"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The series continues with the defensive line.
GREEN BAY – When Kenny Clark took to Twitter on March 22, the Packers' two-time Pro Bowler had 280 characters at his disposal to express how he felt about the signing of veteran defensive lineman Jarran Reed.
But a simple grinning emoji said all that needed to be said.
The addition of Reed drew rave reviews from Clark and the rest of Green Bay's defense, especially given the 6-foot-3, 307-pound defensive lineman's history of versatility and durability.
A second-round pick in the same 2016 NFL Draft that produced Clark, Reed has recorded 237 tackles and 24½ sacks in 89 NFL games (81 starts). He's missed just eight games due to injury over his six NFL seasons, with Reed's 43 consecutive games played being the fifth-longest streak among active D-linemen.
Reed, 29, enjoyed his best NFL season with Seattle in 2018 when he posted career highs across the board (50 tackles, 24 quarterback hits and 10½ sacks). He had 43 tackles and 2½ sacks in 17 starts for Kansas City last season.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Reed's game is his ability to play on all three downs, which gives Green Bay defensive coordinator Joe Barry increased flexibility with how he utilizes Clark and returning veteran Dean Lowry.
"Next to Kenny, next to Dean, that'll be pretty exciting," said defensive line coach/run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery of Reed's addition. "He's been a dominant player in this league. Was really, really productive in Seattle and I think he had an OK year last year. But I'm excited to work with him. And he brings a lot to the table – both in the run and in the pass."
On top of being the faces of the defensive front for the past few seasons, Clark and Lowry also are the longest-tenured members of Green Bay's defense by two full seasons.
In fact, with Tyler Lancaster and Kevin King unrestricted free agents, Clark, Lowry and cornerback Jaire Alexander are the only three defensive players whose tenures in Green Bay predate Head Coach Matt LaFleur's arrival in January 2019.
Take a look at the top prospects at defensive line heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Clark had another stellar season in 2021, becoming the first Green Bay defensive tackle in 55 years to be selected to multiple Pro Bowls after registering 48 tackles (six for a loss), 13 quarterback hits and four sacks in 16 starts.
An ironman in his own right, Lowry posted 42 tackles and a career-high five sacks in 17 starts. His 86 consecutive games played is the longest streak among all active NFL D-linemen.
The two veterans were critical to the Year 1 success under Barry, ranking ninth in total defense (328.2 yards per game) and 11th against the run (109.1 ypg).
Beyond Clark and Lowry, Green Bay's D-line skews young after the organization parted ways with former 2018 draft pick Kingsley Keke in January. However, the Packers do like what they've seen so far from 2021 fifth-round pick T.J. Slaton.
A raw but uniquely gifted athlete out of the University of Florida, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound defensive lineman went from dunking basketballs to stuffing running backs as a rookie. Thrown into the fire due to injuries, Slaton responded with 23 tackles and a sack in the heart of Green Bay's defense.
"The times when he did it right, you could see the line of scrimmage move the other way," said Montgomery of Slaton. "When he's attacking and knocking the line of scrimmage back and using his hands and getting off blocks, he's pretty dominant. He's a big man, athletic, he's lean, so if we can continue to do that on a consistent basis, I think we'll have a pretty good player on our hands."
Rounding out the defensive line is Jack Heflin, who racked up nine tackles and three quarterback hits in the 2021 preseason to make the initial 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie from Iowa.
The 6-foot-3, 304-pound defensive lineman only saw action in four regular-season games, recording a tackle. Heflin signed a futures contract with the Packers on Jan. 26 after finishing the season on the team's practice squad.
With only five defensive linemen on the roster, it's likely General Manager Brian Gutekunst will look to add to the position in next week's NFL Draft. The Packers haven't drafted a defensive lineman earlier than the fifth round since 2017.