The Green Bay Packers were looking to add offensive line depth in this year’s draft. They ended up drafting three players to fit that bill.
Some fans were surprised, given that they just drafted two last year. Both were in the sixth round — center Jake Hanson out of Oregon was pick No. 208, and guard Jon Runyan from Michigan at 192nd overall.
Runyan ended up playing in every game for Green Bay, and they had one of the best offensive lines last year. But that line won’t be the same this year. The Packers lost their center, Corey Linsley, to the Los Angeles Chargers. After re-signing David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones, Green Bay wasn’t going to have the cap space for Linsley as well.
They definitely didn’t — he signed a 5-year, $62.5 million contract with the Chargers — and it’s still too early to tell when Bakhtiari will be back after his knee injury near the end of last season. That means Runyan will need to take that next big step, play in most games again and compete with the new draft class.
How Runyan fared last season
Despite being a sixth-round draft pick, Runyan played in every game last year. Most of the games were primarily special teams, where he plays in around 15 to 25 percent of the snaps.
He took snaps on the offensive line for half of the games in 2020. Some games were only for a few snaps, but three of the games, he got some major work. During Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers, he played 31 snaps (47 percent). He then took 50 snaps each game in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts and Week 12 against the Chicago Bears.
He also played in both playoff games last year. It was mostly on special teams, but he did get in a few snaps during the Los Angeles Rams victory.
Runyan ended up playing in 160 offensive snaps last season. His overall player rating from PFF was 53.8. If you want to compare, fellow guards Elgton Jenkins had a 67.7 rating, and Lucas Patrick had a 64.8. Out of those 160 snaps, though, Runyan was called for zero penalties and didn’t allow a sack the entire season. With the limited time he saw, he didn’t make any major mistakes.
What to expect from him this year
Runyan will probably see at least double, if not triple, the number of offensive snaps this year. If Bakhtiari is ready to go, he starts at his regular left tackle spot. That will mean Jenkins at left guard, Patrick at right guard, and Billy Turner for right tackle. Josh Myers, who was taken in the second round this year, will probably be expected to be the starting center come Week 1. When you invest in a high pick, there are some expectations to be ready and make an immediate impact. If the Ohio State Buckeye isn’t ready, the versatile Jenkins will probably slide over to center. Jenkins played there quite a bit last year when Linsley went down due to injury for part of the season.
On the current depth chart, behind Myers is Patrick and then Jake Hanson. But with Jenkins’ experience there already, it would be hard to say that Patrick would get the job instead. If that is the case, then Runyan will be next in line for those guard spots.
If Bakhtiari isn’t ready to go, Turner might slide over to the left, and Patrick might take a tackle, or 2021 fourth-rounder Royce Newman might be next up. Having this type of offensive line depth is crucial. As you can see, a couple of injuries means players are out of position, and younger players need to step up almost immediately. Basically, another injury or decline in play means more work for Runyan this season.
The thing that helps Runyan is that his limited time last year didn’t hurt the Packers. He didn’t have the highest rankings, but allowing zero sacks is a great stat to leave your rookie season with. The line’s depth helped him develop and get some snaps, and wasn’t expected to be a starter as a rookie. The zero sacks don’t mean he didn’t allow some pressures or the pocket didn’t collapse, but he also didn’t get any penalties called against him.
His goal this year should really be to become the go-to backup guard. Jenkins can play all over the line, and he probably will. He is a special talent and will be used wherever he is needed. Turner needs to earn that free-agent contract still, and you just hope that Patrick can stay healthy and improve as well. He will be looking for his first big free-agent contract after next season.
So far, Runyan is exceeding his sixth-round expectations. He could have easily not made the roster or been a healthy scratch. Instead, he should have an expanded role this year while continuing to help on special teams. It appears that Green Bay’s knack for drafting solid offensive linemen is continuing.