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Pre-draft picture: Experience, depth both prevalent on Packers' offensive line

Thirteen linemen return, eight with NFL starts to their credit

G/T Elgton Jenkins & T David Bakhtiari
G/T Elgton Jenkins & T David Bakhtiari

"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. The series continues with the offensive line.

GREEN BAY – For all the uncertainty surrounding the Packers this offseason, here's an unequivocal truth:

No position group on the roster is stronger or deeper heading into the draft than the offensive line.

The Packers are bringing back their entire top starting group from 2022 – left tackle David Bakhtiari (6-4, 310), left guard Elgton Jenkins (6-5, 311), center Josh Myers (6-5, 310), right guard Jon Runyan (6-4, 307) and right tackle Yosh Nijman (6-7, 314). Jenkins signed a long-term contract extension last December, while Nijman signed his restricted free agent tender earlier this week.

In addition, three young reserves with starting NFL experience are also back as they continue their development – Royce Newman, Jake Hanson and Zach Tom, all of whom can play multiple positions up front.

Those three could create some intriguing competition for starting jobs throughout the spring and summer, because while the five-time All-Pro Bakhtiari and two-time Pro Bowler Jenkins are entrenched at their spots on the left side, it wouldn't be a stretch to see Newman (6-5, 310), a 2021 fourth-round pick with 22 career starts, push for time at right guard or right tackle.

Same for Hanson (6-4, 296), a 2020 sixth-round pick, at center or right guard, where he started last year's opener. Or Tom, a 2022 fourth-round pick, at any of the three competitive spots, after the versatile rookie started in Bakhtiari's place four times, also started once at left guard, and whose best position might be center, according to General Manager Brian Gutekunst.

Behind them are five additional reserves from last year, all young and looking to make some headway up the depth chart.

Two draft picks from last year – Sean Rhyan (third round, UCLA; 6-5, 321) and Rasheed Walker (seventh round, Penn State; 6-6, 324) – essentially had redshirt rookie seasons, as did the undrafted Caleb Jones (Indiana), an intriguing prospect due to size alone at 6-9, 370.

Luke Tenuta (6-8, 314), a sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech last year by Buffalo, was an October waiver claim from the Colts who saw some game action on special teams in the season's last few weeks. And Jean Delance (6-4, 303), undrafted a year ago from Florida, was a late-season addition to the practice squad who had also spent time with the Bears and Cardinals.

All five of those reserves are considered tackles, with Rhyan also listed as a guard.

That's 13 returnees in all on the offensive line, the largest contingent in recent memory and the reason Gutekunst has expressed so much faith and optimism in this group for 2023.

That said, all the depth and experience returning won't have the Packers ignoring offensive linemen in this draft because, well, they practically never do. Only once since 1999 have the Packers not selected at least one offensive linemen in the draft (2015), and in Gutekunst's first five drafts as GM, he has chosen 11, including three each of the last three years.

That diligence has paid dividends as the offense has been forced to navigate a steady stream of injuries up front over the last few seasons, and the future is always in sight.

Bakhtiari, who finally got back to full health late last season after a couple of difficult years, will turn 32 this season and is under contract only through 2024. Nijman's RFA tender is just for one year, while Runyan and Hanson are in the final season of their rookie deals.

That gives the Packers plenty to think about in a position group that is never far from their minds at draft time.

Pre-Draft Roster Series:

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