Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Mike Daniels, and David Bakhtiari; all of these players were fourth-round draft picks by the Green Bay Packers and have “Pro Bowler” on their NFL résumés. The Packers have also found a wealth of starters in that round of the NFL Draft since Ted Thompson was hired as general manager in 2005, with names like Brady Poppinga, Davon House, JC Tretter, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry, Jamaal Williams, and most recently Royce Newman all becoming key members of the team.
Now, although the Packers are just two practices into training camp for the 2022 season, the team’s two fourth-rounders in this latest draft are getting opportunities to make their marks early on as they try to follow a similar trajectory to the names mentioned above.
With the 132nd overall pick in April, the Packers selected Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs, a big-play wideout who fell down the draft board a bit, in part due to an injury that kept him from testing throughout much of the pre-draft process. A two-time 1,000-yard receiver in college, Doubs excelled both on deep routes and with his route running. Check out this tweet thread from Packer Report’s Ross Uglem to see the kind of diverse skill set he brings to the position.
On Thursday, Doubs was the unequivocal star of the Packers’ second training camp practice. His willingness to make catches over the middle as well as his highlight-reel ability were on display as he made play after play after play, many coming from starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Although the Packers are rotating wide receivers with regularity early in camp, Doubs’ extended opportunities with the starting offense came about in part as a result of some injuries at the position. Sammy Watkins is on the Non-Football Injury list to start camp — he is expected to return shortly — while Doubs’ draft-mate, second-round pick Christian Watson, is dealing with a cleanup of his knee over the summer. That led to more snaps for Doubs on Thursday, on which he made a mark.
Interestingly, none of the Packers’ fourth-round draft successes have come at receiver. In fact, Doubs is just the third wideout that the Packers have taken in round four since 2005, joining Cory Rodgers (2006) and J’Mon Moore (2018). Rodgers never played in an NFL game, while Moore was passed up immediately on the depth chart by fellow picks Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, leading to his release after just one season.
Instead, many of Green Bay’s fourth-round success stories are offensive linemen, where the team found a full starting line between 2008 and 2021. Perhaps most impressively, the quartet of Bakhtiari, Sitton, Tretter, and Lang all started together for ten games across the 2015 and 2016 season while regular starting center Corey Linsley was out with an injury.
Bakhtiari and Newman are the only two out of this group who remain, but the former is the team’s greatest success story in this round. An undersized but athletic tackle from the University of Colorado, Bakhtiari has developed into the NFL’s best pass-protecting left tackle when healthy and has made five All-Pro appearances (two first-team honors, three second-team) against three Pro Bowls. Only injury has been able to slow him down, as his 2021 season was effectively lost to a major knee injury in late 2020 that included a torn ACL.
While Bakhtiari continues to work back towards playing — his rehab is continuing at this point as he awaits activation from the Physically Unable to Perform list — and Elgton Jenkins also rehabbing a torn ACL, the Packers have experimented with numerous combinations of players on the offensive line, particularly at the tackle spots. On Thursday, 130th overall pick Zach Tom got his first chance at left tackle with the first-team offensive line and, by all accounts, held up well.
In a way, it is remarkable that Tom is a Packer, given similarities between him and Bakhtiari. Like Bakhtiari, who played at Colorado, Tom was also a left tackle at a power-five school that is not a traditional powerhouse: Wake Forest. The two were almost identical in size at their respective Combines — both stood exactly 6-foot-4 1/4, while Tom weighed in at 304 pounds, five pounds heavier than Bakhtiari. And while Bakhtiari showed great footwork with an excellent 40 and very good agility times, Tom was even better, ranking above the 90th percentile in every movement drill. Take a look at their side-by-side RAS comparison:
Obviously, athleticism alone does not make a good left tackle or a good offensive lineman at any position. Tom still faces some questions about his overall play strength, as APC’s Tyler Brooke discussed this summer. Still, the fact that he is getting some left tackle reps with the starters in the first week of camp and is holding up well so far is an encouraging sign for the rookie.
It is far, far, far too early to make any assumptions or evaluations about whether Doubs or Tom will add their names to the list of recent Packers’ 4th-round picks who ended up as starters or Pro Bowlers. However, through two days of practice, both players have been notable for their contributions and are receiving important early reps in prominent roles. The onus is on them to continue earning those reps with their play and taking advantage of them, forcing the coaching staff to put them on the field when real games begin in September and, in turn, giving these two the chance to take and hold on to major roles on the team.