Analysis: After holding onto their pick after a wild first round that saw surprising and questionable moves made by the usual suspects, the Green Bay Packers used their 12th overall selection on Rashan Gary, a defensive lineman from the University of Michigan.
Announced as a linebacker on the stage, Gary is a solid get for a team that needs to keep addressing the edge rusher position. Even with the two free agency signings of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, these two proven veterans are going to become solid measuring sticks for Gary, helping him harness his full potential while helping him grasp what Mike Pettine is looking for.
With both Montez Sweat and Brian Burns still on the board, passing over both to get to Gary seems like a bit of a reach on paper. Combine that with being flagged with a torn labrum in his shoulder, and concerns begin to pop up. However, being put into a system like the one that Pettine runs should help maximize Gary’s talents, especially since he will not be expected to produce starter numbers right away.
Team fit: By addressing needs on the defensive front with Gary, Green Bay has now turned one of their biggest weaknesses of edge rusher into one of their strongest, provided Gary can overcome his shoulder concerns. Pairing Gary up with the existing members in the edge group will help take the pressure off both Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels in the middle, maximizing their talent while opening up internal pressure.
Across 12 games as a junior last season, Gary had 44 tackles, 7 TFL, and 3.5 sacks, low-ish numbers but also a testament to how talented the front seven on the Wolverine defense was. Putting up a 4.58 40-yard dash time is impressive for the 277 lb. lineman, Gary launches off the line at a low pad level, helping get under the offensive lineman and uses his long arms (81 7/8“ wingspan) to move upfield.
Drafting at a position of need is always what Green Bay prides themselves on, but Gary is the type of player that can easily justify his early-on critics.
NFL Player Comp – Ezekiel Ansah: Even with Ansah recovering from surgery during this offseason, Gary compares to Ansah well in his prowess for covering the run. Known more as an adequate pass rusher, sometimes getting caught up in the trenches and not making enough pressure off the edge, Gary has the traits to succeed in the trenches.
Similar to Ansah, Gary’s pass rushing abilities need to be developed as he adjusts to NFL gameplay, which he can easily be brought up to speed at in Green Bay. Ansah’s acclimation to the NFL was decently fast, earning eight sacks in his rookie season in 2013. While eight may be a bit ambitious for Gary in 2019, earning at least five should be a good stepping stone for him in Pettine’s defense.
Gary has the motor to compete at the NFL level, he just needs to harness his abilities and convert those into measurable plays on the field. This Wolverine product has a look of a prospect dripping in potential who needs a bit of refinement and seasoning (like Jaire Alexander last year to a point) and the Packers are a great team for him to go to to help find his overall talent.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23