Packers drafted no defensive linemen last year

It was the first time in 24 years they hadn’t

2021-pre-draft-picture-DL-2560
DL Kingsley Keke

Packers.com is taking a look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. The series continues with the defensive line.

GREEN BAY – The Packers broke a rather remarkable streak last year.

In 2020, they did not draft a single defensive lineman for the first time since 1996.

It's difficult to see Green Bay making it two drafts in a row without an addition at the position.

Kenny Clark is the obvious leader of the group, with the 2019 Pro Bowler in the team's long-term plans following an extension he signed just prior to the start of the 2020 season.

Statistically, Clark was not as productive as the prior two years, when he posted six sacks in both 2018 and '19. But typically for the 2016 first-round pick from UCLA, he finished strong with a sack and two tackles for loss in December, plus 2½ sacks in the two playoff games.

In the effort to find just as disruptive a partner next to him, the Packers hope last season was the first of multiple steps forward for Kingsley Keke. The 2019 fifth-round draft pick posted a pair of two-sack games, but then missed Week 17 and both postseason contests due to a concussion.

Two other veteran mainstays in the trenches are back as well in Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster. Both are reliable, dirty-work type of players without a lot of flashy highlights.

Take a look at the top prospects at defensive line heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Lowry, who has missed just one game in his five-year career since being drafted in the fourth round out of Northwestern in 2016, tied his career high with three sacks last season after getting shut out in the category in 2019. He now has 10 sacks as a pro to go with 11 deflected passes.

Likewise, Lancaster is a Northwestern alum who has missed just one game since getting elevated to the active roster from the practice squad a month into his undrafted rookie season in 2018. His statistical production dropped off last year (23 tackles compared to 33 and 36 his first two seasons, respectively) and the Packers did not tender him a contract as a restricted free agent in order to bring him back at a lower salary.

Those four players constitute the bulk of the Packers' experience on the defensive line, which puts the position in contention for a significant draft investment with a high pick and/or multiple selections.

Two veterans the Packers signed as stopgaps last year, Billy Winn and Damon Harrison, remain free agents heading into the draft.

Three other young prospects – Anthony Rush, Willington Previlon and Delontae Scott – did not see any meaningful game action in 2020.

Rush was claimed off waivers from Chicago late in the season and appeared in just one game before being relegated to the practice squad for the playoffs.

Previlon, from Rutgers, and Scott, from SMU, were undrafted rookies a year ago who spent developmental seasons on the practice squad.

Previlon was activated for game day once but did not play. Scott, originally an outside linebacker who converted during the season to the defensive line, wound up on the practice squad injured list late in the season.

Position-by-position series

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