The Green Bay Packers offensive line will look a lot different next season. New head coach Matt LaFleur made the decision to allow former offensive line coach James Campen to depart this off-season. It didn’t take long for Campen to find a new job. He immediately interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and was hired as their assistant head coach/offensive line coach. Not only was Campen one of the Packers better assistants, but he was also one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. During his time in Green Bay, he was known for doing more with less talent. He will be replaced by first time head NFL offensive line coach Adam Stenavich.
Stenavich was the assistant offensive line coach with the San Francisco 49ers last season. There, he worked under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is a close confidant of LaFleur’s. There is no doubt that Shanahan gave Stenavich a glowing recommendation. It has been rumored that LaFleur will run a similar offensive system that Shanahan runs with the 49ers. Because of that connection, it appears that Stenavich will implement the same type of blocking scheme he assisted with while in San Francisco. For the Packers offensive line, they are hoping that the system helps them improve from last season.
A new scheme could possibly benefit the Packers next season, but it would be foolish to only depend on a new scheme for improvement. This is where Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting staff need to step up. While the Packers offensive line have two very solid building blocks in starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley, they do have some deficiencies to fill in across the offensive line. Gutekunst will have an opportunity to improve the Packers offensive line through free agency. But the available offensive linemen available in free agency that could help the Packers offensive line might be scarce. NFL offensive linemen that can contribute to a team are rarely allowed to leave by the team that holds their rights. That leaves the NFL draft as the place where Gutekunst and his staff will have to focus to help bolster the Packers offensive line.
One position that will be at the top of the Packers wish list is at tackle, specifically right tackle. Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga has battled injuries throughout his career. Last season was no different for Bulaga and the Packers.
Although Bulaga started 14 games for the Packers last season, in a majority of them, he was unable to finish those games. In his ten seasons, Bulaga has only played a full 16 regular season schedule just twice. That includes the 2013 season, a season he fully missed due to a knee injury. While Bulaga has one more season left on his contract, it isn’t a sure bet that he will be brought back. Because his penchant for injury, the Packers offensive line can’t depend on him. His high salary might make him a target to be cut this off-season.
Forcing Gutekunst’s hand in possibly spending a high draft pick on a tackle is the lack of backup behind Bulaga. Former general manager Ted Thompson traded up in the second round of the 2016 draft to select tackle Jason Spriggs. Spriggs has started nine games in his three-year career. In those games, Spriggs has been ineffective and has struggled with not only the speed of the game but also the power of opposing defensive linemen. While Spriggs still has one more year on his rookie contract and most likely will be brought to camp next season, he can’t be depended on to take over for Bulaga or to be a top backup for the Packers offensive line.
The Packers have two first-round selections this year. Their own pick which is 12th overall and the 30th overall pick that they received in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. Most believe they will use the 12th pick to upgrade the outside linebacker position. If that is what happens, there is a strong chance that they will use the 30th pick to upgrade the tackle position.
With that in mind, here are two possible prospects that could be there when the Packers are on the clock at 30. Both of these prospects could be possible replacements for Bulaga.
Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Risner started at right tackle for Kansas State this past season. Some NFL scouts believe he could be a fit at both right tackle and possibly at guard. Besides his time at right tackle, he started out his college career as a center. That versatility could draw the interest of some NFL teams.
Risner helped out his draft status with his play at the most recent Senior Bowl. He was one of the top performers at the Senior Bowl, in the game as well as practice. Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report stated that Risner was “arguably the best player on the field”.
If the Packers allow Bulaga to play out his contract, Risner could sit and learn during his rookie season. But as Bulaga has proven, his health might force Risner into action.
David Edwards, Wisconsin
Edwards is a familiar name for Wisconsin fans, with playing at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers are known for churning out offensive linemen. Edwards could be the next in line.
Edwards is a superior run blocker. He helped Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor rush for 1,977 yards in 2017 and 2,194 yards last season. His ability to run block has never been questioned, but he does have some work to do in pass protection.
While Edwards was an All American in 2017, his play in 2018 wasn’t to the same level. While he still earned All Big Ten honors, he wasn’t as impressive as he was the season before. Like with the possibility of selecting Risner, it might best that Edwards is able to sit a year and adapt to the NFL game. If the Packers are looking to find a prospect that can back up at left and right tackle, Edwards might not be the answer. Edwards played solely on the right side at Wisconsin.
Finding a replacement, either next season or the season after that, for Bulaga seems to be at the top of the Packers list, the guard position will need to be dealt with as well.
The starting right guard position is in dire need of an upgrade. Because Bulaga is still in the picture, some would argue that guard might be more urgent to deal with than tackle. Last season, the starting right guard position had three different starters. Former undrafted free agent linemen Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick spent some time at the starting right guard. Along with McCray and Patrick, veteran offensive lineman Byron Bell also spent time at right guard. All three struggled, with Patrick arguably playing the best, but not by much.
Starting left guard Lane Taylor had a disappointing season as well. Taylor had a strong 2017, but last season, after undergoing off-season ankle surgery, Taylor struggled. Gutekunst and the Packers are hoping he can bounce back this coming season, but they won’t know that until next season.
There is a possibility that if a guard prospect slips in the first round, they could use the 30th pick on the position. But most likely, the Packers will look for a guard in the second or third round. Here are a couple of prospects that could be on the Packers radar.
Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
Not shockingly, another Wisconsin offensive lineman made our list. Deiter earned All American honors this past season while playing for the Badgers. He was a part of the same offensive line that helped Taylor churn out all those rushing yards in 2017 and 2018.
Our own Ben Clubb, who spends hours breaking down video of players, recently broke down some tape of Deiter. As he pointed out in this clip, Deiter illustrates that he is a superior run blocker. In this other clip from Clubb, Deiter shows the quick burst that made him an All American.
Just like with a lot of Badgers offensive linemen, Deiter doesn’t have an extensive background as a pass protector. The Badgers aren’t much of a passing team, so their linemen are limited in their experience in pass protection. As Clubb points out in this clip, Deiter had some struggles.
Now, just because Deiter struggled in pass protection at the college level, it doesn’t mean he can’t improve at it. With LaFleur reportedly putting an emphasis on the run game, which will help with the play action pass, Deiter could become a contributor on the Packers offensive line. Even possibly during his rookie season.
Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
Lindstrom earned All ACC honors for Boston College this past season. While Lindstrom earned this honor while starting at guard, the prior season he started at offensive tackle. His NFL future looks to be playing in the interior of the offensive line.
Similar to Risner, Lindstrom had a very strong Senior Bowl week. At the Senior Bowl, he performed well in the run game as well as in pass protection. Out of him and Deiter, Lindstrom is the better pass protector, which should draw the interest of the Packers.