Reason #8 For Optimism in 2021: Za’Darius Smith

Yes, the 2020 season ended in disappointing fashion.

If just one play or one call or one playcall would have been different, the Packers could have been in the Super Bowl. Based on the disarray the Chiefs were in from injuries and off-the-field issues, the Packers may very well have won.

But it didn’t happen.

There’s looming salary cap issues in 2021 and some key players surely won’t be back, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic for the 2021 season and we’ll be counting them throughout the offseason.

Today we look at Reason #8: Za’Darius Smith.

In 2018, Brian Gutekunst took the Packers on a free agent binge bigger than the franchise had ever seen.

The crown jewel of that class was Za’Darius Smith, who not only dominated on the field every single week, but also was the catalyst for changing the culture of the Packers defense.

In 2020, it felt like a “down” year for Big Z, but he still had 12.5 sacks, which was good for 4th in the league (and was more than twice as many as JJ Watt had). He also forced 4 fumbles (3rd in the league), had 12 tackles for loss, and 23 quarterback hits (10th in the league), all while being doubled teamed at the 2nd highest rate of anyone in the league.

Not bad for a “down” year.

Oh, and he was recognized for his production with his second straight Pro Bowl honor.

With the straightline growth of Rashan Gary, and the Packers likely to pick up more help for the defensive front in the draft, Smith should be primed for his most dominant season yet.

That’s another reason to be optimistic.


To see more reasons for optimism, check out our running list of: Reasons For Optimism in 2021.


Want to learn more!?

Want more insight into how winning teams build through the draft (and how losing teams fail)? We’ve got you covered!

Start shallow, then get deep into understanding draft strategy with our draft book (rated a #1 New Release): A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft: Strategies, Tactics, And Case Studies For Building A Professional Football Team

Then jump into free agency with another #1 New Release: A Fan’s Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits and Misses to better understand this critical part of the NFL offseason and see where teams have found (or missed) success in this critical component of team-building.

Finally, get to the game behind the game with our new must-have book for 2021: A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap – which lays out detailed, easy-to-follow scenarios to explain exactly how contract structures and salary cap rules impact teams.

All these great books  are available in ebook and paperback – and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

If you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, you can get a free trial of Kindle Unlimited here!

Don’t just watch the draft – understand it and learn why GMs make the moves they do.



Check out our PFTW 2021 Mock Draft Archive to see how other scenarios played out!

Check out Packers Draft Central 2021 for all our 2020 NFL Draft coverage!


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