3-year analysis: Grading the Packers’ 2016 draft class
FOX Sports Wisconsin
After ranking 21st against the run in 2015, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson focused on bulking up their front seven in the 2016 draft.
Three years later, Thompson is gone, replaced by Brian Gutekunst, and we're taking a look back at the Packers' class of 2016. (See also: 5-year analysis of 2014 draft)
Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA (1st round, No. 27 overall)
Clark didn’t do too much in his rookie season and for much of 2017. But the UCLA product tallied 3.5 sacks over the final five games of the 2017 season and hasn’t looked back since. Clark is coming off the best season in his career, racking up 55 tackles, six sacks and 36 quarterback hurries in 2018, which ranked seventh among defensive tackles. Pro Football Focus ranked him the ninth-best overall defensive lineman in 2018 -- and that was with Clark missing the final three games of the season with an elbow injury. He’s not a perennial superstar yet, so we won’t give this pick an “A” grade, but Clark could certainly be in that elite status when we review this draft class again two years from now.
Grade 3 years later: B+
USA TODAY SportsJake Roth
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (2nd round, No. 48)
Thompson traded a second-round pick (57th overall), a fourth-rounder (125th overall) and a seventh-round pick (248th overall) to move up nine spots and select Spriggs in the second round. That’s a lot of value given up for a player that’s performed, well, underwhelmingly. Spriggs, who can play both tackle positions, has started just nine games over three seasons. Once looked at as Bryan Bulaga’s heir to the right-tackle throne, Spriggs will certainly be a cheaper option when Bulaga’s contract expires after the 2019 season, but at this point, he’s probably not the answer.
Grade 3 years later: C-
USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State (3rd round, No. 88)
We were introduced to what Fackrell can do in 2018. The 27-year-old thrived in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system, leading the Packers with 10.5 sacks while also setting career marks in tackles (42) tackles for loss (12) and quarterback hits (12). He became just the fourth Packers player to tally double-digit sacks in the past decade and the first since Nick Perry in 2016. With the Packers signing fellow edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency, it’ll be interesting to see Fackrell’s role in the defense moving forward.
Grade 3 years later: B-
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford (4th round, No. 131)
Martinez just keeps getting better. And better. And better. And better. He’s played in all 32 games the past two season and led the Packers in tackles in both years, setting a career high with five sacks in 2018. But he’s not satisfied. For a guy who’s already proved himself, Martinez is still hungry and reportedly gained 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, gearing up for another season under Pettine. Entering a contract year, Martinez could make himself a lot of money with another strong performance in 2018. He’s looking like a steal at 131st overall, and perhaps Thompson’s best pick in this draft.
Grade 3 years later: A-
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Dean Lowry, DE, Northwestern (4th round, No. 137)
Staying healthy and consistent is half the battle to make it in the NFL as a fourth-round pick. Over his three NFL seasons, Lowry hasn’t missed a game due to injury. And “consistent” is his middle name. Lowry was another Packers defender to set career marks under Pettine (see a theme here?), filling in flawlessly for a position group that couldn’t catch a break with injuries in 2018. He logged three sacks, 44 tackles and recovered a fumble to Green Bay last season. Along with 2016 classmates Clark, Fackrell and Martinez, Lowry could be in line for an extension soon and looks to be a key contributor in Pettine’s defense for years to come.
Grade 3 years later: B
Trevor Davis, WR, California (5th round, No. 163)
Heading into the NFL draft, Davis was looked at as a dangerous weapon in the return game but a relatively unproven receiver. Fast forward three NFL seasons, and that’s exactly what Davis has been. Playing in 193 offensive snaps over three seasons, Davis has caught just eight receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown. Davis’ 12.1 yards per punt return is solid, as is his career 22.6 yards per kick return, but with no return touchdowns to his name, Davis isn’t a guarantee to make the Packers’ roster moving forward. Davis is a solid athlete, but using a fifth-round pick on the Cal product was a little too soon.
Grade 3 years later: D
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Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford (6th round, No. 200)
To finish off the 2016 draft class, Thompson took a flier on Murphy, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle out of Stanford. He didn’t amount to much. Murphy started three games in 2017 to fill in for an injured Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, but a foot injury in Week 3 ended his 2017 campaign, and an ankle injury in the third 2018 preseason game stalled his progression again. He was placed on injured reserve and waived in late December. The Los Angeles Rams signed Murphy to their practice squad at the end of the season, but he was waived in mid-April and is currently looking for another NFL home.