Welcome back to our fifth and final entry in our series on Packers Mock Drafts, where we only draft form one Power Five conference per draft. We have already covered the ACC, PAC-12, BIG-12, and BIG10. As we did with the BIG10, I am including an additional alternative selection at each pick because the SEC is simply brimming with NFL talent.
In this penultimate mock draft, I will be selecting one player, two alternate players, and one dream scenario for every pick the Packers have in the first three rounds. For the Big Board, I used a combination of several I found across the internet to get an idea of where players are going in the minds of most; for the pro comparisons I used mostly thedraftnetwork.com and their comparisons but I also subbed many of my own if I found if they were more to my liking.
Let’s break it down!
Round 1, Pick 15
- THE PICK: Brian Branch, Safety, Alabama / 6’0”-200lbs / Pro Comp: Micah Hyde
- Branch is a no-nonsense safety who has all the tools and traits you want in a safety without standing out in any noticeable way. He’s not Kyle Hamilton sized, and he didn’t create a lot of turnovers in college. All he did was deliver elite zone coverage with a high IQ plays and A+ run defending. Sometimes what you need on defense isn’t flashy, it’s just a player who is properly reliable. Branch is the consensus best safety in this draft and the Packers have a need for a safety who is reliable and never makes mistakes.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Darnell Washington, Tight End, Georgia / 6’7”-265lbs / Pro Comp: Marcedes Lewis
- The modern tight end comes out of college with pass catching skills galore and poor blocking. Because the former is considered more important than the latter, these types of tight ends get drafted consistently and then coaches just hope they can get the player to a level where his blocking is at least average. Washington is the opposite of this trend. He’s a stellar blocker and he seems to relish in knocking defenders into the dirt in pass or run blocking situations. He’s also an absolute behemoth and has immense upside as a pass catcher. He was never really asked to catch a lot in college, so the production isn’t there and his technique is a bit raw. And while he isn’t slow, he’s about as fast as most linebackers which means he won’t consistently create distance between himself and the defenders. Of course, none of that really matters when you’re the size of an NBA power forward and strong enough to sub in at left tackle. I think he’ll be a blocking asset immediately for the Packers and a huge red zone threat, with some successful coaching he could be an elite mismatch. Until then, I think prime Marcedes Lewis production is his floor, while prime Gronkowski is his ceiling.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Derick Hall, Edge Rusher, Auburn / 6’3”-250lbs / Pro Comp: Tamba Hali
- If Derick Hall had better coaching at Auburn, he probably would be a Top 10 lock in this draft and potentially Top 5. But alas, since joining Auburn in January 2019 he has had four different head coaches and that lack of stability can lead to players being underdeveloped especially when they flat out misuse the player – Hall was asked to do a lot more coverage than he should ever have had to. Hall needs refinement in his pass rushing moves and he could add some flexibility but other than that he is pro-ready prospect. He’s a high character player who is a leader for the defense that creates consistent production with endless energy. He’s a strong run defender and he’s got the athleticism to improve in every facet of his game, and even if he doesn’t, he should still be a starting level player. I see Hall becoming a starting outside linebacker for the Packers defense almost immediately, and potentially the leader of the front seven.
- DREAM PICK: Will Anderson, Edge Rusher, Alabama / 6’4”-245lbs / Pro Comp: Von Miller
- If we’re dreaming of SEC players, then we might as well dream big. There is no way that Will Anderson falls to the Packers at #15 even if he tore both of his ACLs on draft day while getting out of the limo. He’s too talented, and he’s considered by most to be the best overall player in the draft regardless of position. He’s a two-time All-American, two-time Nagurski Award winner, and a Bednarik Award winner. He can play any variety of pass rusher (3 technique, 4 technique, or stand-up OLB) who is dominant against the run and the pass. In 2021 and 2022 he was the best pass rusher in college football, and he was somehow better at run defending. He had high production in both tackles and sacks, he’s athletic abilities are mind-boggling, he plays with extreme intensity and energy, and he’s considered a high character guy by the coaching staff and his fellow players. The biggest flaw to his game is that he hasn’t found a way to clone himself so he could attack from multiple angles at once. If the Packers somehow managed to get Will Anderson, he could develop into the best pass rusher in Packers’ history (which is insane to say, but I want to show just how good this kid could realistically be) and would immediately lock down a starting job.
