2021 Draft Class Should See Fair Share of Playing Time

After the Green Bay Packers' 2020 draft class didn't see much playing time last season, the 2021 class will be on a different path as they should see their fair share.

The Green Bay Packers 2020 draft class was ripped apart by many over the course of last offseason. As always, there are several reasons, but the big ones included drafting Jordan Love, spending a second and third-round pick on a running back and an H-back, and that it looked like there was no immediate help for a team that had gone 13-3 before losing in the NFC Championship Game.

According to Jon Meerdink of Acme Packing Co, if you include special teams, the Packers' 2020 rookies played the fourth-fewest snaps in the NFL last season. If you take special teams out of the mix, then they played the second-fewest. 

The selection of Love and AJ Dillon were clearly made for the future, while Josiah Deguara would have carved out a big role in this offense had he not been injured. Jon Runyan Jr, Jonathan Garvin, and Vernon Scott were backups and used sparingly, with Simon Stepaniak and Jake Hanson both practice squad players who spent much of the year recovering from injuries. In fact, Green Bay's biggest rookie contributor was the undrafted Krys Barnes. 

Since Brian Gutekunst has taken over as GM of the Green Bay Packers, it's been quite obvious that he wants to make sure that his rookies are ready to play before throwing them into the fire, which means having veterans to lean on. 

In 2018, before drafting Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, Gutey signed Tramon Williams and Davon House. In 2019, he would sign Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner, before drafting Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, and Elgton Jenkins. There are several other examples of this taking place as well. 

However, this 2021 season could be quite different in that regard. Now, that isn't to say that these rookies will be handed the starting jobs, they'll have to earn their playing time, but his year's class should contribute much, much more. 

Even if Eric Stokes isn't "CB2" right away, he should still see plenty of snaps. During Alexander's rookie season, he was on the field for about 65 to 75 percent of the defensive snaps over the first few weeks before cementing himself as a full-time starter. Perhaps Stokes takes a similar path, but either way, he will see his fair share of playing time.

Second-round pick Josh Myers is likely the favorite to be the team's starting center come Week 1, while Amari Rodgers will assume the slot/gadget wide receiver role in this offense, an element that has been missing during Matt LaFleur's first two seasons as head coach. Offensive lineman Royce Newman has been working with the 1s often during mini-camp and OTAs and will be competing for playing time, but at the very least, he could be one of the first players called upon off the bench.

In a recent article for Cheesehead TV, I discussed the impact that TJ Slaton could have on Kenny Clark and this Green Bay Packers' defensive front. Not to mention that it was clear that special teams play was an emphasis in this year's draft as well. 

With Stokes' speed, he could be used as a gunner if the Packers choose, while Rodgers will provide plenty of experience and some stability as a punt returner. Shemar Jean-Charles and Isaiah McDuffie were both noted for their special teams abilities in their pre-draft reports and should be immediate contributors, as could Kylin Hill, someone who special teams coach Maurice Drayton discussed in an interview with reporters. 

Of course, in a perfect world, we want our team to find immediate help at positions of need, but when it comes to the draft, that isn't how it always works--especially for the Green Bay Packers who have a system in place that they trust and often stick to. But this year is shaping up to be a bit different as several of these draft picks could play key roles on either offense, defense, or special teams, and hopefully helping push this team over that NFC Championship hump. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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7 points

Comments (20)

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Coldworld's picture

July 12, 2021 at 11:24 am

This draft always looked like a draft for now. Whether Stokes starts early, he will likely see plenty of snaps and it goes on from there to include Hill and even a UDFA or two as role players, if one includes STs. The OL is perhaps an exception in that, other than Myers probably, it’s a massive battle of vets, last year’s additions and rookies. Who knows who emerges from that. Generally though, we are likely to see a lot more of the 2020 draft picks this year, health permitting.

It’s almost a double draft in that sense. We should come out if this with a lot better depth and hopefully better ST options. If a starter or two emerges on merit this season, so much the better.

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CheesyTex's picture

July 12, 2021 at 12:36 pm

And don't forget Yosh.

Please, Yosh, reward their patience.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 12, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Paul, you make a good case for playing time with this year's draft class and I hope you are correct. What might make a significant improvement in our team overall is the development from the previous years draft class with the experience they gained coupled with the several players you highlighted from this draft class. If Rodgers does play behind center this year, it may be the year we bring home our 14th World Championship.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 12, 2021 at 08:29 pm

The Best Players have to be on the field, regardless of their age.

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splitpea1's picture

July 12, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Good--put 'em in there as soon as the coaching staff feels they are ready. Don't mean to sound impatient, but most teams can't wait to get their high draft picks on the field....Slaton may take a while, though--probably won't see a huge amount of snaps...Last year was an aberration due to the selection of a QB, injuries, and protocols....Between ST and the offense, I think Amari will meet and exceed expectations.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 12, 2021 at 08:30 pm

Maybe Slaton beats out Lancaster. Open Competition, all hands on deck. Win the Big Game, forget the Ice Rink.

