2019 is David Bakhtiari’s year in the spotlight

The NBA’s wild free agency has Los Angeles in the spotlight after Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers over the Lakers, sparking an in-city showdown. Yet while the Golden State has sizzle, it’s the Badger State that has the steak.

Wisconsin has the reigning MLB and NBA MVPs in Christian Yelich and Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the latter was competing in the NBA finals, the former was in the house, along with 2011 and 2014 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. On this same Wisconsin sports’ royalty stage, outchugging everyone in house, was Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, a man who absolutely deserves to be spoken of with the same reverence.

After quarterback, no position on offense is as crucial as the left tackle, who protects his quarterback’s blind side. And Bakhtiari has proven himself as the best in the league. This isn’t homerism: the people that actually know what they’re talking about agree.

Pro Football Focus had the luscious-locked lineman as their number one offensive tackle and their number one pass blocker of 2018 and ranks 13th on their Top 50 players list for 2019. Of Bakhtiari, who has also been a PFF first-team All-Pro the last two seasons, the site said,

“Bakhtiari has simply perfected his style of pass-protection, and improved enough physically since entering the league to execute it.”

If PFF’s word isn’t a solid enough endorsement, Bakhtiari graced the Associated Press’ All-Pro Team each of the last three seasons: second-team in 2016 and 2017 and first-team in 2018. The only other offensive lineman in Packers’ history to earn the award in consecutive seasons was the legendary Forrest Gregg.

Recently, the Draft Network called Bakhtiari the biggest steal of the 2013 draft while mentioning there is a case he’s the best left tackle in the game.

“With the 109th pick in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected Colorado offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, and even though they were likely happy to get him, I am sure that even the Packers’ front office pool didn’t think they were selecting a player who would develop into one of the best offensive tackles in football,” wrote Trevor Sikkema.

His fellow players in the industry have also noted his talents, ranking him 91st on the “Top 100 Players of 2018” list.

Yet while Packers fans and industry opinion leaders recognize Bakhtiari’s transcendent ability, the wider audience of the NFL has yet to do so, baffling those of us who watch him play every Sunday. The tackle’s lone Pro Bowl selection was in 2016, while he was an alternate (and declined to play) in 2017 and 2018. Despite being an All-Pro three years running, he’s a consistent snub for fan voters.

Perhaps this is due to the Packers’ overall lack of success the last two seasons. Davante Adams similarly receives less fanfare than many others of his positions despite dominating the league. Or perhaps it’s due to the lack of zest the public often has for offensive line play. Maybe it’s simply lack of exposure. Green Bay is one of the premier franchises of the game, but they are rarely perceived as flashy or headline grabbing. No matter the reason, Bakhtiari’s lack of praise is a crime.

Which brings us back to the beer chugging. This act of playful celebration did more than hype Bucks fans. Bakhtiari made national headlines and brought his name into the mainstream conversation. The world noticed that beautiful hair, and will hopefully remember his beautiful play as well come Pro Bowl voting time. In 2019, the Pitch Perfect star will shine.

Ideally though, he’ll be too busy for the Pro Bowl, preparing for the Super Bowl with the rest of the Packers.

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.