Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had his critics, a lot of them having a problem with Thompson because of his lack of free agency moves. Although a lot of those critics will never admit to it, Thompson did have his positives and did do some things correctly. One of those things was finding quality offensive linemen in the middle of the NFL Draft.
Excluding last season’s starting right guard, Jahri Evans, who came to the Packers as a free agent, only starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga was drafted in the first round. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and starting center Corey Linsley were drafted in the fourth and fifth round respectively while starting left guard Lane Taylor was an undrafted free agent.
It isn’t just current Packers offensive linemen that Thompson hit on. Former starting guards Josh Sitton, currently with the Chicago Bears, and T.J. Lang, currently with the Detroit Lions, were both fourth-round picks and had stand out careers with the Packers. New top player evaluator Brian Gutekunst is hoping to have the same type of luck now that he is in charge of the Packers roster especially at the offensive line position. The offensive line will be on the Green Bay Packers NFL Draft radar.
The Offensive Line Will Be on the Green Bay Packers NFL Draft Radar
Bakhtiari is proof that you don’t need to be a first-round pick to thrive in the NFL. Bakhtiari is one of the elite tackles currently in the NFL. While Thompson swung and missed with former first-round selection Derek Sherrod and it can be argued with often injured and fragile Bulaga, Bakhtiari might be Thompson’s second best pick he ever had, of course only behind the selection of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
It would be very beneficial for the Packers roster if Gutekunst can do the same this year in the draft. One of the reasons that offensive line is on the Packers NFL draft radar is because there are some holes to be filled. As mentioned earlier, Bulaga will once again be coming back from an injury, a torn ACL, and his status for the start of next season is up in the air. His backup, former second-round pick Jason Spriggs, is also coming back from a knee injury. Still, when Spriggs was healthy, his play was subpar at best. The Packers will need to select a tackle, possibly one that can play both left and right tackle and be the top backup to Bakhtiari and Bulaga if he is healthy to go.
Right tackle isn’t the only position on the offensive line that has caused the offensive line to be on the Packers NFL draft radar. Evans came to Green Bay from the New Orleans Saints on a one year deal. Although he played solidly this past season, he was looked at as just a stopgap option. Jordan McCray and Lucas Patrick both did adequate jobs filling in when needed, but both are looked at as backups and aren’t ready to fill Evans spot if he retires or the Packers don’t bring him back. Starting right guard is a position that will need to be filled, which most likely will come from the NFL Draft.
Prospects Available Later in the NFL Draft
In our series of articles about draft needs for the Packers, offensive line falls behind pass rusher, cornerback, and wide receiver. But even being behind those three different positions, it doesn’t mean the Packers can’t get a solid prospect in the third round or lower. Here are names to keep an eye on for the Packers in this year’s draft. We have selected two offensive tackle and two offensive guard prospects that have caught our eye, with all four prospects being slated to be selected in the third round or lower.
Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
Parker seems like a perfect candidate to work with highly regarded Packers offensive line coach James Campen. Parker is raw, playing at a lower level, but has a lot of athletic ability. He was a left tackle in college but probably will be moved over to the right side at the next level. But down the road, he could be a nice swing tackle, backing up both the left and right tackle position.
He isn’t a finished product by any means, will need some time to develop, but even with being so raw, he is an upgrade over Adam Pankey who was on the Packers roster for most of the season last season.
Brett Toth, Army
There are certain players that grabbed our attention when looking at prospects for this year’s draft. For the wide receivers, it was Michael Gallup, and for the offensive line, it is Toth. Army is known for their triple-option offense, so starting for them you know Toth knows how to run block. The question will be if he can pass block at the next level.
He showed that he was very capable of doing that at this year’s East-West Shrine Game. He has great size, 6’5” 303 pounds and might be a candidate to becoming a swing tackle at the next level like Parker.
For the team that drafts Toth, they will have to wait two years. Toth has stated he will honor his two-year military commitment, showing NFL executives that he has honor to go along with his football skill.
Thompson used to love drafting former college tackles and have Campen convert them into guards at the next level. But in his later years, Thompson finally started to draft or sign players who played center and guard in college and kept them there at the next level. That is what the Packers did with both Linsley and Taylor.
Here are two prospects that the Packers might look at who played guard or center in college and could be a utility offensive lineman at the next level.
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
Ragnow played guard and center for the Razorbacks during his college career. Although not blessed with a lot of athletic ability, he is a grinder and was a very productive player in the SEC.
Ragnow could be a major asset for the Packers. Not only are they in need of a starting right guard, but Ragnow could also backup Linsley at center as well.
Sean Welsh, Iowa
Welsh is another guard/center prospect, but he also played right tackle while at Iowa. But being only 6’2”, he will be looked at mostly inside at the next level, at guard and as well center.
Welsh is an overachiever, which isn’t a bad thing. The Packers have had luck with overachievers in the past. Welsh had some struggles at Senior Bowl, but still, he played well during his career at Iowa.
The names aren’t flashy, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t help out the Packers offensive line. Thompson proved that you don’t have to spend a first-round pick for an offensive lineman to find a starting NFL caliber offensive lineman. Packers fans are hoping that Gutekunst can have the same luck that Thompson did.