It sounds like a throwaway line to suggest that the 2021 NFL Draft is of critical importance to the Green Bay Packers. Every draft is important for every franchise. The reality, though, is that certain first-round picks in certain years are more critical than others. Nobody shoots 100%, and some view hitting on 50% on first-round picks as a success. In recent years, the Packers have struck gold on Day 1 with picks like Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage Jr. But in other years, not so much.
Here are the Packers’ three worst first-round picks in the last decade:
1. Derek Sherrod – 32nd overall, 2011
Green Bay went through spurts in the early portion of Aaron Rodgers‘ career where the offensive line wasn’t that great in pass protection. Rodgers was just so good that he masked the issue. Ted Thompson decided to address the problem early with their first pick in the 2011 draft.
Thompson selected Derek Sherrod, a 6’5″, 321-pound offensive tackle. Not only did Sherrod never come to fruition for Green Bay, they never even got a real look at him.
Sherrod battled injuries that began in his rookie season when he broke his leg. He was never able to get all the way back after that. In four seasons with Green Bay, Sherrod played in just 20 games, starting only one.
There are different categories of draft busts. Some picks are just whiffs; others have layers to their story. While Sherrod never developed or showed much promise, but that was largely due to the injuries. Still, a first-round pick on the offensive line who only started one game can’t be categorized as anything other than a disappointing selection.
Sherrod didn’t suit up for another team after the Packers waived him in 2014.
2. Datone Jones: 26th overall, 2013
Datone Jones wasn’t some monumental bust for the Packers. In reality, the fact that he’s No. 2 on this list shows that Green Bay has actually done a good job in the draft recently. Nevertheless, Jones never lived up to the hype or expectations of a first-round pick.
Jones was a monster at UCLA, but teams had a tough time pegging him as a defensive tackle or edge rusher coming into the league. Mike McCarthy tried a couple of methods, but he exhausted his options and couldn’t turn Jones into a dominant player. The Packers expected Jones to come in and wreak havoc on the opposition. Instead, he turned out to be a decent rotational option but never a regular starter who warranted most of the snaps at his position.
In four years with Green Bay, Jones started just seven games and accumulated only nine sacks. It would be a stretch to say he even showed flashes — the pick just didn’t work out. Jones has bounced around since the Packers opted to let him walk after the 2016 season, but it’s been much of the same. Last year Jones appeared in one game with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The highlight reel to go along with his build suggested the Packers had found a true menace to place on the defensive line. The reality played out much differently.
3. Damarious Randall: 30th overall, 2015
Like Datone Jones, Damarious Randall was not some wild bust for Green Bay. Also, consider that the highest of the picks on this list was No. 26 in 2013. The Packers don’t frequent the top 10 picks in NFL Drafts. So in most instances, your best-available board melts away before you pick.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing about all of this is that Randall was a versatile player. He was an incredible safety and cornerback at Arizona State. However, when the Packers drafted him, they were set in their ways on making him a cornerback. After seeing the results, it’s hard not to think about what could’ve been if they’d played Randall at safety.
Randall had a solid rookie campaign, which led to him being named a starting cornerback in his second season in 2016. The spot was well-earned coming out of training camp, but Randall couldn’t quite deliver on the expectations. After three seasons that featured some great moments, he ultimately fizzled out. The Packers traded Randall to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer and draft-pick swaps. He spent two years in Cleveland before joining Seattle Seahawks last season.
No team will hit on every first-round pick, and the Packers have done well recently with Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage Jr., Jaire Alexander, and Kenny Clark. In a season where Green Bay appears to have a legitimate title shot, the front office needs to strike gold in Round 1.