The Green Bay Packers have had some real success in the NFL Draft in recent years, adding Pro Bowl players like Jaire Alexander and Elgton Jenkins, quality starters like Rashan Gary and important contributors like A.J. Dillon. They also found late-round gems like Jon Runyan, Jr. and Marquez Valdes-Scantling who contributed more than is usually expected from day three picks.
But despite some strong selections, the Packers have had a lot of difficulty getting contributions from their third-round picks in recent years. The last truly impact player they selected in the third round is defensive back Morgan Burnett who they took back in 2010. Some even call the Packers third round picks jinxed.
The picks haven’t all been disasters. Some of the lack of success is due to injuries or bad luck. For example, in 2011, the Packers selected running back Alex Green in the third round. He tore his ACL as a rookie and was never the same. The Packers released him the following year.
Current Packers GM Brian Gutekunst hasn’t had the finest track record picking in the third round. His first third round pick was inside linebacker Oren Burks. Burks had a strong preseason during his rookie year but was injured before the final game and never became a starter in the NFL. He started seven total games in four seasons with the Packers although he did become a mainstay on Green Bay’s special teams. Burks is still in the league playing the same role for the 49ers.
In 2019, the Packers added tight end Jace Sternberger in the third round. A combination of injuries, poor judgement and attitude issues hurt Sternberger’s career. He was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy before the start of his third NFL season.
The Packers waived him as soon as he came off the suspended list. Since then, the former Texas A&M product has bounced around practice squads but has yet to play another snap in the NFL. He was playing in the USFL this year and has a career total of 12 catches in the NFL for 114 yards and a touchdown.
One year later, the Packers added another tight end in the third round in Josiah Deguara. He has been Gutekunst’s most productive third-round pick so far.
The former University of Cincinnati star has been utilized primarily as a fullback and H-back. He played just 24 percent of the Packers offensive snaps in 2022 and according to many sources ended up in Aaron Rodgers’ doghouse. His career highs for a season are 25 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns all set in 2021. Deguara is a useful role player in the offense but has hardly been a difference maker.
In 2021, the Packers selected wide receiver Amari Rodgers in the third round even though he didn’t meet their usual standards for height, speed and athleticism. Rodgers lasted less than two seasons in Green Bay. He caught a total of eight passes and never integrated himself into the offense. In fact, Aaron Rodgers went out of his way to describe Amari Rodgers as just a return specialist.
Unfortunately, Amari Rodgers also struggled as a return specialist. He was not dynamic as a kick returner and had difficulty fielding the ball and holding on to the ball on punt returns. He often went east-west instead of north-south and lost some costly fumbles as well.
The Packers released him after 10 games in 2022 and he was picked up by the Houston Texans.
Last year’s third-round pick also failed to do much as a rookie although it’s far too soon to make a long-term judgment on his career. Offensive lineman Sean Rhyan had a rough rookie season. The UCLA alum made the team but played just one special teams snap in one game all season as he struggled to adjust to the NFL.
He was suspended by the league for violating their policy against PEDs and was unavailable for the final six games of the regular season.
Rhyan will return to the team for training camp this year and try to earn a spot on the team. He will need to show significant improvement in year two to get his pro career on track.
Now Kraft joins the third-round club and has an opportunity to end the team’s third-round jinx. The South Dakota State product has great size and athleticism at 6’5” and 254 pounds. He was timed in the 40 at 4.69 and has the athletic ability to get open down the field. He is also raw in his blocking technique and will need to make a big adjustment from a small school like South Dakota State to the NFL.
The tight end position is wide open with Deguara being the only returning veteran with substantial experience on offense. Kraft and second-round pick Luke Musgrave are expected to battle for significant playing time.
It may take Kraft time to develop into a solid NFL player, but the Packers are hoping he can finally end the long list of third round picks who have failed to live up to expectations.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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