It takes years to gain the perspective necessary to fully judge a draft class in the NFL. Teams select players based on long-term outlook, and often their potential isn’t immediately apparent as a rookie.
Still, for a team like the Green Bay Packers, getting first-year contributions is important. Their Super Bowl run in 2010 likely doesn’t happen without Bryan Bulaga stepping in for the injured right tackle Mark Tauscher or Andrew Quarless filling the void left by tight end Jermichael Finley. Likewise, the franchise doesn’t appear in the NFC Championship Game in 2014 without the steady play of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or center Corey Linsley. While Aaron Rodgers drives the franchise, his young teammates factor into its success.
That shouldn’t change in 2017. At least some members of the Packers’ rookie class must step up and make an instant impact. Based on their ability, position, and opportunity to see the field, the team’s 10 draft picks have been ranked in order of likeliness to play meaningful roles this season.
1. Kevin King – Cornerback – Washington
Not all first-round picks have the opportunity to compete immediately. However, Kevin King arrives in Green Bay with little competition for a starting role. Free-agent addition Davon House should man one of the two outside spots, leaving the other for King, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Ladarius Gunter. Given King’s physical advantages, he should take over that role sooner rather than later.
More importantly, the Packers need King to quickly embrace the role of No. 1 cornerback. Within the first five weeks of the season, the team faces off against Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Dez Bryant. House might take those assignments for parts of the game, but ultimately the King needs to use his superior length and athleticism for the defense to have a prayer at slowing down the trio of All-Pro receivers.
2. Josh Jones – Defensive Back – N.C. State
After selecting Josh Jones 61st overall, the Packers proceeded to describe all the different skills he brings to the table. In particular, director of pro personnel Brian Gutekunst described Jones as highly productive in space and in the box, a hybrid safety/linebacker with coverage skills.
That description could just as easily apply to Micah Hyde, the player Green Bay appears to have drafted Jones to replace. While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett remain the starters at safety, Jones should still find time there in certain packages. Expect defensive coordinator Dom Capers to use Jones in the slot as well.
3. Jamaal Williams – Running Back – BYU
Though the Packers drafted an astounding three running backs in 2017, they liked Jamaal Williams the most. The BYU product enjoyed a highly productive college career, rushing for 3,901 yards and 35 touchdowns during his time in Provo.
Green Bay’s coaching staff has already declared Ty Montgomery the starting running back. However, his weaknesses overlap with Williams’ strengths, suggesting the two could form a quality tandem. The fact that Williams doesn’t turn over the ball doesn’t hurt his chances either.
4. Vince Biegel – Outside Linebacker – Wisconsin
At least for 2017, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry expect to receive most of the snaps at outside linebacker. The Packers rotated considerably at the position in the past, but the departures of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones could affect that approach.
Still, a handful of snaps at outside linebacker should remain available every game, and Vince Biegel can put his claim on many of them. 2016 third-round pick Kyler Fackrell didn’t show much as a rookie, and Jayrone Elliott has mostly contributed on special teams. Biegel, who tests better athletically than both, could leap over both for playing time.
5. Montravius Adams – Defensive Lineman – Auburn
Based on physical traits, Auburn’s Montravius Adams cuts the figure of a first-round pick. His 6-foot-4, 304-pound stature combines well with his 4.87-second 40-yard dash. His college production as a senior — 8 ½ tackles for loss, 4 ½ sacks — likewise make a compelling case for a bright future.
However, defensive linemen tend to take a year before becoming regular contributors or quality starters. Mike Daniels saw only occasional playing time as a rookie in 2012. The following season, he moved into the starting lineup and has become one of the most consistent interior defenders across the league. Adams has the potential, but his role in 2017 projects to be more limited.
6. Aaron Jones – Running Back – UTEP
Montgomery should see most of the snaps at running back, and fellow 2017 draft pick Williams holds the pole position to become the primary backup. That doesn’t leave much meat on the bone for Aaron Jones, the Packers’ fifth-round compensatory pick.
Still, Jones can separate himself (literally) with his overall athleticism, ranked third overall among running backs in his draft class and falling in the 88th percentile for the position across the league. Green Bay has made use of such players in the past, specifically wide receivers like Randall Cobb lined up in the backfield. Jones could take over that role if he earns the coaches’ trust.
7. DeAngelo Yancey – Wide Receiver – Purdue
Of the two wideouts the Packers selected on Day 3, DeAngelo Yancey has less standing between him and the field. His physical tools resemble those of James Jones, suggesting a future at as a split end in Green Bay’s offense. Davante Adams sits at the top of the depth chart there, with no clear-cut No. 2 option behind him.
Of course, Yancey has to first show that he can handle the Packers offense and build rapport with Aaron Rodgers, and both could take some time. Still, the fact Yancey came off the board in the fifth round shows how much the team believes in his potential.
8. Malachi Dupre – Wide Receiver – LSU
The Packers selected Dupre with their final pick in the 2017 draft, but his name and background garner more recognition than any of the team’s Day 3 picks after Biegel. Dupre led LSU in receiving each of the last two years, amassing 1,609 yards and 14 touchdowns during his college career.
Dupre never became a star as many expected during his time in Baton Rouge, though much of that relates to the team’s inability to find a quarterback. In Green Bay, Dupre can finally play with a signal-caller capable of getting him the ball on a consistent basis. The logjam at receiver needs to clear out before that can happen, however.
9. Devante Mays – Running Back – Utah State
Devante Mays looks and plays a lot like the bigger backs the Packers have utilized in the past. That doesn’t mean he lacks for athleticism, however. Mays tested 63rd percentile by SPARQ, well ahead of fellow Green Bay selections Williams and not too far behind Jones.
As it stands, Mays looks like the backup plan if Williams doesn’t work out or goes down with an injury. He might also fall behind Jones, selected two rounds earlier.
10. Kofi Amichia – Offensive Lineman – South Florida
The Packers drafted Kofi Amichia primarily based on his physical traits rather than his tape or experience. No offensive lineman in the 2017 class tested better athletically Amichia, who scored in the 89th percentile his position league wide. His potential could eventually result in something spectacular in the capable hands of assistant coach James Campen.
However, unless Amichia surprises during training camp or injuries decimate Green Bay’s offensive line, he shouldn’t see the field during the regular season. However, with Lane Taylorin the final year of his contract and no obvious long-term solution at right guard, Amichia might make his impact next year.