The 2023 NFL Draft will be the sixth for Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst since he took over in 2018. While Gutekunst has had his share of great picks (Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary) and picks that haven’t panned out (Josh Jackson, J’Mon Moore), one disturbing pattern has emerged over the first five drafts by Gutekunst: the Packers third round picks have not lived up to expectations. Is this the year that slump is finally broken?

It all started in 2018 when the Packers traded up to select inside linebacker Oren Burks in the third round. Burks looked good in his first training camp but suffered an injury late in the preseason and never fully showed his early promise. In four years with the Packers, Burks started only seven games and never became a reliable player on defense.

Burks was not re-signed by the Packers after his rookie contract expired. He did become a core special teams player but expectations are that a third-round pick, especially one you traded up to get, would develop into a starter on defense.

In 2019, the Packers selected tight end Jace Sternberger. The former Texas A&M star started only one game over two seasons. Sternberger caught a total of 12 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown in 18 NFL games. There were questions about Sternberger’s work ethic and attitude.

Prior to the 2021 season, Sternberger was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Packers waived him once his suspension ended. Since then, four teams have signed Sternberger but he has yet to appear in another NFL regular-season game and has spent most of his time on various practice squads. He is now playing in the USFL for the Birmingham Stallions.

The Packers 2020 third round pick was tight end Josiah Deguara. LaFleur was high on Deguara. The Packers took him in the third round which was considered a bit of a reach by most scouts because they didn’t have a fourth round pick after trading up in the first round of the draft that year.

Deguara has become a useful role player for the Packers, lining up as a fullback, H-back or tight end depending on the formation and the needs of the team. He has started six games in three seasons and has caught a total of 39 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns in his career.

The former University of Cincinnati star may take on a bigger role in the offense now that LaFleur can run his system without having to adjust to Aaron Rodgers and with the departure of Robert Tonyan and possible departure of Marcedes Lewis via free agency.

In 2021, Gutekunst traded up to draft wide receiver Amari Rodgers in the third round. Rodgers never became a significant part of the offense and caught only eight passes for 95 yards over his two seasons with the Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers basically disrespected Amari Rodgers before the season started last year and said he was only a return specialist.

Unfortunately, Amari Rodgers never became a consistent return specialist, either. He was tentative at fielding the football and often went east-west as opposed to north-south on his returns. He also had an issue with catching the ball cleanly and holding onto the ball.

The Packers finally benched Amari Rodgers as their primary return specialist and then released him after less than two seasons with the team. He signed with the Houston Texans where he caught 12 passes in the final six games of the season. Rodgers was a bust and never became a big contributor to the team.

In 2022, the Packers used their third round pick on UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan. While it is too early to judge how Rhyan will turn out, his rookie campaign was certainly a disappointment. He played only one play all season on special teams and then was suspended by the league for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

Even before he was suspended, Rhyan was passed on the depth chart by fourth round pick Zach Tom. His adjustment to the NFL was a slower one than the team had hoped and he was unable to break into the lineup even when the Packers offensive line was dealing with injuries and inconsistent play.

Rhyan still has time to have a productive NFL career but his first season was a disappointment.

The Packers presently have one third-round pick, the 78th overall in the draft. Hopefully, whoever Gutekunst picks will break the string of disappointing third-round selections by the Packers in recent years.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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