Green Bay looks like it could make a Super Bowl run this season – but Packers fans have to be nervous about the team’s offensive line.
Franchise left tackle David Bakhtiari is out at least the first six games as he continues to recover from an ACL tear suffered during practice on Dec. 31. His absence has created a ripple effect, including:
- Elgton Jenkins, normally the team’s left guard, is currently manning the LT position.
- Billy Turner could play Jenkins’ left guard spot, or he could start at RT. Overall, Jenkins has played in 70 games (with 55 starts), including starts at four different positions (34 at RG, eight at LG, eight at RT and five at LT).
- Dennis Kelly, who started every game last season for Tennessee, is questionable for Week 1 with a knee injury.
- Guards Jon Runyan Jr., a sixth-round pick in 2020, and Ben Braden have received some first-team reps at LG during practice.
- Right guard Lucas Patrick started a career-high 15 games last season, but he’s being pushed by rookie Royce Newman, a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi. Newman may start Week 1.
- Josh Myers is the presumed starter at center after the rookie was drafted in the second round out of Ohio State.
If Williams performs well as a rookie, then you can probably cross off OL as a need. If he doesn’t and/or Turner underperforms? Then look for Green Bay to upgrade its offensive line in the 2022 NFL draft – particularly with players who offer position flexibility.
You can probably rule out Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green (6-foot-4, 325 pounds) and Alabama’s Evan Neal (6-foot-7, 357 pounds), as both are projected to go early in the first round.
But assuming Green Bay picks somewhere in the 20s or 30s, these three OL prospects offer some position flexibility and could be available when the Packers are on the clock:
- Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State: The 6-foot-4, 322-pound junior has been called “the most feared offensive lineman in the ACC” and is making the transition this season to tackle. Despite the accolades, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler lists Ekwonu as the No. 32 overall prospect in his initial list of the top 50 prospects for the 2022 draft. Largely considered one of the strongest players in the 2022 draft, Ekwonu had the highest positively graded run-blocking percentage of any returning lineman this season, according to PFF, but also allowed 25 pressures in 2020.
- Sean Rhyan, UCLA: The 6-foot-5, 320 pound junior started 12 games in 2019, becoming the first freshman to start a season opener at tackle for UCLA since 2012, and he started another seven games last season. However, he’s viewed by some evaluators as more of a guard than a tackle, with The Athletic’s Dane Brugler saying Rhyan’s lack of elite length and his skill set for tackle might make him a better fit for guard in the pros. Rhyan is ranked No. 25 in Brugler’s first top-50 list of the season. Likewise, Pro Football Focus says Rhyan “has the physical profile to excel on the interior in the NFL. He moves well for a 320-pounder and saw his grade leap from 57.6 as a freshman to 73.9 last season.” PFF ranks him as its no. 89 overall prospect.
- Darian Kinnard, Kentucky: Another massive guard/tackle prospect at 6-foot-5, 347-pounds, the senior has reminded some evaluators of former Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton, who is 6-foot-7, 363 pounds. Becton wound up going No. 11 overall in the 2020 draft to the New York Jets, but prior to that draft, some felt Becton’s best position might be at guard. Kinnard, meanwhile, finds himself on many top-50 and top-100 big boards, including ESPN, which recently ranked him as the No. 67 overall prospect. PFF ranks him No. 31, saying Kinnard’s run-blocking grades of 89.1 in 2019 and 91.9 in 2020 wound up being among the top 10 highest in college football during that time. PFF also says Kinnard has the highest zone run-blocking grade since 2019.