The Green Bay Packers have prided themselves on finding consistent offensive linemen in the NFL draft, and general manager Brian Gutekunst could do it again in 2023 by finding David Bakhtiari’s eventual successor.
It has taken Bakhtiari a long time to get back to full strength after suffering an ACL tear at the end of the 2020 season. While the former All-Pro is looking like his old self as the 2022 season winds down, it’s unclear if the 31-year-old will continue to keep playing for the long haul considering how long it took him to come back from a significant knee injury.
If the Packers want to play it safe and find a successor to Bakhtiari, Ian Cummings with Pro Football Network suggested that the team take Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. in the first round of his 2023 mock draft.
“There are a lot of long-term questions the Packers will need to answer,” Cummings said. “One of them could be quarterback. But regardless of how the Aaron Rodgers saga plays out, they may need to ponder a succession plan for David Bakhtiari as well. Paris Johnson Jr. gives them the athleticism, power, and length they need to forge a high-level starter.”
Rookie Sean Rhyan could have been in the driver’s seat to succeed Bakhtiari, but a six-game suspension for a PED violation could put his future with the team in jeopardy in 2023 and beyond.
Paris Johnson Jr. is a First-Round Talent
Offensive tackle may not be at the top of Green Bay’s list of needs right now, but it’s easy to see why the Packers might be interested in Johnson out of Ohio State.
Johnson was a blue-chip prospect coming out of Cincinnati, Ohio in high school. The 5-star recruit was the top-ranked tackle in the 2020 recruiting class with offers from Georgia, LSU, and Alabama, but stayed in his home state to play for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes.
After starting all 13 games last season at right guard in 2021, Johnson moved to left tackle this season and has continued to play at a high level. The season isn’t over yet for Johnson, but he’s already been named a Lombardi Award semifinalist for the nation’s top offensive lineman.
At 6’6″ and 310 pounds, Johnson has great size, length, and athleticism to keep his quarterback upright while also contributing in the run game. His experience at multiple positions could make him an appealing draft prospect for a team like the Packers.
Could David Bakhtiari Retire After This Season?
He’s only 31 years old, but there’s a very real chance that Bakthiari could hang up his cleats after the season is over.
Bakhtiari wouldn’t retire because of a poor level of play. In fact, Bakhtiari has looked a lot like his former All-Pro self when healthy this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s posted a great grade of 81.9 out of 100 this season, showing just how effective he’s been when on the field.
However, availability has been a problem with Bakhtiari all season. Along with missing practices and games with complications with his knee, there have been other games where he’s traded off series at left tackle with Yosh Nijman. Even this long after his initial injury, the Packers continue to closely monitor Bakhtiari’s status.
If that continues to be a problem heading into the offseason and 2023 season, Bakhtiari could consider retiring to focus on his long-term health. That could become even more likely if his quarterback and close friend Aaron Rodgers also decides to retire.
For the Packers, it would be worth having a backup plan in place at left tackle depending on what Bakhtiari plans to do in 2023 or beyond.