Green Bay Packers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan – Round 1
The Packers’ selection of Gary was one of the more surprising picks in the first round as nobody saw that coming. Green Bay spent heavily in free agency to add edge-rushing outside linebackers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, so taking a defensive end was an expected pick for general manager Brian Gutekunst. I like the pick of Gary because the Packers needed to upgrade the talent on their defense and Gary has a top-five skill set with huge upside for the NFL.

As a pass-rusher, Gary (6-4, 277) has the potential to be a dangerous off the edge. He is surprisingly fast for a big defensive end and is able to bend and dip underneath blockers, possessing rare speed to close on the quarterback. At times, Gary has a delayed reaction in getting started, but he has tremendous speed to dart by tackles and achieve penetration. Gary has a serious burst to get upfield and can eat up space in a hurry. Along with his speed, Gary has quality size to him and strength to get off blocks. Gary displays active hands and is able to use them at the same time as his feet. He does well using his speed to get upfield, chops tackles’ hands off of him, and bolts around the corner to pressure the quarterback. Gary needs to develop more pass-rushing moves for the NFL. It would be good to see him add more rip, club and swim moves.

As a run defender, Gary is at his best when he uses his speed to get upfield and cause disruption, but he has a strong base to hold up at the point of attack. Gary is a very good pursuit defender, doing a nice job of flowing to the ball. He uses his speed to close and has the agility and strength to peel off blocks. With some development, Gary could become a well-balanced defender who is effective in both phases.

The Packers could have a dangerous four-man rush group with Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Mike Daniels, and Gary. With those veterans around him to demand attention, I think Gary should see plenty of one-on-one blocks early in his career. Due to his freakish combination of size and speed, Gary could be a steal for Green Bay outside of the top 10, and I think he is likely to turn into a solid starter quickly in his NFL career.

2018: Josh Jackson, CB
2017: Montravius Adams, DT
2016: Kenny Clark, DT
2015: Damarious Randall, DB
2014: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S
2013: Datone Jones, DE

Most Likely To Bust

Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M – Round 3
Of Green Bay’s picks through the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, Sternberger stands out as having the most potential to be a bust. For starters, he is an incomplete player who is a dangerous receiving tight end and a liability as a blocker. Sternberger is going to only be a rotational tight end until he can become a better blocker, but many other teams felt that day probably would never come.

On top of Sternberger having limitations as a player, he has off-the-field issues, and those played a role in him leaving Kansas for Texas A&M. Team sources have told me that Sternberger is a massive partier, so they had concerns about him being a committed professional to work hard at succeeding in the NFL. Going to Green Bay could be a blessing and a curse in that regard, as the smaller market could help him focus or it could cause him to be away from the team facility as much as possible seeking entertainment in places other than Green Bay, Appleton and Milwaukee. Hopefully for the Packers, Sternberger matures and learns to moderate his social life with being a professional.

Sternberger was drafted to be a replacement for Jimmy Graham, but he needs development as a player on the field and a professional off of it to be a true understudy for the possible Hall of Famer. Of the Packers’ early-round selections, Sternberger has the most bust potential.

2017: J’Mon Moore, WR
2017: Jamaal Williams, RB
2016: Kyler Fackrell, LB
2015: Ty Montgomery, WR
2014: Khyri Thornton, DL
2013: David Bakhtiari, OT

Potential Boom Pick

Darnell Savage, S, Maryland – Round 1
The Packers have used a lot of picks on defensive backs in recent years, yet they still were looking for a free safety to cover on the back end. Savage should form an excellent tandem with Adrian Amos, and it would not surprise me if Savage ends up being a great pick for the Packers. He is a natural free safety who is an asset in coverage. With Amos and the team’s young corner talent, I think Savage could end up being a stud for Green Bay.

Savage has a special skill set with the ability to contribute as a free safety and nickel cornerback. In the deep part of the field, Savage is good in zone coverage due to his potential to be a true single safety. He can play the deep centerfield and cover a lot of ground to shut down the deep part of the field with his good instincts, speed and athleticism. Savage is an asset to prevent big plays downfield and keep offenses from scoring quickly. In coverage, he is a very disruptive defender who can cover up receivers, tip passes, and create turnovers. His instincts are superb, leading to him making a lot of big plays. With his vision and closing speed, Savage is dangerous to jump routes and create big plays for his defense.

