2019 Draft Class finally paying dividends

The eight-man class of Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins, Jace Sternberger, Kingsley Keke, Ka’dar Hollman, Dexter Williams, and Ty Summers makes up the 2019 NFL Draft class for the Green Bay Packers, a class that earned a ton of flak early on but certainly has become a very underrated one.

Rashan Gary – LB

1st round (#12 overall)

Seen as a brief producer in college for the Michigan Wolverines, Gary struggled in his rookie season, helping give doubters plenty of ammo to bash GM Brian Gutekunst with. A 21-tackle, 2-sack season was a disappointing start to Gary’s professional career, but rookies are not always expected to break out right away in their first seasons.

Through only 11 games, Gary has 19 tackles and 4 sacks, also contributing one pass knockdown along the way. He has played extremely better this year and has even pushed Preston Smith for starter reps after the mid-way point of the ‘20 season, as Preston Smith was struggling to produce at a consistent clip.

Gary has provided a real solid spark in the DL/LB lineup for DC Mike Pettine, helping give this defense a tough identity and a stout pass rush that helps take pressure off of their secondary. Even if Gary remains as the third-best pass-rusher on this roster, he certainly provides a great return on investment that has already helped to prove doubters wrong in only his second year.

Darnell Savage – S

1st round (#21 overall)

Green Bay moved up from pick #30 to the 21st overall selection (in a trade with Seattle) to nab Savage, a high-flying safety from Maryland that made it two Big Ten selections in a row.

The 30th pick was originally traded to Green Bay by the Saints from the 2018 draft, when the Saints moved up in the first round to grab Marcus Davenport, sending their ‘19 first to GB for their troubles, a great deal by Gutekunst.

At the time of selecting Savage, he was seen as a guy who played all sorts of roles at Maryland, sitting back in coverage and playing down in the box, truly a solid safety option that could finally give Pettine a stout safety that could play all over.

Having played in all but two games last year, Savage was caught on multiple occasions with his hand in the play-action cookie jar, letting plays get behind him. But he has since cleaned that up, and his pairing with Adrian Amos, in its second year, has blossomed into a strong 1-2 punch that complements the team’s cornerbacks very well.

Savage has recorded three interceptions in the past two games for the Pack, including two of Mitchell Trubisky in GB’s Week 12 drubbing of the Bears. 

While finally producing some flashy moments, Savage has started to finally come into his own, showing why he was taken in the first round last year.

Elgton Jenkins

2nd round (#44th overall)

Seen at the time he was drafted as just another body for the offensive trenches, Jenkins has become the best OL option not named David Bakhtiari on this team, a great investment with the team’s third pick from this draft. 

Drafted out of Mississippi State, Jenkins played all across the OL for the Bulldogs but was brought in to help shore up the interior guard positions. In his rookie year, Jenkins played at an all-pro level, holding down the starting left guard role for the final 14 games of last season when Lane Taylor was lost for the year.

Jenkins’ play across 16 games earned him a PFWA All-Rookie team nod, only the second guard from Green Bay to be selected since 1974 (Daryn Colledge earned this same nomination in 2006).

In 2020, all Jenkins has done is play at an All-Pro level yet again, yet playing at that level across the entire OL due to injuries. Jenkins has spent time at guard, tackle, and center this year, with center being his newest and most recent adventure due to the injury of incumbent starter Corey Linsley.

Looking like one of the biggest steals of this draft, Jenkins helps make the most-recent MSU OL selection (Derek Sherrod) look like a thing of the past at this point, thankfully.

Rest of Class

The remaining five players have all contributed in various orders on all three sides of the ball, but Keke looks to be the one breaking out the most so far this year, yet another strong contributor on the DL.

Keke has himself a day against the Eagles in Week 13, busting through for four total tackles and two sacks, with one an embarrassment of old-timer Jason Peters for the Eagles in the process.

Sternberger has become second fiddle to the breakout season for Robert Tonyan, Hollman has only seen limited time across six games this year, Williams has only earned seven carries across his first two years in the league, and Summers has been a pleasant surprise as a seventh-round selection, having earned an uptick in playing time this season after playing in all 16 games and 2 postseason contests last year.

Gutekunst seems to have come out on top of this draft class, something that he was ridiculed for from the get-go. But realizing that draftees will not necessarily all have immediate impacts in their first year in the league goes a long way into understanding how valuable long-term moves are when making draft picks – an element that Gutekunst seems to understand quite well.

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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

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3 thoughts on “2019 Draft Class finally paying dividends

  1. You might want to learn proper English, bro. This reads like it came from Google Translate.

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