The Green Bay Packers had a drastically different approach to the NFL draft in 2021 compared to 2020, especially in regard to their early picks.
The 2020 draft class built for the future, landing the Green and Gold an heir apparent quarterback, a running back meant to prepare for the potential free agent departures of Aaron Jones (which didn’t happen) and Jamaal Williams (which did), and a skilled blocking tight end/H-back. While the logic on these choices was sound, many argued against drafting players that didn’t have an impact immediately hurt the team.
Your mileage may vary on that way of drafting, but it’s clear in 2021 the Packers looked for high-impact players ready to start early in their careers. Cornerback Eric Stokes, center Josh Myers, and receiver Amari Rodgers all have the potential to make an impact on the field in their rookie seasons.
Need and value collided for Brian Gutekunst, and he took advantage by taking players at CB, C, and WR who played NFL-worthy competition at big schools. The Packers general manager expects immediate contribution from these three, via a conversation with Larry McCarren on the team’s official YouTube channel.
“Certainly, I do. These guys played at big schools, on big stages, against really, really good competition. They’ve been hardened a little bit. They’ve been through the fire,” Gutekunst said.
Of all the team’s new additions, Josh Myers has the clearest path to being a day one starter for the Packers. With Corey Linsley’s departure in free agency, there is quite literally a big hole the team needed to fill. Replacing the Ohio State center with an Ohio State center is a logical succession plan. While the transition won’t be seamless, Myers is a favorite to be the team’s starting center come Week 1.
When the Packers finally took their wide receiver in the third round, they found a beautiful fit for Matt LaFleur’s offense. If nothing else, Amari Rodgers upgrades the Tyler Ervin role and brings a skillset no one else on the team possesses. He’ll earn snaps in that role and on special teams immediately. But Rodgers isn’t just going to be a slot and gadget guy; he may be small, but he doesn’t play like it. Rodgers can be forged into a true weapon for the Packers offense.
The path is a little less clear for first-round selection Eric Stokes. The team resigned Kevin King to a one-year deal, so the Packers will have to find out the best alignment for Stokes, King, and Jaire Alexander. With Stokes’ speed and size, he appears to be the Kevin King succession plan in year two, but it will be interesting to see how the team finds ways to use him as a rookie. Still, Stokes spent his college career defending against future NFL receivers. If everything clicks for him at the NFL level, it shouldn’t take long for Stokes to make an impact.
The Packers were a few plays away from a Super Bowl in 2020. It’s a lot to expect rookies to come in and make a massive level of impact (most rookies are bad), but the Packers found a trio of early round picks capable of making an impact right away. Hopefully, this allows the team to pick up where they left off and compete for a title once again.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.