Ranking the Packers (No. 43): Yosh Nijman

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.

No. 43: OT Yosh Nijman (6-7, 314, first year, Virginia Tech)

Nijman, an undrafted free agent last year, failed to make the opening roster as a rookie. He spent the first 12 weeks on injured reserve, was promoted for three weeks but didn’t play, and ended the season on injured reserve (elbow/triceps).

Nijman is right out of Central Casting when it comes to offensive tackles. “He’s the best-looking tackle on the team,” another team’s scout said recently. At the 2019 Scouting Combine, he measured 6-foot-6 7/8 and 324 pounds with 34-inch arms. He ran his 40 in 4.88 seconds with a sizzling 20-yard shuttle time of 4.50 seconds. That shuttle time is elite, which is why it was a surprise that he wasn’t drafted. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed one sack and 12 total pressures to rank 29th in its pass-protection metric among the 2019 draft class of tackles.

“The guy hasn’t the slightest clue of how to play his position, especially as a run blocker,” a scout said before the 2019 draft when asked why Nijman wasn’t more highly regarded.

Nijman went undrafted and spent time at both tackle spots during training camp. He focused on left tackle during the preseason and gave up a team-high five pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nijman started 33 games at Virginia Tech – at left tackle as a sophomore and junior and at right tackle as a senior. Nijman spent the 2014 season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, where he emerged as the No. 1 prep school defensive lineman in the nation. He opened his Hokies career on the defensive line.

His first taste of football came as a fifth-grader in a Pop Warner league in New Jersey. “One of the coaches told me to run out and catch a ball. I ended up dropping it. Then he told me to go the left. I didn’t know what he meant. From that day on, I became a lineman.” In Summer 2017, he studied abroad in Rwanda.

He shared his experience with being black in the United States.

Why he’s got a chance: There is no proven depth whatsoever behind starters David Bakhtiari and Rick Wagner. Perhaps that depth will be starting right guard Billy Turner, but Nijman’s incredible tools give him a chance to not just survive the final cutdown but thrive over the long run. The Packers didn’t draft an offensive tackle and they’ve elected to not re-sign Jared Veldheer, which perhaps is a vote of confidence for the group of Nijman, Alex Light and John Leglue. Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich will have earned his paycheck if he can harness all of Nijman’s talents.

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