National writers assign grades to the Packers draft, and they might be better than you'd think
Many Packers fans and experts were scratching their heads when Green Bay selected Rashan Gary at No. 12 in the draft Thursday night, and there were surely some surprised faces when the Packers traded up later in the first round, ultimately taking Darnell Savage at No. 21.
National writers didn't hate the selections, although few were glowing. Basically, the Packers seem to be neither "winners" nor "losers" in the oft-ridiculed snap judgments handed out in Thursday's aftermath.
A look at experts' ratings of the Packers' choices:
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports: C-minus and B
"He's very athletic, he's a specimen, but it doesn't translate on the field," Prisco wrote about Gary. "Where's the production? He could end up being a great pick or could be a bust. There's no in-between. He's either feast or famine. There is a shoulder concern. He might have to have shoulder surgery.
About Savage, Prisco wrote, "The Green Bay Packers had all kinds of issues at safety last year. They signed Adrian Amos and he's a thumper and doesn't cover as much ground as Savage. This kid covers a lot of ground. The defense under Mike Pettine is going to be nasty this year."
Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated: B and B-plus
"Instead of worrying about gaps, assignments and reads, (Pettine's) front seven players— particularly along the D-line — are instructed to kick the snot out of the man in front of them and let the action take care of itself," Benoit wrote when discussing Gary. "It’s also worth noting that Green Bay’s other young defensive linemen have developed well in recent years. The Packers presumably trust that young D-line coach Jerry Montgomery can help Gary hone his considerable raw talent."
About Savage: "Pettine’s approach of putting six DBs on the field, many of whom are liable to play a different position from one week to the next, requires depth and talent in the secondary. Savage, a playmaker at Maryland, adds to that. His arrival could also stabilize some positions for guys, pushing rising 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones to the box as a dime linebacker and Josh Jackson to slot as a stout corner."
Chad Reuter of NFL.COM: A (overall)
"Gary's production wasn't what you would have liked at Michigan and his off-field business interest turned off some teams. However, he has great athletic upside as a defender in the Packers' scheme. Announced as a linebacker at the draft on Thursday, Gary can play outside or inside and gives consistent full effort. Green Bay had an extra first-round pick from a 2018 draft-day trade with New Orleans (No. 30 overall). The Packers traded up, though, and selected Savage, who fills an immediate need at safety. He will be an effective nickel defender and will pop ball-carriers whenever possible. Trading away two fourth-round selections (one of which was gained from Washington for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) was fine given their multiple early picks this year."
Danny Kelly of The Ringer: C and B
About Gary: "The former five-star recruit underwhelmed in college and finished with just 9.5 sacks in three seasons at Michigan; he possesses an explosive first step off the edge, but too often gets pushed past the pocket or stalemated during his rush, and he struggles to consistently dip his shoulder and bend back to the quarterback. Gary, who was my no. 32 overall player, has the floor of a tenacious run defender in Green Bay’s front, but he needs to add a few moves to his pass rush arsenal to realize his potential and live up to this pick."
Kelly called Savage "one of the most fun players in this draft."
"Savage lives up to his namesake as a hitter; he’s a heat-seeking missile who flies downhill to make backfield tackles while showing off an innate ability to read route combinations and the quarterback’s eyes. ... Savage ranked no. 56 on my board, so this is a little earlier than I expected him to go, and the Pack had to give up two fourth-rounders to move up to this spot, slightly dampening the value, but I like the player and think he’ll fit in well in Green Bay."
Dan Kadar OF SBNATION: B-minus and C-plus
"Gary, at 277 pounds, was announced as a linebacker," Kadar wrote. "That’s a little dubious. Gary is a lengthy edge player filled with traits. His get off and acceleration are incredible. But at Michigan he never put it together consistently. For Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Gary should be a player who can line up at end, work some inside and, yes, maybe even stand up at linebacker. But after signing Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, Gary’s snaps might be a little limited."
On Savage: "This pick surprised a lot of people. When the Packers traded up with Seattle, the assumption was that it would be for a wide receiver like Marquise Brown or an offensive tackle. Savage was a late riser in the draft process. He’s a quick and active safety who closes on the ball in a hurry. After the signing of safety Adrian Amos, the Packers now have a loaded secondary."
Steven Ruiz of For the Win (USA Today network): D and B
"The Packers just spent A LOT of money on edge rushers in free agency, so Rashan Gary won’t have to play right away and that’s a good thing because he’s raw," Ruiz wrote. "And by raw, I mean not all that good at football or productive in college.
"Darnell Savage was a late riser in the draft process and it’s easy to see why when you turn on his film. Savage makes plays where ever he lines up — and he can line up in a variety of spots: The deep middle, in the box, in the slot, etc. The Maryland product is a hard hitter with coverage skills. He’ll make the Packers’ pass defense better, and that was clearly Green Bay’s goal for the first round. They had to trade up to get him but gave up only two Day 3 picks to do so. Not bad."
JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.