With the conclusion of the NFL Draft on Saturday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers walked away with eight new players looking to make an immediate impact in 2019.
However, the Packers were uniquely able to fill holes on the current roster while planning ahead to the future with a significant blend of uber-athletic, high-ceiling young players. It’s hard to ignore the fact that General Manager Brian Gutekunst values supreme athletic measurables after a second-consecutive year of picking players with incredible workout results. But here are a few other things that stood out from what appears on the surface to be a promising draft with great long-term potential.
Green Bay is comfortable with its wide receiver group
Sometimes a team’s decision to not draft a certain position is just as telling as when it overloads on another.
In late March, I alluded to the fact that the Packers’ biggest improvements at wide receiver would come internally, rather than through the draft. While I was not surprised that Green Bay chose not to take a wide receiver in the draft’s first two days (Jace Sternberger does not count), it was a bit curious that the Packers did not target one on day three. That would seem to signal that the team is comfortable with watching the development of its current young group of receivers, particularly the trio of day-three pass-catchers taken last year.
In fact, Green Bay passed on an opportunity to draft a medley of round two wideouts, including Ole Miss’s A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, and UMass’s Andy Isabella. Brown and Metcalf in particular seemed like two high-upside players that fell perfectly to Green Bay. While no one can fault the Packers for deciding to improve the offensive line instead, it does mean that there is plenty to be expected from the combination of second-year receivers on the roster and the return of Geronimo Allison in 2019.
Darnell Savage may be one of the more underrated players of the first round
What a perfect last name for a ball-hawking safety.
Green Bay has been searching for a dynamic free safety that can roam the field and create turnovers since it lost Nick Collins. While the Packers have not yet found success with their last fairly-high safety pick Josh Jones, they reeled in a far different kind of safety with Savage.
An athletic, blazing fast (4.36-second 40-yard dash) safety with proven college results in forcing takeaways, Savage may be the fastest safety in team history and among the fastest players period. His film is exciting with his ability to break on the ball and close gaps across the field with ease. While everyone has their opinion, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has been a reliable source in recent draft profiles and it was interesting to note that almost all of Savage’s proclaimed weaknesses had to do with size.
If Savage’s football IQ and instincts are deemed to be plus attributes and size is the only real knock, I am feeling pretty good about Green Bay’s selection at pick 21.
Dexter Williams was the Packers’ biggest value pick and should contribute
Overall, the Green Bay front office seemed to let the board come to them in each round of this year’s draft, never seeming to reach. While it was apparent in the post-pick presser that the team felt it got a true steal in fifth rounder Kingsley Keke, its second sixth-round pick might have represented the best value.
Running back Dexter Williams should quickly find a place in the Packers’ backfield with Aaron Jones struggling to stay healthy for a full season and Jamaal Williams best suited for a change-of-pace role. The Notre Dame product will be fairly fresh entering the league with only one season of more than 39 carries. When able to earn a starting role as a senior, Williams averaged 6.3 yards per carry with 12 rushing scores. Although his ability to pass block will be the key to playing time, Williams clearly is able to get north when running lanes develop and his acceleration in the open field is faster than his 40-yard dash time would indicate. His balance of physicality and speed could eventually get Williams into an every-down role, though it might not come next season.
The Packers want to run the ball effectively in 2019 in Matt LaFleur’s offense and it always remains important for the team to be able to run in cold-weather, late-season games. Williams should help in that regard while giving the team the extra body of developmental depth it was searching for.