The Green Bay Packers are going to be a much younger team in 2023 with inexperienced players projected to start at many key positions including quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. That will mean that young veterans will have to not only step up and play major roles but will also be looked at to lead their less experienced teammates.
The Packers 2021 NFL Draft class will now be entering their third season in the league. That is usually the point where coaches, scouts and fans get a good idea of where the players’ careers are headed and how they fit into the team’s plans.
This will be a vital season for the players GM Brian Gutekunst drafted in 2021. Many of them find themselves at a crossroads. Here is a look at what the coming season means for each of them:
Round 1: CB Eric Stokes:
Stokes was pressed into service sooner than expected in 2021 when Kevin King and Jaire Alexander were injured, and he had a very productive rookie season. He held opposing quarterbacks to below a 50 percent completion rate when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Unfortunately, Stokes’ play fell off significantly last season and he suffered a knee and foot injury in Week 9 that ended his season. The speedy Stokes no longer looked sure of himself in year two and was beaten often by receivers.
Presently, the former Georgia star is still rehabbing his injuries and may start the 2023 season on the PUP list.
Stokes has always had a positive attitude, but will he find a role on the defense with Alexander, Rasul Douglas set to be the starters. All three are best suited to playing on the boundary so where will Stokes play when he’s healthy and ready to return?
Round 2: C Josh Myers
Myers was limited to six games as a rookie due to assorted injuries but returned to start all 17 contests in 2022.
The Ohio State alum grades out better as a pass blocker than a run blocker and he must improve in this area to maintain his starting job this season and beyond.
Myers also must be more consistent in his overall game and add some strength to his upper body.
The Packers are hoping Myers proves his worth his season and establishes himself as a quality, long-term starter at center.
Round 3: WR Amari Rodgers
Rodgers never panned out with the Packers as a receiver, return specialist or gadget player. The Packers released him midway through the 2022 campaign after he continued to struggle as a punt returner.
Round 4: OL Royce Newman
Newman started 16 games at right guard as a rookie and six more games along the offensive line in 2022 but he was eventually benched when Elgton Jenkins moved back to guard.
The former Ole’ Miss star struggled with stunts and blitz pickups in his rookie year and didn’t seem to improve much in his second season.
Newman needs to prove he can at least be a swing offensive lineman to hold down a roster spot this year.
Round 5: DL T.J. Slaton
Slaton has made progress in his first two NFL seasons. He played in all 17 games both years and started two late-season games in 2022 after Dean Lowry was injured.
Slaton will be called upon to start in 2023 with Lowry and Jarran Reed now departed. He projects as a big, run stuffing lineman who can occasionally add some pressure from the interior line.
This year will be a chance for the University of Florida alum to prove he is ready to be a starter in the NFL and hopefully to help the Packers improve their always suspect run defense.
Round 6: OL Cole Van Lanen
Van Lanen played one snap for the Packers as a rookie and was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars before the start of the 2022 season. He has yet to start an NFL game and played mostly on special teams last year.
Round 6: ILB Isaiah McDuffie
McDuffie has established himself as a core special teams player after two seasons with the Packers. He started his first game on defense last season when De’Vondre Campbell was injured and has developed into a solid backup inside linebacker.
While he hasn’t proven himself as a starter yet, McDuffie is a solid special teams player and someone who can fill in for a stretch on defense if called upon.
Round 7: RB Kylin Hill
Hill played eight games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending knee injury on a kickoff return. He was activated off the PUP list in 2022 but was waived after playing two games with the team. Hill is currently a free agent.
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