4 members of Packers’ 2019 draft class capable of more impact in 2021

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The Green Bay Packers have already enjoyed significant contributions from the top three picks in Brian Gutekunst’s 2019 draft class. Second-round pick Elgton Jenkins is a Pro Bowler and one of the most versatile offensive linemen in football. Darnell Savage has been an effective two-year starter at safety, and Rashan Gary really came into his own as a disruptive player to end 2020.

While the second-year jump is always notable, sometimes players – especially those picked later in the draft – need an extra year to finally find their footing. The third year could be the sweet spot for a few members of the Packers’ 2019 class.

Here are four under-the-radar players from that draft class that could contribute in bigger ways in 2021:

DL Kingsley Keke

(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Keke already enjoyed his second-year breakout season in 2020. He delivered 22 pressures and 14 stops and was effective as a rusher in a rotational role during his sophomore campaign. Now, the Packers are preparing for another big jump. In fact, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said he expects a "drastic jump" from Keke in 2021. Gutekunst must agree, because he did nothing more than add a fifth-round pick (T.J. Slaton) along the defensive line this offseason. Keke played around 40 percent of the defense's snaps last year, but he could go well over 50 percent – and possibly push 60 percent – if he's effective against the run and still ascending as an interior rusher. He added weight and some power in 2020 but still looked quick against guards inside in the passing game. Another big step from Keke could turn a perceived weakness into a real strength for the Packers defense in 2021.

TE Jace Sternberger

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A steep learning curve at a demanding position and an unfortunate string of injuries have kept Sternberger from contributing in a meaningful way during his first two seasons. And with the Packers having so much depth at tight end entering 2021, earning snaps on offense won't be easy. But just don't give up on Sternberger, who only played tight end for one full season at the collegiate level and needed time to figure out the position at the professional level. If he's healthy, Sternberger could be a real weapon for Matt LaFleur and the Packers in 2021, especially in a scheme that works so many wonders for tight ends. He can run, and he's a natural receiver from multiple alignments. Remember, Robert Tonyan essentially needed three and half seasons before he was ready to break out. Sternberger could be charting a similar path. Improvement from Sternberger and the arrival of slot weapon Amari Rodgers could be keys for the Packers maintaining their status as an elite passing offense, assuming the quarterback stays.

RB Dexter Williams

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

It's hard to give up on talent, even if there are two years of evidence suggesting the potential of the talent might never be fulfilled. Williams certainly doesn't lack the talent; he has ideal size with an explosive lower body and the juice and creativity to produce big plays as a runner. He just needs to finally take a step and earn Matt LaFleur's trust as an overall running back at the NFL level. Maybe he will in 2021, maybe he won't. But the No. 3 running back job is up for grabs behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, and Williams will be given the opportunity to win it even if the Packers took Kylin Hill – another talented runner – in the seventh round. Training camp and the preseason will be huge for Williams. He's either going to grab the opportunity or be looking for work. The rest of his game must finally catch up to his natural talent. Now or never time.

LB Ty Summers

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Summers has been a mainstay as a special teams contributor, playing 638 snaps for the third phase during his first two seasons. Now is his chance to take the next developmental step and find a role on defense, especially for a position group that lacks sure-fire high-end starters. Summers has the athleticism and toughness to handle the dirty work at inside linebacker for new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, but getting better in coverage is a must. Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin played a lot as rookies, but don't assume anything is set in stone at the position entering 2021. Barry might be looking for something different at linebacker. Summers, now in Year 3, can't be ruled out from the competition.

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