Packers Rookie Class Update

By: 
Bill Huber
Correspondent

Having collected three of the first 34 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers had a chance to add some instant impact to a team coming off three consecutive 13-win seasons.

With the season entering the stretch run, the Packers maybe haven’t quite gotten what they had hoped for from their 11-man class. The arrow is pointed up, though.

Five players have started at least one game. Linebacker Quay Walker has played about 80% of the snaps. Zach Tom has started games at left tackle and left guard. All three rookie receivers have scored touchdowns.

Here is a look at the Class of 2022.

• First Round (22nd overall): LB Quay Walker

Walker was in the starting lineup from Day 1 of training camp and hasn’t left. The first linebacker off the board, Walker and Jacksonville’s Devin Lloyd — the Butkus Award-winning linebacker from Utah and the second linebacker selected — are running neck-and-neck for the rookie tackles lead.

Walker has tackled well, forced a couple fumbles, gotten some pressure as a blitzer, stepped up in coverage vs. Dallas and took a nice step in his career by replacing injured veteran De’Vondre Campbell as the defensive communicator.

Before taking that role for the game against Detroit, Walker half-jokingly worried about his “country” accent being a challenge for his teammates to understand in the huddle.

“Yeah, he’ll go to South Georgia every once in a while in his speech,” position coach Kirk Olivadotti said. “All joking aside, he really did do a nice job. It takes a little bit more studying maybe just to make sure you get all the calls, not just the part of the call that’s important to you — the words that are in there that apply to everyone.”

The NFL keeps tackle data dating to 1987. The Packers’ rookie record for tackles was set by A.J. Hawk with 121 in 2006. Walker’s on pace to get 117.

• First Round (28th overall): DT Devonte Wyatt

Wyatt’s been given limited opportunities, a byproduct of joining a line with established veterans Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed and promising second-year player T.J. Slaton. Because of a nondescript training camp and preseason, he failed to force his way into the lineup.

He’s 14th among rookie defensive linemen in snaps. He has shown some juice as a pass rusher.

“He has been a kid I think has gotten better every single week,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “His play is going to increase. And, obviously, the more you play, hopefully the more plays you make. He’s a young kid that’s just learning, learning how to be a pro, working, and that’s all we can ask for. Hopefully, with more opportunities there’s a chance for more splash plays.”

• Second Round (34th overall): WR Christian Watson

The Packers traded their two second-round picks to the rival Vikings to zoom up to near the top of the second round to get Watson, the small-school receiver with the big-time skillset.

Through no fault of his own, his rookie season had been a disappointment. He had knee surgery following the offseason program, meaning he missed the start of training camp. He missed three full games and parts of two others with hamstring issues. He missed most of one game with a concussion and half of another over fears of a concussion.

When he did play, he made minimal impact. For the first nine weeks, he had two noteworthy plays: a dropped 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the season at Minnesota and a touchdown run against Chicago.

Then came week 10 against Dallas. Watson shook off back-to-back drops to catch four passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns. A 58-yard touchdown on third-and-1 in the second quarter could change the trajectory of his season — and the team’s season.

“I think that catch probably on the atomic level shifted a lot of different things for him, exorcising some energetic demons,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I’m proud of him. Obviously, he’s really, really fast. He’s got to catch the ball a little more consistently, but not much negative you can say after his performance tonight.”

• Third Round (92nd overall): G Sean Rhyan

A left tackle at UCLA, Rhyan spent most of training camp playing left guard. He struggled through the transition and hasn’t been close to earning snaps on offense.

“Sean, he’s got a helmet on gameday, so anyone who does, you better be ready and be prepared to be a starter,” offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. “He’s a guy that’s progressing every week. He’s learning how to become a professional, learning what it takes to be successful in this league, and he has a ways to go, yes, but I like how he’s coming along.”

• Fourth Round (132nd overall): WR Romeo Doubs

Through the first six games of the season, Doubs was third in the rookie class with 22 receptions and first with a 75.9% catch rate. But he was shut out at home vs. Washington (four targets, zero catches, two drops) and suffered a high-ankle sprain on the opening play at Detroit.

