In spite of early struggles, it’s still too early to declare Green Bay Packers’ 2016 third-round pick Kyler Fackrell a bust.
Two years ago, Kyler Fackrell’s selection in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers was well received by fans. After showcasing premiere speed and athleticism at the combine and at Utah State University, the outside linebacker was considered a future NFL starter.
NFL.com vouched highly for Fackrell on his pre-draft profile:
“When it comes to the length and athleticism teams will look for off the edge, Fackrell will be one of the poster boys. His field versatility, coverage talent and potential as a pass rusher could make him one of the fastest rising prospects in this draft and a future contender for a Pro Bowl nod.”
Now a two-year veteran who has had an underwhelming impact on the team, some believe it’s time to move on from Fackrell. However, if this year’s draft is any indication, it’s not time to write him off just yet.
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Green Bay waited until the final round of the 2018 draft before taking an edge rusher. Brian Gutekunst used the 14th pick of the seventh round on California defensive end James Looney– a camp body and long shot to make the final 53.
Fackrell’s place on the roster is a back-up in the base defense. Whether it’s a 3-4 or 4-3 look in Mike Pettine’s system, he will remain a tweener on the edge.
Coming out of college, his concerning weaknesses were hand usage and play strength. Two traits he still hasn’t been able to combat.
As a rookie, Fackrell failed to play well enough to see much of the field. His limited arsenal of pass-rushing moves and lack of strength limited him to 161 snaps despite playing in every game. Reports even surfaced during training camp of him getting embarrassed during team drills.
The success he found in college using his speed and agility wasn’t translating.
Then, with one season of NFL experience under his belt, Fackrell entered 2017 withstanding judgment. Coaches believed he would continue to grow into his role. Clay Matthews even saw a glimpse of hope from the snaps he saw in training camp. “..Kyler as well has shown a lot of promise in that he can really turn it on as far as the way he rushes the passer.”
Though his production only improved slightly, Fackrell saw more reps as a second-year veteran. His defensive snap count went up to 448 and he led the team in special-team snaps.
As the 2018 season approaches, Fackrell is expected to fill a similar role or maybe start to see increased opportunity. He and Vince Biegel are the main back-ups behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry who are no strangers to the injury report.
Unless Reggie Gilbert or an under the radar prospect proves to be more worthy of a roster spot, expect to see Fackrell back in green and gold next season.