Packers Morning Buzz: High marks for Brian Gutekunst's draft decisions
Welcome to your Morning Buzz, rounding up news and views regarding the Green Bay Packers from around the web.
We'll start with The MMQB's Andy Benoit handing out grades for each NFL team and giving high marks to Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst's performance.
Part of why the Packers pay Aaron Rodgers huge money is they believe he makes everyone on offense better. Therefore this team can afford to invest primarily on defense, which it has now done with its first pick every year since 2011. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes in two key things: aggressive, destructive play up front (as opposed to sounder but more passive play) and diversity in coverage personnel. And so the Packers took a flyer on the uber-talented Rashan Gary, even though their defensive line did not have any holes to fill. Some have debated what position Gary will play. With Green Bay’s diverse fronts, the answer will be ... many.
Nine picks after Gary, the Packers called hard-hitting safety Darnell Savage, who at Maryland played back deep and in the slot. Savage will likely be moved around, with his best chance at playing time coming as a free safety, given that expensive free agent ex-Bear Adrian Amos is best as a strong safety and 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones is best as a dime linebacker.
Day 2 was spent giving resources to Rodgers. Elgton Jenkins indirectly provides an answer at right tackle, as free agent pickup Billy Turner can slide over there from guard next year when Bryan Bulaga likely departs. TE Jace Sternberger has drawn comparisons, stylistically, to Travis Kelce. Remember how effective Rodgers was with receiving tight end Jared Cook a few years ago? With Sternberger and Jimmy Graham, he now has two (that means schematic flexibility), with Sternberger doubling as the long-term answer to replace the aging Graham either in 2020 or ’21.
You can check out Benoit's grades for the rest of the NFL teams here:
Pro Football Focus likes what the Packers did, giving their draft the highest grade of any NFC North team.
Michigan edge defender Rashan Gary’s production has yet to catch up to his freakish athleticism. He earned a 68.3 pass-rushing grade this past season, and his career-high pass-rush grade in 2017 was just 72.7. He finished the pre-draft process ranked just 48th on PFF’s final big board as a result.
For Green Bay to get the best from Gary, to paraphrase PFF’s Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner, the team should kick him inside of newly signed edge defenders Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Gary’s best reps at the college level came against guards, so a move inside to 3-4 defensive end opposite Mike Daniels in Green Bay’s defensive scheme should suit him best.
Mississippi State center Elgton Jenkins, a first-round talent on PFF’s big board, fell to Green Bay at pick No. 44 on Friday. He brings great balance and control to the table in pass protection, as evidenced by his 83.9 pass-blocking grade and five pressures allowed in 2018.
“He has all the tools necessary to be one of the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL.” – Pro Football Focus’ Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner
A favorite of Steve Palazzolo’s in this year’s tight end class, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger earned a career-high 72.7 overall grade in 2018 and finished as PFF’s No. 3 tight end and No. 67 overall player in the 2019 class. He’s better suited to run a normal route tree and be a volume pass-catcher than Iowa’s Noah Fant.
“He can stretch the seam. He’s got really good skills after the catch, much different than [Noah] Fant who we really haven’t seen break tackles.” – Pro Football Focus’ Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo
The Ka’dar Hollman pick at No. 185 was a head-scratcher, but Green Bay did come away from Day 3 two relative steals Texas A&M defensive interior Kingsley Keke and former Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams.
Keke was played a bit out of position on the edge at A&M and should kick inside in the league. He dominated rushing from the interior at the Senior Bowl with the highest win rate among all DTs.
Williams averaged just 3.4 yards after contact per attempt and 0.13 forced missed tackles per attempt with the Fighting Irish in 2018, but he flashed high-end potential in bursts and impressed many with his big-play ability.
DRAFT GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE
You can see how they graded all 32 teams here:
BTW, Darnell Savage gets the highest 2018 grade from PFF of any Packers recruit:
Nate Davis of USA Today issues a disclaimer before proceeding with his draft grades, noting that "a legitimate report card can't fairly be issued until 2022. But I'll play along and submit my annual, way-too-early, impromptu evaluations before all of these players have even set foot onto a pro practice field." His Packers assessment isn't as glowing as others':
Green Bay Packers: B-
Kinda felt like a Ted Thompson draft with the priority on big guys and defense with weapons for Aaron Rodgers coming later. First-round DE Rashan Gary seems like good value at No. 12 even if the defensive line and edge looked well stocked previously. But trading up to No. 21 for S Darnell Savage might not have been necessary. Second-round OL Elgton Jenkins and third-round TE Jace Sternberger should make Rodgers happy.
You can read the entire article here:
Pete Dougherty writes that the success of the Packers' draft could hinge on Savage:
Check out our Day 2 and Day 3 draft pick capsules:
Undrafted free agents provide diamond-in-the-rough opportunities, and here's a roundup of some of the Packers' initial signings:
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com identifies which person at 1265 Lombardi Ave. benefited most from the Packers' draft:
Mike Pettine, Packers defensive coordinator: GM Brian Gutekunst just can't stop building up the Green Bay defense. He piled up picks for Pettine during last year's draft, spent huge money to sign three starters in free agency, including two high-priced pass rushers (Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith), and then drafted another edge defender in Michigan's Rashan Gary with the No. 12 overall pick. (Just don't tell NFL.com's Gil Brandt it was a smart pick.)
With a second first-round pick in his pocket, surely Gutekunst would get some help for Aaron Rodgers, right? Nope -- he traded up with the Seahawks to snag Maryland safety Darnell Savage 21st overall. That's the fifth defensive back taken in the first two rounds over the last three years by the Packers. Perhaps the best weapon Rodgers can have will be only needing to score 20 points to win games.
For the rest of Rosenthal's Day 1 draft winners and losers, click here:
Rob Reischel evaluates the Packers' draft for Forbes.com:
Tom Oates also sees brighter days ahead for the Packers' defense:
For a seventh-round pick, inside linebacker Ty Summers made an impact at TCU:
And finally...the last "Draftville" podcast sums up winners and losers:
Contact Stu Courtney at (920) 431-8377 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stucourt