Green Bay Packers: PFF Regrades 2019 & 2020 Draft Classes

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 15: Linebacker Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts to a defensive stop in the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on December 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 15: Linebacker Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts to a defensive stop in the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on December 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

From the time the final selection of any NFL Draft is made, analysts, journalists, and fans are already handing out grades for their favorite team’s draft class, even if that isn’t exactly fair. Truthfully, we don’t know how good — or bad — a draft class will be until they have at least a few years of experience under their belts.

But nonetheless, this is a common occurrence in today’s NFL coverage, and doing so on a year-to-year basis can help us keep tabs on how well each draft class either is or isn’t progressing. And that’s what PFF’s Mike Renner did recently.

Renner took a look back at the 2019 and 2020 classes for the Green Bay Packers — along with the rest of the NFL— and gave his thoughts on how those draft classes look today in 2021 compared to his initial reactions. As I’m sure you can imagine, at this point, there is a wide range in how each of these draft classes are perceived.

To add some context, before we dive in and take a look at how Mike views the Packers’ draft classes today, for the 2019 class, he puts each team into one of these four categories: excellent, above average, average, and below average. For 2020, Mike handed out letter grades.

Green Bay Packers 2019 Draft Class

Original Grade: Above Average

New Grade: Excellent

The 2019 draft class has turned out to be a very impactful one for the Green Bay Packers and very deserving of their “excellent” regrade. After being brought along slowly as a rookie, Rashan Gary took a big step forward in Year 2, tallying 46 pressures and nine sacks if you include the playoffs, which were both the second-highest totals on the team after Za’Darius Smith. Gary would also finish 15th out of all eligible edge rushers in PFF’s pass-rush productivity metric—which measures efficiency as a pass-rusher.

Green Bay’s other first-round pick that year, Darnell Savage, has formed one of the better safety duos in football with his counterpart Adrian Amos and from Weeks 9 through 17 last season, Savage recorded a highly impressive four interceptions and seven pass breakups.

Elgton Jenkins has been an incredibly versatile chess piece along the offensive line, playing any of the positions and doing so at a very high level. Finding a player that can transition from one position to the next as effortlessly as Jenkins does is incredibly rare. Meanwhile, fifth-rounder Kingsley Keke appears ready to be IDL2 next to Kenny Clark after finding some success in 2020 with four sacks and 22 pressures, and seventh-rounder Ty Summers has been a core special teams player.

We still don’t know what the future holds for third-round pick Jace Sternberger, but even if he doesn’t produce, this should still be considered a very successful draft class by Brian Gutekunst. But on the flip side, if Sternberger does figure it out, well, then this group looks even better than what they already do.

After a fairly quiet free agency period in 2020 coupled with a draft that lacked immediate help — we will get to that shortly — many wondered if the Green Bay Packers would take a step back last season. However, they were even better, and a big reason why is because of the contributions that they received from their 2019 draft class.

Green Bay Packers 2020 Draft Class

Original Grade: D

New Grade: D-

The original grade that the Packers received was low for a few reasons. One being that Green Bay traded up for a quarterback in the first round while Aaron Rodgers still had four years left on his deal at the time. They would also spend a premium pick on a running back — a no-no — while Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams still occupied the backfield, along with a third-round pick on an H-back—again, another no-no among many in the draft community.

As Mike mentions in the article, in addition to those top-100 selections making little to no impact last year, the selection of Love also may have spoiled the team’s relationship with Rodgers—a consequence that could have repercussions for years to come depending on how this matter plays out. And that’s why the Green Bay Packers’ already low grade fell even further.

Ultimately the success of this draft class is going to hinge on the play of Jordan Love. If he is the Packers quarterback for 15 years and the other picks don’t pan out, I doubt anyone cares. However, if he is a bust, or if the Packers have to move on from Rodgers because he wants out, then that will be the lasting memory that many have of this draft class.

Mike would go on to acknowledge that it looks like the Packers have something in Kamal Martin and Jon Runyan, and although we saw very little impact from this group a year ago, several are in line for much bigger roles in 2021.

AJ Dillon will be RB2, and Josiah Deguara will be back and fully healthy as the team’s do-it-all H-back. Martin will be ILB2, Runyan will battle for one of the starting guard positions, while Jonathan Garvin and Vernon Scott will compete for playing time at edge and safety.

I get why this class has such a low grade at this point; we don’t really have anything else to base it off of other than what we’ve seen and know at this time—which is very little. But a year from now, we should have a much better idea of where this group stands as a whole after we actually see a few of them play.