With OTAs on the horizon, one of the Green Bay Packers’ selections in the 2019 NFL Draft is continuing to receive praise as a great value. In the fifth round, with the 150th overall selection, the Packers picked Texas A&M defensive tackle Kingsley Keke, a big, versatile, productive lineman who impressed at the Senior Bowl.
On Friday, SB Nation got on the Keke hype train by naming his selection as the best underrated acquisition of the Packers’ entire offseason. Admittedly, the Packers’ moves this offseason tended to be more of the highly visible variety, between landing four high-priced free agents during the legal tampering period, using a top-15 selection in the first round of the draft, and trading up again later on in round one.
Still, Keke looks to fit right in with the Packers, and the excellent athlete looks like he will be a real candidate to pitch in as a rookie. However, his long-term value may be even greater, as SB Nation’s Christian D’Andrea attempts to explain:
The Packers gave Kenny Clark a high-upside stand-in with Keke, an athletic run stopper with a penchant for getting around blocks and into the backfield. He’s valuable insurance if Clark prices himself out of re-signing in Green Bay after 2020.
Interestingly, this analysis is looking a different potential D-line departure from the one that APC expects Keke to fill. Mike Daniels is the more pressing issue, as his contract expires after 2019 and he appears unlikely to end up getting a third deal from the team. Furthermore, when the Packers go with a three-man line, Daniels plays the three-technique position that Keke appears more likely to fill, rather than Clark’s nose tackle spot.
Indeed, in year one, Keke looks poised to get many of his reps an interior pass rusher. D’Andrea mentions Keke’s ability as a run defender, but his 7.5 sacks in 2018 suggests that he’s at least as much of a disruptor who can provide pass rush from the interior — though much of that playing time last season came split wide as an edge defender.
Of course, Keke’s versatility might be the most important factor in favor of him making an early impact. His comments about being comfortable at any position on the line and playing at any weight between 290 and 330 pounds should offer the Packers the option of finding where he fits best on the team. If that does end up meaning he bulks up to back up Clark, then great. But the bet here is that the team sees him more as a three-tech, with the ability to pin his ears and penetrate into the backfield being the driving force behind that evaluation.
That sentiment was that of Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner a few weeks ago as well, when he mentioned Keke as one of the most underrated picks in the 2019 Draft. The Packers surely liked what they saw from Keke at the Senior Bowl, when he aligned at that spot most frequently and repeatedly dismantled top college offensive linemen.
Packers fans will get their first opportunity to see Keke in person on Tuesday when the team holds its first open OTA practice.