Round 2, Pick 45
- THE PICK: Kayshon Boutte, Wide Receiver, LSU / 6’0”-200lbs / Pro Comp: Deebo Samuel
- Boutte has suffered from coaching and quarterback turnover at LSU which has hurt some of his statistics, but the tape reveals a playmaker who isn’t perfect but could turn into a WR1 with the right development. His strengths are evident anytime the ball is in his hands. He’s quick and agile, with the ability to pick up big chunks of yardage after the catch. He’s also got pure speed on his side as well, easily running past SEC defenders for massive vertical plays. He’s also shown versatility and a smart coach will see that he could line up almost anywhere on the offense, including out of the backfield at times. His main issues that need work are some route refinements (like most wide receiver prospects) and concentration drops. He tends to look up field before the ball is secured which turns easy catches into frustrating drops. But we’ve the Packers fix this issue with other players (Christian Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Davante Adams) so I think he could clean that up. He reminds me of Deebo Samuel coming out college in the second round: he needs work but if he develops, he could be an all-around weapon.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Jordan Battle, Safety, Alabama / 6’1”-206lbs / Pro Comp: Kevin Byard
- Battle is one of those players that you want to draft not just for his play on the field but for his leadership. He’s very vocal and his experience in over 50 games for Alabama shows up when he talks because players listen. When judging his on-field play, I almost find it hard to see why he’s projected by most to go in the second round because I see first round talent. He’s the definition of scheme versatile – he could play literally any spot in the secondary – and thrives as both a free and strong safety. He’s technically sound in almost everything he does, and he has a high IQ for pass coverage and run defense. His one area for improvement would be pursuit angles when chasing down ball-carriers but that’s easier to fix than most problems. On top of all that, he’s got the requisite size and athleticism to be a starting safety for several years. If Battle is available in the draft, it will almost certainly be due to low positional value and the Packers would be wise to stop his fall.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Anthony Richardson, Quarterback, Florida / 6’4”-232lbs / Pro Comp: Jalen Hurts
- Before you grab the tar and feathers for me, I want you to consider two scenarios. 1) The Packers decide to stick with Rodgers for the 2023 season, and they trade Jordan Love for some weapons to a quarterback needy team – the Saints would make sense because they have no way of getting a better prospect and they could send back Michael Thomas. The Packers could decide to spend their second rounder on Richardson to develop for when Rodgers retires, which could be as early as next season. 2) The Packers trade Aaron Rodgers but draft Anthony Richardson and let him and Love have a battle for the job. Either Love is the guy, and they can trade Richardson. Or Richardson is the guy, and they can trade/release Love. Both scenarios make about as much sense as the Packers drafting Love in the first place, so you can’t tell me it’s totally improbable. With regards to Richardson as a prospect, he needs some development with his throwing motion, which leads to inaccurate balls. However, his dual-threat abilities are almost unparalleled, and his arm strength would rival the very best in the NFL. If he develops properly, I think he could turn into Jalen Hurts 2.0 but bigger and with a stronger arm.
- DREAM PICK: Jalin Hyatt, Wide Receiver, Tennessee / 6’0”-180lbs / Pro Comp: DeSean Jackson
- Hyatt is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner (given to the best wide receiver in college football) and he absolutely dominated the scene in 2022. He’s not the biggest receiver and he has a slender frame, but he makes up for his lack of physicality with elite elusiveness and twitchy plays that allow him to create separation from almost any defensive back. He’s got great hands, and unteachable speed that allows him to find space almost anywhere. He’s also brilliant at finding that space and uses his football IQ to adjust his routes as he goes to make the process easier for the quarterback. Hyatt is projected to go in the late first or early second round by most draft pundits because of his one noticeable year of production and his slim build, but if the Packers draft him, they could have a tenacious and elusive slot weapon that most defenses wouldn’t be able stop consistently.
