(WLAX/WEUX) – At this time next Friday, the Green Bay Packers and general manager Brian Gutekunst will be making final preparations for the second and third rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Their first-round pick will be in hand, which—barring any draft-day maneuvering—was made with the 29th overall selection the evening before.
An explosive slot receiver to compliment Davante Adams? A surly linebacker with stellar athleticism to stuff the run and pressure the quarterback yet with enough speed to cover today’s tight ends? Or possibly the cornerstone offensive lineman to protect Aaron Rodgers for years to come.
In Green Bay’s draft history, the Packers have only selected at the 29th overall spot five times. Three of those picks did not play a single down for Green Bay, but one played against them.
Tackle Dalton Truax from Tulane, a third-round selection in 1957, and halfback Buddy Leake from Oklahoma, a third-rounder in 1955, did not make the final roster.
Neither did Charles “Bud” Wilkinson, a tackle from the University of Minnesota, a third-round selection in 1937 who went on to a successful collegiate head coaching career at Oklahoma and later became a television broadcasting icon. Fun fact: Wilkinson was a member of the College All-Star team that defeated the defending NFL champion Packers, 6-0, in Chicago on Aug. 31, 1937.
Nick Barnett, 2003-2010.
Head coach and general manager Mike Sherman selected the Oregon State linebacker with Green Bay’s first pick in the 2003 NFL draft. The 6-foot-2, 228-pound rookie was the highlight of that infamous Packers draft class and its only impact player, earning Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie Team honors.
Defensive tackle Kenny Peterson from Ohio State, selected with the 79th overall pick in round three, was the only other player of Green Bay’s nine-member draft class to make the team roster.
Barnett quickly emerged as the starter at middle linebacker and anchored the heart of the Packers defense for the ensuing eight seasons. He earned All-Pro honors in 2007 when Green Bay advanced to the NFC Championship Game, losing in overtime at Lambeau Field to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Barnett holds the franchise record for most total tackles in a single season with 194 in 2005. He ranks third on the franchise’s career leading tackler list with 1,014 and played in 107 regular-season games in his Packers tenure. He also holds franchise marks for most seasons leading the team in tackles with five (2003-2005, 2007, and 2009 – tied with A.J. Hawk) and most consecutive seasons leading the team in tackles with three (2003-05).
“I came from nothing to something,” Barnett said. “Being a first-round draft choice and starting for the Packers was a dream that I worked very hard for. And to play with a lot of great teammates and guys like Brett Favre—he was a legend, but didn’t act like one. He was just one of the guys. What Brett did at Oakland after his dad passed was just unbelievable.”
In the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning campaign of 2010, Barnett suffered a wrist injury against Detroit at Lambeau Field in Week 4 and was lost for the season. “It was tough, I didn’t get to play in the Super Bowl,” he said.
General manager Ted Thompson could not orchestrate a trade for the eight-year veteran and released Barnett in July 2011. Three days later, he signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Buffalo Bills and had two productive seasons (242 total tackles, two interceptions in 32 games) before concluding his NFL career with a final campaign in Washington.
“I tell you what, whether you play in Green Bay for 10 years or one day in training camp, it’s special,” Barnett said. “The tradition—all the great players that came before you. Green Bay has Lambeau Field and an atmosphere few NFL teams have.”
George Teague, 1993-95
General manager Ron Wolf got the play-making safety he wanted in the 1993 draft.
After selecting Clemson linebacker Wayne Simmons with Green Bay’s first pick in the first round (15th overall), Wolf moved up to snare the University of Alabama’s senior who had a stellar season capped with a monster performance in the Sugar Bowl victory over Miami to secure the national championship
He dealt Green Bay’s two second-round picks, a fourth-rounder, and an eighth-rounder to Dallas for the 29th overall pick and a fourth-rounder.
“That single game probably influenced the Packers to trade up and take me in first round,” Teague said. “I had an interception for a touchdown and the ‘Big Strip’—that’s what everyone calls it. I chased down a guy and took the ball from him. I had a very dynamic game on a national stage that led to a lot more interest in me across the NFL.”
Wolf valued stability through the core of his defense, and the addition of Simmons at middle linebacker and Teague at free safety complemented nose tackle Gilbert Brown.
“I was looking for that key deep guy,” Wolf said. “I always wanted to be solid down the middle of our defense: nose tackle, middle linebacker, free safety. George was a big playmaker in college and that’s what you look for. I was willing to move up to get him.”
The 6-1, 198-pound safety lived up to his billing, becoming a starter after the fourth game and earning NFL All-Rookie Team accolades. And Teague produced the game-changing play in a playoff victory at Detroit, recording a 101-yard interception return for touchdown—tied for the longest in post-season history—to give Green Bay a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter.
“He went 101 yards with that interception to snatch victory from defeat,” Wolf said. “And then Brett hit Sterling Sharpe with the game-winner.”
Teague tied for the team lead in interceptions in 1994 with three and recorded two in 1995, but his days were numbered in Green Bay.
Wolf, who was always looking to upgrade his roster, acquired Eugene Robinson from Seattle in a June 1996 trade. Three weeks later he dealt Teague to the Atlanta Falcons for a conditional draft pick. “The reality was I felt Robinson was a better player,” Wolf said.
Teague played in 47 regular-season games in his Packers tenure and went on to play six more productive seasons in the NFL with Dallas and Miami.