Green Bay Packers

Donovan Jennings Could Help Green Bay Maintain A 20-Year Streak

Photo Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have had an undrafted free agent (UDFA) rookie make the final 53-man roster for 19 consecutive years. However, due to three successive draft classes with double-digit draft picks, the Packers only had enough space to bring in eight UDFAs this year. That’s down from 12 and 14 the two seasons prior. Ultimately, it may be a challenge to continue that streak this year. Still, one candidate could extend that 19-year run to 20.

Offensive lineman Donovan Jennings from the University of South Florida is a prototypical sixth offensive lineman with the positional versatility to play guard or tackle. Green Bay loved him enough to give him a $10,000 signing bonus and $100,000 in guaranteed salary, which is more than it gave any other UDFA in 2023. They also hosted Jennings for a pre-draft 30 visit. The Packers have done their work on him, and it’s evident why they’d be interested.

Jennings is an athletic player with solid but not hulking size, a middle ground the Packers like. He tested above average in athleticism for either tackle or guard, having an 8.93 relative athletic score as a tackle and 9.65 as a guard. While he only lined up as a left tackle in college, he profiles as the type to cross-train at guard in the NFL. Green Bay started to mix in Jennings at guard during their rookie mini-camp earlier this month.

On the field, Jennings has had some ups and downs. The downs are mostly related to availability; he missed 11 games due to injury over his final two seasons. For strengths, Jennings has shown solid power and good movement ability on the field. He’s also highly experienced, racking up 55 games and 45 starts at left tackle for USF throughout his six-year college career. Jennings also had some good reps against top-tier talent, including facing off against Minnesota Vikings first-rounder Dallas Turner and handling his speed well. Jennings got his hands inside his chest and neutralized Turner immediately to the ground.

NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlien says Jennings plays “with excellent composure and possesses nimble feet in pass protection. His strong hands help him sustain both run and pass blocks.” You can see his nimble feet in action below, working both kick-steps on speed rushes off the edge and displaying an ability to maintain his balance overall when pass-blocking:

However, Jennings has a lot of competition. Over the last two years, the Packers have carried 10 and 11 offensive linemen on their initial 53-man rosters. Last year, they rostered five players who were primarily tackles: David BakhtiariRasheed Walker, Caleb Jones, Yosh Nijman, and Luke Tenuta. The other six players either have tackle-guard flexibility or played solely on the interior: Zach Tom, Royce Newman, Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins, Sean Rhyan, and Jon Runyan.

While Runyan, Nijman, and Bakhtiari are now gone, there have been plenty of additions to the offensive line this offseason. Green Bay brought in veterans Lecitus Smith and Andre Dillard and drafted Jordan Morgan, Jacob Monk, and Travis Glover.

Let’s conservatively say the Packers aim to have 10 offensive linemen on the initial 53-man roster. While they initially had 11 last year, they immediately transferred Luke Tenuta to injured reserve to re-add long snapper Matt Orzech. Assuming they have 10, there are only four spots up for grabs.

At tackle, it’s safe to assume that Tom, Walker, and Morgan are locks based on past play and draft status. You’d likely say the same about Jenkins, Myers, and Rhyan on the interior. That’s six spots spoken for. You’d like to carry two more on the interior and at tackle. Green Bay prefers to roster their draftees, and tackle Glover and center Monk would appear to have an inside track to spots as newly drafted players. That leaves one tackle and one interior spot likely open. Luckily, Jennings has the requisite background at tackle from college but also profiles well to the interior.

At tackle, the Packers have invested time in Caleb Jones and Tenuta as developmental projects, similar to how they nurtured Yosh Nijman. Then there’s a veteran like Andre Dillard, who carries a first-round pedigree but is very much a reclamation project coming off a bad year and on a veteran minimum contract with no guaranteed money. At guard, Jennings would be competing with Lecitus Smith and Royce Newman.

The competition ultimately looks lighter on the interior. The Packers could also carry more tackle types than interior types. However, the likeliest and simplest path for Jennings to make the team is as the 10th offensive lineman. Jennings is expected to play on the interior but could serve as a backup at tackle in a pinch. Ultimately, I expect Jennings to continue the UDFA streak.

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