For the first time since Brian Gutekunst became the Green Bay Packers’ general manager in 2018, the team didn’t draft any offensive linemen this year. While it was unusual considering Green Bay’s modus operandi, it makes sense because the roster has 13 players at the position, and plenty of talent there. But no player should be happier about the lack of incoming linemen than Sean Rhyan. With the decision to keep the old configuration of the unit without new additions, last year’s third-round pick gets a new chance to be a factor in 2023.
Last year, the Packers drafted the former UCLA left tackle one round earlier than Zach Tom, who ended up having a much larger role and is now projected to be the starting right tackle. On the other hand, Rhyan had zero offensive snaps and one special teams snap throughout the season. A six-game suspension at the end of the regular season also was a factor in his lack of play.
However, the Packers might still believe in Rhyan, considering how high they were on him to start the process.
“We’ve taken left tackles and moved them around,” Gutekunst mentioned after selecting him in the draft. “We certainly think he can play left tackle in the National Football League. He’s 320 lbs., so moving him inside and handling that type of power is something we also think, he’s a young player. He’s a true third-year junior. Started 30 games there, so lot of experience for a young player. But we think his best football should be ahead of him.”
Rhyan’s transition from tackle to guard is a real factor. In college, his performance was impressive playing outside, including matchup against NFL-quality competition.
However, his traits and his playing profile always fit better to play inside.
Zach Tom was also a left tackle in his final college days, but he had played center as well. That’s a big difference compared to Rhyan, who was a three-year starting left tackle. With the Packers, he’s having his first significant experience at guard, and his suspension interrupted that period — time in which he couldn’t practice with the team, either.
Rhyan played 83 preseason snaps for the Packers, with a below-average PFF passing grade. His blocking grade was decent, though, and finding a balance is imperative to play as well as he did at UCLA.
“Very consistent in pass pro and run blocking. Very, very consistent,” Gutekunst also said after last year’s draft. “I thought he had some really good balance, flexibility for a man his size to be able to play with some leverage. His ability to do some of the things we ask of our offensive linemen, being able to play outside, being able to play inside. He just kind of fit us along with having prototypical size.”
Rhyan will probably never have a chance to play tackle. The Packers still have David Bakhtiari, while Tom and Yosh Nijman will fight for the right tackle spot. On the bench, Caleb Jones and Rasheed Walker were better early on, and even Royce Newman seems to be ahead of Rhyan to play tackle.
But it would be particularly important for the Packers if Rhyan hits. While the tackle situation is relatively comfortable, the depth is not so great inside. Right now, Rhyan is listed as the immediate backup at left guard, behind Elgton Jenkins. The backup right guard is Royce Newman, who played RT and RG last year and was disappointing, and the backup center is Jake Hanson, who was the worst lineman to play for the Packers last season.
If one of the starters goes down with an injury, the Packers would probably need to move Tom back inside, playing Nijman at right tackle. And while Tom is more than capable of playing guard or center, it’s not great when a team needs to change more than one lineman at the same time. Moreover, Nijman is under contract for just one more season, so there’s a long-term factor too.
Poor performance and the suspension hindered the first year of Rhyan’s NFL career. However, training camp and preseason will be huge opportunities for him to show why he was a top-100 pick, and why the Packers believed in him so much. Maybe it’s the last chance for Rhyan to break Green Bay’s third-round curse.