Depth of OL gives Packers flexibility to address other positions in draft
For the first time since the 2015 draft, the Green Bay Packers did not select an offensive lineman. This also came on the heels of Brian Gutekunst taking three offensive linemen in three consecutive drafts.
Ultimately this was because of the depth of both the tackle and interior offensive line positions that Green Bay already has on the roster.
“We already have a very, very deep group of offensive linemen,” said Gutekunst following the draft. “You guys know how I like to take offensive linemen, but we weren’t able to do that in this draft. I did think that because of the depth of our group right now that once we got past a certain point on the board, making this football team was going to be difficult at the offensive line, which opened up spots for some of the skill positions.”
At offensive tackle, the Packers have David Bakhtiari on the left side, likely Zach Tom and Yosh Nijman competing on the right side, along with some high-upside (but still very much unknown) developmental prospects in Caleb Jones, Rasheed Walker, and Luke Tenuta. Along the interior is Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan, Sean Rhyan, Royce Newman, and Jake Hanson.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t an opportunity to improve the unit. Adding another tackle to the mix would better allow Tom to compete for playing time inside. So not only is the tackle depth bolstered, but so is the interior, with Tom as a steady presence, able to push either Myers or Runyan. Matt LaFleur often mentions it’s all about putting the best five on the field, and this approach would certainly help achieve that.
Beyond 2023, this also would have allowed Green Bay to get in front of some potential uncertainty with Bakhtiari being a cut candidate, along with Nijman and Runyan set to be free agents.
However, that opportunity never materialized, with what was likely a small window for the Packers to operate in. Outside of Darnell Wright, Paris Johnson, and Broderick Jones, there likely wasn’t another tackle in this class who could compete for playing time right away. Johnson and Wright were both off the board by the time the Packers were on the clock at 13, while from the sounds of it, Lukas Van Ness was an easy pick for Green Bay as he was their highest-rated player on the board.
As far as the interior goes, typically, this is a position that Green Bay doesn’t prioritize super early in the draft, and with more pressing needs on Day 2 at receiver and tight end, it likely wasn’t on their radar at that point. This also wasn’t a position group with a ton of talent or depth, ranking seventh out of 11 position groups, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.
Although you can justify why the Packers should continue to invest in the position, by the time they go to a point in the draft where it may have made more sense – sometime on Day 3 – the window to do so had closed. At this point, they would have been bringing in developmental rookies to compete with linemen who have been in the NFL and have experience in the LaFleur offense.
As Gutekunst pointed out, making the roster would be tough for the rookie in this instance, making the draft capital spent a bit irrelevant.
Overall, the offensive line play has to improve this season. Any success that Jordan Love is going to find begins with him having time and running lanes being created. This starts with the offensive line being healthy. An under-the-radar aspect of Green Bay’s early season struggles in 2022 was due to the injuries up front that caused a lot of movement at a position where continuity is vital.
“I think we’ve got a lot of depth on our line,” said Matt LaFleur on Saturday. “As a matter of fact, we talked about it going into the offseason, this is as deep of an offensive line that I can ever remember being around. Not losing really anybody from last season. It’s going to be a very competitive situation, as are many spots on our roster. It’s going to be awesome watching these guys go out there to compete each and every day. We had so many different starting fives last year when you really look at it. On a week-to-week basis, so it would be nice to come out of OTAs and training camp and settle on those five. Hopefully, we can stay healthy because I do think there is something to just having continuity on the offensive line. I think that allows you to function at a much higher level.”
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