GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here’s a look at the Green Bay Packers’ center and guard situation ahead of the NFL Draft, including pertinent history that suggests which draft-worthy prospects might not be a target.
State of the Packers
All-Pro center Corey Linsley signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency, leaving a hole in the middle of the offensive line. Will general manager Brian Gutekunst try a promote-from-within approach to fill the void? The Packers could shift Lucas Patrick from right guard to center and let 2020 draft picks Jon Runyan Jr. and Simon Stepaniak duke it out for the gig at guard. Or, maybe the other sixth-round pick from last year, center Jake Hanson, showed enough growth after a poor training camp to compete. On the other hand, Gutekunst could use a premium draft pick to get a Day 1 starter in hopes of replacing one excellent center with another.
Draft Position Ranking
Seventh out of 11. For purveyors of zone-blocking schemes such as the Packers, there are some inviting options – especially at center, where Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey could go in the first round, Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz could go in the second and Stanford’s Drew Dalman in the third. USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker and Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood are two first-round options who could line up at guard or tackle. Green Bay’s draft history could weed out a few top players, though.
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History Says You Can (Maybe) Forget These Guys
Dating to 2006, when Ted Thompson began drafting linemen for zone-based blocking schemes, the Packers have selected 24 offensive linemen. That’s split almost down the middle with 13 centers/guards vs. 11 tackles.
Of the 13, Linsley is the shortest at 6-foot-2 5/8. Everybody else was at least 6-foot-3 1/2. Over the last eight drafts, eight interior linemen have been selected and all eight had 32-plus-inch arms.
The 20-yard shuttle is a key measuring stick at most positions. The historic Combine average is 4.74 seconds. Of the 10 who did that drill, nine were faster than 4.70 seconds – including five who beat 4.60 seconds. The outlier was Caleb Schlauderaff (4.81), a sixth-round pick in 2011 who didn’t make it.
Say what you want about offensive linemen rarely needing to run 40 yards but that time seems to matter. Of the 11 who ran a 40, eight were 5.20 seconds or faster. That’s considerably faster than the historic Combine average of 5.29 seconds. The outliers were center Jason Spitz (5.43), a thid-round pick in 2006 who ran an excellent shuttle, guard Cole Madison (5.33), a fifth-round pick in 2018 who bombed, and center Jake Hanson (5.50), a sixth-round pick in 2020 who struggled through his first camp.
Finally, there’s Relative Athletic Scores, a 0-to-10 scale measuring a player’s measurements compared to their peers. There is a RAS for 11 of the 13 (Schlauderaff and Stepaniak being the exceptions due to injuries). Eight scored a 9.19 or better. So, clearly, the Packers value athleticism. The outliers were Spitz (6.82), Madison (6.39) and, the ultimate oddball, Hanson (3.75).
Using 6-foot-2 as a minimum on height, these lists of players might be out. Guard: Illinois’ Kendrick Green, Grambling State’s David Moore. Center: Kentucky’s Drake Jackson, Penn State’s Michal Menet.
Using 32-inch arms as the minimum, these lists of players might be out. Guard: Texas Tech’s Jack Anderson. Center: Jackson and Menet.
Since Hanson was such an incredible outlier, let’s just say this group is less likely to be selected because of athletic deficiencies (slower than 5.3 in the 40 or 4.75 in the shuttle). Guard: Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield (40, shuttle), Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks (40, shuttle), Alabama’s Deonte Brown (40, shuttle), Tennessee’s Trey Smith (shuttle), Georgia’s Ben Cleveland (shuttle), Grambling State’s David Moore (shuttle), Middle Tennessee State’s Robert Jones (40, shuttle), Texas A&M’s Jared Hocker (40, shuttle), Colorado’s William Sherman (shuttle). Center: Georgia’s Trey Hill (40). Tennessee’s Smith tested extremely well beyond the shuttle but has medical red flags.
In Dane Brugler’s “Beast” for The Athletic, Mayfield, Brown, Banks, Smith, Green and Cleveland are seen as Day 2 prospects. So, Green Bay’s history potentially thins the herd quickly.