GREEN BAY – The stats don’t jump out with Rashan Gary. The Packers believe the film does.
Green Bay chose Gary with the No. 12 overall pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft. He had just 3½ sacks last season and nine over the last two years, but the Packers saw a lot more than that in evaluating him.
“He commanded a lot of attention at Michigan, double teams, triple teams, taking on the tight end,” college scout Joe Hueber said. “You saw it in some of his teammates. They got freed up and they were able to get production.
“It’s not like he wasn’t impacting the game. You watch him, he was all over the place, getting off blocks, and getting pressure too.”
One of those teammates was inside linebacker Devin Bush, chosen two picks ahead of Gary at No. 10 overall by Pittsburgh, who traded up for him.
Gary was projected earlier in the pre-draft process as a top 10 pick, but seeing his teammate’s stock fall a bit due to his low sack numbers and a reported shoulder injury, Bush said he thought Gary should be taken in the draft ahead of him.
In a conference call with Green Bay media, Gary said his shoulder is “110 percent” and would not need surgery. He pointed to his 26 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine as evidence of his shoulder’s health.
“Just the energy I bring to the field,” Gary said when asked about the best part of his game. “I’m fun, I like to compete, and I love to get after it.
“Every play I’m ready to bring it.”
Gary (6-4, 277) tested impressively at the scouting combine, running a 4.58-second 40-yard dash and recording a 38-inch vertical jump. Hueber called those “rare gifts” for a player his size.
Michigan’s star defensive end played 35 games over three years with 22 starts and was chosen first-team All-Big Ten the last two seasons. He recorded 18 tackles for loss, including the nine sacks, in 2017-18.
Gary will move to outside linebacker for the Packers, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine also might be able to shift him around the defensive front in different packages.
“He’s done some stand-up stuff already,” Hueber said. “He’s a guy who’s had to play multiple positions and move around. He probably needs to learn some of the drop (into coverage) stuff, but as far as rushing the passer goes, he’ll be ready.”
Take a look at Packers LB Rashan Gary during his college career.
Gary joins a changed outside linebacker group in Green Bay, with free agents Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith added last month in place of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Fourth-year veteran Kyler Fackrell also returns, coming off a double-digit sack season.
Gary was not in Nashville, the site of the draft, but was instead with family, friends and college teammates at a bowling alley in Ann Arbor when the Packers called. He was shown on national TV displaying considerable emotion upon getting picked, perhaps in part because of all the outside questions he heard about his draft stock leading up to Thursday night.
“It comes from my love of the game,” Gary said of his emotions. “To have an organization like the Green Bay Packers to believe in you, and to have them call my name means a lot. I can’t wait to start playing there with them.”
Hueber said the Packers have had Gary on their radar “since the day he stepped on campus.” They interviewed him at the combine and came away believing he’s a sharp, disruptive player with a passion for the game.
“I think he’s a guy who’s going to attack this,” Hueber said. “I think he’s going to take it to heart. I think it’s important to him, and because of that, the athleticism and all that is going to shine through.”