Packers add versatile OL to bolster depth in recent mock draft

In a recent mock draft from The Ringer, Benjamin Solak has the Green Bay Packers addressing the interior offensive line in the first round of the 2024 draft by selecting Duke’s Graham Barton.

Barton is listed at 6-5 and 314 pounds. He spent the last three seasons playing tackle for the Blue Devils but is projected to be an interior linemen by many at the NFL level. Barton also played 430 snaps at center during the 2020 season. From a positional standpoint, a trajectory not all that different from Zach Tom’s.

Over the last two seasons, Barton has surrendered just four total sacks and 21 total pressures, while being called for 13 penalties. In 2022, he was on of PFF’s highest graded pass-blockers and run-blockers at the tackle position.

This past season, Barton would miss some time dealing with injuries, playing only 496 snaps compared to 896 the year before. He would rank 44th out of 200 eligible tackles in run-blocking grade in 2023 and 63rd in pass-blocking efficiency.

Although potentially considered an interior lineman by the Packers, Barton’s experience playing tackle is important to note as well, given that Brian Gutekunst has often prioritized versatility along the offensive line, giving Matt LaFleur the opportunity to truly put the best five linemen on the field.

Here is what Brennen Rupp of Packers Wire had to say about Barton and what he could bring to the Packers:

“Graham Barton started his career at Duke playing center and then kicked outside to left tackle,” said Rupp. “While he offers five-position versatility, he’s likely best suited to stay inside at the next level.

“He has excellent quickness and hits his marks out in space. In pass protection, he’s a technician. Everything from the top down works in unison and he shows the functional strength to anchor against power. If the Packers land Barton, they’d likely view him as a guard or center due to his arm length.”

In previous years we might discount, to a degree, mock drafts that have the Packers taking an interior offensive lineman. Historically, it’s just not a position they value in the first round. But this year might be different with how big of a need adding to that position group is right now.

Currently on the roster is Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Sean Rhyan, and Royce Newman, who is a cut candidate. The Packers can save roughly $3 million in cap space by moving on from Newman.

If the Packers go into the season with Jenkins, Myers, and Rhyan as their starters, they won’t be in bad shape, by any means. However, depth will be needed and competition through an in-season rotation at right guard and left tackle was key in elevating the play of the offensive line unit during the second half of the season. Right now, there will be no such thing along the interior with the makeup of this room.

Rhyan may enter training camp as the favorite to start at right tackle, but he won’t be handed the job either. It will have to be earned. As the season progressed, he went from playing a series or two to splitting snaps 50/50 with Jon Runyan during the final weeks. The coaches clearly liked what they were seeing from him.

Where Rhyan is at his best is as a run-blocker. He’s a people-mover, an element that this offensive line has been missing. But where he must improve is in pass protection if he is going to be come a consistent starter at the NFL level.

“He’s still got a ways to go,” said offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich late in the season. “I like what I’ve seen from him from a physicality standpoint. He does a good job in the run game at the point of attack. But he still has a ways to go in pass protection would be his biggest thing moving forward.

“If he wants to be a staple guard of this league, you obviously have to excel in this realm. So that’s one thing we are going to focus on with as we move forward just to elevate that part of his game.”

Barton could also provide some competition at center for Myers—an element that was missing last season with Zach Tom solidifying himself as the Packers best option at right tackle.

Myers’ play was up and down but did very well commanding the line of scrimmage pre-snap, getting everyone on the same page from a protection responsibility standpoint, along with taking on a leadership role in the offensive line room.

“From a locker room standpoint,” said Stenavich about Myers, “he’s really taken a big leadership role in the offensive line. As a center, that’s a very, very important thing. He’s done a really good job getting the table set, the calls, all that stuff. Him and Jordan working together, you can see they have a really good relationship, communication, things like that.

“From a leadership standpoint, that’s been awesome. Then on the field, he’s playing with good physicality. He’s moving really well. Doing a better job in pass pro, using his hands, and playing in good phase. He’s going a good job.””

Perhaps flying under the radar a bit, adding to the offensive line is going to be one of the bigger positional needs that Gutekunst will have to address this offseason. Success for the offense as a whole begins here with carving running lanes for the backs and providing Jordan Love with time.

The good news is that at both tackle and along the interior, this is a strong draft class in the offensive trenches. On Daniel Jeremiah’s initial top 50 prospect rankings, 11 offensive linemen were listed.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire