After loading up on the defensive side of the ball with their first two draft picks, the Green Bay Packers turned their attention to the offense over the next four selections, including a pair of versatile, athletic offensive linemen in Sean Rhyan and Zach Tom. Adding seventh-rounder Rasheed Walker was the icing on the cake. In Rhyan, Tom, and Walker, the Packers found a trio of prospects for the offensive front who certainly fit the mold for general manager Brian Gutekunst. They also provide plenty of options heading into next season.
Over the past two seasons, the Green Bay offensive line has suffered myriad injuries, most notably ACL tears to David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. These injuries have, at least in part, derailed runs to the Super Bowl. However, the Packers have adequately patched together a makeshift offensive line in their absences. That’s one of the main reasons that Green Bay promoted Adam Stenavich from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator when Nathaniel Hackett departed for the Denver Broncos’ head coaching job this offseason.
Heading into this season, Gutekunst, Stenavich, and head coach Matt LaFleur will have an offensive line that is on the verge of being fully intact, even with the departures of Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick. Depending on when exactly Jenkins can return from injury, Green Bay can roll out a formidable line that includes Bahktiari, Jon Runyan Jr, Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins, and Yosh Nijman. In this year’s draft, though, Gutekunst prepared for the probability (really, the eventuality) that the offensive line in Week 1 won’t be what it looks like in January.
Enter the rookies, Rhyan, Tom, and Walker. Rhyan started at 31 games at left tackle for UCLA, but Gutekunst likes his ability to move across the line, mirroring the traits that players such as Jenkins, Runyan, and Nijman had coming out of college. Gutekunst said that Rhyan will initially start in the competition at right tackle, but he certainly could be an option at guard as well.
If you did a mock draft this offseason, chances are that you had Tom heading from Wake Forest to the Packers in the fourth round. Gutekunst found a way to make that a reality with the 140th-overall pick. If you want an athlete, the 6’4″, 305 lb. Tom is exactly that, and his traits hold up across the offensive line. He spent most of his All-ACC college career sharing time between center and left tackle. Tom should slot in initially as a backup center who can push Josh Myers in camp but also provide depth at guard and tackle as well.
Rasheed Walker started 32 games at left tackle for Penn State, but he figures to be in the mix at right tackle and/or swing tackle if he develops the way the Packers think he should. It’s exactly the kind of high-upside pick that can pan out in several different ways. Even if he’s a serviceable backup who can finish a game in a pinch, that’s incredibly valuable coming at the 249th-overall pick. At 6’6″, 320 lbs., Walker has the size to compete in the NFL, and Stenavich will have a gigantic hunk of clay to mold into whatever Green Bay might need.
What Gutekunst, LaFleur, and Stenavich have now, more than anything, are options. Should any player go down, there’s a formidable replacement to fill that hole without sacrificing from another spot on the line. That philosophy was put to the test against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs when it was evident that Bahktiari was not going to be able to play, and it would be Turner and Dennis Kelly starting at the tackle spots. There are multiple options at all five positions on the line, turning what was a weakness into a strength over the course of two days of the draft.
Drafting three offensive linemen is by no means new for Green Bay. The Packers used three picks on linemen in each each of the last two seasons: Myers, Newman, and Cole Van Lanen in 2021, and Runyan, Jake Hanson, and Simon Stepaniak in 2020. Not all of those picks have hit, but seemingly long-term starters Myers and Runyan came from those drafts. When you add in the selection of Jenkins and undrafted free-agent signing of Nijman in 2019, the team has overhauled the offensive line thanks to strong drafting and taking multiple, smart chances each round.
With no Davante Adams, the balance of the Green Bay offense will shift away from the passing game and more towards the duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon running behind an above-average line. Selecting Rhyan, Tom, and Walker will help the Packers find more ways to keep that balance — and keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive.