How Will The Packers Approach The Draft?

Packers NFL Draft
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With the 2022 NFL draft coming up in April there are two ways in which Packers GM Brian Gutekunst may approach it.

But first, let’s establish some facts. Gutekunst has drafted 37 players in his time as GM since 2018. There was a pattern to his first three drafts.

The Packers NFL Draft Approach in 2018-2020

As some Packers fans know, there was a draft pattern that developed over his first three drafts from 2018-2020. 22 out of 25 picks had RAS (Relative Athletic Score) scores of 8.0 or higher. A number of high-profile Packer bloggers caught on to that and mentioned it in their writings.

With that being said, let’s preface this before people start freaking out about RAS. This is not to say the Packers are going on http://ras.football, typing a player’s name in, and if their score was over 8 they put him on their board. The Packers have their own draft methods that none of us are privy to. But that pattern does show there is something similar they are looking for in players: athleticism and RAS.

What is RAS?

Each player gets a number assigned to them after they do all their workouts at the NFL Combine or their pro day. All their workout numbers are put into a formula and it comes up with a number. It is a 0-10 number. It is a scale of how athletic that player is in relation to his peers at his position. A 10, of course, would be the elite of the elite athlete, and a 0 would be a very poor athlete.

Another fact to establish: Does Brian Gutekunst and the front office / scouts know what RAS is?

Most definitely. It would be naïve to think they didn’t. Teams have been known to purchase draft guides. Teams also will interview a prospect’s elementary school teacher. The draft is a huge investment for teams. They want to get as much information as possible to eliminate as many mistakes as they can. Also, the creator of RAS, Kent Lee Platte, has stated he has had NFL scouts contact him before. So teams do know about it.

What happened in 2021?

Packers 2021 NFL Draft Class RAS (source: ras.footall)

If we look at the 2021 draft, it seems like there was a bit of a switch in the Packers’ philosophy. Out of the seven picks who had RAS scores, only three scored an 8.0 or higher. Tedarrell Slaton was close with a 7.96. Even if we include him, that is four out of seven. A bit of a departure from previous years. So the question becomes “what happened?” Was there a major switch in how the front office approaches the draft?

The answer is no. The old saying applies here “A leopard can not change its spots.” Gutekunst, and the vast majority of the scouts, hail from the Ted Thompson / Ron Wolf tree. If you go back and look, Thompson and Wolf valued athletes. So then what happened?

The answer

The 2021 draft was a continuation of their “all-in approach.” If you look at a number of the players drafted in ’21, they are guys with a lot of experience. Guys with a high floor. Guys who could fill certain roles, but maybe didn’t have the athletic upside of previous draft picks — but also didn’t have the same ‘bust potential’. Let’s talk about some examples:

Josh Myers:

The Packers drafted him over the more highly thought of Creed Humphrey. The same one who scored a 10 on the RAS scale and was thought to be the #1 center in the draft. Many wondered why. The reason?

Higher floor and experience in the same zone-blocking scheme the Packers run. Humphrey played in a man scheme. So the Packers valued Josh Myers’ NFL zone-blocking readiness to Humphrey’s potential, even though he scored out as a lesser athlete.

Amari Rodgers:

Amari Rodgers tested out pretty average. Which seemed weird, since all the wide receivers Gutey had drafted before all scored over 8 on the RAS scale. The Packers also traded up for him. Nico Collins and Anthony Schwartz were still on the board. So then, why did they draft someone so different from previous receivers?

Similar reasons to Myers. He had a lot of experience at a big program and could fill a very specific role, even if his athletic limitations put a damper on his upside. He could return punts and play slot. Cobb wasn’t on the roster at the time, and they wanted someone to come in and fill that role as a rookie.

Shemar Jean-Charles:

Shemar Jean-Charles was another “all-in” pick, even though he tested out below average in athleticism and was a bit on the small side for their usual defensive back picks at 184 pounds (they usually draft guys 190+). There were guys who scored a lot higher in athleticism and even size. Players like Brandin Echols, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Rodarius Williams, and Rachad Wildgoose. The reason they took Jean-Charles?

Again, experience and fit. He had a lot of special teams experience, and that is what he was drafted for. He may never be more than a #4 corner and special teamer, and that’s fine because that is what they drafted him for.

Isaiah McDuffie:

While not the average to below-average athlete some of the others are, McDuffie is still an outlier for a normal Gutekunst linebacker pick. Gutey’s, and even Thompson’s, MO at linebacker has been guys with solid size — in the 6’1+ 235+ pound range.

