Green Bay Packers' 2019 draft: Analysis for every pick

NFL draft profile: Rashan Gary (0:55)

Rashan Gary is a versatile defensive lineman with an outstanding combination of size, length and speed out of Michigan. (0:55)

Breaking down the Green Bay Packers' 2019 draft class.

Round 1, No. 12 overall: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

My take: This is a risky pick for two reasons: injury history and a lack of production. Gary played through a shoulder injury that was reported as a torn labrum, although Gary denied that Thursday, and he had just 3.5 sacks in nine games last season for the Wolverines. In short, he was an injured underachiever. That doesn't mean it can't change in the NFL, and he will have plenty to prove. "My shoulder’s good," Gary said on Thursday. "It’s not a torn labrum. [It was] a subluxation. But I did 26 reps at the combine and I’m ready to go and I’m ready to be great right now."

Athletic freak: At 6-foot-4 3/8 and 277 pounds, he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine. That was the third-fastest 40 time of the defensive linemen/edge rushers who ran in Indy. The only ones faster were Montez Sweat (4.41) and Brian Burns (4.51) The Packers hope that shows up on the field. "I think it will," said Packers scout Joe Hueber, who covers the Midwest region. "I think we think as a group of scouts feel that it will. He’s got rare gifts -- a guy that size who runs that speed and moves on his feet like that and can really bend."

Why only 3.5 sacks? The Packers believe Gary impacted the game more than his sack totals from last season indicate. "He commanded a lot of attention -- double teams, triple teams, taking on the tight end," Hueber said. "And really you saw it [with] some of his teammates, they got freed up and they were able to get the production. It’s not like he wasn’t impacting the game, though. He was all over the place."

Round 1, No. 21 overall: Darnell Savage Jr., S, Maryland

My take: The Packers had a need ... a need for speed at safety. And 4.36 in the 40-yard dash certainly qualified. That ranked fourth among all defensive backs (corners included) who ran at the combine. By comparison, one of last year's Packers' starting safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, ran a 4.58 40 at his combine. That's the same time that the Packers' first first-round pick this year, DE/OLB Rashan Gary, ran at the combine. The only issue is Savage's size (5-10 3/4). "I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder, you know?" Savage said shortly after he was picked. "I’ve always heard I wasn’t big enough, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I just use it as motivation. I just let it fuel me. I always keep that in the back of my head. I kind of have that chip on my shoulder when I play and everything else."


NFL draft profile: Darnell Savage Jr.

Darnell Savage Jr. is an undersized safety who excels at reading receivers and breaking on the ball out of the University of Maryland.

New combo: The Packers opened last season with Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice as their starting safeties. Neither is even on the roster anymore. The Packers traded Clinton-Dix to Washington and then he signed with the Bears last month. Brice wasn't tendered as a restricted free agent and signed with the Buccaneers. The Packers finished the season with Tramon Williams and Josh Jones as their starting safeties. Williams is expected to move back to his traditional role as a corner, while Jones remains at safety. But if all goes as planned, Savage should play free safety and Adrian Amos (signed to a four-year, $36 million contract in free agency) would play strong safety.

All-defensive team: GM Brian Gutekunst signed four high-priced free agents. Three of them -- Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Amos -- play defense. He drafted two players in the first round -- Savage and Gary -- and they both play defense. Sense a trend? The Packers ranked 18th in total defense last season, which was a credit to coordinator Mike Pettine given how little he had to work with. That shouldn't be the case this season.

Round 2, No. 44 overall: Elgton Jenkins, G/C, Mississippi State

My take: It was a given that the Packers were going to take an offensive lineman early in the draft but after a run on tackles early in the second round -- four in the first seven picks -- the Packers opted for versatility up front. One of Green Bay's college scouts, Charles Walls, said the Packers picked Jenkins to play guard even though he started 26 games at center and last played guard in 2016 as a sophomore. He was rated as Todd McShay's No. 3 center in the draft, but the Packers have Corey Linsley as a mainstay there. They have an opening at right guard, but they signed Billy Turner ($9 million signing bonus) in free agency and they also got back last year's fifth-round pick, G Cole Madison, who sat out his entire rookie year for personal mental health reasons. It's clear the Packers want to create competition and depth on the line. They also have some familiarity with Jenkins on their staff with quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, who was Mississippi State's offensive coordinator last season. "Luke was fired up about him," Walls said.


NFL draft profile: Jace Sternberger

Jace Sternberger is a tight end out of Texas A&M who has a knack for running crafty routes and making plays in traffic.

