Packers add versatility to offensive line with pair of Day 3 draft picks, add run-stuffer on defense

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers opened Day 3 of the NFL draft adding to what should be a fierce competition for snaps on their offensive line.

The Packers used their 142nd overall pick in the fourth round Saturday to draft Royce Newman, a guard out of Ole Miss. At 6-5, 310 pounds, Newman is almost identical in size to Ohio State center Josh Myers, whom the Packers drafted in the second round Friday night.

Newman's 33¾-inch arms — almost two inches longer than Myers — should give him the length to also play tackle, where the Packers could use reinforcements with David Bakhtiari potentially missing the start of this season as he recovers from his torn ACL.

Ole Miss offensive lineman Royce Newman (72) blocks against Alabama at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, October 10, 2020. (Bruce Newman)

The Packers value versatile offensive linemen, and Newman fits that bill. He started all 12 games at left guard as a junior in 2019. Newman moved to right tackle for 10 starts last season.

"In the SEC, in the interior there's huge 300-pound guys who have pretty good twitch; you try to get your hands on them and have more center help or tackle help," Newman said of playing guard. "When I was out at tackle I was on an island by myself and just really had to know how to get more technical with my technique and get used to the speed. Just got to get used to the different type of players I'd see."

Newman allowed two sacks and 25 pressures in 404 pass-blocking snaps at right tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He did not allow a sack as a left guard in 2019.

"I think from a dimension standpoint," co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan said, "when you see him on the hook, you'd probably say he's a better fit at guard. But then you watch him, he's got good feet, he's got good lateral quickness. He stays in front of guys and can mirror and sustain and plays good ball out there. If I didn't know anything about anything, and I just walked up on the kid and looked at his body, I'd say, 'That kid is probably an inside guy.' But if we had to go play tomorrow and put him at right tackle, I'd feel good about it."

The Packers continue to pump resources into their offensive line. They used three Day 3 picks on offensive linemen last season. In 2019, the Packers used a second-round pick on Elgton Jenkins. Newman will join a line that should see position battles at right guard between Lucas Patrick and Jon Runyan Jr, and needs depth at tackle behind Bakhtiari and Billy Turner.

"We felt like we needed to add some depth, add some competition," Sullivan said. "We're really excited about the guys we've got, we're really excited about the guys we already have in the fold that are already on our team, and the competition it presents. And we think we've got a good group. We think we've got some really solid depth, however it shakes out with the starting five and the guys that can come in and play behind them when needed. We feel good about our situation."

The Packers used their second pick of Day 3 on the other side of the line. They drafted Florida defensive tackle T.J. Slaton with the 173rd pick in the fifth round, adding a massive interior presence.

General manager Brian Gutekunst has stressed the importance of having big players, mirroring his roster with the outdoor realities of playing in Green Bay. Slaton stands 6-4, 330 pounds, the second-heaviest player on the Packers roster behind defensive lineman Anthony Rush (6-4, 361). He had minimal pass-rush production at Florida, recording just 3.5 sacks in four seasons. He added 38 tackles, 3.5 for loss, as a senior last season.

Defensive line was a primary need for the Packers entering this draft. They waited until the fifth round to address it, but Slaton has the size that could occupy blockers on the interior defensive line, perhaps opening things up for Kenny Clark.

Slaton said he’ll play no heavier than 320 pounds with the Packers, depending on what weight the team requests. Slaton, whose snaps increased in his senior season, said it was important for him to show scouts he could stay on the field for extended periods. 

Defensive line was a primary need for the Packers entering this draft. They waited until the fifth round to address it, but Slaton has the size that could occupy blockers on the interior defensive line, perhaps opening things up for Kenny Clark. 

“I can definitely help in the run,” Slaton said, “and definitely pass situations. I feel like I’m a great player when it comes to run and pass, but I feel like I’m going to really make a big impact on the run game, definitely. And I’m definitely trying to make an impact on the passing game, too.” 

Five picks later, the Packers selected Appalachian State cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles with the 178th pick in the fifth round. Jean-Charles was a two-year starter at Appalachian State, where he became perhaps the best cornerback that did not play for a power-conference program last season. Jean-Charles was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (nation's top defender) and Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) last season. 

At 5-10, 184 pounds, Jean-Charles ran a 4.52 40 with a 35-inch vertical. He had only two interceptions in four seasons but defended 30 passes, including a nation-leading 16 last year as a senior.  

“A lot of that just comes from my preparation,” Jean-Charles said. “My football IQ is very high, a testament to a lot of my coaches and mentors that I was around in the offseason. Just being able to understand how offenses work, and understanding what I’ll possibly get before it happens. It just allows me to play a little bit faster. At the end of the day, I have athletic ability but once you grasp that mental aspect of the game, it makes it so much slower, and makes it so much easier to go out there and do what feels natural.” 

In 361 coverage snaps, Jean-Charles allowed 17 catches on 52 targets for 198 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. He had a 50 passer rating when targeted. 

He was the second cornerback the Packers drafted this weekend, following first-round pick Eric Stokes. Though both played in the southeast, Jean-Charles said he has never met Stokes. 

“It’s a lot of great players in this draft class, period,” Jean-Charles said. “He’s one of them, coming from the SEC. I’ve never really met him face to face, but eventually we’ll meet, talk it up. But, yeah, I’m just excited to show everybody what we’ve got. I know he’s pretty excited about his opportunities, going pretty early like that, and I’m just excited just to have a shot to have my name called. 

“So I’m looking forward to making a bunch of players with him.” 

Wisconsin running back Nakia Watson takes advantage of a block by Wisconsin offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen  on Northwestern defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore.

The Packers drafted their third offensive lineman of the weekend when they selected Wisconsin's Cole Van Lanen with the 214th overall pick in the sixth round. Van Lanen, a Green Bay native who attended Bay Port High School, started at left tackle for the Badgers during the past two seasons. He was named first-team All-Big Ten last year despite missing two games because of injury.

At 6-5, 312 pounds with 33⅜-inch arms, Van Lanen has the body to play tackle, but athletic limitations might make him a better fit for guard.

The Packers turned back to their defense six picks later, drafting Boston College linebacker Isaiah McDuffie with the 220th overall selection. McDuffie is a 6-1, 227-pound inside linebacker who ran a 4.59 40. He finished fifth in the nation with 107 tackles last season, adding three sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss an interception and a fumble recovery. He was named second-team All-ACC.

Finally, Green Bay concluded its 2021 draft class by selecting Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill at No. 256 overall in the seventh round. Hill opted out of the 2020 season after three games but in his time in demonstrated good ball security with just one fumble on 481 career touches. In his last full season, Hill rushed 242 times for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 180 yards and a TD.

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