I would not consider Rashan Gary the biggest instant contributor of this draft class, and maybe not even the second largest contributor either. Preston and Za’Darius Smith are almost certainly your day 1 starters at outside linebacker. Kyler Fackrell will also be pressing for snaps at outside linebacker after a break out season in 2018. Gary’s path to snaps will likely be on 2nd and 3rd down either lined up on the interior or the edge of the line of scrimmage. Gary reportedly showed some flashes of his talent in minicamp, reportedly beating David Bakhtiari in a 1 on 1 pass rush rep.
Rashan Gary will benefit from Za’Darius Smith’s versatility to move inside on pass-rushing downs, in addition to his own versatility to do the same. I would expect him to be on the field for 25-40% of snaps barring injury. Just like all of the guys on this list, injuries could be Gary’s ticket to the field sooner rather than later.
Projected Stat Line: 25 Tackles, 4 Sacks & 1 Forced Fumble
I would be shocked if Darnell Savage does not start at free safety right away for the Packers. This is the guy who I think makes the most immediate impact for the Packers. I like that the front office went after a free safety to pair with Adrian Amos and got their guy with this pick. Amo’s can play free safety, so we cannot entirely rule out a starting tandem of Josh Jones and Adrian Amos. I tend to think Jones will transition to a hybrid safety role next season, if he is not traded away or granted his release.
Savage is pro-ready with outstanding athleticism. He plays with aggression but doesn’t get caught being over-aggressive often. With what little competition he faces at free safety, he should get plenty of playing time early. He should fit in as the rangy center fielder the Packers have been missing since Nick Collins’ unfortunate injury.
Predicted Stat Line: 7= 82 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble & 3 Interceptions.
Elgton Jenkins is in a rare position where he will probably be the first man up if any of the 5 starters on the offensive line go down. He can play any of the 3 interior positions, and tackle, in a pinch. An injury to an offensive tackle would likely result in Billy Turner kicking out and Jenkins taking his place at right guard. A role like that will get Jenkins on the field early and often, given he is not beaten out by the likes of Justin McCray or Cole Madison for backup guard duty. I’ll do you the pleasure of sparing you my prediction of how many pancake blocks that I think Elgton Jenkins will have in 2019…hopefully it’s a lot of them.
Jace Sternberger is a player who is buried on the depth chart, but clearly has a path to playing time after this upcoming season. There will be snaps available for Jace Sternberger this season, but they will not likely be abundant. Jimmy Graham will be the Packers primary tight end. If Matt Lafleur needs a blocker, then he will likely call upon Mercedes Lewis to get the job done. Players like Robert Tonyan & Michael Roberts will also be fighting for snaps at tight end.
Sternberger could find playing time in 2019 in 2 tight end sets with Jimmy Graham, especially if he is able to become a better blocker. Both Graham and Lewis are in their 30’s, so number 87’s time to shine may come by route of injuries. Overall, do not expect a big stat line from Jace Sternberger in 2019.
Projected Stat Line: 11 Receptions, 140 yards & 0 Touchdowns
Do not let the 5th round draft status fool you, Kingsley Keke could actually make an impact right away. I saw Keke mocked as early as round 3 prior to the draft. Keke had previously dropped 20 pounds to transition from defensive tackle to end. In his transition, his production noticeably dropped in his final season at Texas A&M. The Packers plan to play Keke on the interior of the defensive line. The interior defensive line is loaded with talent, but there is a lot more rotation along the interior than most positions on defense.
Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels & Dean Lowry have the starting positions on the interior locked up as of right now. Montravious Adams and Tyler Lancaster will look to get some rotational snaps behind those 3. James Looney will be entering his second season with the team. It is not absurd to think that Keke could beat out the likes of Adams and Looney to get snaps in relief of Daniels and Lowry. Daniels & Lowry are both in contract years in 2019, so we could be seeing a lot of Kingsley Keke in 2020.
Projected Stat Line: 15 Tackles, 0 Sacks
Dexter Williams is another late-round pick that could really outplay his draft status as a rookie. Williams has a couple of solid backs to compete with in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, so I wouldn’t expect him to break out as a rookie. He could steal some carries away from Jamaal Williams as the season progresses, however.
Projected Stat Line: 48 carries, 175 yards & 2 touchdowns
Hollman recently received praise for his press coverage ability by the Packers coaching staff. Hollman’s combination of size and elite athletic ability give him a lot of potential in press coverage. I do not expect much production from Hollman in 2019 however. His snaps will most likely come from special teams or occasional filling in for injury. He will be hard pressed to find snaps sitting behind Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Josh Jackson & Tony Brown. With all that depth at corner, Hollman may be signed to the practice squad or not be active on game day. His key to suiting up in 2019 will be special teams ability in my opinion.
Projected Stat Line: 13 Tackles & 2 Passes Defensed
Ty Summers could be the surprise of this draft class. I personally had him mocked to the Packers in the 5th round of my 7-round mock. For whatever reason, Summers slid past what many believed to be his draft stock. With his prototypical size and athletic profile, I think Summers sees the field some on first and second down this season. Much like any 7th round pick, Summers will have to work through some kinks. He will need to learn to react quicker and become better in pass coverage to see the field consistently.
Projected Stat Line: 38 Tackles & 1 Forced Fumble