GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here’s a look at the Green Bay Packers’ outside linebacker situation ahead of the NFL Draft, including pertinent history that suggests which draft-worthy prospects might not be a target.
State of the Packers
With Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, the Packers are loaded atop the depth chart. At this time next year, though, it could be a different story. Preston Smith’s renegotiated contract sliced and diced his 2021 cap charge but bumped it to a whopping $19.75 million for 2022. There’s no way the Packers are going to pay that. They could renegotiate again or move on to create $12.5 million of cap savings. That means general manager Brian Gutekunst might be looking to add a player with a forward-thinking pick to challenge last year’s seventh-round pick, Jonathan Garvin, who did absolutely nothing as a rookie, and the returning tandem of Randy Ramsey (undrafted, 2019) and Tipa Galeai (undrafted, 2020).
Draft Position Ranking
Fifth out of 11. This is an unbelievably deep group, so don’t let the No. 5 ranking tell you otherwise. Michigan’s Kwity Paye, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Penn State’s potential-packed Jayson Oweh, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau, Washington’s Joe Tryon and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham have received first-round attention. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a dozen picks in the first three rounds.
History Says You Can (Maybe) Forget These Guys
Since the defense switched to the 3-4 in 2009, the Packers have selected 11 outside linebackers: Clay Matthews and Brad Jones in 2009, Ricky Elmore in 2011, Nick Perry in 2012, Nate Palmer in 2013, Carl Bradford in 2014, Kyler Fackrell in 2016, Vince Biegel in 2017, Kendall Donnerson in 2018, Rashan Gary in 2019 and Jonathan Garvin in 2020.
Elmore ran by far the slowest 40 time in a woeful 4.95 seconds. He remains one of the bizarro draft picks over the last decade. The next-slowest was Garvin in 4.82, a time that matched the historic Scouting Combine average. Eight of the 11 draft picks beat the average by at least one-tenth of a second.
Perry ran by far the slowest 20-yard shuttle in 4.66 seconds. At 271 pounds, his 4.64 in the 40 and superior strength proved the more decisive measurements. The historic Combine average is 4.43 seconds. Everybody else beat that number handily. Palmer and Donnerson were the next-slowest at 4.37. With COVID wiping out pro days, Garvin didn’t have a shuttle time.
The historic Combine average for the three-cone drill of 7.24 seconds has been irrelevant to an extent. Of the nine with times (Garvin and Biegel the exceptions), five were just over that time. Kyler Fackrell’s 7.34 was the slowest.
The Packers have drafted short players (Bradford was 6-foot 3/4) and tall players (Fackrell was 6-foot-5). They’ve drafted big players (Gary was 277 and Perry 271) and not-so-big players (Donnerson was 250, Biegel was 246 and Fackrell was 245). The current depth chart is dominated by Za’Darius Smith (272), Preston Smith (265) and Gary (277), but Galeai (229) and Ramsey (238) are on the opposite side. The Smith-Smith-Gary trio hints that they prefer bigger guys but Lenoard Floyd thrived with the Rams last year, when new coordinator Joe Barry was linebackers coach.
What does it mean? Inching just above the historic Combine averages, we’ll go with 4.85 in the 40, 4.48 in the shuttle and 7.40 in the three-cone drill.
Potentially out based on 40: Pitt’s Rashad Weaver (4.86 but probably safe with a 4.26 in the shuttle and 6.97 in the three-cone), UAB’s Jordan Smith (4.84).
Potentially out based on shuttle: Miami’s Quincy Roche (4.50 but perhaps safe with a 4.68 in the 40), Oregon State’s Hamilcar Rashed (4.50), Temple’s Cameron Sample (4.51), Miami’s Gregory Rousseau (4.53), Iowa’s Chauncey Golston (4.59), Notre Dame’s Ade Ogundeji (4.65) Marshall’s Darius Hodge (4.67), Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins (4.69), UAB’s Smith (4.80).
Potentially out based on three-cone drill: Sample (7.40), Coastal Carolina’s Tarron Jackson (7.44), Golston (7.47), Rousseau (7.50), Rashed (7.51), UAB’s Smith (7.97).