Packers lack potential young stars outside of Kenny Clark, RBs

Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — They have a 34-year-old quarterback in Aaron Rodgers whose most proven offensive weapon (Jimmy Graham) is 31, their best pass rusher (Clay Matthews) is 32, and even their kicker (Mason Crosby) is well into his 30s.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers didn’t land a single player on ESPN’s best NFL starting lineup of players under the age of 25.

That’s essentially limited to the past three draft classes, and it could be a byproduct of former general manager Ted Thompson’s decline.

It’s probably too early to include any of the Packers’ 2018 draft picks in the conversation, although Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, made the list over Ezekiel Elliott.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the Packers’ starters (and potential starters) under 25 at each position on offense and defense:

DeShone Kizer

Age: 22

One coach familiar with Kizer called the former Browns starter a “total rebuild” after he went winless in 15 starts for Cleveland. He’ll have to show marked improvement to challenge Brett Hundley for the backup job. The Packers unloaded a headache — cornerback Damarious Randall — to get Kizer in a trade.

Running back
Jamaal Williams/Aaron Jones

Ages: 23

At this point, it’s a tough call between the two. Williams looked more capable of handling workhorse duties, but Jones showed more explosiveness. Jones can’t play the first two games because of an NFL suspension, but by midseason, perhaps he could overtake Williams.

Geronimo Allison

Age: 24

The former undrafted free agent will have to fend off competition from Michael Clark, a former college basketball player whose 6-foot-6 frame makes him an intriguing prospect, and the three receivers picked on Day 3 of the draft this spring. But Allison looks like the best bet to open the season as the No. 3 receiver behind Davante Adams (who doesn’t qualify for this list because he’s already 25) and Randall Cobb.

Tight end
Emanuel Byrd

Age: 23

This is a veteran position group with Graham, Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis. But Byrd looks like a developmental project. He was promoted from the practice squad for the regular-season finale and caught two passes for 31 yards.

Kyle Murphy/Jason Spriggs

Ages: 24

One them could start at right tackle to open the season if Bryan Bulaga’s rehabbed knee isn’t ready. Both finished last season on injured reserve. Murphy, a sixth-round pick in 2016, might have the edge over Spriggs, a second-round pick in the same draft.

Lucas Patrick

Age: 24

The former undrafted rookie started two games last season — one at left guard and one at right guard. He has also worked at center, although he has not had any games reps there.

Defensive line
Kenny Clark

Age: 22

He’s the closest thing the Packers have to an under-25 star. He was only 20 when the Packers picked him in the first round in 2017 and won’t turn 23 until a month into his third NFL season this year. Clark had all 4.5 of his sacks last season in December and was perhaps the team’s most impactful player on defense late in the season.

Outside linebacker

Even potential up-and-comers Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert already have exceeded the age requirement — they’re both 25 — and they’ve hardly played. They’ve combined for one career sack; Gilbert got it in last year’s regular-season finale. Same with Kyler Fackrell, who is already 26 even though he was in the same draft class as Clark.

Inside linebacker
Blake Martinez

Age: 24

All the 2016 fourth-round pick did was tie for the NFL lead in tackles last season while ranking second on the Packers’ defense in snaps played. He figures to be a cornerstone in the new defensive scheme.

Kevin King

Age: 23

Big things are expected from last year’s top pick now that his ailing shoulder has been surgically repaired. The Packers expect to see the real King this year. Throw in this year’s top-two picks — Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson — and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is flush with young cornerback talent.

Josh Jones

Age: 23

Morgan Burnett, 29, left in free agency, which opens the door for Jones, who made seven starts last season as a rookie second-round pick.

Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentine

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