Dougherty: Packers may have to sift through bargain bin to fill pressing draft need
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers don’t need a starting offensive lineman from this week’s NFL draft, but it sure wouldn’t hurt if they picked one.
They have to replace departed free agent Corey Linsley at center, and early in the season they probably also need a fill-in for David Bakhtiari at left tackle while he recovers from ACL surgery.
There are a lot of ways they can shift and add players to fill those spots, but the best case would be drafting a tackle who could start until Bakhtiari returns, serve as the back swing tackle for the rest of the season and then start at right tackle starting in 2022. That would allow Billy Turner to move back to his preferred guard position for the final year of his contract.
So it’s a given offensive line is on the radar for general manager Brian Gutekunst at pick No. 29 in the first round, and especially tackle, because it’s a premium position in this league. The best time to get them is early.
The question is whether Gutekunst will find a lineman still available he deems worth taking at No. 29 overall or even in a trade back to the early second round.
At this point it looks like a given that four offensive linemen will be off the board before Gutekunst picks: Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, USC guard-tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker and Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw.
There’s a pretty good chance a fifth, Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins, will be gone, too.
That could leave Gutekunst looking at a group of probably three offensive linemen who according to five scouts I consulted recently are plausible picks at No. 29, though whether Gutekunst thinks any of them is worth taking then is another matter: Notre Dame tackle Liam Eichenberg, Texas tackle Samuel Cosmi and Alabama guard-tackle Alex Leatherwood.
Following is a thumbnail look at each, along with Jenkins on the off chance he’s still available at 29. It also bears remembering that the NFL draft is the ultimate exercise in beauty in the eye of the beholder, so Gutekunst and his staff might see these players much differently than any and all the scouts consulted here:
Teven Jenkins, tackle, Oklahoma State (6-5⅞, 317): Four-year starter played mostly right tackle but throughout his career logged snaps at every position on the line except center. Might not make it out of the top 20 picks.
“Impressive in the way he moves for his size, light on his feet and able to adjust in space,” one scout said. “Concerning in that he’s on the ground occasionally, he’ll lunge into his blocks and come off balance and end up on the ground. He likes to overpower with his upper body. Did a good job finishing blocks, his size will help him in that area. Can quickly make the reach cutoff (run) block without a problem. I would absolutely consider him a decent pick (at 29).”
Said a second scout: “He’s big and athletic, simple as that.”
Liam Eichenberg, tackle, Notre Dame (6-6⅛, 306): Three-year starter at left tackle whose three predecessors at that position for Notre Dame (Zack Martin, Ronnie Staley and Mike McGlinchey) were first-round picks. Lacks arm length (32⅝-inch arms), so might end up at guard.
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“I like him better than those other guys,” one scout said. “He’s got decent feet, he’s really productive. He just makes his block, a good enough athlete, strong enough, plays smart, shows you a little bit of everything. He could be a Day 1 starter, a guy that plays forever. … I think that would be a good pick (at 29).”
Probably athletic enough to fit the Packers’ zone run blocking scheme, which emphasizes quickness over power.
“A really good pass blocker, but he’s going to have to gain some more power and strength to be a better run blocker,” another scout said. “If you ask him to do athletic things in the run game, he can do that, the pull, the reach, the scoop, stuff like that. The left tackle there in Green Bay (i.e., Bakhtiari) is like this. When he came out of Colorado he was not a very strong guy, but he was a really good athlete. This could be a similar type guy.”
Samuel Cosmi, tackle, Texas (6-5⅞, 314): Three-year starter with one season at right tackle and the last two at left tackle. Caught scouts’ attention with an excellent workout at his pro day, including running a 4.85-second 40 (the average at the NFL scouting combine for offensive linemen since 1999, according to MockDraftable, is 5.28 seconds), a 4.39 short shuttle (average 4.75 seconds) and 36 bench reps (average 25).
“I wasn’t crazy about him,” one scout said. “Sort of a workout dude. Those numbers you see in the workout don’t really translate to the field. Upright, stiff-hipped player. I’d put him at either right tackle or guard.”
Said another scout: “I don’t see a dominating player here. Catch type, steer out of the way. I’d expect him to do more with his size, but he’s more of an athlete than power. I wish he’d just come off the ball and hammer people, but that’s not his game. He just tries to stay in the way of the defender as a run blocker. He’s good for a couple steps then loses his connection with the defender. You don’t see a nasty side to his game, there’s just no pop or power to him. He doesn’t have terrible range but there are snaps where he’s pretty ordinary in his pass set and initial quickness.”
Alex Leatherwood, Alabama, guard-center (6-4¾, 312): Didn’t miss a game the last three years as a starter at right guard in 2018 and left tackle the last seasons for the premier program in the country.
“He looks massive on tape,” one scout said. “Impressive ease of movement, blocks as if he almost isn’t trying to, but he takes his man out of the play. He’s a hard man to run through. He’ll get movement in the run game with brute strength and power. He can drive his man off the ball or make the reach block to get the edge. Plays light on his feet. Finishes his blocks. Could play guard, but if you line him up at tackle I believe he’d be just fine. … I had Leatherwood ahead of Jenkins. I had it Eichenberg, Leatherwood and then Jenkins.”
Said a second scout: “I feel like I’ve been watching him for 20 years at Alabama. You love his length, he knows how to play. He’s not particularly athletic, he’s not particularly strong, he’s hit or miss with production. He’ll bounce around the league, he won’t be a top-tier player.”