Ranking the Packers (No. 50): Jon Runyan
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. 50: G Jon Runyan (6-4, 307, rookie, Michigan)
Being drafted by an NFL team is a dream for countless boys. That’s true for Runyan, the son of longtime NFL standout Jon Runyan Sr. Their shared draft experience in April, when the Packers selected Runyan Jr. in the sixth round, is one they will remember forever.
“I was kind of hanging out a little separate from him. We were out in my backyard and he was out there walking around,” Runyan said after being drafted. “I’m being honest, I was kind of texting my agent and I was typing in the bottom left corner. I got a phone call at the same time I was pressing the button to text something (and) I declined a call from Green Bay, Wis. I tried to call back and my call didn’t go through and I had no idea what I just did. Luckily, 10 seconds later, I got another call back from the number. He was excited. You could see the joy in his eyes and his sense of pride he was feeling.”
With the arrival of Ed Warinner as Michigan’s offensive line coach in 2018, Runyan went from backup guard to starting and all-Big Ten left tackle. As a senior, he allowed only two sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Nonetheless, the Packers have listed him as a guard – not even a guard/tackle. Regardless, at a position in which versatility is critical for a backup, Runyan could be an immediate asset.
“I think if they say, ‘Jon’s our right guard’ and he ends up repping 80 percent of the time at right guard and then something happened at right tackle in a game, I think they could bump him out to right tackle,” Warinner told Packer Central. “He could finish the game or, if they needed him to play two weeks while a guy’s ankle heals at right tackle, he can do that. Jon’s comfortable being in a right-handed stance, he’s comfortable being in a left-handed stance. He’s a real asset because he has that kind of versatility that gives them a lot of options. They won’t be like, ‘Oh, gosh, he can’t play on the left side.’ That won’t be the case. Same with center. I wouldn’t say he could be the starting center tomorrow but if you let him practice center for a couple weeks, he probably could become the starting center if something happened to Corey. If you give him a week or two at a spot, he’s going to be able to get grooved in. Jon can play a lot of spots.”
Obviously, being the son of a professional athlete comes with its perks. But it wasn’t always easy for Runyan, who grew up in Philadelphia – a city not exactly known for its slogan of brotherly love. The expectations were enormous and the comparisons unfair, realities Warinner and Runyan Sr. did their best to combat. Runyan Sr. didn’t pressure his son, though he did impart some O-line wisdom.
“I remember one time in eighth grade, my dad caught me padding some defensive player on the back after he made a good hit. He gave me a stern talking to after the game and told me to never do that again,” Runyan Jr. said. “It changed my whole perspective on how to play the game. I didn’t play offensive line at that time but he molded that offensive line mind-set into me. The game was kind of different back then. You can’t really do that stuff anymore but you try to get away with as much as you can. That’s what I’m going to try to do and be that nasty guy on the field that gets in everybody’s heads.”
Why he’s got a chance: Never mind the genetics. Versatility is a prized asset for coaches reducing their rosters for Sundays. A backup offensive lineman who can play guard and tackle has more value than a lineman who can only play guard, for instance. Runyan’s primary position will be guard but he’s got years of muscle memory of playing tackle against high-level competition.