Welcome back to part 2! In this article we will be decoding the “Packers way” in regards to defensive players. As I stated in one of my previous articles the Packers have a certain way of doing things with regards to the NFL draft and their thresholds for prospects. You can also check out part one on the offensive players. We will be laying out, in simple terms and data, how the Green Bay Packers approach drafting defensive players.
I previously wrote about this back in April of 2021. In that article, I based most of my findings off of Ted Thompson’s draft picks. Now that Brian Gutekunst has had two more drafts, we can more clearly see his trends. I will still refer back to Thompson sparingly since Gutekunst did learn under Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson; the architects of the “Packers Way”. Some of that is connected to RAS. We will break it down by position.
Under Ted Thompson, defensive linemen averaged a RAS score of 7.29. With Gutekunst, it has been 7.77, and if you take out Jonathan Ford it jumps to a 8.83; so it can be said that Gutey prioritizes athletes along the defensive line more than Ted did. They have all been at least 6’2 and 290 or heavier, so while he is a good player, do not expect the Packers to draft a player like Calijah Kancey who is probably about 6’0 275.
Gutekunst also has only drafted guys with 32″ arms or longer. The bare minimum vertical was 29″, where oddly enough seven draft picks dating back to Thompson all had. 8’6″ seems to be the minimum with broad jump, but it seems Gutekunst and company like guys closer to 9’0.
In regards to 40-yard dash times, there have been two players with slow 40 times, Johnny Jolly and Jonathan Ford, with both running over 5.45. After them though, the next slowest is a 5.14; with a lot of them running under 5.1. Both players seem to be outliers.
So, look for defensive linemen who run in the 5.15 or faster range. The slowest short shuttle was a 4.89, but most draft picks ran under 4.8. The slowest 3-cone was a 7.91, but the majority have run 7.65 or faster.
When it comes to edge rushers, the Packers haven’t changed the type they target. Historically, they like guys who score high athletically. Since Ted came aboard, they have averaged an 8.21 on the RAS scale, and with Gutekunst it has been 8.65. What has changed, though, is the body type.
With Dom Capers in town they tended to go after the smaller and more bendy type edge rushers. Since Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator, the front office has liked to draft longer and stronger guys who tend to be more power players. The Packers have drafted guys in the 6’4+ range and weighting 260 or more. All four of his picks have also had 34″ or longer arms, 33″ might be ok, but I wouldn’t look at anyone shorter than that.
The lowest vertical jump was 36″, so look for anyone with a 35″+ vertical. 9’9″ is the shortest broad jump since Ted took over as GM. It looks like Gutey prefers guys with 10′ or longer jumps. As for 40 times, the Packers clearly do not prioritize that, as you have one guy with a 4.45 and another with a 4.87. The slowest short shuttle was a 4.54, but most have been 4.4 or faster. When it comes to the 3-cone drill the slowest has been a 7.51, but most are 7.3 or faster.
Gutkunst has drafted six linebackers in his time as GM. This is a position where he has taken a big departure from his predecessor . The average RAS under Thompson was a 5.98; under Gutekunst it has been a 9.06. So obviously a massive jump in required athleticism by the front office.
As for size, the minimum threshold is around 6’1, 230 pounds. The preference is probably about 6’3 240. Arm length has kind of been all over, with the shortest being 30 1/4″ and the longest 33 1/3″, but you could say 30 1/4″ is the minimum.
In regards to athletic testing, the lowest vertical jump was 32″. The shortest broad jump was 10’1″ — this seems to be a test the Packers prioritize with their linebackers. On to everyone’s favorite, 40 times. The slowest 40 time has been a 4.61, which makes this another prioritized test.
Short shuttle tests don’t seem to be as important, with the slowest being 4.46 and others in the 4.3 range. 3-cone drill, though, does seem to be something they key on, with the slowest being a 7.5 but the next slowest was a 7.25 and a lot of them being 7.1 or faster.
Now this is where the fun begins. There has been much hand wringing over the Packers thresholds at defensive back. The minimum height they will draft is 5’10 1/4″. It used to be 5’10 1/2″ under Wolf and Thompson, which they stuck to religiously. Gutekunst is a little more flexible, where he will make an exception if a player is worthy. Jaire Alexander is a great example, as he was 5’10 1/4 at the combine.
The Packers also like bigger corners, preferring guys who weigh in over 190. They also want guys with arms that are 31″ or longer. With safeties, they like guys who are “corner sized”: usually 5’11 or taller, 200 pounds plus, and 31″ arms or longer as well.
Now to the testing, The average RAS score of the corners is an 8.33. With vertical jumps, the minimum is 35″. As for the safeties, Gutekunst has only drafted one in his time so I will include Thompson’s picks as well. The average RAS is a 7.51, but I’m betting once Gutey drafts more it will be more like 8.0 or higher. Vertical jump would be the same as with the corners. The lowest broad jump was 9’11”, all the rest are 10’3″ or more so I would start with at least 10′. It’s a similar situation at safety with the broad jumps.
On to the 40! The slowest 40-yard dash since Gutekunst took over is a 4.56, and I would say that is probably where their threshold is for the corners. With regards to the safeties, the slowest was a 4.62 under Ted Thompson, but all the others were 4.56 or faster; so the 4.56 would be a good starting point, as well.
For the agility testing, the slowest short-shuttle for a corner was a 4.36, there was also some 4.33, 4.34, so I would say 4.36 is the threshold. At safety the slowest was a 4.4, and, as stated earlier, its probably lower than that now with Gutey, so I would stick with the 4.36. On the 3-cone drill, the slowest was a 7.15, but most corners have tested lower than 7. Similarly with the safeties, the slowest was a 7.16, but most were 7.03 or faster, so I would start there.