Packers Top Rookie: 1999

Rookies1999mmckenzie

After the Packers’ defense got torched by rookie Randy Moss twice in 1998, Ron Wolf focused on that side of the ball in the draft to try to revive a team that seemed to be slipping. Under new coach Ray Rhodes, 17 rookies made the squad, but the class was a decidedly mixed bag.

In the draft, Wolf went for cornerbacks with his first three picks, but nearly struck out. Clemson’s Antwan Edwards came in round one, Iowa’s Fred Vinson in round two and Memphis’ Mike McKenzie in round three. The Packers then drafted Kentucky State defensive lineman Cletidus Hunt in round three, Oklahoma runner De’Mond Parker in round five, Missouri guard Craig Heimburger also in round five, Montana tackle Scott Curry in round six and Alcorn State receiver Donald Driver in round seven.

Other drafted rookies included defensive tackle Antonio Dingle, a seventh round pick of the Steelers, defensive back Tyrone Bell, a sixth round pick of the Chargers, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, drafted by Green Bay a year earlier in round six. Dingle appeared in six games and Bell one for the Packers. Hasselbeck would be traded to Seattle two years later.

Six undrafted free agents also made the 1999 roster: fullback Matt Snider, runner Basil Mitchell, tight end Lamont Hall, punter Chris Hanson and defensive backs Tod McBride and Rodney Artmore. McBride was the only one to stick for several seasons, but none ever started.

The top two draft picks did not pan out. Edwards lasted five years in Green Bay but only became a starter the final year, as a safety; a banged-up Vinson was traded after one year for Ahman Green. Three other picks did make an impact. Cletidus Hunt started 60 games in his six years as a Packer, but was known mostly for inconsistency. Donald Driver slowly developed into a Pro Bowl receiver who caught more passes than any other Packer. McKenzie, though, paid off from the start. He became a regular as a rookie and picked off six passes as a solid, physical corner; Mike McKenzie was the Packers’ top rookie in 1999.

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