Depending on who you ask, the Packers front office will have mixed reviews on how they’ve handled drafts since Brian Gutekunst took over as the Packers general manager in 2018. As much as I’d love to get into the weeds on the issue, that’s not the point of this article. The Packers, as of now, have 1 pick in each of the first 3 rounds. Those picks are #15, #45 and #78 with potential to add more via an Aaron Rodgers trade.
I want to look at a handful of different strategies the Packers could take over the first 3 rounds of the draft. They’re very likely to use some combination of all 5 but it’s interesting to see the different types of players the Packers could add based on what direction leadership thinks the team needs to go.
Build the Foundation
The Packers have been reliable when it comes to drafting offensive line foundational pieces. Given, they’ve typically done it later in drafts but with a young and inexperienced quarterback about to take over, having a reliable offensive line will be huge.
On the flip side, being able to win in the trenches on defense is huge. Winning on early downs and forcing teams to throw on third downs will end up with positive results more often than not. The Packers invested a first round pick on the defensive line last year but they are still very thin there.
Darnell Wright – OT – Tennessee
The Packers don’t typically go after offensive lineman in the first round, but this article is all about different scenarios. Wright was a four year starter at Tennessee and performed well against top competition last year. He has all of the physical tools to be a great tackle in the NFL. Even though the Packers have a good offensive line, adding a replacement for Bakhtiari next season would be smart as he could be a cap casualty.
Jack Campbell – LB – Iowa
Yes, Green Bay did add a linebacker in the first round last season. Yes they recently extending inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, but hear me out. The best defenses in the NFL have great front 7’s. Even though the Packers have improvements to make on the defensive line, they could have a great young duo in Quay Walker and Jack Campbell, along with the experience of De’Vondre. I also don’t expect the senior Campbell to be with the Packers past the 2024 season. He’ll be 31 this upcoming season, was banged up in 2022 and will be an option for a restructure or cut after 2024.
Karl Brooks – DL – Bowling Green
The Packers have taken swings in the third round over the last couple of years with virtually all of them being misses. Brooks may fall under the same category, but he would be a key depth piece that won’t feel pressured to make a major impact right away. He’s a large body and will give Joe Barry a ton of options along the defensive front. Brooks was more of a pass rushing presence for Bowling Green but the Packers have done a decent job of developing well rounded defensive lineman.
The RAS Draft
The Packers have shifted their priorities a bit in recent drafts and targeted players with impressive RAS (relative athletic score) scores. This metric is still relatively new but to boil it down, it’s used to determine who the best athletes are. The front office in Green Bay buys into the idea you can coach technique, you can’t coach raw athleticism.
Deonte Banks – CB – Maryland
With a raw score of 9.9, which is a sliver away from perfect by the way, Deonte Banks had to be on the list. Even though the Packers are loaded at corner and used a first round pick on Stokes 2 years ago, this pick would still make some sense. Green Bay has major holes at safety and shifting someone like Rasul Douglas to free safety could make some sense. You still have Jaire Alexander and aforementioned Stokes, adding a proven 3 level corner who happens to be an athletic marvel rounds out a secondary with a ton of speed and versatility.
Darnell Washinton – TE – Georgia
The Packers have targeted Georgia defenders early in the last few drafts so it’s time to target someone on the other side of the ball. With a RAS score of 9.88, he ranks 2nd among tight ends in this years draft which is absolutely loaded with high end athletes. Washington isn’t the most polished pass catcher of the group but is a phenomenal blocker and has the athleticism (obviously) to be a receiving weapon in the NFL.
Trenton Simpson – LB – Clemson
Adding a fast, rangy and athletic linebacker in the third round out of a power house college is usually a positive. He didn’t grade out overly well according to PFF but as we’ve all seen, that isn’t an end all be all. He would come in as the third linebacker and would mainly see time on special teams and in sub packages on passing downs where he flourishes. He allowed 406 receiving yards on 612 snaps in coverage.
Weapons for Love
The Aaron Rodgers apologists have said forever that the Packers front office didn’t do enough to surround him with weapons. There’s a lot of truth to that and they won’t make that mistake again in strategy #3!
