Packers can’t stop, won’t stop adding to the offensive line

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Death, taxes, and the Green Bay Packers beefing up their offensive line.

The Packers took three offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL draft, marking the third year in a row that Brian Gutekunst has used multiple picks on the offensive line in the same draft. It has quickly become a calling card for Gutekunst, as Green Bay continues to use a tremendous number of resources toward building one of the most consistent offensive lines in the league. Since getting hired as the general manager back in 2018, Gutekunst has drafted 11 offensive line prospects.

“I think it’s always important to us,” Gutekunst said after making his picks. “We’ve kind of committed to that as we’ve gone along.”

Protecting a future Hall of Fame quarterback has been a priority in Green Bay dating back to the 1990s under Ron Wolf.

Gutekunst made his first mark with Elgton Jenkins, a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2019. Jenkins made his first start in Week 3 of his rookie season and hasn’t looked back since. Now he is a Pro Bowler and one of the most versatile blockers in the game.

Jenkins might be Gutekunst’s prize jewel, but he is far from his only success story. The following year, Jon Runyan Jr was a sixth-round pick who has since shown encouraging progress. Last season, Runyan started all but one game, finishing 63rd in Pro Football Focus’ offensive grading out of 136 eligible guards. Maybe that isn’t much to get excited about, but it is impressive for a late-day three pick in only his second season.

Runyan was one of the more consistent components of an inexperienced offensive line group in 2021. Runyan was joined by Yosh Nijman and rookies Josh Myers and Royce Newman in making their first NFL starts a season ago. And even though the Packers offensive line wasn’t as strong as past years, it still helped the team to 13 wins and didn’t hold Aaron Rodgers back from winning his fourth MVP.

Green Bay entered this year’s draft with some promising young pieces, but an offensive line is a work of art that is never finished in the eyes of their GM. So, after going defense with both of his first-round picks, Gutekunst would use three of his final nine picks on an offensive line that some would say didn’t need an influx of young talent. First, he added UCLA offensive lineman Sean Ryhan in the third round. Then came Wake Forest’s Zach Tom in the fourth and Penn State’s Rasheed Walker in the seventh.

All three are promising prospects with a ton of potential. Potential that will be put to the test as the Packers may need one to contribute sooner than later following the release of former right tackle Billy Turner. After having some success filling in for David Bakhtiari at left tackle, Nijman could slide into Turner’s old spot. Although, the former undrafted free agent turned gem should expect some competition.

Rhyan was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Bruins and performed well against the fifth overall pick in Kayvon Thibodeaux. Head coach Matt LaFleur expects Rhyan to take reps at tackle while discussing his ability to kick inside.

Meanwhile, Tom will also get a shot to prove himself after making 34 starts at left tackle and center in college. Tom was a popular pick in many mocks centered around Green Bay this offseason due to his versatility and athleticism. At 6-4 and 304 pounds, Tom is extremely athletic for his size, running a blazing 4.94 in the 40-yard dash. He also measured 9-feet, 10 inches on the broad jump and had a 33-inch vertical leap with enormous 10-inch hands. Tom was one of the most athletic linemen in the class and is now on a team infatuated with developing his kind.

Lastly, Walker has potential but is the least likely member of the trio to earn a starting job. He needs to clean up his technique in pass protection before the team even thinks about using him to protect their precious quarterback.

However, right tackle isn’t the only spot that will be up for grabs this summer. Jenkins will likely assume that responsibility once he has back from his ACL injury, but that still leaves an opening at either guard spot. Runyan and Newman started the most games at left and right guard in 2021, but it’s possible neither is a lock to start the regular season. Two guys will have to distinguish themselves during practice and the preseason. The Packers have no reservations about starting multiple rookies upfront if it gives them the best chance to win.

Whatever the offensive line lacks in experience heading into next season, they make up for in potential. Gutekunst has done a great job building a group that can be flexible and reliable. It is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing position battles to watch come training camp.

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