Grading the Packers 2021 Draft Class After Half a Season

The Green Bay Packers have played a little more than half of their 2021 schedule and are off to an 8-2 start despite having to overcome numerous injuries to key personnel.

The Packers 2021 draft class has made contributions to the team’s success with some players contributing more than others. While it is too early to make final judgments on Brian Gutekunst’s draft class, 10 games are enough to get a solid first impression on how they look more than halfway through their first NFL season.

Grades are based on expectations and performance so a seventh round pick can get a higher grade than a first round pick if they have an identical impact thus far.

Here is a look at the contributions of the Packers 2021 draft class so far:

Round 1: CB Eric Stokes

Stokes has played in nine games, starting seven of them. He was thrust into a large role earlier than expected due to injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.

Stokes has made his share of rookie mistakes, mostly adjusting to the ball while it’s in the air. But overall, Stokes has had a very good start to his NFL career. Most rookie cornerbacks struggle but Stokes is already playing like a quality starter.

He has 31 tackles and nine passes broken up. He made his first career interception off Ben Roethlisberger in the Packers win over Pittsburgh.

According to pro-football-reference.com, opposing quarterbacks are completing only 50 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes. Their quarterback rating is only 75.2.

Stokes still must improve his technique and correct some of his mistakes, but he has the right work ethic, attitude and the physical tools to be a solid starter for a long time and possibly even a Pro Bowl level corner.

Grade: B+

Round 2: C Josh Myers

Myers won the starting center job in training camp and started the first four games of the season before suffering a finger injury that forced him to miss Week 5. He returned one week later only to suffer a knee injury that has kept him out of action since.

Myers has graded out as a better pass protector than run blocker according to Pro Football Focus, but he already ranked near the middle of the 39 graded centers by the site.

While Myers has made his share of rookie mistakes, he is already a solid starter at center. His biggest issue has been picking up stunts and blitzes where the defense floods the A-gap.

The Packers are hopeful Myers will return for the stretch drive although the timetable for his return is not certain.

Myers has shown the potential to be a consistent starter at center in the NFL for the foreseeable future.

Grade: B

Round 3: WR Amari Rodgers

Rodgers primary job has been returning punts as the acquisition of Randall Cobb reduced his potential role in the offense this season.

In 10 games, Rodgers has a total of 59 offensive snaps. He has one rush for 11 yards and three catches for 40 yards.

As a punt returner, Rodgers has struggled. His has not caught the ball cleanly on a consistent basis and every punt feels like an adventure. He has averaged just 6.6-yards per return on 16 runbacks and he has officially fumbled twice.

The Packers need more from Rodgers as a punt returner. He doesn’t need to be dynamic, but he does need to catch the ball cleanly and run north-south rather than trying to run east-west to try to create a big return.

It is likely Rodgers has a bigger role in the offense in 2022. Right now, he is fifth or sixth on the Packers depth chart at receiver which means he won’t see the field too often on offense barring injuries to other players.

Grade: C

Round 4: G Royce Newman

Newman has been the Packers starter at right guard since Week 1. In fact, the Mississippi alum hasn’t missed a snap all season.

Newman has been the weakest link of the Packers regular starters. He grades out higher as a pass blocker than a run blocker, but neither grade is high and Newman is near the bottom of PFF’s rankings among qualified guards.

Newman is tenacious and dedicated to improving himself, but he has a long way to go to become a quality starter in the NFL. If the Packers offensive line was healthy, Newman would probably be on the bench right now.

The encouraging news is that Newman had one of his best games against the Seahawks a week ago.

Grade: C

Round 5: DL T.J. Slaton

Slaton has played in all 10 games for the Packers and been a part of the defensive line rotation. The 6’4”, 330-pound former Florida star has 13 total tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.

Slaton had a very promising training camp. He has more push in the pass rush than one might expect for a man of his size. He has graded out higher as a pass rusher than as a run stuffer. He continues to learn and has seen more snaps in recent games including playing 69 percent of the defensive snaps against the Chiefs when Kingsley Keke was injured.

Slaton should see a bigger role as he gains experience and may fight for a starting job in 2022.

