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Draft's middle rounds have made a difference for Packers

Fourth and fifth have been fruitful over last decade


GREEN BAY – Once the lights of primetime dim and the first 100 or so players come off the board, the third day of the NFL Draft often becomes a seven-hour-long afterthought.

Somewhere around 150 selections are made inside that window, with only a few minutes separating each pick. To the average fan, the draft slowly turns into a line of unknown players whose selections are quickly followed by a Google search.

More often than not, many remain nameless in a league with so much annual turnover. In fact, only 49 out of 1,551 players drafted on Day 3 over the past decade have made the Pro Bowl (3.2%) compared to 116 of 319 first-rounders taken in that same span (36.4%).

Such long odds might make you think it's largely irrelevant what the Packers do in 10 days with their seven selections from the fourth through seventh rounds – and you'd be wrong.

Over the last 10 years, the Packers possess one of the league's best track records when it comes to sifting through prospects in the middle and late rounds, with 58 players drafted between Rounds 4-7 combining for 1,534 games played and 671 starts.

The fourth and fifth rounds have been particularly fruitful for Green Bay, with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (fourth round, 2013), center Corey Linsley (fifth, '14), running backs Aaron Jones (fifth, '17) and Jamaal Williams (fourth, '17), and defensive lineman Dean Lowry (fourth, '16) all rising from the Day 3 ranks.

Bakhtiari, one of the best left tackles of his generation with budding Hall of Fame credentials, has a solid argument for inclusion on former general manager Ted Thompson's Mount Rushmore of Packers draft picks, alongside quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews.

Take a look at photos of Packers T David Bakhtiari from the 2019 season.

Bakhtiari declared early for the 2013 NFL Draft following a one-win season at Colorado. While many NFL front offices saw Bakhtiari's future on the interior offensive line, he was competing for a starting spot at right tackle as a rookie before Bryan Bulaga – who had switched from right tackle to left tackle that offseason – tore his anterior cruciate ligament early in camp.

With Bulaga out for the year, Bakhtiari slid over to left tackle and has started there for all of his 106 regular-season appearances over the past seven years. He's been voted All-Pro each of the last four seasons, including a first-team selection in 2018.

Linsley took a similar path to opportunity, taking over at center as a rookie after JC Tretter was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury before the regular-season opener in Seattle. When he suited up against the Seahawks, Linsley had yet to snap the ball to Rodgers in a game – he's since started 86 games.

A powerful and stable force in the middle of the offensive line, Linsley has been every bit the dependable ally Rodgers was searching for after working through a carousel of centers during the two seasons before his arrival.

Likewise, the Packers' selection of Jones and Williams in 2017 has brought stability to the backfield. In three years together, the two friends have amassed 5,167 total yards and 47 TDs.

Jones, once viewed as nothing more than a scat back out of unheralded UTEP, emerged as one of the league's top running backs in 2019 after posting his first 1,000-yard rushing season and setting a team record with 23 touchdowns scored (including postseason).

The Packers have handed out second contracts to their share of draft picks over the years. The most recent came last July when they extended Lowry, a full-time starter the past two seasons who has yet to miss a game with the Packers due to injury.

Two other former Green Bay fourth-round picks, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and defensive back Micah Hyde, have at least one Pro Bowl on their career ledgers, while Tretter went on to become an established starter for the Cleveland Browns.

Compensatory picks have contributed heavily to that part of the equation for Green Bay. Daniels, Lowry and former cornerback Davon House all came to Green Bay by those means.

Meanwhile, linebacker Blake Martinez's offseason departure for the New York Giants likely will net Green Bay a comparable selection to the compensatory fourth-rounder used to draft Martinez out of Stanford four years ago.

The Packers hold 10 selections in this year's draft, including three sixths and two sevenths. To this point, most of the discussion on radio talk shows has centered on what the Packers will do in the first round at No. 30 and rightfully so.

Since 2010, the 10 players Green Bay has drafted in the first round have combined to start 349 of the 504 games they've played with the Packers. And the further you go, the harder it becomes to find those ever elusive diamonds in the rough.

But don't sleep in on the third day. While the 149 names that'll be read off may not trigger the same impulsive reaction as Kenneth Murray, Justin Jefferson or Jonathan Taylor, there could be another Bakhtiari, Linsley or Jones ready to surprise.

--Lexi Kinnard contributed to this story.

Most regular-season games played by Packers drafted in Rounds 4-7 (from 2010-19)

106 – David Bakhtiari, T, Colorado (fourth round, 109th overall)

102 – Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa (fourth, 132nd)

86 – Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State (fifth, 161st)

76 – James Starks, RB, Buffalo (sixth, 193rd)

63 – Micah Hyde, DB, Iowa (fifth, 159th); Dean Lowry, DE, Northwestern (137th)

61 – Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford (fourth, 131st)

60 – Andrew Quarless, TE, Penn State (fifth, 154th)

55 – Davon House, CB, New Mexico State (fourth, 134th)

51 – Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State (seventh, 236th)

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