McDuffie falls a bit short of that at 227 — and a pumped up 227 at that — where his frame is pretty maxed out. His upside is probably limited due to his size and poor agility. But again, that’s not why he was drafted. He was drafted to play special teams, and maybe be a #4 linebacker.

Finally to the Options:

Which option the Packers take relies on one person: Aaron Rodgers. Whether he’s back or he retires / is traded will tell us which approach the Packers and Gutekust likely go with.

“All-in” approach

With this approach, we will probably see a similar draft to 2021. A few highly-athletic players with upside, and a number of ‘role players’ or ‘pro-ready’ type guys to fill specific roles and help the team get to a Super Bowl in 2022.

The Rebuild approach

This is if Rodgers is gone. If he is gone, the Packers are not a Super bowl contender in 2022 — and probably not even 2023. So why take a bunch of guys with limited upside who won’t grow with your young roster? If this happens we will see the Packers return to their approach from 2018-2020.

Cincinnati Bengals 2022 Offseason Goals

What do Joe Burrow and the Bengals do in the offseason to get back to the Super Bowl and win?
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Super Bowl Disappointment … Again

Prior to this past NFL season, most experts picked the Cincinnati Bengals to finish at the bottom of the AFC North. The young Bengals set out to prove the experts wrong and rode a wave of momentum created by an explosive offense and a stout defense straight to Super Bowl LVI. Unfortunately, for the third time in franchise history, the Bengals watched as a team from California celebrated winning the big game.

The young Bengals put up quite a fight and led late in the game; however, the pressure from the Rams defense proved too much. Aaron Donald sacked Joe Burrow on 4th and 1 to put an end to the game. The final sack hurts more because pictures show that Ja’marr Chase cooked Jalen Ramsey and was running wide open at the 20-yard line.

After the game, Burrow stated that the team will learn from its mistakes and will be back. I believe the Bengals can make it back; but, what offseason moves will help the team take the next step to Super Bowl Champions?

Bengals Offseason Goal #1: Protect Joe Burrow

The offensive line is a major, major problem. Opponents sacked Burrow 70 times this past season (including the postseason). He lost the 2020-2021 season to a demolished knee. Constant pressure left Burrow running for his life on countless occasions during the past two seasons.

To keep Joe Burrow alive and to take the next step, the Cincinnati Bengals need to address the offensive line. In 2021, the Bengals drafted Jackson Carman from Clemson and signed free agent Riley Reiff (who was sidelined with injuries, forcing Isaiah Prince into action). Carman, a tackle in college, played guard, but couldn’t perform consistently enough and ended up splitting time with Hakeem Adeniji at right guard.

Did I mention the offensive line was a major, major problem? In the regular season, Burrow played in all but the final game against Cleveland, amassing 51 sacks. While it is difficult to be accurate when your butt is on the turf, he threw for 4,611 yards and 34 TDs. Some of those sacks are on Burrow — he does tend to hold the ball a bit in order to try and make something happen. Imagine what he could do behind a serviceable offensive line.

Let’s not forget Joe Mixon, he is a stud (but not in the game at the end Zac?) who has run behind a lower-third graded run-blocking line. Solidifying the run game will make this offense that much more dangerous.

How do we fix the line? I’m glad you asked.

Bengals Offseason Goals: Free Agency

According to Spotrac, the Bengals have an estimated $55 million in cap space to spend in the upcoming offseason. Cincinnati dished out money to bolster the defense in the past two years (see D.J. Reader, Mike Hilton, Vonn Bell, Chidobe Awuzie, and Trey Hendrickson) — it is time to do the same on the offensive line.

Who should the Bengals target to help the line? Right guard was a mess, the position can be solidified by one of Brandon Scherff, Connor Williams, or Laken Thompson. If their potential price scares you, Andrew Norwell or Alex Cappa may provide cheaper options.

One of the aforementioned players could help shore up the middle, but what about the tackle spot? Terron Armstead would certainly look good blocking for Burrow (and Mixon). Move Jonah Williams to right tackle and slot Armstead at left tackle. Solid bookends. Riley Reiff remains a viable option here. Unfortunately, his season-ending injury may give the front office reason to be cautious.

The Bengals have plenty of money to spend and now have a team that can lure top free agents. Use that cache to improve the offensive line.

