The Green Bay Packers have quite the track record lately when drafting offensive linemen in the fourth round. Names like David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, and T.J. Lang all come to mind as past fourth-round selections made by the green and gold. All three made Pro Bowls, and Bakhtiari is not only still playing but is widely regarded as the best offensive tackle in football.
This year the Packers took another shot at an offensive lineman in Round 4 with Royce Newman out of Mississippi. And they are keeping their fingers crossed that he ends up in the same category as Bakhtiari, Sitton, and Lang.
Newman has the quality that tends to make general manager Brian Gutekunst smitten with certain lineman: versatility. Newman played both guard and tackle at Ole Miss and took snaps at every position across the offensive line other than center. Newman projects as a tackle on the right side, where he lined up last year after playing guard in 2019. Regardless, he has the capability to bounce around in a pinch.
Newman has an edge to him and paved plenty of gaps in his two years starting at Ole Miss. The clips speak for themselves.
It was no surprise that Green Bay took Josh Myers in the second round and Newman in the fourth. They will be bringing back talent from last year’s offensive line but still have gaps elsewhere.
Bakhtiari’s status for the start of the 2021 season is in limbo. Ricky Wagner, who held down the fort at right tackle for much of last year, was a cap casualty. Corey Linsley is off to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Thankfully for the Packers, they have versatility in Elgton Jenkins, who can play quite literally anywhere on the line and do so at a high level. Billy Turner will be back as well. And of course, even though Bakhtiari’s timeline for return is unclear, he will return at some point next season. Myers, the center from Ohio State who was drafted in Round 2, will likely have ample opportunity to earn the starting center position in training camp and the pre-season as Green Bay looks to move Jenkins somewhere on the outside of the line. Even as a fourth-round pick, Newman could earn similar consideration.
The Packers aren’t necessarily in a spot of luxury with the offensive line, but their outlook has almost certainly changed for the better with the picks they made in the draft. Newman is a big reason for that optimism.
According to PFF, Newman allowed three sacks and six quarterback hits in 916 career pass-blocking snaps at Ole Miss. He finished his career with the Rebels with a 97.8 pass-block efficiency rate. That will raise some eyebrows and had to make selecting Newman all the more obvious for Brian Gutekunst and Co.
Whoever plays quarterback for Green Bay next year (and that has somehow become a legitimate question), he will need better protection than the Packers provided in the NFC Championship loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Adding Newman to the mix gives them, at minimum, another option on the o-line. It’s not often a fourth-round pick gets an immediate look to be a starter, but Newman may fall into that category.
The versatility the Packers have along their offensive line has to provide some reassurance. It’s also worth noting that Green Bay’s offensive line absolutely dominated for most of last season in both pass protection and the run game. But pieces still need to be added given the departures of Linsley and Wagner, as well as Bakhtiari’s injury.
The hope for Green Bay is that a clear group emerges by the end of training camp to go out in Week 1 and protect No. 12 … or No. 10. On top of that, given the likelihood of injuries, depth is another key for the Packers. Given the sheer quantity of options they now have in the position group, quality should emerge.
Green Bay went out in this draft and got valuable selections that addressed some of their most pressing needs. Eric Stokes could be a Day 1 playmaker in the secondary. Myers may very well start at center from the jump, replacing one Ohio State center, Linsley, with another. Amari Rodgers could provide the dynamic slot receiver and return man that Packers fans have been starving for. And, who knows, maybe Royce Newman is a part of those plans along the first row of the depth chart entering next season.