“You guys who’ve got to know him, he’s calm, cool and collected,” receivers coach and passing-game coordinator Jason Vrable said. “That’s how he plays out there. He loves ball. Since I met the kid when he came on his (predraft) visit, that’s the one thing I knew from him. I’m like, ‘This kid truly loves football, above everything else.’

“He prepared, he had a great offseason. I know you guys always talk about how he’s making some plays in practice, and it was the truth. You could see it, you could feel it from him. I told him it was only a matter of time before you start climbing.”

Doubs has deep speed, good hands and a pro’s mentality. There might be some growing pains on offense this year, but the Packers have to be thrilled with a potential Watson-Doubs pairing as the future centerpiece of their passing attack.

• Fourth Round (140th overall): OL Zach Tom

Tom arrived for duty in May with a lofty goal. He wanted to be the next Elgton Jenkins, a lineman capable of contributing at all five offensive line positions.

He’s three-fifths the way there in terms of game snaps. Through the first 10 games, Tom had played 96 snaps at left guard, 86 at left tackle and 13 at right guard. There’s no doubt he could handle right tackle and center if asked.

Tom got worked over a few times by some crafty veterans but, by and large, he’s never been a consistent problem in his four games in which he got considerable playing time.

Ultimately, the interior spots will be Tom’s forte, Stenavich said.

“He doesn’t have your typical tackle body with the length and all that stuff,” Stenavich said. “He’s very athletic, he’s stout, he’s more physical than you think in the run game. Very intelligent. I think inside would probably be his best position as his career progresses. But he’s shown to be all right on the edge, too. He has that versatility to do everything.”

• Fifth Round (179th overall): OLB Kingsley Enagbare

A golden opportunity was handed to Enagbare. With no proven depth behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, the No. 3 spot was up for grabs during training camp. Enagbare won that role and has grown into a solid contributor.

According to Pro Football Focus, Enagbare didn’t have a single pressure in his first five games. The next five games, he had two sacks and eight pressures. With Gary out with a torn ACL, Enagbare will spend the rest of his rookie season in the starting lineup.

“It’s definitely a confidence thing,” Enagbare said. “Like I tell some of the guys who might not be confident now, I tell them for me, it started off with preseason, I really didn’t go against any starters.

“For me, it was whether or not I can play versus the starters. ‘Can I hold my own?’ As the season went on, it started with holding my own to ‘Can I make plays against those guys?’ It went from that to, ‘How consistently can I do it?’ Now, it’s, ‘Can I start dominating guys.’”

• Seventh Round (228th overall): S Tariq Carpenter

An intriguing package of size and speed, Carpenter has been limited only to action on special teams.

He made his first tackle against Dallas, dropping premier kick returner KaVontae Turpin at the 12 on a fourth quarter kickoff.

• Seventh Round (234th overall): DT Jonathan Ford

If opportunities for playing time have been scarce for the first-rounder Wyatt, they’ve been nonexistent for the seventh-rounder Ford.

He didn’t play a single snap through 10 games.

• Seventh Round (249th overall): OT Rasheed Walker

After drafting Walker, general manager Brian Gutekunst said he wasn’t looking for another lineman but Walker was too good to pass up. A starting left tackle at Penn State, injury issues hurt his development during training camp.

Offensive line coach Luke Butkus coached him hard, and Walker probably made the team based on his performance in the preseason finale at Kansas City. He has not played through 10 games.

• Seventh Round (258th overall): WR Samori Toure

A star at Montana, Toure transferred to Nebraska for his senior season. That decision got him drafted. He was given the nickname “Capt. Casual” for a bit too nonchalant of an approach during training camp. That earned him a spot on the inactives list for the first six games.

Necessity got Toure thrown into the fire, and he made a big-time play on a touchdown catch at Buffalo. If the Packers eventually fall out of playoff contention, they’ll need to give Toure most of the snaps that are going to Sammy Watkins.

“I think ‘83’ has shown some progression for sure, especially the last few weeks of making some plays, and that’s directly tied to his practice habits,” Rodgers said before the Dallas game. “I haven’t called him Capt. Casual in weeks. He’s been really practicing his balls off and doing a good job.”