Bengals Offseason Goal: The Draft

If you prefer using the draft to improve the offensive line, there are plenty of options. Sitting in the 31st spot, a player the caliber of Trevor Penning or Bernhard Raimann could slip to the Bengals. Both of these young men are solid performers that could play early in their careers. A darkhorse candidate here is Zion Johnson, a versatile player who played snaps at both tackle and guard at Boston College.

The Bengals should also target an interior pass rusher, a tight end, and a young corner in the draft.

The Ultimate Goal: Build a Winner

The Cincinnati Bengals were so close to winning the Super Bowl, but all hope is not lost. The front office built a solid team through the draft and recent free agency. Now, the Bengals just need to follow the blueprint for another offseason. Another good run through free agency and the draft could insure that the AFC North will run through Cincinnati for years to come.

2022 NFL Draft Safety Rankings 1.0

Finally the last ranking group! This is the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. This years class is pretty strong at the top and deep overall. It is a lot like the corner group. There is probably at least two that will go in the first. Now lets get into the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings.

1. Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame

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The top ranked safety in many 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. A huge dude who is an elite athlete. Elite sideline to sideline range. He can play all over the field. He can play free, strong, slot, or nickel backer. Hamilton is a good tackler. He has had some different injuries that should be checked into. Is not the smoothest when flipping his hips. He also has corner-like ball skills.

2. Daxton Hill – Michigan

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Hill is another uber-athletic safety. He has played all over the defensive backfield. A very similar player to Darnell Savage. He shows great range and ball skills on film. Despite his size, he has been a solid run defender. Hill though still is raw due to his lack of experience as a starter. His frame is still a little underdeveloped, so you would like to see him add some bulk to his frame. He also shows a great closing burst to the ball when it’s in the air.

3. Jordan Battle – Alabama

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Battle is another in a long line of solid safety prospects to come out of Alabama. Battle brings good size and athleticism to the field allowing him to play either safety spot. He shows a very good explosion on the field and shows smooth hips. He is another player that has shown his versatility by lining up all over the field. What he does need to work on is his tackling, he can be a little inconsistent in that area. He is a solid run defender. Battle can also improve in coverage. He doesn’t always play full speed and could make more plays if he did.

4. Brandon Joseph – Northwestern

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Joseph is long and athletic, with crazy range. He is also in another long line of versatile defenders, having played in the slot, single high, two high, Strong or free. His instincts seem to be on another level. He brings wide receiver-like ball skills to the field. He competes in the run game but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. His aggressiveness can get the better of him sometimes.

5. Jaquan Brisker – Penn State

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Brisker brings good athleticism and length to the field. He can smoothly flip his hips in coverage. His best physical asset is probably his agility. He shows an ability to really explode when closing on the ball or a ball carrier. He also brings a high level of football IQ to the game. Also Brisker is a willing run defender who could become even better. Overall his biggest issue is he tends to show some inconsistencies. He could also improve as a tackler.

6. Lewis Cine – Georgia

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Cine is a very physical hard-hitting safety. He plays very well against the run and shows good awareness in the run game. For a guy known as a physical hard hitter, he shows solid athleticism on the field. He shows good COD skills. He has lined in in a few different spots, even having lined up at cornerback some. Overall ball skills are a bit of a weakness, especially having trouble finding the ball when his back is to it. He seems to do fine when in zone coverage.

7. Verone McKinley III – Oregon

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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McKinley is another in a long line of athletic, versatile defensive backs out of Oregon. He started as a corner at Oregon and it shows in his coverage skills and ball skills. He excels in zone coverage. While he’s not the biggest guy he plays hard and aggressively. He only has average length and that may affect him more with him not being the biggest guy. He can easily transition to playing the slot once in the NFL, but long term where do you play him? His size can affect him sometimes in the running game.

8. Jalen Pitre – Baylor

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Pitre jumps out on film with his explosiveness and energetic style. Pitre brings versatility to the game since Baylor moved him all over. While he played esentially a linebacker role at Baylor he has shown to have solid zone coverage skills. From the jump he should be able to help on special teams as he learns. The biggest questions following him is how will he transition and will he be able to do it?

9. Tykee Smith – Georgia

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Smith transferred over from West Virginia. He has shown to have high quality football IQ. Smith is solid all around against the run and in coverage. He’s been a really strong tackler in his career. While undersized he plays a super physical game. One of the questions about him is his ability to play other positions like single high or covering receivers/tight ends out of the slot. His lack of size can hurt him at times, especially against bigger players.