Grade: C+

Round 5: CB Shemar Jean-Charles

Jean-Charles has played in eight games this season as a reserve cornerback and special teams player. He has four total tackles while playing 23 snaps on defense. He has played 105 snaps on special teams on coverage teams.

Jean-Charles is making a big jump from Appalachian State to the NFL so a limited role on defense was expected in his rookie year. He has good speed and ball instincts but needs to improve his technique if he hopes to compete for consistent playing time on defense.

Grade: C

Round 6: OL Cole Van Lanen

The former Wisconsin Badger was released by the Packers after the preseason and signed to the practice squad. He’s spent the entire season there. Van Lanen is strong and determined but needs to work on his footwork and on blocking on the second level. He is available if injuries strike and should be in training camp again fighting for a roster spot next season.

Grade: Incomplete

Round 6: LB Isaiah McDuffie

McDuffie was injured early in camp but had a big game in the preseason finale in Buffalo that clinched a roster spot for him.

Thus far, the Boston College alum has played in seven of the Packers first 10 games exclusively on special teams. He has yet to be credited with a tackle this season. The Packers will watch his development and hope for more from McDuffie in the future.

Grade: C

Round 7: RB Kylin Hill

Hill was the Packers third running back and primary kick returner before he suffered a knee injury against the Cardinals. He will miss the rest of the season.

Hill carried 10 times for 24 yards with a long run of eight yards. He also caught one pass for five yards.

His biggest role was as a kick returner. The Mississippi State alum averaged a pedestrian 19.9-yards per return with a long of 41 yards.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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4 points

Comments (16)

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HawkPacker's picture

November 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

No grade for Hill?

8 points
8
0
Nordom's picture

November 18, 2021 at 01:06 pm

Eric Stokes: A- for me. Late 1st round pick CB that has played the outside position well immediately out of the gate. No, he's not defensive rookie of the year, but there's little more you can ask for given his draft position (he was not a surefire prospect by any means) and the circumstances he was immediately pushed into - we are incredibly fortunate he has played at a starter level so quickly, and if this were anything but a first rounder, it would be an A or A+.

Josh Meyers: A-. Similar situation as above, very fortunate to get seemingly a legitimate starter-calibre player in his first year. However, him being hurt for an extended amount of time now (and going forward) does impact this rating some, but it looks to have been another very good pick - hope he comes back playing how he did.

Amari Rodgers: D+. Very little but not nonexistent contribution so far, would just like to see him not mess up and get better on punt/kick returns at this point - doing that would take him up to a C for me.

Royce Newman: B-. He's a 4th round lineman that started literally immediately due to other injuries and while he hasn't been good or even necessarily solid, he's been serviceable and that's about all you can realistically ask out of a developmental 4th rounder. For where he was drafted, this looks to have been a solid pick - he has played better than some 1st or 2nd round OL picks our divisional foes have made over the years.

T.J. Slaton: B-. Similar to above, have to be decently satisfied with what we're seeing out of his first year with legitimate playing time.

Shemar Jean-Charles: N/A or C? I have not seen him play enough or enough of his grades or advanced stats to determine much, but at least he's gotten some playtime without being an immediate and shocking embarrassment.

Cole Van Lanen: D. Released but signed to the practice squad says a lot, but it's by no means the end of his story and we're only in the first year of this draft - the draft grades that actually matter are the ones that come three years after the draft.

Isaiah McDuffie: D+. No immediate contribution, but he's a very late draft pick that made the team, it's fine.

Kylin Hill: B-. The very last draft pick, and he looked good in pre-season action and he did well as our primary kick returner AND he had some small contributions on offense. Really sucks he got hurt.

In my opinion, this has been a legit B or B+ draft so far, which is fantastic given how late in the draft pecking order we were. Strong possibility to move higher depending on how some of these promising guys continue to develop. The reverse can also happen, of course - some guys go through sophomore slumps or their first year play turns out to be a bit of a mirage and they never play how they initially did, much less develop beyond that. Come back in two years!

13 points
15
2
Coldworld's picture

November 18, 2021 at 04:50 pm

I prefer yours except Hill. Not much impact as a returner, not much opportunity as a runner. Injured in a boneheaded decision. C.

I’m a bit more generous with McDuffie, since I expected very little if anything. C.