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splitpea1's picture

July 12, 2021 at 10:07 pm

That would be something. I think Slaton was hooked up with the team nutritionist right away.

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stockholder's picture

July 12, 2021 at 12:46 pm

They threw Jenkins in the Fire and did quite well. I wouldn't wait on any of them. Their not learning a new position. (per Gary) If they don't handle the BALL. Put them in! This game has 4 quarters. They have a 17 game schedule. They have a PS. If they didn't come to play. They shouldn't be here.

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LambeauPlain's picture

July 12, 2021 at 02:11 pm

You play the 2021rookies if they are part of the best 11 on each situational team. Being impetuous to just throw them into the fire is not how to build a roster. Matt or Gutey are not that desperate with one of the deepest rosters in the NFL.

Big jump from college to the NFL.

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PhantomII's picture

July 13, 2021 at 05:56 am

ML WAY too conservative on Dillon last year quite possibly cost us a super bowl. Gary should have started over P. Smith. These poor decisions a blind man could see must STOP. Alexander started day 1 Stokes should start and also Slaton. Limiting Amari Rodgers would also be moronic.

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greengold's picture

July 13, 2021 at 07:01 am

Phantomll, I suspect AR wasn’t handing the ball off to Dillon. Can’t remember which game it was where AJ Dillon had 1 carry for 18 yds... but, this became a thing, and I would think Matt LaFleur wanted Dillon to get more attempts, not less.

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PhantomII's picture

July 13, 2021 at 08:41 pm

All I know is Dillon heavy against the Titans, then crickets. ML needs a run package without Adams on the field....that might do it. Whatever it takes.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 12, 2021 at 01:02 pm

The Packers have a significant amount of talent from both last years draft, and again in this years draft where the competition is going to be very fun to watch. Several starters this year are going to be rookies from last year and they will be difference makers. Guys like AJ Dillon, Josiah Deguara, and possibly someone like Jordan Love, a Simon Stepaniak, or maybe Jon Runyan. Otherwise, how about K. Martin at ILB? I do have my eyes on players like Vernon Scott and Jonathan Garvin as there is talent. Garvin is very young with upside! Jake Hanson and Stepaniak admittedly I haven't seen enough to know their impact as future contributors yet but the odds are at least one will be a solid contributor. Regardless, the 2020 draft is going to play a huge role this year and in the coming years. Reluctantly some of the Gutey haters will come to grudgingly admit he had a good draft.

I am optimistic about the 2021 draft choices, but still would like to see these players in action and how they fit within the Packers system. On paper there are a number of intriguing prospects, and if Gutey hits on even 3 or 4 of them to go along with the 2020 draft class the Packers will be deep playoff contenders for years to come. I am likening most everything the FO has been doing in recent drafts and FA, particularly after the last half of the Thompson regime. The results should be obvious to even the most casual Packer fan!

8 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

July 12, 2021 at 02:32 pm

Getting a lot of playtime for both draft classes is paramount this season as it will have a huge impact on where this team can possibly be with Love as the starting QB in 22'. Whether it makes a difference for Love won't be seen until Love is the QB, but it won't hurt.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 14, 2021 at 11:18 am

We will see what happens with the resigning of the current WR group, and Tonyan for 2022 to pair up with Love. However, it seems like a WR in either round 1 or 2 is finally a very likely possibility. The Packers overall talent level is significantly better now than anytime in recent memory. How some of the existing WR's play this year, whether Adam's, and/or MVS is resigned. What happens with Tonyan? How well the Packers DL plays, as well as whether there are any bona fide young OT's currently on the roster will decide whether the Packers select a WR high in next years draft. I believe everything is shaping up for a WR being drafted high in either round 1 or round 2. Should Love be the QB and if a WR is drafted high I can only hear the pundits and fans reaction. The difference is the teams talent level seemingly is such that they will finally have the luxury of drafting a WR high in 2022 should they want.

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ricky's picture

July 12, 2021 at 04:32 pm

Other teams throw their rookies onto the field because their starters are sub-par, not because the rookie has been so outstanding in camp. This also happens a lot when coaches and/or the GM are hanging onto their job by a thread. So far, that's not the case in GB. And it's still a good idea to wait at least one to three years to truly evaluate a player. Remember that Rashan Gary was a "bust", and that Davante Adams should have been cut after a down year two. Fans should be more like good doctors- and have more patients/patience.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 12, 2021 at 05:13 pm

Good commentary Ricky

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nostradanus's picture

July 12, 2021 at 10:24 pm

It's a double edged sword of sorts:

On one hand it would be terrific to get these rookies on the field and contributing right away, either on Special Teams, Starters or part time contributors.

But; rookies are prone to mistakes, sometimes BIG ones at critical times that can cost games

The happy place is probably somewhere in the middle

I really do like this draft class though, I predict it will be a good one!

Go Pack!

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 13, 2021 at 04:16 am

So we should rely on King, Redmond and Jackson to tow the line?

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PhantomII's picture

July 13, 2021 at 08:47 pm

Must have been a lot of rookies playing in the NFCC game.

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