10. Isiah Pola-Mao – USC

2022 NFL draft safety rankings

Pola-Mao has good size and athleticism with great length. He has shown good power in the running game for such a long guy. He has shown good agility and can flip his hip easily. The problem is he has been inconsistent against the run and at times in coverage. He also has had some trouble getting off blocks. Pola-Mao can also be fooled with misdirection or the quarterback’s eyes. He has shown some versatility on the field lining up all over. More bulk and strength are needed.

2022 NFL Draft Edge Rankings 1.0

With the 2022 NFL draft edge group it is almost the exact opposite of the defensive line. This group is strong at the top and DEEP! Cutting this down to ten was difficult. There were a number of guys who just missed out on this list. You can see the previous part: https://atbnetwork.com/2021/11/18/2022-nfl-draft-defensive-line-rankings-1-0/

So let’s get to the rankings.

1. Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon

2022 nfl draft edge
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Thibodeaux is a big, strong, bendy, physical freak of an edge rusher. He is explosive off the snap. He is an active run defender who plays hard 100% of the time and has a lot of power in his body, even with his average size. Thibodeaux does need to work on his pass rush plan and his moves in general. He still could add some bulk and muscle. He has very few flaws and is likely the #1 overall pick.

2. Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan

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He missed most of the 2020 season. Hutchinson is a freaky athlete who can rush the passer and defend the run. He moves smoothly and is fluid. He is known more for his power rushing, but can win with finesse. Hutchinson also has a strong motor that runs hot.

Hutchinson suffered a leg injury in 2020 that needs to be checked on. His lack of production before 2021 also needs to be looked at. He still needs to work on variety in his pass rush moves.

3. George Karlaftis – Purdue

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A large power rusher who plays hard. He also has positional versatility and can anywhere along the line. While he is not an elite athlete, he has some impressive explosion in him and solid agility. His flexibility is somewhat lacking. He is not one of those rushers that gets by with bend. Aggressiveness is somewhat lacking defending the run.

4. David Ojabo – Michigan

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Ojabo came over from Nigeria in 2007 and is a physical freak. At 6’5 250, he has great length but can still add bulk to his frame. He is explosive and bendy. He uses a pretty killer spin move. Also, he has great speed coming off the edge.

He is mostly wining right now using his physical tools, he needs to develop his pass rush moves and plan a lot more to be an effective rusher in the NFL. He also needs work on his hand usage and technique. Ojabo also needs to improve as a run defender.

5. Kingsley Enagbare – South Carolina

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Enagbare is a high-level athlete with great explosiveness. He brings good size with a large wingspan with the frame to still add weight. For his size, he also has great bend. He has shown to have already developed a solid repertoire of rush moves.

One major negative is that he struggles in the run game. While he has shown some improvements in this, he needs to continue to work on it. He does have a massive upside.

6. Drake Jackson – USC

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Jackson has positional versatility, having played both LB and DE at USC. Good pass-rush grades, although the stats haven’t been there in ’21. He has great athleticism and upside, and is very bendy.

Jackson does struggle in the run game. He can get too tall and does not play with power. For his size, his length is just adequate. He can drop in coverage fluidly. He has trouble getting off blocks once linemen get their hands on him.

7. Myjai Sanders – Cincinnati

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Sanders is a long and explosive pass rusher. He has vines for arms. Sanders can keep blockers off him with his long arms. He shows great quickness on film. He’s fast with an explosive first step. Has already has an impressive array of developed moves. A great motor that runs hot. Uses his strong hands to disengage from blockers.

He does have a skinny frame and may have trouble putting weight and strength on his frame. His bend is just average.

8. Jermaine Johnson – FSU

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Johnson, a Georgia transfer, has seen his stock go up this season. He is a big guy with a long wingspan. Johnson has lined up all over in his career. He even has played some linebacker. He is very fast and explosive. Johnson easily can switch from outside to inside pass rush. Johnson also has good bend to get to the QB. With being 260 pounds his strength on film shows big time. He also shows a good amount of different rush moves.

Still, Johnson needs work at being able to disengage from blockers.

9. Cameron Thomas – San Diego State

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If you are looking for versatility in your linemen then Thomas is your man. He has played all up and down the line and played it well. He is a very consistent player. Thomas has strong hands to disengage from blockers. He is very good at creating pressure and can play both the run and the pass well.

