Recently, The Packers Wire’s manager editor Zach Kruse released a call to arms for Green Bay Packers content writers to spread the good word about Zach Tom, the team’s terrific right tackle.
But one look at Tom’s season makes it clear the second-year offensive lineman deserves the praise. Tom was one of the best rookie linemen in the league last season and took a giant leap to become a reliable blocker for Green Bay’s new franchise quarterback. If it weren’t for Jordan Love‘s ascension in the second half of the season, people would probably view Tom as the young offense’s breakout star.
Tom improved in every metric and proved he could be the team’s starting right tackle for the next decade. What’s next for this young standout, and how can he get on the national radar in 2024?
No team in recent memory has been nearly as good at identifying quality offensive linemen in the later rounds of the draft as the Green Bay Packers. Brian Gutekunst continued Ted Thompson‘s success by finding role players, quality starters, and potential stars on Day 3 of the draft.
Tom might be the best find since David Bakhtiari.
Green Bay immediately challenged Tom as a rookie. He played four different positions as an injury replacement throughout the season. Tom mainly played center and guard at Wake Forest but also got plenty of opportunities at guard. Tom finished the 2022 season with 295 snaps at left tackle, 96 at left guard, 14 at right guard, and 84 at right tackle.
Entering the 2023 season, Tom was one of Green Bay’s best five offensive linemen on the team. The only question was where he would play. Tom saw snaps all across the line in the offseason, including a fair shot at center. But he eventually beat out Yosh Nijman for the team’s starting right tackle position. Even when the Packers ruled Bakhtiari out for the rest of the season, Tom stayed planted on the right side.
Tom took to the role with gusto, becoming the line’s most prominent and consistent player. That’s saying a lot, considering Elgton Jenkins also finished with a solid season.
He started all 19 games and logged nearly 1,200 snaps, committing only three penalties and allowing only two sacks. Pass protection is Tom’s biggest strength, but he took a massive leap forward as a run-blocker. He’s a technician on the field, using skill and good fundamentals to make up for his lack of pure size.
Tom built on a regular season by being one of Green Bay’s best playoff players. Tom was PFF’s highest-graded offensive tackle in the Wild Card round. He was also one of the team’s top-graded offensive players against the San Francisco 49ers despite leaving the game early with a concussion, earning a 68.3 from PFF and a +0.5 from Andy Herman. Tom finished the season with a 77.8 PFF grade.
Unfortunately for Tom, the better you are as an offensive tackle, the less frequently your name comes up. It’s hard to get sexy stats as an offensive lineman, so Tom’s name isn’t well-known outside Packer Nation. He didn’t get any Pro Bowl or All-Pro love despite facing a slew of powerful pass-rushers and consistently coming out on top.
We’ll want to see Tom take another step forward in Year 3, especially in run-blocking. But improving as a pass protector means he’ll stand out less.
The best way for Tom to earn the Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods he deserves is to keep doing his job and earn accolades from his teammates. Skill position players receive more glory. Therefore, Jordan Love or Aaron Jones can help circulate his name by giving him shoutouts.
Green Bay exceeded expectations in 2023. But with Love proving he’s a franchise QB, more eyes will be on the Packers next year. Should the team build on last season and generate more overall hype, Tom should get more notice organically.
Gutekunst struck gold in the fourth round once again. And like David Bakhtiari earlier in his career, Tom is an excellent overlooked player. Will Tom repeat his left tackle’s pattern and earn an All-Pro before a Pro Bowl? He’s already playing at that level, and a wider audience will hopefully learn that in 2024.