Welcome to a new series on the Green Bay Packers draft. This is aimed at getting you ready for the 2021 class before Brian Gutkunst and Co. make selections. We take a look at the kinds of players the Packers tend to like at positions of need. That way you’re ready when they make a pick.
Not every name that shows up in the first round this spring will spend months in mocks inside the top-32. In fact, the consistent theme across every draft is expecting surprises, usually from the Seattle front office, but the Green Bay Packers have been known to go off the wall, or in this case off the board, a little bit too.
Liam Eichenberg, the three-year starter from Notre Dame, fits the bill. Though he’s just now being mocked as a late first-round pick, the pedigree never left. A tackle from a blue blood program with over 1500 pass block reps in his college career and a Pro Football Focus grade over 80 each of the last two seasons (89.9 in 2020) deserves more press clippings than the soon-to-be 23-year-old gets.
The advanced metrics speak kindly of him, finishing 6th in this OT class in total points per game, 8th in total points per play, 4th in pass blocking total points, and 7th in run blocking total points per Sports Info Solutions. Think of total points like WAR in baseball, attempting to measure a player’s value even on plays they don’t touch the ball, which for offensive linemen is 99% of them.
The qualitative metrics love him as well, earning a 90.1 run block grade from PFF and 82.8 pass block grade. Eichenberg rarely missed an assignment, finishing 4th in the class in blown block percentage and 7th in yards before contact on his side.
Here’s a breakdown of his game:
- Tall, lanky OT
- Eichenberg played well vs. Brian Burns and Florida State overall, especially in the run game but did lose a couple reps to Burns
- Handled Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari in 2019; got him a few times on speed rushes, but Eich rode him up the field past the QB
- Like a magnet to defenders
- Just found someone to block
- Doesn’t panic if he loses initially
- Has awareness and lateral burst to get to pass offs
- Just a wall in pass pro
- Doesn’t wait to attack a defender’s chest
- Won’t be surprised if teams decide he’s a RT because of his run-blocking prowess
- Good positional blocker who makes up for lack of elite traits
- Attacks edge rushers with his hands
- Handled his matchup vs. Alabama in ‘20
- Heavy hands and plays with power
- A little lanky up top but solid lower body
- Got beat on an inside counter vs. Brian Burns in 2018, but had the length to recover
- Got beat cold on another inside counter by Burns
- Burns ran the loop on him off a speed rush too
- Lacks the top flight athleticism but was rarely out of position
- Maybe he’s maxed out physically but who cares?
- Lost a pass pro rep vs. a spin move in 2020 ACC title game
- Lost a late pass rush rep vs. Alabama in the Rose Bowl, but ball could have been out sooner
Eichenberg is an experienced, rock-solid tackle who consistently wins his matchups. The advanced metrics love him. The qualitative metrics do too. Plus, he is a three-year starter for a blue blood program who played elite talent. He reminds me of Jack Driscoll a little bit last year in that he’s an ultra-consistent player, the analytics love him, but he’s not a sexy athlete so he falls and becomes a good player.
Don’t let this happen again. He can play LT or RT and displays the kind of consistency to be a good starter in the NFL. His lack of elite athleticism doesn’t show up as a problem.
For the Packers, Eichenberg could be a Day 1 starter at RT if they needed him to be. Slide Billy Turner to left tackle on David Bakhtiari is healthy, then move Turner back to right guard and the rookie play tackle. With Turner getting restructured, the Packers may be less inclined to chase a tackle prospect, though Eichenberg possesses the power and run blocking to play guard if they wanted to go that route as well.
At 29, he’d be a plausible selection even if he’s not getting a ton of burn there in mocks right now. By the time the draft rolls around that may change, and it’s already starting to happen. A trade-down from 29 to ~35 for some extra ammo and still grabbing a player like Eichenberg would be a very Packers-y thing to do and it could be very shrewd.