The Green Bay Packers’ 2021 draft class is poised to have a fairly immediate impact. There’s a good chance that Eric Stokes and Josh Myers, their first two picks in this year’s draft, will be starters by year end, if not immediately. Beyond that, Amari Rodgers figures to play a significant role, taking over for Tyler Ervin running jet sweeps and motion, while Royce Newman could step into a swing-tackle job early in the season.
That stands in fairly stark contrast to the 2020 class, which was decidedly constructed with the future in mind. Jordan Love and A.J. Dillon were clearly selected as forward-looking picks, and the rest of the class was aimed primarily toward depth more than immediate contributions.
Through four weeks last season, the Packers’ 2020 rookies had played the fewest snaps of any Packers rookie class in about a decade. Now that the season is well and truly over, how did they shake out compared to the rest of the league? Well, take a look.
The Packers’ 2020 draft picks played the fourth-fewest snaps of any group in the NFL. Not counting special teams, they drop to the second fewest.
This is not a value judgment on the Packers’ draft. Their approach may yet bear excellent fruit! But it is interesting, and there are several mitigating factors that add extra intrigue.
First, it’s more and more unusual for teams to pick guys who aren’t going to contribute immediately, especially in the first round. Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL draft this year, and at least four (not counting Trey Lance) should be immediate starters. Lance, too, should take over fairly quickly, and it wouldn’t be surprising if word of a short apprenticeship to Jimmy Garoppolo is just hot air blowing from the Bay Area.
Second, the Packers had some uniquely bad injury luck with this draft class. Beyond being taken as a down-payment towards a future thunder and lightning backfield while spending 2020 behind Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon also missed a good portion of the season battling COVID-19. In addition, the Packers lost Josiah Deguara first to a knee sprain and then to a torn ACL, wiping out most of his rookie season. Kamal Martin, too, spent some time on the shelf. Add in Simon Stepaniak’s extended stay on the PUP list and the time lost to injury in this class really begins to mount. Heck, even Jake Hanson, who spent the year on the practice squad, earned some time on injured reserve! Those factors alone drove down this class’s contributions in a significant way.
What does this mean for 2021? One could almost look at this as getting two rookie classes for the price of one. Dillon and Deguara are essentially coming in untested, while Martin will get a full, healthy offseason to take a run at bigger contributions on defense. Add Stepaniak as a possible interior offensive line option, and suddenly the 2021 crop looks a lot bigger, despite each of these players having been drafted in 2020.