playing right tackle and Elgton Jenkins and Jon Runyan Jr. are the starting guards on the Packers. Newman is still pretty young, though, and there’s a real chance that he could return to the preferred starting lineup in the final season of his rookie contract. By then, Nijman will be eligible to be an unrestricted free agent and left tackle David Bakhtiari might be a cap casualty.
173: Tedarrell Slaton, DL, Florida
I have to be upfront that I have always been a fan of T.J. Slaton’s game. He has flashed, when the team has actually played him, and the fact that Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed are out of the picture this year should lead to even more playing time for Slaton.
For a premium position like the defensive line, I think Slaton was a steal for the Packers with the 173rd pick in the draft. Kenny Clark takes up a lot of the nose tackle reps when the team is in their 3-4 defense, but Slaton should be playing snaps as a defensive end for the Packers, considering the talent that the team has had since Slaton’s selection. If Green Bay can’t address the defensive line early in the 2023 draft, there’s a good chance that Slaton is a base defense starter along with Clark and 2022 first-round pick Devonte Wyatt on the defensive interior.
178: Shemar Jean-Charles, CB, Appalachian State
I think that Shemar Jean-Charles is firmly on the roster bubble going into this upcoming season. Last year, he only played in six total games due to both injury and being a healthy scratch. At the moment, there are four cornerbacks clearly ahead of SJC on the defensive depth chart: Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon. On top of that, Corey Ballentine re-signed with the team and is easily the biggest contributor — behind Nixon — on special teams at the position. Kiondre Thomas, who nearly made the team out of camp last year, also signed a reserve/futures deal with the Packers for 2023.
This is all without taking into consideration that Green Bay often rosters six safeties on their 53-man roster under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. With the potential of Darnell Savage and the newly-signed Tarvarius Moore being able to play the slot out of the safety group, that only lessens Jean-Charles’ chances of making the 2023 final roster.
214: Cole Van Lanen, OL, Wisconsin
Cole Van Lanen only ended up playing one season for the Packers with most of that time spent on Green Bay’s practice squad. With that being said, Gutekunst was able to trade Van Lanen for a seventh-round pick in the 2023 draft last summer. In the end, Van Lanen’s career with the Packers amounted to a sixth-round pick turning into a one-year practice squad rental and a draft choice. That’s below average, but it’s worth noting Green Bay’s offensive line is packed full of rookie contracts that they seem to want to keep their hands on.
As of now, Van Lanen has played a total of 19 offensive snaps in his NFL career between his season with the Packers and his season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
220: Isaiah McDuffie, LB, Boston College
Isaiah McDuffie was drafted right before the Packers signed De’Vondre Campbell as a free agent in 2021 and a year before Quay Walker was taken as the team’s first-round pick in 2022. He’s never really gotten a chance to play on the defensive side of the ball, as he’s played 455 special teams snaps to 174 defensive snaps over his career in Green Bay. He has, though, suited up for a total of 30 games and has recorded 45 total tackles over that time.
As a special teamer, I’m comfortable saying that he’s a better late-round linebacker than Ty Summers was. On the depth chart in 2023, McDuffie will probably be the team’s third option defensively now that Krys Barnes hit the open market and has signed with the Arizona Cardinals. For where he was picked, I believe that McDuffie was an above-average selection.
256: Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
Kylin Hill was drafted to be the third running back behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon with the potential to contribute as a third-down back and returner on a cheap deal. Unfortunately, an ACL tear against Arizona ended his rookie season early and he was placed on the physically unable to perform list through November of 2022.
Less than two weeks after he was activated off of the PUP list, he was waived from the Packers because “he wasn’t performing up to their expectations.” No team ended up picking him up off of waivers and to this point no one has signed him to even a practice squad or reserve/futures contract. His NFL stat line is a total of 10 games played, 11 rushing attempts for 31 yards and one reception for five yards.
Join the conversation by scrolling to the comments and let us know if there’s a grade you disagree with.