Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, and that applies to the NFL as well. Via the draft and UDFAs, teams bring in new players and a sense of hope. Like the budding flowers of spring, these new additions represent the coming of a new season and the promise of the future for every NFL team. But among this season of hope, an important detail is often overlooked: rookies are usually bad.
The Baker Mayfields and Quinton Nelsons of the league are few and far between. The truth is the NFL has a learning curve, a particularly notorious one for positions like tight ends and offensive lineman. While every team hopes for immediate impact players, most need to be nurtured and coaxed into a blooming player. And that’s fine. A good team hopes it has the right position and conditioning coaches to unlock the potential in every rookie and turn them into stars before the end of their rookie deals.
The Green Bay Packers, thankfully, had rookies that played an impact role in their first season in 2018. Jaire Alexander, Equanimeous St. Brown, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and J.K. Scott played meaningful roles in their rookie seasons and should continue to develop. Other Packers rookies didn’t share this same sense of early impact, but 2019 is a new season. Here are three 2018 rookies that can make that year-two jump and be crucial contributors in 2019.
Oren Burks, ILB
The safety-turned-linebacker had a tumultuous inaugural season. After the Packers traded up in the third round for Burks, hopes he could develop into a starter next to Blake Martinez were high, but his development hit a snag with a pesky preseason shoulder injury. How much of Burks struggles were from this injury and how much were simply rookie blues we can’t say, but he wasn’t able to produce on defense. He was particularly roasted by the Patriots and saw little time in Pettine’s defense in the following weeks.
Still, Burks was often a positive on special teams, a unit with few bright spots. Burks has the speed and coverage potential to compliment Martinez and make a name for himself. The Packers chose to ignore inside linebacker in the draft until the seventh round, implying they believe Burks can make the jump. Burks has an uphill battle, but the conditions are right for him to find success.
Josh Jackson, CB
The Packers love Hawkeyes, and Jackson was commonly linked to the Packers in the first round of the 2018 draft. When he fell to the team in the second round, it looked too good to be true. But the Iowa star was more Avengers 1 Hawkeye than Endgame Hawkeye.
Jackson’s ballhawk abilities didn’t showcase in 2018, and the transition from a predominantly zone defense to a man defensive scheme was a struggle, leading to penalties from being handsy. Yet Jackson improved as the year went on and was particularly impressive the last two weeks of the season. Rookie cornerbacks are rarely good, and an extra offseason in Pettine’s scheme should slow the game down for the promising lad.
J’Mon Moore, WR
As discussed last week, the Packers selected three wide receivers in 2018, and unfortunately the one with the rockiest start was the first of the three drafted. Even when injuries chopped through the Packers’ receiving corp, Moore wasn’t able to take advantage. EQ and MVS took the stage, and Moore was largely forgotten.
But Moore has been a consummate professional, acknowledging his less-than-stellar debut season and working to make sure his sophomore season in a better one. Again, wide receivers often need a little extra time getting used to the NFL transition, and the Green Bay front office neglected to draft any receivers in 2019. Drops are one of the most correctable traits for a young wide receiver. Consider Davante Adams in 2015, when fans wanted the now-dominant wideout cut for his drop issues. Moore has the opportunity to take advantage of a new coaching staff and come out swinging in year two.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.