The first part in our 2020 review of past Packers NFL Draft classes takes us back to one year ago, when Green Bay supplemented its free agent shopping spree with depth pieces from much of its 2019 Draft Class.
In 2019, the Packers had just come off of making huge moves in free agency, perhaps none more important than signing edge rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to shore up a key position of need for Green Bay going into their first year under coach Matt LaFleur. The Draft was a spot to add athleticism and depth to a roster that was rapidly re-shaping under GM Brian Gutekunst and LaFleur.
With two first-round picks, the Packers added athletic edge rusher Rashan Gary and speedy safety Darnell Savage. From there, it was all about depth, as only three of the eight picks in 2019 started a game for the Packers. It wasn't a flashy draft, but all eight picks played at some point in 2019 for the Packers.
The #12 overall selection, Gary managed two sacks in his rookie year, playing in all 16 games behind the Smiths. Part of the overhaul at edge rusher, Gary appears poised for a bigger role in 2020 now that Kyler Fackrell has departed for the New York Giants.
At #21, Green Bay added Savage, who started all 14 games that he played in and showed some star potential, recording two interceptions and piling up 55 tackles while also forcing a pair of fumbles.
In the second round, at #44 overall, Green Bay found a long-term starter in Elgton Jenkins along the interior offensive line. Consistently graded as one of the top players on the team all year, Jenkins figures to be a long-term fixture up front in the NFL. He started the final 14 games of the regular season and hasn't looked back.
Third-round selection Jace Sternberger at #75 overall missed half of the regular season with an injury, but worked his way into the starting lineup by season's end. Sternberger didn't record a catch until the postseason, where he made his first touchdown grab as a pro in the Packers' loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship. Of all of the Packers drafted last year, Sternberger appears primed for the biggest leap in production this year, as the Packers parted ways with Jimmy Graham this offseason.
Green Bay didn't have a fourth-round pick. In the fifth round, the Packers grabbed defensive lineman Kingsley Keke at #150 overall. Keke didn't play in the Packers' first two games, but saw action in every game after, including both postseason games. Keke recorded 10 tackles in the regular season and two more in the playoffs as a reserve up front.
With two picks in the sixth round, the Packers stayed on defense with their first selection, scooping up cornerback Ka'Dar Hollman at #185 overall. Hollman played in four regular-season games.
Green Bay added running back Dexter Williams nine picks later at #194 overall, and Williams played in four games, earning a handful of carries for the Packers.
With their final selection, in the seventh round, the Packers added some help at linebacker by drafting Ty Summers. Summers played a role on special teams, recording four tackles in the regular season and two more in the playoffs.
BEST PICK: Elgton Jenkins (2nd round). Jenkins appears to be a lock for a long career along the interior line, a position that has felt like a revolving door the past few seasons as established veterans left for bigger paydays elsewhere and the Packers moved guys around to fill the gaps. Jenkins established himself as one of the most solid players in the entire league along the offensive line.
BOOM: Darnell Savage (1st round) was the early lock for biggest playmaker from the 2019 class, but a player who could vault in Year 2 is Jace Sternberger (3rd round), as he will be the primary pass-catching option at tight end. Sternberger will work alongside Marcedes Lewis, a veteran noted more for his blocking abilities, which should free him up to be an important factor in 2020, should he stay healthy.
BUST: It is far too early to declare any player a bust in this class. A rookie season with limited production for top selection Rashan Gary (1st round) has some of the more vocal social media GMs up in arms about the pick, but Gary should find his way into more important snaps in 2020 with Kyler Fackrell no longer in Green Bay and now a full NFL offseason under his belt. There's no way to declare anyone a bust after only one season; all eight picks contributed respective and relative to their roles in 2019.
STARTERS: Jenkins and Savage each started 14 regular-season games and both playoff games for the Packers. Sternberger had one start in the regular season and one in the postseason. All three figure to be in the starting lineup on a regular basis in 2020. Gary should eventually find his way into the starting lineup. All of the Day 3 picks from last year don't project as starters in 2020, but in the NFL, things change fast.
Photo: Getty Images (Elgton Jenkins)