Lack of impact from Packers past draft classes contributing to 2022 issues

Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Draft and develop. This has been the Green Bay Packers’ way for some time, and while current GM Brian Gutekunst has shown to be more willing than his predecessor to be in on conversations and to bring in new players – although perhaps not as high profile as many would like – this is largely his philosophy as well.

While hitting on draft picks is never easy, Gutekunst’s struggles in recent years have compounded the issues that we’ve seen from the Green Bay Packers in 2022. This is very much an underachieving roster at many positions this season, and a lot of that begins with Gutey’s draft picks, or lack thereof in the case of some classes.

From the 2018 and 2019 draft classes, the Packers have three really good players in Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, and Elgton Jenkins. Alexander and Gary both have All-Pro upside, while one could argue that a healthy Jenkins does as well.

Although we certainly don’t want to downplay the impact of these selections, hitting on three players out of 19 picks isn’t great. In fact, Darnell Savage is the only other member of the 2018 and 2019 draft classes still on the team. Not even a full five years later, 15 of Gutey’s former selections from these two classes are either playing elsewhere or out of football.

The most impactful player from the 2020 class has been Jon Runyan, a former sixth-round pick. Jordan Love is, of course, a backup, while AJ Dillon is RB2 and has taken a step back this year, struggling to create any sort of big plays on his own. Deguara, meanwhile, fills a very specific role and, as a third-rounder, is averaging just over 14 snaps per game this season per PFF ($$).

Kamal Martin, Simon Stepaniak, and Vernon Scott are no longer on the team, while Jake Hanson is a limited backup when healthy, as is Jonathan Garvin.

Then there is the 2021 class, which out of nine selections, consists of three players – Amari Rodgers, Cole Van Lanen, and Kyling Hill – who are already not on the Packers anymore.

Eric Stokes was in the midst of a sophomore slump prior to his injury, allowing 21 catches on 25 targets at 13.1 yards per catch without a pass breakup. Josh Myers has been an average center, but will likely be compared to Creed Humphrey, who is arguably the best center in football and who went one pick after Myers.

Royce Newman is a backup after getting benched for poor play, TJ Slaton is a rotational run stuffer, along with Shemar Jean-Charles and Isaiah McDuffie being core special teams players. The roles that Slaton, Jean-Charles, and McDuffie fill are needs for every NFL team, but they are far from the impact players that the Packers require.

So of another 18 selections made by Gutekunst between 2020 and 2021, only three (Runyan, Myers, and Stokes) are regular starters at this time. Combining the 2018 through 2021 draft classes, that’s a grand total of seven players who are in a position from week to week to truly make an impact–and as we just discussed, not everyone is doing that either.

Towards the end of Ted Thompson’s tenure as GM, he had several swings and misses in the draft as well. Part of Gutekunst’s course correction, when he took over, involved him spending a lot of money in free agency on Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Billy Turner– all of whom were home run signings.

Recently, however, the Packers, unfortunately, haven’t had the ability to fill roster holes that the draft left behind through free agency because of being under a salary cap crunch. They’ve had to squeeze every cap-saving dollar out of the majority of their contracts just to field their current rosters over the last two years. It also doesn’t look like the 2023 offseason will be much better.

If you want something positive to hold on to, it looks like the 2022 draft has a lot of potential in Quay Walker, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, JJ Enagbare, and Zach Tom. We will also see what the future holds for Devonte Wyatt.

As I always try to preface that there isn’t any one specific reason why this season has gone so poorly for the Packers. Gutey’s draft classes certainly aren’t the only factor, but for an offense lacking playmakers at the moment, the lack of steady contributions from these selections is a big one.