Round 3, No. 75 overall: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M

My take: Finally, someone who actually touches the football. After two defensive players on Day 1 and an offensive lineman in the second round, GM Brian Gutekunst took an offensive skill position player. And it was at their greatest position of need in that regard. They couldn’t get the top tight end, T.J. Hockenson (who went eighth to the Lions), and passed on his Iowa teammate Noah Fant. They also passed on Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. in the second round and saw two more tight ends, Washington’s Drew Sample and San Jose State’s Josh Oliver, go before the Packers came around again in the third round. “Yeah, it was important to us, if we could do it, no doubt,” co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan said about finding a tight end early in the draft. “Brian has addressed this with you guys, we always try to take the best player available. That's just philosophically what we believe in, and he was the best player available for us at this time. It worked out, and it was a position we valued. We needed to get a young guy in the mix, and we did.” Sullivan said Sternberger won’t need to be an immediate starter; that job still belongs to veteran Jimmy Graham. But there will be opportunities for the 6-foot-4, 251-pounder to help stretch the field. “There’s a reason I left early -- because I felt like I was the best tight end in this draft class,” Sternberger said. “So I have a lot of work to prove out for me, but I’ve always been in a situation where I want to take challenges head-on and that’s what I plan to do here, and just prove to Green Bay they made the right pick.” Despite a relatively pedestrian 40 time of 4.75 at the combine, Sternberger averaged 17.3 yards per catch in his only season at Texas A&M, which followed two years at Kansas and a junior college season. “I don’t think there’s pressure for him to come in here and be Superman,” Sullivan said. “We can throw him in that room and let him go. But we definitely think he has that skill set if needed.”

Round 5, No. 150 overall: Kingsley Keke, DT, Texas A&M

My take: This might close the door on a return for Muhammad Wilkerson, the free-agent defensive tackle who played last year under a one-year contract and sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3. The Packers view Keke as a versatile player who can line up anywhere on the front. His pass-rush production skyrocketed last season after he dropped from more than 300 pounds and moved from tackle to end. He posted 7.0 sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a senior, starting all 13 games. "You can see his athleticism come through as a pass-rusher, which is intriguing," Packers area scout Charles Walls said. Keke showed off his speed at the combine, running a 4.95 40, but he did not bench in Indy. When he did at his pro day, he did just 20 reps, which is on the low end for an interior lineman, so he may need to get stronger. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst clearly trusts Walls, who also scouted second-round pick Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State) and third-rounder Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M).

Round 6, No. 185 overall: Ka'dar Hollman, CB, Toledo

My take: This is one of those rags to riches NFL draft stories. He had no offers coming out of high school, so the Burlington, New Jersey native took a job at a bread factory, where he worked alongside mostly ex-convicts, before he unloaded trucks for Dunkin' Donuts and then cut meat at a deli. He finally got an offer to walk on at Toledo after he sent dozens of emails to college coaches with his highlight tape. At Toledo, he became a starter in the 2016 season. As a senior, he tied for the Mid-American Conference lead with 12 pass breakups. He's viewed as a developmental cornerback with sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash. Barring major injuries in the secondary, he wouldn't be expected to play immediately as a rookie. He took a predraft visit to the Packers last week.


Dexter Williams' special relationship with his mother

The mother of Notre Dame RB Dexter Williams moved to South Bend this year to be closer to her son, as she battles multiple medical issues that nearly took her life.

Round 6, No. 194 overall: Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame

My take: You can find a good running back just about anywhere in the draft, so the fact that Williams was the 17th one taken in this draft isn't an issue. Aaron Jones, the Packers' No. 1 back now, was the 19th one taken in the 2017 draft. The risk here is off the field. He had a marijuana arrest in 2016 and then served a four-game suspension for an undisclosed violation to start the 2018 season. His mother moved to South Bend this year to be closer to Williams even though she has serious medical issues that was featured in the above ESPN piece. In nine games after his suspension last season, he posted 995 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on 158 carries. Given new coach Matt LaFleur's professed plan to build the offense off the running game, it's a good idea to have options beyond just Jones and Jamaal Williams.

Round 7, No. 226 overall: Ty Summers, ILB, TCU

My take:At this point in the round, it's probably best to take the best athlete possible regardless of position. Summers sure fits that. At 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds, he ran a 4.51 40 at the combine, put up 27 reps on the bench press and jumped 36 inches in the vertical test. Those are all strong numbers for an inside backer and better than what current starter Blake Martinez put up at the 2016 combine (4.71, 22 reps, 28.5 vertical. What could work in Summer's favor is that he was the only inside linebacker the Packers took in this draft, and it's a position where there's an open starting spot next to Martinez.