One word, well, two actually, defined the Green Bay Packers draft in 2017: running backs.
Late general manager Ted Thompson prioritized the position in the later rounds – that’s a bit of an understatement – selecting a trio of ball carriers with three of the organization’s final six picks.
Three of the team’s first four picks can be classified as complete busts. Of the 10 total selections, the Packers probably hit – or didn’t totally strike out – on three. Ouch.
Five years later, it’s time to break out the red pen and grade Green Bay’s haul, or mess of a draft, from 2017. All marks are based on where the player was picked and his contributions on the Packers roster.
Kevin King, CB, Washington (2nd round, No. 33 overall)
Green Bay always will struggle to live down its drafting of King in 2017 because it saw Wisconsinite T.J. Watt selected three slots earlier, or one after the Packers’ original pick. A draft-day deal with Cleveland gave Thompson more capital but pushed Green Bay to the top of the second round. The outcome was King, who starred his final three seasons in Washington’s secondary-rich system. Five years later, the pick – better yet, the entire trade – is a sour topic for Packers fans. How could it not be? Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record this past season en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors. In 77 games, the former Badgers star has 72 sacks and 22 forced fumbles. King, meanwhile, started six of 10 games in 2021 and is best remembered for his destructive performance in the 31-26 NFC championship loss to Tampa Bay two seasons ago. King was a force for one year, in 2019, when he intercepted five passes and defended 15.
Josh Jones, S, North Carolina St. (2nd round, No. 61)
Here’s a fact that’s hard to fathom: Jones was the ninth of 11 safeties taken within the first 100 picks. In hindsight, 3-5 of the players – Jamal Adams, Budda Baker and Marcus Williams being the only certainties – had any business flying off the board that early. Jones started 12 of 29 games and recorded 126 tackles and one interception in two seasons for Green Bay. He was released with a non-football illness designation in August 2019, several months after reportedly asking to be traded. Jones came out of North Carolina State with real potential – he tested extremely well and has terrific size – that was never realized. Despite his semi-productive first two seasons and decent comeback in 2020 with Jacksonville – Jones made 13 starts and ranked third on the Jaguars with 83 stops – it’s hard not to label him a bust.
Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn (3rd round, No. 93)
The 2017 class of defensive line was … unmemorable. Adams was no different. In four seasons with the Packers, the Auburn product made three starts and registered 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Truth be told, it was a career arc that many saw coming. Adams’ biggest red flags in college were passion and production – two areas that hurt his draft stock and seemingly derailed his time in the NFL, or at least as a Packer. Since departing Green Bay, Adams has appeared in five games apiece for New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin (4th round, No. 108)
Biegel, the first choice of the fourth round, is the other Packers draft pick forever tied to Watt and what could have been. Ironically, trading down from the 29th pick landed Green Bay one former Badger, just not the right one. Biegel appeared in nine games as a rookie, playing 121 snaps on defense and 138 on special teams. Those snaps and his 16 tackles encapsulate his entire stint with the Packers. Biegel was part of Green Bay’s final roster cuts to get to 53 men in 2018. He latched on with New Orleans that season then was included in a player-for-player trade ahead of 2019 to Miami that sent Kiko Alonso to the Saints. Biegel posted skimpy numbers at Wisconsin and tested just OK, so his pick was a bit of a mystery.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU (4th round, No. 134)
It’s unlikely that Green Bay pictured Williams as its bell cow back. Not for a lack of skills, but because the team waited until the middle of the fourth round to address a position of poverty. It’s more likely that the Pack knew they would have a chance to add another ball carrier courtesy a remarkably loaded running back class – an approach which they nailed 48 picks later. This blurb, however, is intended to focus on Williams, who evolved into a fan favorite in Green Bay because of his animated personality and violent play style that stood out as much as the dreadlocks streaming from his helmet. Williams averaged 155 touches and 736 scrimmage yards in four seasons co-hosting the Packers backfield. He scored 18 touchdowns and moved the chains 159 times in a Green Bay uniform, each occasion seemingly causing a louder roar from the Lambeau Field crowd than the last. Williams went looking for increased opportunities in free agency last offseason – the promise of 2020 rookie AJ Dillon understandably phased him out of the Packers’ long-term plans – and landed in Detroit, where he was his usual self and a worthy adversary.
DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue (5th round, No. 175)
Yancey caught 97 balls for 1,651 yards and 15 touchdowns across his final two collegiate seasons. Like the handful of others who found success at the college level only to get buried on NFL depth charts, Yancey’s game never translated to the pros. He failed to make the 53-man in 2017, spent some time on Green Bay’s practice squad and got his last taste of the organization the next year. Similar to the trade Thompson made with the Browns in Round 1, though not close to as severe of an outcome, Yancey was acquired with a pick that initially belonged to Denver. The Packers gave up pick No. 172 to gain Nos. 175 and 238. Receiver Isaiah Mckenzie wound up being the Broncos’ choice at that spot. McKenzie, who can beat defenses deep and return kicks, played his way this past season to a new contract in Buffalo.
Aaron Jones, RB, Texas-El Paso (5th round, No. 182)
The Kashmir sapphire of Thompson’s final draft as Packers general manager. Jones is one of four 2017 running backs with 4,000+ rushing yards and one of seven with 1,400+ receiving yards. Since his rookie season, Jones has the ninth-most all-purpose yards (5,630) in the NFL. There are few running backs more explosive with the ball in their hands. The coolest part of the selection of Jones is that he was an afterthought at the position. Too light, too slow, or as NFL.com so easily declared in its non-existent scouting report (the site didn’t deem him worthy of a writeup) of Jones: He “likely needs time in [a] developmental league.” Jones has proved everybody else wrong and Thompson right. In his last three seasons, he’s produced 4,207 yards and reached pay dirt 40 times. Based on where he was picked and the collection of players chosen afterwards, you can take this as gospel: Jones was the steal of the draft.
Kofi Amichia, G/T, South Florida (6th round, No. 212)
Labeled a guard by the Packers when they drafted him, Amichia lined up at both tackle spots during his years at South Florida. Amichia spent one year on the Packers practice squad and had stints with three different teams from 2018-20.
Devante Mays, RB, Utah St. (7th round, No. 238)
Thompson circled to the running back room with the first of Green Bay’s two seventh-round picks. Mays was a hard between-the-tackles runner with practically zero usage in the passing game at Utah State – a junior-college transfer, he caught two throws for 17 yards in 18 career games for the Aggies. As a rookie, Mays appeared in eight contests, and carried the rock four times for a single yard and had three receptions for no yards. He also fumbled twice despite playing just 14 offensive snaps and 51 on special teams. As one might expect after a debut season such as that, Mays was cut the following year. All in all, even if Mays essentially was a wasted pick, Thompson went 2-for-3 swinging for ball carriers in 2017.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU (7th round, No. 247)
The 32nd pick, er, we mean 32nd wide receiver picked, Dupre was a longshot to make it in Green Bay. He was viewed as a player capable of climbing the ladder – his 39 1/2-inch vertical at the combine supported that notion – but was dubbed a project in just about every other sense. He rarely shined at LSU – Dupre had five career games with 100+ yards and scored 14 touchdowns across three seasons – ran a slower 40-yard dash (4.52 seconds) than average for his position (nflsavant.com lists the average WR time as 4.49 seconds) and didn’t wow scouts with his hands or run-after-the-catch abilities. Dupre lasted four months in Green Bay, was cut, and added to Buffalo’s practice squad. He’s garnered five snaps in one NFL appearance to date, a Week 17 tilt against Seattle in 2018 while playing for the Cardinals.