Some years, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down which positions the Packers may draft in the first round. In 2023, it might be a bit easier.
Based on the current state of Green Bay’s roster, and the areas of strength and weakness in the upcoming draft, there are only a few positions which make sense as targets for Brian Gutekunst.
But before we get to there, let’s start with the positions they won’t realistically take in round one.
Quarterback: This is a good place to define the term ‘realistic’. If C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young miraculously fell all the way to Green Bay, there would be a decision to make, but that isn’t going to happen. Moving right along…
Running back: You could argue the Packers have a long-term need in the backfield, with A.J. Dillon in the final year of his rookie deal and Aaron Jones only under contract through 2024.
But with the position devalued in the modern NFL, Bijan Robinson is likely the only first-round talent in this class, and it would be hard to imagine Brian Gutekunst pulling the trigger given the other players who are likely to be available when the Packers pick.
Interior offensive line: Even if there was anyone worth taking in the first round (there isn’t), the Packers don’t draft guards, they draft tackles who can play guard. They won’t be giving up on former second-rounder center Josh Myers just yet, either.
Defensive line: Another layer to the realism part of the equation. Green Bay could use more help for Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt and T.J. Slaton up front, but the options to do so are thin in the first round.
Jalen Carter and Calijah Kancey are certainly worthy of being top picks in the 2023 draft, but Carter may well not make it to the Packers (or be off their board completely), and Kancey is shorter and lighter than any defensive tackle the team has selected with Gutekunst as GM.
Not to mention, the Packers just spent a first-round pick at the position a year ago.
Inside linebacker: They have De’Vondre Campbell and 2022 first-rounder Quay Walker already and there are few (if any) legitimate first-round prospects at the position this year. Next.
Cornerback: Matt LaFleur confirmed Rasul Douglas will be staying at corner, rather than moving to safety, and between Douglas, Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes, the Packers already have the core of their corner group set.
Safety: “What?! Safety?! But they need a safety!” I hear you cry.
Yes, the Packers badly need to reinforce their safety group, but after Brian Branch posted middling athletic scores (5.20 Relative Athletic Score out of a possible 10), there simply aren’t any safeties the Packers are likely to be interested in on night one.
That leaves four positions the Packers could realistically take on Thursday, April 27, based on their current roster and the players who will likely be available.
Wide receiver: I know, I know. Just hear me out.
While Packers fans should rightly be convinced the team will never take a receiver in the first round ever again, what has prevented it in recent years may be lack of opportunity rather than desire.
Green Bay has routinely been drafting at the back end of the first round in the LaFleur era, and in 2022, 2021 and 2020, all the consensus top receivers were simply gone before the Packers were on the clock.
But with this year’s selection coming at 15 (pending the compensation received for Aaron Rodgers), the likes of Quentin Johnston and Jaxon Smith-Njigba could well be there. This could be the year, folks.
Tight end: It’s no secret this is one of the stronger tight end classes in recent memory, and the Packers have a glaring need.
While it is not a premium position, Gutekunst could see the value in a plug and play starter like Michael Mayer or a freakshow athlete like Darnell Washington, either of whom could provide a valuable weapon to an offense featuring an inexperienced quarterback.
Offensive tackle: Gutekunst is fond of saying offensive tackles “don’t grow on trees”, and while the current depth at the position is strong, the Packers could use a long-term option.
David Bakhtiari has returned to his All-Pro form post-knee injury, and Yosh Nijman and Zach Tom have shown potential as plus starters, but Bakhtiari and Nijman are no sure bet to be in Green Bay in a year or two.
The Packers are usually out of range for the top tackle prospects in the draft, but Paris Johnson, Broderick Jones or Darnell Wright could certainly be in play this year.
EDGE: You will struggle to find a defensive co-ordinator who thinks he has enough edge rush depth, and the Packers could benefit from a top prospect at the position.
Rashan Gary is a premier pass rusher, but he doesn’t have a true running mate. Preston Smith is a picture of consistency and solid play, and J.J. Enagbare has shown promise, but neither player is reason to ignore EDGE in this year’s draft.
There is a plethora of exciting options in the 2023 class, Will Anderson, Myles Murphy, Tyree Wilson, Lukas van Ness, Nolan Smith. One of them is likely to be still on the board when the Packers pick.