Jaxon Smith-Njigba – WR – Ohio State
If JSN falls to the Packers at 15, regardless of their initial goals and strategies, he needs to be taken. I don’t expect that to be the case but he fits perfectly for the article. He is easily the most polished and smooth receiver in the draft. He isn’t the fastest or most explosive, but he runs silky smooth routes and has great hands. He simply knows how to get open and has ball skills that can’t be taught.
Jahmyr Gibbs – RB – Alabama
The Packers have a great 1-2 punch in the backfield with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. With that said, Gibbs makes sense for a couple of reasons. Even though the value for a running back in the second round isn’t there, adding a true home run threat for Love would be huge. We also can’t overlook the fact that Aaron Jones, even though a fan favorite, likely won’t play out his entire contract in Green Bay. His restructure during the off-season helps the chances but even if he does, he’s only in GB through 2024. Adding a player with a similar skill set that can take over in case of injury or cap casualty adds depth and playmaking ability.
Rashee Rice – WR – SMU
There is virtually no scenario where the Packers go offense with their first 3 picks, not too mention 2 receivers, but that’s what makes this fun. Rice is a strong receiver that excels at contested catches and yards after contact. He isn’t the fastest receiver in the draft but has more than enough speed to create separation. He’s a receiver that does more with less in terms of physical attributes.
Fill the Needs
The Packers have plenty of immediate needs as the draft rapidly approaches. With the cap situation up in the air while the front office works out a deal to move Aaron Rodgers, the draft may be the best option to try and fill those needs.
Brian Branch – S – Alabama
Safety is arguably the Packers biggest hole heading into the 2023 season. There is still a chance they resign Adrian Amos but his age started to show last season and he’s becoming a liability in coverage. Enter Brian Branch. He plays a similar game to Amos but is significantly young. He plays a very reliable and steady game while also being a sure tackler. He won’t knock your socks off in coverage but could come in and fill the strong safety role from day 1.
Sam LaPorta – TE – Iowa
If safety isn’t the biggest need for this team, it’s tight end. Robert Tonyan signed with the Bears and Marcedes Lewis hasn’t been re-signed. That leaves 2020 third round pick Josiah Deguara as the top option. As improved as he was last season, mainly due to finally being healthy, he isn’t the pass catching threat this team needs. LaPorta could come in from day one and be a pass catching threat. He has ideal speed from the tight end position and can make defenders miss in space. He was also in an atrocious offense in college so it’s likely we haven’t seen anything close to his ceiling.
Isaiah McGuire – Edge – Missouri
The injury to Rashan Gary last year had a huge negative impact on the defense. The pass rush was brutal and a major lack of depth in quality pass rushers showed up. When Preston Smith and Gary are healthy, there isn’t much to complain about but Gary likely won’t be back until the second half of the season and Smith is a straight forward cut candidate following the 2024 season. McGuire is an explosive athlete who had a great senior season. He graded out extremely well in a conference loaded with giant offensive linemen.
This is a strategy the Packers have taken a lot over the years. On more than one occasion, it has also lined up with a need which worked out perfectly. We obviously don’t know how the draft will play out but we’ll be as fair and realistic as possible for this exercise.
Lukas Van Ness – Edge – Iowa
This pick would fit in a handful of situations. Not only does he fill a need, but he would be the best player on the board at pick 15. He has incredible strength and uses it to bully offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback. He is light enough to still have good athleticism and speed to compliment his bullish strength.
Jack Campbell – LB – Iowa
I hate to use the same player twice but if he’s there at pick 45, he’s easily the best player available. He’s arguably the best linebacker in the draft and was the highest graded power five linebacker last season. He has ideal size at 6’5″, 250 pounds and has the speed to be a 3 down linebacker in the NFL.
Jammie Robinson – S – Florida State
Robinson doesn’t fall under the RAS category, but he fills the need role and would potentially be the best player available at pick 78. He’s a great tackler and is extremely versatile in the secondary. He played a wide range of roles while at Florida State but probably fits best as a safety in the NFL. He isn’t an unbelievable athlete, but he makes up for it with great instincts.
I tried to add as much variety as possible as there’s only one overlap pick. I know mock drafts are all over the place at the moment so the goal was to do something slightly different. As we get closer to the draft, I may put together a more conventional mock for the Packers. Let me know what strategy you like best and which you think the Packers would be most likely to use.
Follow me on twitter at DrewEsports and us at WiSportsHeroics. To read more of our content and to stay up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here.