Impact doesn’t have to be instant when it comes to the draft. And if all goes well, the Green Bay Packers’ second-round selection of Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs amounts to an insurance policy for this season and a consideration a year from now, when three of their five starting offensive linemen become free agents.
Green Bay thought so highly of the 6-foot-7, 305-pound Spriggs that it traded up nine spots to No. 48 to make sure it got him, giving the Indianapolis Colts their second-round pick (No. 57 overall), one of their three fourth-rounders (No. 125) and their seventh-rounder (No. 248) to consummate the deal.
“What’s evident right away is his remarkable athletic ability, the ability to bend and move his feet and run, and if I’m not mistaken, he was one of the fastest guys at the combine in that offensive line grouping and just a really good athlete,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “We were sweating it looking at the board. Didn’t look like the board was going to hold up all the way.”
Spriggs started 28 straight games to begin his Hoosiers career and made 47 starts in 48 games at left tackle, earning some first-team All-American honors following a senior season in which he allowed just two sacks in 475 called pass attempts, according to the Hoosiers’ coaching staff. He also dished out 79 knockdowns in a team-high 1,074 snaps as Indiana finished first in the Big Ten in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense and second in rushing offense.
Thompson and Brian Gutekunst, the team’s director of player personnel, referenced Spriggs’ strong showing in the Senior Bowl, along with an impressive performance at the Scouting Combine in February. Spriggs was the star of the offensive linemen in attendance, finishing at or near the top in five events, with a 4.94-second 40-yard dash, 31 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, 31.5-inch vertical leap, 115-inch broad jump and a 4.44 20-yard shuttle run.
Despite those numbers, he was the sixth offensive tackle to come off the board, after Notre Dame’s Ronnie Staley (No. 6 to the Giants), Michigan State’s Jack Conklin (No. 8 to Tennessee), Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil (No. 13 to Miami), Ohio State’s Taylor Decker (No. 16 to Detroit) and Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi (No. 31 to Seattle).
“We don’t try to overvalue,” Thompson said, correlating workout numbers to game film. “We acknowledge when it’s there. We don’t make real business decisions based on 40-yard dashes. But we think he’s a talented guy who will be a good player.
“You look at the total package -- intelligence, athletic ability, innate toughness. He gets good marks on all of that.”
Good enough marks that Spriggs was considered a first-round prospect by some analysts. While his wait lasted 17 spots into Day 2, Spriggs had nothing but enthusiasm for how things played out.
“There were some teams that had me graded as second round, maybe sneaking into the first,” Spriggs said. “I don’t think there was a whole lot of disappointment just from that standpoint. For me, that’s not really where most of my attention is. I just wanted to get to a club where I fit well and had a chance to play ball and continue my career. That’s really what I’m excited about. The positioning and which round doesn’t really matter as much to me."
But the positioning on the Packers’ offensive line will matter. While Spriggs exclusively played left tackle at Indiana and at the Senior Bowl, Gutekunst left the door open for a move, saying versatility is good and Spriggs will compete with the other linemen to see how things shake out.
If Spriggs did eventually move inside to guard, where Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are free agents-to-be, he’d tie former Raiders blocker Robert Gallery for the tallest player to line up at guard. Gallery was a first-round pick at tackle who struggled outside before salvaging his career at guard. But 6-foot-7 is not the norm for interior linemen.
“This guy can bend,” Gutekunst said. “Certainly, you'd rather have your tackles of a significant height, but I don't think it would prevent him from playing inside.”
Barring any in-season contract extensions, starting left tackle David Bakhtiari will join Sitton, Lang and versatile backup J.C. Tretter as free agents. Re-signing a young left tackle could cost upward of $10 million per year, and bringing back both guards seems unlikely. That said, Spriggs figures as a future starter at one tackle spot with Bakhtiari at the other, setting up a scenario where veteran Bryan Bulaga could go to guard or be the odd man at. If retained, Tretter could assume one of the guard spots. Trying to project the 2017 starting lineup at this point, however, is nothing more than speculative, but it’s hard to think those contract situations weren’t a consideration on some level.
“We don’t speak to those matters, but everything’s a consideration,” Thompson said.
Right now, Spriggs provides an immediate return in the way of quality depth and could be looked to if Bulaga or Bakhtiari go down. Last year’s “sixth man” for most of the season, Don Barclay, struggled in relief after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury. Tretter was steady when called upon at center and even left tackle.
“I thought he got better throughout his career,” Gutekunst said of Spriggs. “He’s one of those guys that has really good flexibility and balance to sustain and drive. You look at his frame, he’s about 305, somewhere in there right now. But he’s going to get bigger. He’s young. He’s got a frame to add some weight. So I thought he was a pretty good run blocker. He has great body angles. Like all of these guys, he’s going to have to improve to do that at this level.”
Spriggs was more than happy to break down the parts of his game that need refining before he’s ready to block for one of the game’s top signal-callers.
“I think I still need to work on a lot in the run game, and even in passing there’s a lot of things to work on,” he said. “I’d say in the pass game, the consistency and the timing of my punch is probably the biggest thing I need to work on. The run game is getting back off my toes and getting on my heels and really anchoring down. To get moving guys off the ball, I think, is something I’m going to focus on.
“With a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, you’re at a whole new level there that I’ve never seen that really excites me. I can’t wait to be able to get the chance.”
In a perfect scenario, that chance is a year away.