In their 30-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers received a lot of help from members of their 2013 draft class.
The number one pick in that draft class was Datone Jones. I wrote for Bleacher Report at the time, and I had the Packers selecting Jones in the first round in my final mock draft.
Going into the 2015 season, Jones had shown a lot of potential when he was healthy, but he had underachieved overall in two years with the Packers.
The 6’4″, 285-pound defensive end had only had five sacks in those two years.
In the first half of this season, the Packers used him exclusively when the team went to a dime scheme on defense. As time went on, the former UCLA Bruin showed that he deserved more playing time due to his stellar play.
The Packers have recently put Jones on the field when the team runs it’s nickel scheme as well. The nickel scheme is the one the Packers use most often on defense.
On Sunday versus the Vikings, Jones showed the coaching staff that they had made the right decision in playing him more often.
Jones had two of the six sacks that the Packers had it the game. Both came at crucial times. For the season thus far, Jones now has three sacks, six tackles-for-a-loss and two passed deflected.
The second pick of the Packers in the 2013 NFL draft was Eddie Lacy. I had my eyes on Lacy before the draft as well that year. In an earlier mock draft that I did for Bleacher Report, I had the Packers taking Lacy in the first round.
No running backs were chosen in the first round that year by any team in the NFL. But in the second round, the big names were starting to come off the board.
The Packers actually traded back six spots in that round, but were still able to select Lacy.
Up until this year, Lacy’s career in Green Bay had gotten off to a fabulous start.
In his rookie year in 2013, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 27 also caught 35 passes for 257 yards. That performance was why Lacy was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. Lacy was also named to the Pro Bowl.
In 2014, Lacy was outstanding again. He rushed for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Lacy also had 42 receptions for 427 yards and four more scores.
But before the game against the Vikings, Lacy had struggled in 2015. Between ankle, groin, weight and fumbling problems, the former Alabama star seemed to be a shadow of his former self.
Before the contest against Minnesota, Lacy had rushed for just 308 yards and had just two touchdowns.
But against the Vikings, the old Eddie was back in town, as Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries, which a 4.5 average.
This is the time of year when Lacy has really excelled in running the football for the Packers, at least based on what he did in 2013 and 2014.
In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.
After Sunday’s performance, Lacy looks to be on track to be very productive again as this season goes into the stretch run.
In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, the Packers had three selections and they used two of those picks on offensive linemen.
The first pick was used on offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. The former Colorado Buffalo became the starter at left tackle for the Packers his rookie year and has never missed a start there in 42 games.
Bakhtiari has struggled this season at times because of a knee injury and has been called for holding a number of times, including a couple of times on Sunday.
No. 69 did not exactly have a great game against the Vikings, but the guy is a gamer who just keeps battling no matter what.
Speaking of injuries, the Packers lost starting center Corey Linsley to an ankle injury early in the game on Sunday. Linsley was replaced by the second offensive linemen the Packers took in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, JC Tretter.
The former Cornell star played about as well as a backup could play at the center position. It was like nothing had changed.
No. 73 missed basically all of his rookie year in 2013 because of a ankle injury, but was slated to be the starting center in 2014 before he suffered a knee injury in a preseason game.
That opened the door for Linsley to become the starting center and he has never given up that job. Up until Sunday, Tretter has just filled in as a backup at both guard and tackle.
Defensive back Micah Hyde was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Packers. Hyde has played in 42 games since he was drafted, with 22 starts, both as a cornerback or as a safety.
The former Iowa Hawkeye has also excelled on special teams, both as a returner (three punt returns for touchdowns) and on coverage units.
No. 33 left the game on Sunday fairly early after he was beaten by tight end Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings on a 47-yard touchdown pass. Hyde hurt his hip trying to tackle Rudolph.
In the sixth round of the 2013 draft, the Packers drafted linebacker Nate Palmer.
In his rookie season, the former Illinois State star started two games at outside linebacker, and played in eight games overall.
In 2014, Palmer spent the entire season on injured reserve due to a knee injury.
This season, after a switch to inside linebacker, Palmer received an opportunity to start after starting ILB Sam Barrington was place on injured reserve because of a foot injury.
Barrington was also a member of the 2013 draft class who was taken in the seventh round out of South Florida.
Palmer has been up and down with his performance this year as a starter, but after he was benched in the game against the Carolina Panthers a couple of weeks ago, his play has gotten much better.
Against the Vikings, Palmer was in on four tackles and had one sack. For the season, Palmer has 39 tackles and 17 assists.
Bottom line, the Packers won a huge game against the Vikings on Sunday.
The draft class of 2013 played a big part in that victory.