GREEN BAY—What David Bakhtiari would seem to lack in height, he makes up for in attitude.
“I’m a nuisance. I’m a little brother so I can be really annoying. I’m a finesse player but I will throw cheap shots,” Bakhtiari told packers.com as he and the rest of the Packers rookie crop prepared for this weekend’s rookie camp.
The Packers selected Bakhtiari in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Where will they play him? That would seem to be the intrigue in Bakhtiari’s selection.
He was a left tackle at Colorado and he has all of the classic movement skills of a blindside pass-blocker. On a team with an unsettled left tackle position, some are wondering if Bakhtiari might not be the future at the position.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I can compete, it’s just a matter of where do the Packers want me to play. Wherever they want me to play, I’m going to compete right away. I don’t want a job given to me. That’s not going to happen. Competition brings out the best in everyone,” Bakhtiari said.
“I think he’s a guard unless you don’t mind your left tackle being 6-4 and change. If you don’t mind that, then I think he has a shot to play left tackle in the NFL. He has a lot of the skills, he just doesn’t have the height,” draft guru Tony Pauline said.
Bakhtiari made 33 starts at Colorado. He elected to leave the program with a year of eligibility remaining, which means he comes to the Packers young and with room to grow.
“The Colorado program is in such shambles. Considering the condition of the program, I understand why he left,” Pauline said.
“That played a role; my team not competing. A lot of my family said I’m mature for my age, and I wanted to work with adults instead of 18-year-olds. I’ve always wanted to play in the league,” Bakhtiari said.
Depending on Bakhtiari’s play through OTAs and training camp, and the development of young offensive linemen such as Don Barclay, the Packers offensive line could take on a very different look this year. Already, it’s been written that tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton, the right side of the Packers offensive line last year, will be moved to the left side. Coach Mike McCarthy has said he was disappointed by the play of his line’s left side last season, and change would seem to be in the wind.
The Packers liked Bakhtiari enough to interview him at the combine, where Bakhtiari posted very impressive numbers, including 28 reps on the weight bench.
“We started watching a little film with Coach Campen. I explained what I did wrong. On the same play two plays later I corrected myself,” Bakhtiari recalled.
The Packers drafted two running backs and two offensive linemen within their first five picks. The thinking is that the Packers want to upgrade their running game and play with more force up front.
“I know they had been a pass-first team. They like to use the run to play off the pass. I’m a pass protector but I can get after it in the run,” Bakhtiari said.
“The biggest thing is I have to understand the playbook. They’re not going to put me out there if I don’t know who to block. If Aaron Rodgers gets blown up; that’s never going to happen. The second thing is grow up. Show I can compete at a high level against these guys. At left tackle, you need to be consistent,” he added.
How quickly he can learn the playbook and condition himself to the pro game will likely determine to what degree he will be a contributor in his rookie season.
“He’s got the movement skills to be a starting lineman in the NFL,” Pauline said.
Yeah, but at what position?
“I think if I was 6-6, 6-5 I would’ve been a top 25 pick. Everybody gets hyped up on height. You want a guy who’s long but not tall. I have 34-inch arms. I think (Eric) Fisher has 34-inch arms. We were in the same group at the combine,” Bakhtiari said of the Central Michigan tackle that is the first pick of the draft.
“I would love to say I’d like to be the best left tackle ever, but those types of goals are light years ahead of me. Right now, I want to come in and get one of the five starting jobs,” he said. “I think I’m nimble and quick on my feet. I play with a high motor. I’m just annoying.”