Green Bay Packers: Early Returns on Rookie Class Very Promising

Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g52wmyz3j517rma9hjf Original
Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g52wmyz3j517rma9hjf Original /

Ultimately, and like every draft class before it, we won’t truly know how good — or bad — the Green Bay Packers 2021 draft is until two or three years from now. However, even if that may be the case, the early returns are incredibly encouraging.

"”Obviously it’s really early but I’m excited about what they’ve been able to do in their short time here,” said GM Brian Gutekunst via “I think as much what they’ve done on the field and the production that they’ve showed, it’s just kind of how they fit into the culture, their work ethic, being a good teammate, those kinds of things, it’s been really positive—pretty much all the guys.”"

Each of the Packers’ first three draft picks are all going to see significant playing time as rookies. While Eric Stokes has taken his lumps in practice — but who wouldn’t against Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams? — he’s been steadily improving and is competing for the CB2 role with Kevin King, in what Joe Barry has called an “open competition.”

Davante Adams, who has gone up against Stokes often in practice, sees the potential that the young cornerback has and had some very high praise for the rookie:

"“He’s the closest thing to Jaire (Alexander) as far as mentality and ability, from what I’ve seen so far. The kid is fast as hell. He can get beat and recover kind of like how Sam Shields would do,” said Adams via Georgia Wire."

Second-round pick Josh Myers, “looks and acts the part” of a starting NFL center, as Larry McCarren said, and has been called “really impressive” by Aaron Rodgers, who notes Myers comfortability with the offense and his pre-snap abilities.

LaFleur has already named Myers the starting center for Week 1 and he’s coming off two impressive preseason showings.

Amari Rodgers, who was selected in the third round, will add a new element to this offense as a true slot receiver who can be utilized pre-snap as the motion man. He also adds a missing YAC ability as well as someone who can handle punt returns.

Even fourth-round pick Royce Newman now looks like he could be a starter along the offensive line. With no one standing out in the guard battle early on, Newman took reps with the starters all last week during practice and got the start on Saturday against the New York Jets.

In his two preseason games, he has allowed no pressures and has the second-highest grade on the team, per PFF’s metrics.

Fifth rounder TJ Slaton appears to be carving out a rotational role and gives this Green Bay Packers defense a true nose tackle presence—something that had been missing.

The addition of Slaton gives Green Bay the freedom to create more one-on-one opportunities for Kenny Clark and while we might not see Slaton’s presence on the stat sheet every week, his teammates will know he’s out there as he occupies blockers and eats up space.

While his primary job may be as a two-down run-stuffer early on, with Slaton’s size and athleticism, he has pass-rush upside.

"“From Week 1 to Week 2 from a preseason standpoint, I think he’s taken some huge strides,” Jerry Montgomery said via Sports Illustrated. “Not where we need him yet, but he’s making some really good progress. Pleased with what he’s done so far but more consistency, and we’re headed in the right direction.”"

If there was any doubt about who was going to be RB3 this season for the Green Bay Packers, seventh-rounder Kylin Hill took away any doubts early on in camp. As was expected, he’s a very good fit for this LaFleur system with his pass-blocking abilities along with his effectiveness as a pass-catcher.

As we’ve seen both in practice and during the preseason, Hill has that wiggle and elusiveness with the ball in his hands to make big plays.

"“Seventh-round pick, that’s just my daily grind, my motivation,” said Hill via Sports Illustrated after Saturday’s game. “When I’m tired, that’s what I think about; just to prove a lot of people wrong in my life.”"

Although fifth-rounder Shemar Jean-Charles and sixth-round pick Cole Van Lanen may not see a ton of playing time as rookies, both have shown that they can develop into role players.

A few weeks back, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray mentioned Jean-Charles among those competing for snaps in the slot and that his willingness to make tackles and knowledge of the game has helped him stand out.

Meanwhile, with Van Lanen, we’ve seen his versatility as he’s taken snaps and both tackle and guard, and he has allowed no pressures in 26 pass-blocking reps this preseason, according to PFF ($$).

As Gutey said, it’s very early, and the true tests are going to come during the regular season and in how these players develop moving forward. But this is a draft class that fans should be quite excited about—not only in 2021 but beyond as well.

"”We’re excited about that class, and we think that they’re going to help our football team this year, and I like the long-term future of a bunch of these guys,” said Gutekunst. “Again, it’s really early, but they seem like good guys, willing to compete, willing to work hard, and we’re excited about it.”"