Savage also is put together well, possessing the ability to tackle downfield. He is not an eighth-man-in-the-box run-defending strong safety, but that is not a big deal because NFL defenses are in nickel 70 percent of their snaps, so Savage’s coverage skills will be needed. On top of being a true free safety, Savage can play nickel corner on slot receivers. His 4.36-second speed allows him to run with receivers, and he has enough fluid athleticism to run with wideouts downfield.

On top of being a really good player, Savage is known to be a high-character individual who is a locker room leader. I think he could become a Pro Bowler for the Packers and one of the top free safeties in the NFL. That would certainly make him a boom pick and a very good value from the back half of the first round.

2018: Jaire Alexander, CB
2017: Kevin King, CB
2016: Blake Martinez, LB
2015: Quinten Rollins, CB
2014: Carl Bradford, LB
2013: Eddie Lacy, RB

Future Depth Player

Kingsley Keke, DE, Texas A&M – Round 5
The Packers continued to build up their defensive line talent with Keke in the fifth round. He showed some quickness, athleticism and strength with Texas A&M. Keke (6-2, 288) doesn’t have the size to be an every-down starter, but he could be a nice rotational backup who gives the Packers a good 10-20 snaps per game. Keke also has some flexibility to play a variety of techniques up front. For third-day picks, teams are looking for solid backups and special teams contributors. I think Keke could be a quality depth player for Green Bay and end up being solid value for the fifth round.

2018: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
2017: Vince Biegel, LB
2016: Dean Lowry, DE
2015: Brett Hundley, QB
2014: Jared Abbrederis, WR
2013: Johnathan Franklin, RB

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

12. Rashan Gary, DE/DT, Michigan D Grade
I can’t really get behind this pick. Rashan Gary is insanely athletic and physically talented, but he was a huge disappointment as a player in Michigan. He also has some off-the-field concerns. There was speculation that Gary would fall to the 20s, which would’ve been a reasonable spot to select him. Not here, though. This is a major reach. If Gary couldn’t produce in college, why would that suddenly happen when he has an NFL contract?

I hope you like the new addition to the “F” grade. It’s well deserved after what happened at No. 4 tonight.

This is an “F” grade all the way. Darnell Savage is a second-round prospect who may have snuck into the bottom end of the first round. There was absolutely no reason to move up nine spots for him. He, or someone very comparable to him, would’ve been available at No. 30 overall. I wouldn’t have minded the Packers taking Savage had they remained at their own choice, but giving up resources for poor value is just a recipe for disaster.

44. Elgton Jenkins, C/G, Mississippi State A- Grade
It’s not going to be a long, long time until Elgton Jenkins has to start for the Packers. They have some interior offensive line concerns, and it’s nice that Jenkins can play any position on the inside. Jenkins could have been chosen a bit earlier than this, as I wouldn’t have criticized a team for taking him at the very end of the first round, so this is a solid pick by the Packers, for once.

75. Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M A- Grade
Jace Sternberger is a talented, vertical threat the Packers need at tight end. He should be able to take over for Jimmy Graham sooner rather than later, ultimately emerging as a potent threat for Aaron Rodgers. This is about the right range for Sternberger, making this a solid choice.

150. Kingsley Keke, DE/DT, Texas A&M B+ Grade
Kingsley Keke makes sense in the range as a Round 4-5 prospect. He needs to improve his strength, and he’ll certainly try hard in doing so. Keke is a high-character prospect who gave it his all for Texas A&M. I’d expect the same effort for the Packeers.

185. Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo B+ Grade
I can’t say I’m surprised that the Packers used another draft choice on a highly athletic player. Ka’dar Hollman tested extremely well during the pre-draft process, meaning he has nice upside. He struggled to tackle, but I thought he could be chosen earlier than this, so the value is there.

194. Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Packers didn’t really need another running back, but they’re getting good value with Dexter Williams, whom I had pegged in the fourth round. Williams was inconsistent at Notre Dame, but had a big 2018 campaign. He’s solid in every regard, save for receiving ability.

226. Ty Summers, LB, TCU A Grade
And yet another top-end athlete for the Packers! I had Ty Summers in the fifth round, and I thought that was a bit too late. Summers is a tough linebacker with high-character traits, so I figured he would be a late-round selection entering the combine. However, he tore up Indianapolis, posting terrific workout numbers. It’s apparent that Summers has good upside, so he’s a steal in the seventh round.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: C . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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