Injury woes may cause Green Bay to draft another offensive lineman in 2022 NFL draft
For a brief moment, Green Bay had to play its fourth-string tackle against Cleveland. In the fourth quarter. Protecting the blind-side of MVP-favorite Aaron Rodgers. With a former undrafted journeyman guard playing left tackle.
Fortunately for the Packers, former-backup-turned-starter Yosh Nijman returned the next series, and Green Bay went on to win a 24-22 Christmas nail-biter.
Still, it illustrated just how tenuous the situation is along the offensive line for Green Bay. Sure, the Packers have other needs in the 2022 NFL draft, such as a pass rusher, cornerback and linebacker on defense or tight end and receiver on offense.
But a leaky OL will eventually cost a team – and possibly at the very worst moment. Just ask Super Bowl runner-up Kansas City.
Just how bad has it been for Green Bay? Here are the OL who have lost time this season due to injury:
- OT David Bakhtiari (ACL tear last year, limited this season)
- OG Lucas Patrick (concussion)
- OL Elgton Jenkins (out for year with ACL)
- OG Josh Myers (finger)
- OT Billy Turner (knee)
So Green Bay could turn to the draft to bolster its offensive line – but likely not on Day 1.
That’s because, when healthy, the Packers have one of the top OLs in the league. Furthermore, Green Bay has drafted three offensive linemen the past two drafts, including IOL Jon Runyan Jr., Jake Hanson and Simon Stepaniak in the sixth round of the 2020 draft and center Josh Myers in the second round, guard Royce Newman in the fourth and tackle Cole Van Lanen in the sixth round this year.
Out of that total, Runyan, Myers and Newman are starters. But there’s no set timetable for Jenkins’ return, and it remains to be seen whether Bakhtiari can regain his former dominance – and if he does, how long that takes also becomes a factor.
Therefore, it would be smart for the Packers to add another young lineman who’s capable of starting if called upon, preferably in Round 2 or later. That allows the team to take the most dynamic player remaining at receiver, cornerback or pass rusher in Round 1.
One caveat: The Packers value versatility in its offensive lineman, with Jenkins the prime example. Jenkins has played tackle, guard and center since being drafted by Green Bay with the No. 44 overall pick in 2019.
One name that could interest the Packers this year is massive Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith.
Tulsa LT Tyler Smith (56) is an absolute monster at times. Great strength and plays with a mean streak. Some say he projects to OG as a pro. Glaring concern is the amount of holding calls he draws (and gets away with). pic.twitter.com/qwJ5enqRnj
— Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23) December 24, 2021
The 6-foot-6, 332-pound redshirt sophomore has yet to declare his draft intentions. Therefore, it’s possible he won’t be available until next year or beyond.
However, Smith might strike while the proverbial iron is hot, as he’s starting to gain national attention. Cover 1 was one of the first publications to tout Smith, with national scout Russell Brown calling him “the true sleeper of the bunch” with a frame that “immediately stands out.”
From Brown: “His grip strength is impressive and once he grabs hold, it’s game over for defenders. He moves defenders with ease due to his strength and ability to torque and redirect them. On tape, he’s shown consistent success as a reach blocker and is able to create rushing lanes with ease. Some will prefer him at guard but it wouldn’t be surprising if he found a home at right tackle similar to the way that Andre Smith did after the 2009 NFL Draft.”
Walter Football soon followed Cover 1’s lead, listing Smith as one of its “stock up” players.
From Walter Football: “Smith has created a buzz in the scouting community, and there are rumors that the redshirt sophomore could enter the 2022 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-6, 332-pounder is a massive edge blocker who has surprising quickness and athleticism. If Smith enters the 2022 NFL Draft, he could be a first- or second-round pick, according to some team evaluators.”
Smith is currently unranked in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, but he’s expected to be listed among the top 50 prospects in the next update.