A Tale Of Two Drafts

Green Bay wouldn’t have beaten the Dolphins last Sunday without the contributions made by the most recent draft class. Eight rookies took the field either on offense or defense, and six played at least 24 snaps. While the team’s 7-8 record is very disappointing, there’s no telling how much worse things would be if not for what’s shaping up to be Brian Gutekunst’s most successful three-day weekend in April since being named general manager nearly five years ago.

Zach Tom (66 snaps) filled in admirably for David Bakhtiari at left tackle; Quay Walker (48) started for the 15th straight game at inside linebacker; Romeo Doubs (40) and Christian Watson (25 before leaving with a hip injury) combined to catch nine passes for 85 yards; Kingsley Enagbare (36) continued to hold his own in place of star edge rusher Rashan Gary, who went on injured reserve in late October; Devonte Wyatt (24) doubled his usual number of snaps after Dean Lowry hurt his calf; and even seldom-used wide receiver Samori Toure (6) and free safety Tariq Carpenter (3) chipped in.

It’s obviously too soon to judge the Class of 2022. Things can change a lot in a short period of time – both positively and negatively. Gary and safety Darnell Savage from the Class of 2019 are perfect examples. The former did next to nothing as a rookie and is now an emerging star. On the other hand, the latter was benched this season after showing big-time potential early in his career. Still, it’s easy to get excited about a group that’s not only played so much but has played so capably.

That’s the good draft news. The bad draft news is how little the Class of 2020 contributed last Sunday. While this year’s rookies played a combined 248 snaps, that year’s rookies – now in their third season – played half as many snaps (124). In fact, only three members of the Class of 2020 stepped onto the field against Miami. Jon Runyan (66) started at right guard, AJ Dillon (38) ran for 36 yards and a TD, and Josiah Deguara (20) caught one pass as the No. 3 tight end. The only other members of that group still around – quarterback Jordan Love and edge rusher Jonathan Garvin – didn’t see any action.

It’s almost impossible not to think back and wonder how the past few seasons might’ve gone had the 2020 draft been different.

For example, instead of trading up for Love, Gutekunst could’ve stayed put and selected Tee Higgins, who’s blossomed into an elite wide receiver with the Bengals. Perhaps he would’ve made the difference in the 2020 NFC championship game against Tampa Bay when the Packers couldn’t even get a first down after a pair of Tom Brady interceptions in the second half or in last January’s divisional round when the offense was held to 10 points against the 49ers. Or how about if Gutekunst didn’t reach for Deguara in the third round and instead chose outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who has 12 sacks this season in Pittsburgh? It would sure be nice to have him chasing down Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday.

I hate playing the what-if game, but it’s difficult not to believe the past few seasons would’ve ended differently had the 2020 draft simply been better. Of course, there’s still a chance for that class to go down as one of the best in franchise history. All it will take is for Love to follow Rodgers and Brett Favre and become the team’s third straight Hall of Fame quarterback.

(For what it’s worth, the Class of 2018 played 50 snaps last Sunday – all by cornerback Jaire Alexander; the Class of 2019 played 98 snaps, although that number would’ve been in the 130s had Gary not gotten hurt, and the Class of 2021 played 134 snaps, although that number also would’ve been higher with cornerback Eric Stokes in the starting lineup and not on IR).


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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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December 30, 2022 8:37 pm

You think that was good, could you imagine if our GM had the balls to follow through by trading Rodgers to Denver for a draft haul. We would have been looking at the Broncos pick 9 in round 1 and 2. We wouldn’t have needed to trade 2 second rounders for Watson and with Denver’s pick would have 3 picks in round 2, lets not forget additional picks and players. In my opinion he missed a golden opportunity to set the franchise up for years of future success. I would have rolled the dice on Love ( that’s why he traded up for him ) especially with a very suspect returning roster. When you have a better than John Hadl aging QB trade steering you in the face you get a set of balls. Not Impressed and this is coming from a huge Rodgers fan and someone who didn’t really care for the Love pick. He’s here lets see what he can do

Bryan Johnson
Bryan Johnson
December 30, 2022 9:34 pm

Totally agree. In fact, once Adams was traded it made zero sense to me to keep Rodgers. Not to say Rodgers isn’t great, but that’s the moment where you maximize your future opportunities. You picked Love, should give him a chance to follow through.

December 30, 2022 11:30 pm

it does seem time for Love to sink or swim in the league. if Love is a swimmer, the 2020 draft becomes invaluable.. like the 2005 draft. the Packers seem to be playing a “best of both worlds” scenario out at QB:

keep our HOF QB as long as he is capable while having his replacement ready to go the moment AR12 is not able to propel the team forward.

outside of the organization, who knows if Love is bona fide? narratives are still in formation. i am not forgetting the relative importance of the QB position.

Reply to  eric
December 31, 2022 1:07 pm

Rodgers fell to the Packers in the 2005 draft and was to good of value for Thompson to pass on, the Love pick required an additional pick to move up to get him which leads me to believe he was Gute’s future QB, of course that went up in smoke when Rodgers stuck it up Gutey’s you know what by winning 2 MVPs. So if we had a GM with balls he would have traded Rodgers for a plethora of Picks and we wouldn’t be in cap hell for eternity if he stuck with his plan. Lets not forget he had to keep some aging Vets around to appease the QB. While I’m still a huge Rodgers fan the time to trade Rodgers was last year. If love ever sees the field in Green Bay I will be rooting as well for him to be our next great QB.

December 31, 2022 12:50 pm

I’ve always loved the draft and draft analysis. Every team seems to have their hauntings. Over Christmas, my brother-in-law, a die-hard Patriots fan, was complaining Bill Belichek’s drafting. Everyone seems to think Belichek is a genius but he drafted Michel over Chubb. N’Keal Harry over A.J. Brown. He traded up this year to snag, not Pickens or Pierce, but Tyquan Thornton. In fact, my in-law is wondering if Belichek may intentionally that team in the ground.

Further, as brilliant as Roseman looks right now for the Eagles, imagine if they had drafted Jefferson instead of Reagor. Every GM has their own story of draft misses.

It appears likely that Gutey got 5 starters with this most recent draft: Walker, Wyatt, Watson, Doubs, and Tom. I imagine Enagbare will be a solid #3 OLB for a few years. What is most encouraging is that he’s starting to find starters post-round 3. Runyan is already a starter. Slaton may become one next year. Tom and Doubs already look starter ready. That’s Gutey’s big growth area. That’s where he needs to be as good at TT.

Gutey seems to be continuing to grow into his role as GM. I think he’s been good – not great, but certainly not bad. If he can continue to find studs in the early rounds, improve his late-round drafting, and continue to venture into the realm of cheap FA’s (Reed, Nixon, Ford come immediately to mind) then I seem continued success for the Pack – but all of that, of course, depends on what they do with Love. I hope Gutey is up to the challenge of figuring this thing out.

I like Silverstein’s take on tomorrow’s game: this game should really show whether Rodgers is still able to take a team on his back. I have major doubts but I’ll be curious. At this point I think they have to see Love play against the Lions – seems doubtful that either WAS will lose one game or NYG will lose both.

Reply to  Eric
December 31, 2022 1:08 pm

I fear Gutekunst’s legacy will be not trading Rodgers when he had the chance. The Packers could’ve not made the playoffs with Love this season, and they would’ve had a ton of high picks to start rebuilding. Now they’re just an average team with an old, expensive quarterback and a bunch of aging stars.

January 1, 2023 8:37 am

Very interesting article. I went back and looked at your If I Were the GM posts from the last few drafts. Always entertaining to see who you would have picked and how they’ve done compared to the Packers picks.

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