1 points
1
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Nordom's picture

November 18, 2021 at 07:18 pm

I didn't think he was fantastic as a returner or anything, and the decision to bring it out was indeed dumb and could possibly cost him his career, but he was sure-handed and did his job fine otherwise from what I remember. Not like Amari Rodgers, where I literally wince anytime we have to field anything - he's scary. For a 7th rounder, most of who never do anything, that's pretty solid.

2 points
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croatpackfan's picture

November 19, 2021 at 02:53 pm

Coldworld, ACL tear is non contact injury in most occasions (remember Jordy Nelson?). When Hill started to run he stumbled (the moment when his ACL tore). He made 2 more steps before contact, basically falling down and trying to keep the balance when he was hit.

He might got instruction from the sideline to try to field the kickoff to spare more time. We will never find out why he tried to field it, but there is one opportunity.

0 points
1
1
bassrock's picture

November 18, 2021 at 01:04 pm

Amari Rodgers gets a D- at best. His punt returning is actually criminal and has cost the team plenty. I guess you could blame the team though for not putting someone else back there.

8 points
10
2
Lphill's picture

November 18, 2021 at 01:08 pm

Slaton makes the most of his snaps he was tossing Seattle O lineman in the ground , B at least .

15 points
15
0
marpag1's picture

November 18, 2021 at 01:20 pm

Agree that Rodgers needs to be lower... something D-ish at most. Admittedly, I've been less excited about Rodgers than most other people ever since he was drafted. But for me, it's not just the lack of production. A lot of rookie WRs flop as far as production is concerned. But for most of them, at least you can see ability, and together with ability, potential.

What troubles me about Rodgers is that I don't think I've seen much of anything at all that makes me say, "That kid's got potential." I mean, where are the "glimpses" and the athleticism? Has he shown great speed? Quickness? Catching ability? Toughness? Run after the catch ability? Field vision? What?

Show me something, dude. At least a glimmer of potential would be nice. No one is a bust after half a season, especially at wide receiver. But right now, it doesn't look very promising.

Overall, I like the draft a lot. Considering he is a rookie, I'd grade Stokes higher. Myers higher, too. You could make a case the Newman in round 4 is pretty good initial return. A C for a rookie starter in Round 4 seems pretty harsh.

16 points
16
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HarryHodag's picture

November 18, 2021 at 02:13 pm

The thing that sticks to me about this draft is none of them are gone. During the Ted Thompson drafts two or three would stick and the rest were el-gone-oh.

Stokes has played well considering his youth. Here's a question: when Alexander returns, who plays? Stokes has beaten out Kevin King.
The only rookie I'm a bit curious about is Amari Rodgers. Matt LF seems a bit reluctant to have him in the offense. I don't think I would have him return kicks any more.

Some of the grades I would have a bit higher but overall the grades are close.

When you look at last year's draft, the Packers have compiled back-to-back good to great drafts. Love remains an unknown but there are four players that have have contributed substantially and only two players are gone from that draft.

The year prior includes Gary and Savage, Jenkins(already receiving league honors) Keke and Summers.

So when you hear the Chicken Littles of the world saying the sky is falling, the recent drafts have gone a long way to restock the team.....affordably.

1 points
4
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HawkPacker's picture

November 19, 2021 at 10:41 am

Nice comments Harry with the exception of Summers. When he is in the lineup he appears very slow and does not react quickly and you see him get faked out when trying to make a tackle.

Maybe he is ok on special teams but maybe he should be upgraded there based on how the special teams are performing.

2 points
2
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Cubbygold's picture

November 18, 2021 at 02:19 pm

I don't quite understand the logic on Stokes. What would earn him an A+? Has to be an all-pro as a rookie?

If the 2021 draft is redone, he's off the board way before 29. I'm not sure there's a single rookie that doesn't have things to work on, especially rookie corners going against the type of competition he's faced.

11 points
11
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Leatherhead's picture

November 18, 2021 at 05:42 pm

I think if a rookie stays healthy enough to continue to work and develop, that’s at least a B. These guys like Myers and Hill aren’t improving in the tub.

1 points
2
1
stockholder's picture

November 18, 2021 at 05:49 pm

All have been a surprise. Stokes, Myers, Newman = Agree. Rodgers= D. Slaton = B+. Hill= D. Just not fast enough for me.