Athletically he is just average. He is also not a big sack numbers guy. Thomas lacks the elite closing speed that a lot of the other edge defenders have. He is strong at the point of attack.

10. Zach Harrison – OSU

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Harrison has elite explosiveness with a great first step. He is also long with good bulk. He can win with speed and has shown he can occasionally convert speed to power. His lower body can be a little stiff. He is not super bendy. Harrison is a solid run defender that sets a good edge. Makes a lot of backside plays due to his athleticism.

He really needs to work on figuring out his pass rush play. It does not seem like he has one. His motor can run hot and cold. He has a massive upside though.

For more 2022 NFL Draft coverage, follow the ATB Draft team on Twitter @draftrite_atb.

The Packers Offensive Line’s Future

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The Packers offensive line’s future is something that has been talked about in recent weeks amongst Packers fans. With Jon Runyan Jr. taking over at left guard, Jenkins playing well at left tackle, and Newman playing solid at right guard. Going forward what is the Packers plan on the offensive line? Because it seems like they have 7 guys who could all be starters in the NFL. So I will attempt to lay out what their plans going forward probably are by looking at them as an organization and their history. I’ve come up with three potential scenarios all will include a couple obvious picks. Bakhtiari at left tackle and Josh Myers at center. Also Lucas Patrick is not coming back and Billy Turner probably gets cut, I think most of us know that. Now lets get to it!

Option 1(everyone’s favorite one):

So the first option seems to be most fans favorite. The Packers move Elgton Jenkins over to right tackle and everyone else stays where they are. So the offensive line would be Bakhtiari-Runyan-Myers-Newman-Jenkins. I understand why a lot of fans like this plan; Jenkins can play all five spots and your tackles tend to be your better offensive linemen. LaFleur has also said he wants his best five guys on the field and objectively these are probably the five best linemen on the roster. I do not feel like tackle is Jenkins best spot and I think LaFleur would want guys at their best positions. To me this is still probably option 1A or 1B to Brian Gutekunst and LaFleur.

Option #2(My favorite):

The five best offensive linemen on the roster going forward are Bakhtiari, Runyan, Myers, Newman and Jenkins. I think most Packers fans would not debate that. Bakhtiari when healthy is a top 2 left tackle in the league, and he ain’t #2. Myers has looked like a three year vet at center, he can still improve of course. Runyan has looked good two years in a row and does have some of his dad in him. He plays hard and is physical like his dad, and is a better athlete than him. He could play either guard spot. Jenkins of course can play anywhere and at a high level. And last but not least Newman did beat out both Runyan and Patrick for the right guard spot. He has had some troubles of course and hopefully continues to improve as the season goes, but he is still one of the five best linemen. He needs to add some strength and mass in the off-season.

With all that being said how I feel they should line up next year would be Bakhtiari-Jenkins-Myers-Runyan-Newman. The thinking behind this is putting each guy at their best position. While Jenkins can play any spot, Its shown in the film that he can be an all pro left guard. Runyan has looked solid at both left and right guard so that wouldn’t matter either way. Newman though physically looks more like a tackle. Long arms, long body, and quick feet. Off his college film he looked better and more stout at tackle. He has had trouble with anchoring at right guard so far in the NFL and I feel would hold up better outside.

Option 3(The wild card):

This is one that had not talked about a lot amongst fans, but I know it is a scenario the Packers have talked about or worked though. Inset Yosh Nijman in at right tackle. He played well against the 9ers, and coming out of Virginia Tech he was an athletic freak. His RAS score was a 9.81 at 6’6 6/8ths and 314 pounds with 34 1/4″ arms. I tweeted this out yesterday. The reason he went undrafted is that he was a four year starter at VT and his technique and hand usage was a complete mess. Exactly what happened there to cause this? who knows. But scouts saw that as a sign that he didn’t have it, that he was a “looks like Tarzan plays like Jane” type player. Yosh also wasn’t the most aggressive player.

He has changed that. Nijman still has work to do. He can still get a lot better, but he has shown enough growth that he looks to have starter potential. Then of course everyone else kind of easily slots in Bakhtiari-Jenkins-Myers-Newman-Nijman.

Bonus option #4!

The fourth potential option would be an easy one. The Packers take a right tackle early in the 2022 draft and slot him in there as a rookie. Jenkins moves back to left guard. They let then let Runyan and Newman fight it out for the right guard job and the loser backs up both guard spots and right tackle.

So what do you guys think is the Packers offensive line’s future looks like?