The NFL Draft is notoriously hard to predict. Every organization’s team of scouts and coaches look at the pool of prospects differently and they focus on different aspects. There is almost always a group of players who go much higher or much lower than the national media predicts. One of the hardest general managers to predict these past two years has been Brian Gutekunst. Last season the Packers were on the clock in the first round with Derwin James, Tremaine Edmunds, Marcus Davenport, and Harold Landry on the board, four players that many had dreamed the Packers would take. Instead, Gutekunst traded back, watched three of those players get taken, and then traded up to select Jaire Alexander. Things didn’t play out all too differently. On the clock with the 12th overall selection there were players like Brian Burns and Noah Fant, who many people had predicted Green Bay would take. Instead they took Rashan Gary and later Darnell Savage Jr., two players almost nobody predicted they’d take.
Despite the seemingly random nature of the Packers’ picks under Gutekunst, a trend has started to emerge. With little exception, the Packers have exceptional athletes at positions of need. If you’re a potential NFL pick you’re a good athlete, but amongst the many NFL players there are those that separate themselves from the rest. Rather than focus on any particular metric, such as speed, strength, lateral quickness, etc., a look at the overall athletic picture of the Packers draft picks of the past two years paints an interesting picture. One such metric that combines size, strength, speed, explosion, and lateral quickness is called Relative Athletic Score, or RAS. RAS scores players on a chart from 0 to 10 based on their position and measurables. Several writers started tweeting out the RAS profiles of draft picks and a trend quickly emerged for Green Bay.
A majority of NFL draft picks have a RAS score of less than 8, but only one of the Packers eight 2019 draft picks did (Third-round pick Jace Sternberger). What is more, their first overall pick, Rashan Gary, had the highest RAS of any defensive player in the draft (9.95), with punter Mitch Wishnnawsky and guard Garrett Bradbury being the only two to score higher. In fact, Gary is the heaviest player (he weighs 277 pounds) to ever run a 40-yard dash in under 4.6 seconds (he clocked a 4.58) at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Packers’ second first-round pick, Darnell Savage Jr., had a slightly lower RAS (8.35) than Rashan Gary, but Savage was elite in both speed and explosion metrics, being held back in the ranking by his relatively slight frame compared to his safety counterparts. The same holds true for many of the Packers picks even in late rounds. Regardless of their production, regardless of their size, the newest Packers are flat out phenomenal athletes. The same held true in 2018, when seven of the team’s 11 draft picks had RAS’s over 9.
Two things in common with #Packers 1st round picks — versatility and athletic freaks. Green Bay has a type
Rashan Gary can play anywhere along the defensive line. RAS score of 9.95
Darnell Savage has experience at all positions in the secondary. RAS score of 8.35 pic.twitter.com/VyI4HeDwuF
— Joe Kipp (@JuhKipp) April 26, 2019
You might be thinking “so what” right about now. That’s a fair critique, after all, much of what makes or breaks NFL players goes beyond athletic profiles. Players need to be technically proficient, understand complex gameplans, and be relentlessly hard workers. The thing is, technique and schemes can be taught, and anybody can work hard (though of course not all do). What you can’t teach is raw athleticism. Gutekunst is reworking the defense (and the offense, to a lesser degree) with prime time athletes and trusting defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with the keys to the car. After finishing 18th in total defense in 2018 they’ll introduce a load of young talent to go along with free agent additions and a year of familiarity with the system. On offense they’ve added depth to the offensive line, tight end group, and running back. The coaches will need to make the most of things, but the Packers are quickly becoming one of the more athletically impressive teams in the NFL.