-2 points
3
5
Bure9620's picture

November 18, 2021 at 10:09 pm

I would have Slaton higher, he showing great promise already. He completely wrecked two runs against the Seahawks. Lots of promise for a 5th round pick. A. Rodgers is a D for me. He was invisible even when missing our top 3 WRs. Had A catch and a drop. My heart is in my throat whenever he is about to catch a punt. Didn't really like the pick to begin with. You would think he would be ready sooner considering he has had the advantage of his father being Tee Martin, but we will see.

5 points
5
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 19, 2021 at 03:11 pm

One would have to agree on what sort of curve should be used. If you can't play except on STs, you can't get a C unless the player is a 6th or 7th rounder. My grades on how these players will ultimately turn out

Stokes: B. A first round rookie who is an acceptable starter is worth a C, in my book, but if you play DL or CB, then I add a full grade. Stokes is getting better as he plays more, so I expect his grade to continue to improve. Certainly his PFF grade is moving in the right direction. I coveted Greg Newsome (who apparently is a solid starting CB), but Stokes has made me fine with the decision not to move up for Newsome.

Myers: C+. Teams should be able to find competent interior offensive linemen, particularly centers, in the second round, but alas, some still fail. Myers has been an acceptable starting center as a 2nd round rookie. Injuries happen, so I am not downgrading him for that. I was overjoyed that Creed Humphrey was still on the board and fully expected GB to select Humphry, who looks like he is going to be great. I have tried not to let the comparison with Creed Humphry affect my grading. Myers looks like he can play.

Amari Rodgers: D. He isn't ready to play even if Cobb hadn't been acquired. His punt returns are indeed adventures. I don't see real speed. He has some burst, but nothing that exciting. Plenty of time for him to work on his receiving skills.

Newman: D+. It is a lot to ask a 4th round rookie to start at right guard. Newman is starting purely by default. He has looked like a guy who has the wherewithal to be able to play, but has moments where he is confused by stunts. Inconsistent with his run blocking. Overall, he just isn't very good at present. I can certainly envision him developing into a better player, though I don't think he is destined to be a pro bowler.

TD Slaton: B-. Big guy with better pass rush ability than advertised. 5th round defensive linemen typically don't do much as rookies. However, Slaton held his own when he was forced to play 45 snaps and appears to be getting better. The last two 5th round DL, Keke and Josh Boyd, played 94 and 102 snaps, respectively. I expect Slaton to play 200+. Slaton has no missed tackles so far. Not quite as stout as expected, but pretty stout, and tough when he gets a one on one.

Jean-Charles: C-. This is a tough Defensive Backfield to crack as a 5th round guy. Chandon Sullivan is probably the vulnerable guy, but Jean-Charles was never close to competing for snaps. He has played STs. Cain't say I've noticed anything good or bad on STs but he has no tackles either. He was a curious draft pick, since he is just 5'10" and 178 pounds while not being fast or quick or even a particularly good athlete.

Van Lanen: D+. Didn't make the initial 53. 6th rounders are roughly 50/50 on making the roster. He didn't so it is as simple as that.

McDuffie: C. Sixth rounder who made the team and plays STs.

Hill: C+. 7th rounder who made the team. He got a few snaps and appeared to have earned them. Played STs. I grant that he looked pedestrian as a kick off returner, but that's not enough to lower his grade.

2 points
2
0
CoachDino's picture

November 20, 2021 at 12:42 am

draft grades are fun but can greatly vary due to methodology. is the grade based on expectation, league comparison, reason for pick, grading gm or player, development, need(short or long)....this years draft seem to lean toward short term while last years wasnt so much. stokes and meyers being rookie starters and performing around avg to vets are easy year 1 objective As. rodgers gadget/slot roll was shelved due to cobb andh his sts poor, but the 3rd picks value is year 2/3 tobe fair. nueman a late(as they all r) in the rd 4th has been aday 1 starter, not that good, but has sufficed, thats agm A and player b. the rest r good just making a talented roster. if you graded last years the same way it would be an Fplus as jd would get snap, dillon a few, thats it, yet by 2022/3 they may grade out much higher.

-1 points
0
1