Is Royce Newman the Packers’ latest ‘diamond-in-the rough’ at OL?

The Green Bay Packers have a storied history of success drafting offensive linemen, especially in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Josh Sitton, T. J. Lang, David Bakhtiari, J.C. Tretter, and Corey Linsley were all Day 3 picks that became high-impact players for the Packers. Over the past two drafts, the Packers drafted five Day 3 offensive linemen with the hopes of finding their next diamond in the rough.

It’s still early, but fourth-round lineman Royce Newman has the potential to be that diamond.

The Packers’ offensive line was one of the best in the NFL in 2020 and remains mostly intact. That said, the competition for permanent right guard and temporary left guard (while Elgton Jenkins mans left tackle until the return of David Bakhtiari) remain the fiercest training camp battles.

The early leaders appeared to be Jon Runyan and Lucas Patrick, who ran with the ones most frequently in training camp. Runyan in particular seemed a favorite for a starting job come September.

Yet the Packers’ offensive line was abysmal in most of their first preseason appearance, leading to turnovers, a lackluster run game, and a potential injury to Jordan Love.

The line was bolstered with the appearance of Royce Newman, who, along with draftmate Cole Van Lanen, created space for the run game while blocking efficiently in the passing game. Newman played every snap of the second half, and the run game finally started to get off of the ground.

Not only did Newman impress in his NFL debut, he was the highest-graded rookie offensive lineman and best offensive player for the Packers per Pro Football Focus.

Newman’s coaches certainly noticed the rookie’s superb play. After Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff’s comment about the lackluster trench play against the Houston Texans, Newman is climbing up the depth chart.

Per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, in Monday’s practice, Newman got his first chance with the starting offensive line at right guard, while Ben Braden got a shot at left guard. Should the trend continue, Newman realistically starts against the Jets this weekend. If he keeps building on his success, Newman has a strong chance to start at right guard when the regular season begins.

Newman is the archetypal offensive lineman the Packers love: versatile, tough, and with hair that puts Rapunzel to shame. At Ole Miss, Newman started all ten games at right tackle in 2020, and all twelve games at left guard in 2019 via Packers.com. Green Bay loves converting college tackles to guards, and Newman has experience at both spots.

Packers offensive line coach Adam Stenovich recently told reporters “Nobody has really stepped up and risen above the rest” in reference to the guard battle. As Matt LaFleur loves to say, he’ll start the best five offensive linemen any given week.

Clearly, the spot is open, and after one week, Royce Newman stands a good chance of claiming the iron throne of right guards. The Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL at finding starting offensive linemen late in the draft. It’s early, but Newman has a chance to be the next one.

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.
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