Round 3, Pick 78
- THE PICK: Gervon Dexter Sr., DT, Florida / 6’5”-318lbs / Pro Comp: Dalvin Tomlinson
- Dexter is a physical beast who needs a fair amount of refinement and technique-fixing before he will be an impact player, but he has all the tools to become a regular starter. When he flashes, he flashes brightly, showing off his strength and build but for every one of those flashes there is an equal reverse where he does something almost head scratching. Thankfully, all of his concerns are fixable: high pad-level, inconsistent use of hands, and only average technique. But this is the third round, and you rarely get a starting level prospect this far into the draft. If the Packers are willing to attempt to unlock his ceiling, then they could have a dominant player for their defensive line.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee / 6’3”-215lbs / Pro Comp: Chase Claypool
- Tillman is an intriguing player who dominated in 2021 but dealt with an ankle injury throughout 2022 so his production was limited. His biggest cause for concern, besides the injury (which can linger for players of his size), is that his route “tree” resembles a flagpole . . . no branches. He will need to work on his route running and route knowledge to be a contributor at the next level. That being said, he has an enticing blend of size, speed, ball skills, and body control. He has no issues with fully extending his arms away from his body which, when combined with his height and good hands, leads to some insane catches that the defender probably wishes where more contested than they actually were. Until he shows a better understanding of routes I doubt he will become a wide receiver #1 but the Packers could use him to bully lesser cornerbacks as a WR3 or WR4.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Colby Wooden, DL, Auburn / 6’5”-285lbs / Pro Comp: Justin Tuck
- Wooden was a top recruit coming out of high school but has been inconsistent at the college level. I firmly believe that a lot of Auburn players have been burned recently due to coaching instability, and I think Wooden is one of those players. He has a rare combination of strength, length, and weight and it shows up when you see him on the field. He’s very good against the run, but he hasn’t reached his peak yet, and he’s shown flashes against the pass but needs to work on his technique. He plays too high and allows blockers to stop him from leveraging his physicality and he doesn’t have the best hand use to disengage. Both of those faults are coachable problems, and I think the Packers would love to see his athletic upside. I think he projects as an interior defensive end for the Packers, mostly as an edge setter but with pass rushing bonuses thrown in as well.
- DREAM PICK: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee / 6’6”-335lbs / Pro Comp: Cordy Glenn
- Wright is a former five-star recruit who played right, left, and then right tackle again for the Volunteers. He is arguably a little heavier than would be ideal, and it seems to affect his movement abilities which in turn affects his run blocking. He has the right mentality and technique for pass blocking however, and with some growth he could turn into an ideal swing tackle prospect for the Packers, who seem to value pass blocking over run blocking anyways. Offensive linemen are never sexy picks, but games are won and lost in the trenches. It can never hurt to have too many stud linemen.
I wish we had a word that was more extreme than “dream.” Maybe “delusional” is a better way to describe it, because you would have to be delusional to fully believe that the Packers could actually select all of these Dream Picks without insane amounts of luck, trading up, and potentially pacts with infernal creatures. Either way, the SEC has loads of talent coming into the draft (like every draft) and the Packers wouldn’t be wrong to simply stick with that conference. It’s also something the Packers might do anyways: three of their last three first round picks were SEC players.
This concludes our Power Five Conference Mock Draft series (for now . . .) and hopefully it will help Packers fans familiarize themselves with names and prospects to watch throughout draft season.
Send your comments and opinions to me at @SamZeus93 on Twitter.