With the Green Bay Packers now at the 90-man limit for an offseason roster, a closer look at the offensive line position can provide insight into what the five-man starting unit may look like, particularly when it comes to Elgton Jenkins. Cementing him at the tackle position is not only the right move but has a domino effect on the remaining four positions.
After an impressive rookie campaign paved the way for a Pro Bowl nod in Year 2, there’s no telling how good that Jenkins could be in 2021. But David Bakhtiari‘s health entering next season is a big wild card for the offensive line. When at full strength, he’s arguably the best left tackle in the game, but that’s far from guaranteed. Jenkins can and should be the replacement for Bakhtiari, and it appears that’s the idea the front office has as well.
Green Bay had glaring needs at both cornerback and on the offensive line. At least on paper, general manager Brian Gutekunst addressed both of those within the first four rounds. The matter in which Gutekunst did so — drafting more interior-minded players — provides a bit of insight into the direction the Packers may go with Jenkins. His ascendency has been equal parts impressive and necessary, as it has provided injury insurance for Bakhtiari and the ability to focus on what the middle three line positions will look like.
If Gutekunst had more concern for the offensive tackle position, especially given how aggressive he seemed to be filling specific needs this draft, it would stand to reason that he would have found someone who could hypothetically have been a pillar on that line. Yet who the Packers drafted, combined with passing on the likes of Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, and Walker Little, would seem to indicate that he wasn’t as laser-focused on finding a tackle.
It’s easy to imagine a giant whiteboard in Gutekunst’s office with two versions of the 2021 Packers offensive line: one with Bakhtiari back in action and one before he’s ready to return. Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner certainly feature in both versions of this list, and as Mitch Widmeier wrote, the Packers may have found excellent pieces in both Josh Myers and Royce Newman in this year’s draft. Jon Runyan Jr. was technically listed as a tackle coming out of Michigan, but he’s emerged as a viable option at guard. Cole Van Lanen is an awesome local story and had success at tackle in college, but like Runyan, he figures to contribute more at guard.
Drafting Myers is a logical one-for-one replacement for the departed Corey Linsley. Jenkins has played center in the past, but considering what Green Bay expects out of their center, having that position remain intact before and after Bakhtiari’s return makes sense.
So if the pre-Bakhtiari offensive line looks like this: Jenkins – Patrick – Myers – Runyan/Newman – Turner.
The least disruptive (and most effective) Packers offensive line will look like this once No. 69 comes back: Bakhtiari – Patrick – Myers – Turner – Jenkins.
Add in Runyan, Newman, and perhaps Van Lanen, and you’ve got a deep, and perhaps most importantly, versatile eight-man unit to suit up on game day. All of this hinges on the unique, elite skillset of Elgton Jenkins, who is only getting better. With two years left on a bargain of a rookie contract, Gutekunst can chalk this one up as one of his bigger Ws on draft night — not only for how good he is now but for the potential to give the front office one less position to worry about