Ranking Packers’ rookie draft class by potential impact in 2022

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Although no Super Bowl-caliber football team wants to rely too heavily on first-year players, the 2022 draft class of the Green Bay Packers should have a tremendous opportunity to help Matt LaFleur’s team right away. The Packers took three players in the first 34 picks and selected 11 players overall, and a good chunk of the draft class should have a chance to play immediately.

Who could have the biggest impact?

Instead of individually ranking the rookies, we sorted the draft class into three categories based on the potential of impact during the 2022 season.

Chance to be immediate starter

LB Quay WalkerThe Packers’ top pick will have to beat out Krys Barnes, who has started at linebacker each of the last two seasons, but Walker will still be the heavy favorite to start the majority of games next to De’Vondre Campbell in 2022. The Georgia product is big, fast and physical, and the Packers think he’ll provide the defense with more opportunities to play in two-linebacker packages. Walker could be a tackle machine as a first-year player. He’s one of the Defensive Rookie of the Year favorites, so many are expecting instant impact.

DL Devonte Wyatt: Wyatt was a dominant player against the run at Georgia. During the pre-draft process, he proved he has the rare athleticism necessary for being a disruptive player as a pass-rusher. The 24-year-old played a lot of quality football in the SEC and is physically ready to play right away in the NFL. He’ll have to beat out veteran Jarran Reed for a starting role, but Wyatt is capable.

WR Christian Watson: Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins might be the favorites to start at receiver, but Watson could easily become a go-to player at some point during his rookie season. He has a rare combination of size, speed and overall athleticism, plus unique versatility coming out of North Dakota State’s offense, a willingness to block in the run game and the field-stretching abilities the Packers need after losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling. There’s a good chance Watson will be playing snaps immediately as a rookie.

OL Sean Rhyan: A left tackle at UCLA, Rhyan could transition to guard as a rookie and prove stiff competition for the starting job at right guard. He has an impressive blend of raw power at over 320 pounds and the quick, agile feet that helped him survive out on the edges. The Packers started two rookies (Josh Myers, Royce Newman) along the offensive line in Week 1 last year; Rhyan probably has the best chance to start right away among the 2022 draft class.

OL Zach Tom: It would be impossible to rule out Tom’s potential of starting after he dominated at two positions (left tackle, center) at Wake Forest. He doesn’t possess ideal size, but Tom used smarts, athleticism and toughness to get the job done consistently no matter where he played or who he played against. Tom shut down Jermaine Johnson, a first-round pick from Florida State. With five-position potential and incredible pass-blocking prowess, Tom could easily find himself starting multiple games as a rookie.

Chance to be important role player

WR Romeo DoubsThe Packers will need one of the rookie receivers to step up and play a significant role right away. Why not Doubs, who caught 225 total passes and finished with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Nevada? He was a big-play machine for Carson Strong. Maybe he can be something similar to Aaron Rodgers as a surprise rookie. The Packers think he’s a polished player with big upside.

OLB Kingsley Enagbare: A ton of snaps are available at edge rusher behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. The Packers gave Enagbare the No. 55 uniform, which is fitting because he plays a little bit like departed Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith. If he’s impressive during camp, Enagbare could easily play 300-400 snaps as a backup at a premium position in 2022.

S Tariq CarpenterThe Packers need backups at safety to emerge at training camp. The team loves Carpenter’s combination of size and athleticism, and they believe he can play some safety and linebacker. While probably not a good bet to play snaps on defense, he could be a key special teamer in Year 1.

WR Samori Toure: The Montana and Nebraska product surprised people with big plays everywhere he went in college, and he’s ready to fully embrace the special teams path to the roster this summer.

Long shot to contribute

DL Jonathan Ford: While a massive man (6-5, 338) who played a lot of football in the trenches at Miami, Ford is a bit redundant to TJ Slaton as a player and is now entering a deep and talented position group in Green Bay. It’s possible he could end up on the practice squad or as a weekly inactive in Year 1.

OT Rasheed Walker: The former Penn State left tackle is coming off a major knee injury and needs plenty of refinement as a blocker entering the NFL. A year on the practice squad or as a deep reserve looks likely.

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