For a group that has been consistently graded among the league’s best, the Packers offensive line comes into 2021 with some uncertainty. The departure of PFF’s top center, the recovery of David Bakhtiari from ACL surgery, plus the departure of key depth in Lane Taylor and Rick Wagner all leave questions in the trenches. The biggest lies at right guard – where there is certainly talent, but a logjam of players vying for a starting role. Regardless of who is under center, protecting the quarterback remains the biggest key on offense, which is why this may be the biggest Packers training camp battle this summer.
Starting with the incumbent at the position, Lucas Patrick by far has the most experience of the contenders vying for the position. He put together a solid season a year ago, and showed the versatility to fill in at center when Corey Linsley suffered injuries during the season. The biggest question for Patrick comes with value and upside. The Packers have flooded the interior offensive line with 6 draft picks over the past two drafts. Coming into his fifth season, is there enough of a gap in performance to hold off the smaller cap hit and potential of some of the young challengers?
Jon Runyan Jr. is the next most likely candidate. A sixth round draft pick in 2020, he was able to step in and play well in limited action last season. He seems to have the poise and ability to handle a larger role. The Packers then used a fourth round draft pick this year to select Royce Newman. He showed versatility in college, starting one year at left guard, one at right tackle. At the NFL level he projects inside, but Packers director of pro personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan made it clear that they believe he can play on the edge saying they think he can “play winning football at guard and at tackle.”
Ben Braden entered this off-season as a relative unknown, until he received a strong endorsement from Packers offensive line coach Adam Stenavich during OTAs who said that he expected Braden to compete for a starting job at either guard or tackle. He spent most of last season on the practice squad, with a few elevations to the active roster throughout the year. He, like a lot of the other contenders, has the ability to play either guard or tackle in a pinch, clearly a very valuable attribute to the Packers.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.