The Green Bay Packers did a terrific job during the 2021 NFL draft of filling in cracks in the roster. Big needs at cornerback, interior offensive line and receiver were effectively crossed off early in the proceedings.
But Brian Gutekunst’s roster isn’t without potential problem areas. Without the financial flexibility to add veterans in free agency, and only so many premium picks, the Packers weren’t able to address every issue on the roster.
Here are some positions where the Packers still look shaky exiting the draft:
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This is a fascinating position for the Packers. Veteran Rick Wagner, an important part of the offensive line in 2020, is gone, and All-Pro David Bakhtiari is still recovering from knee surgery. The depth here looks questionable. The Packers weren’t able to get one of the top tackles in the draft, but fourth-round pick Royce Newman may eventually be an answer at right tackle. Still, Yosh Nijman might be the top backup entering training camp. The obvious wild card: Elgton Jenkins. If the Packers are confident in the Pro Bowl guard being able to play either left or right tackle, the entire outlook of the position changes. There’s no shortage of potential options on the interior of the line, giving the Packers flexibility to use Jenkins wherever they need him most. Possible free agent help: Dennis Kelly, Russell Okung, Bobby Massie
Green Bay Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) celebrates his sack with Green Bay Packers defensive end Dean Lowry (94) during the 4th quarter of the Green Bay Packers 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC divisional playoff game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
The Packers added fifth-round pick Tedarrell Slaton, providing the big body necessary for eating blocks and making life easier for others in the run game, and Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke all return after leading the defensive line in snaps played last season. But few teams will fear this position group. Lowry has regressed into a replacement-level player over the last two seasons, Lancaster is strictly a rotational role player, Keke probably isn’t a three-down player and Slaton might need time to settle into a role. The Packers haven’t used a pick in the first four rounds on a defensive lineman since Montravius Adams in 2017, and he left in free agency after four underwhelming seasons. Adding a veteran here makes a lot of sense this summer. Possible free agent help: Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey, Kawann Short
Green Bay Packers linebacker Kamal Martin (54) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec 6. 2020, between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Isaiah McDuffie was a nice find late in the draft, but it’s also possible he’ll be nothing more than a fringe roster type who contributes on special teams. Throwing Day 3 picks and college free agents at the position and hoping a few stick around looks like the Packers’ long-term plan at inside linebacker. Are Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes good enough for the Packers to be an elite defense? Oftentimes, an NFL defense is only as good as its weakest link. Offenses are too smart; they find ways to press the weakness. Once again, the Packers look particularly fragile up the middle in the front seven. It can be a compounding problem. The Packers defensive line probably isn’t good enough to keep inside linebackers consistently clean, and the inside linebackers probably aren’t good enough to clean up mistakes from the front. Possible free agent help: K.J. Wright
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