Yesterday, Chad Reuter of NFL.com dropped a three-round mock draft with lots of trades and some excellent picks. It’s pretty bold to go a full three-rounds for a mock draft, especially before the NFL Combine has been completed and free agency hasn’t started, but we love bold here at Wisconsin Sports Heroics. Let’s go through each pick for the Green Bay Packers and grade them based on positional value, prospect’s perceived value, player fit, and who was on the board when the selection was made.
Mock Draft Round 1: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba is just as talented as the three former Ohio State receivers — Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams — picked in the top 12 last year. (Williams, of course, played his final year at Alabama.) He has excellent hands and quickness/strength after the catch. If his troublesome hamstring is fully healed, I expect teams to place a high value on him. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Packers moved up to grab JSN, or one of the top tight ends, to aid whoever their quarterback might be in 2023.
Let’s get the necessities out of the way.
Do the Packers need another wide receiver? Yes, they do. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs showed some bright flashes, but both had injuries and you can never have enough weapons on offense.
Were there any major players that the Packers should’ve selected in the mock draft instead of Jaxon Smith-Njigba? Brian Branch, a safety out of Alabama, is the only one that comes to mind, but I think receiver is more important than safety and Branch doesn’t wow me as a prospect as much as JSN. You could argue for Jalin Hyatt or Jordan Addison, but I would take Smith-Njigba over both. Quentin Johnston is my WR1 in this draft and he inexplicably fell into the second round (spoiler alert!) for Reuter but that’s the only player I would’ve taken over JSN in this mock draft.
Is Smith Njigba worth a top 15 pick? CBS Sports has him as the #26 overall prospect, and the #3 wide receiver. The Draft Network has him as the #22 overall prospect, and #3 wide receiver. Pro Football Focus has him as the #27 overall prospect and the #3 wide receiver. That would seem a damning list where everyone has him over-drafted by going at #15, but I would personally disagree. His hamstring injury happened all the way back in Week 1, and reaggravating it kept him out of future games. Once he shows that he is healthy at the Combine and Ohio State pro-day he’s going to shoot up draft boards.
So how do we feel? I had Jaxon Smith-Njigba (in-JIG-ba) in my all BIG10 mock draft a couple weeks ago as my pick at #15. In that article I stated that despite the Packers not being limited to a single conference when they select and the potential for players falling in the draft, I think that JSN is possibly my perfect (but realistic) scenario for the Packers at #15. He’s an excellent route runner, creates separation out of nowhere, and always knows where to be when a play breaks down. His hands are like magnets and he’s stellar at gaining yardage after the catch. His only major concern is the aforementioned hamstring injury that caused him to miss almost all of the 2022 season. If he’s available at #15, I would be running to the commissioner with my draft card.
Grade: A, he’s a perfect big slot (Y) receiver to group with Christian Watson at the Z and Romeo Doubs at the X. Imagine Smith-Njigba as a mean combination of Chris Godwin and Amari Cooper that’s a scary thought.
Mock Draft Round 2: Antonio Johnson, Safety, Texas A&M
The Packers have a need at safety, Johnson is projected to go in the second round by TDN and the first round by CBS Sports so the value works, and there are only two prospects I would have taken over him at that point in the mock draft: Quentin Johnston (which we will ignore because we already have Smith-Njigba) and Bryan Bresee (who’s draft projection is all over the map, so we’ll ignore him also).
Overall, I’m a fan of Johnson but I don’t love his tape. He has no ball skills at all and doesn’t generate turnovers, and I’m not sure whether he’s a true safety or more of a slot corner. That being said, he has good size, great tackling, and he processes fast enough to recover when he needs to. Considering that the Packers need all the safety help they can get, I can’t really be mad at this pick.
Grade: B, he should become a starting level safety or slot corner. But how high is his ceiling and does he fix the problem at safety or merely make it less noticeable?
Mock Draft Round 3: Sam LaPorta, Tight End, Iowa
Like Smith-Njigba, I selected Sam LaPorta in my all BIG10 mock draft — though he was an alternate. The Packers need tight end badly, and the third round seems right for a player like LaPorta. He’s only a modest blocker but he’s an excellent pass catcher and could develop into a stellar weapon for the Packers offense. His hands are his best strength, he plucks the ball out of the air away from his body, and he’s surprisingly talented at picking up yards after the catch for a player his size. When it comes to blocking abilities, I would describe him as enthusiastic but not necessarily good. That being said, blocking can be taught, and usually tight ends get better at it with time and experience. Furthermore, he came from Iowa so it’s possible he turns into the next George Kittle or TJ Hockenson who were also Iowa products. The only reason this pick doesn’t get A grade is because Keeanu Benton and Isaiah Foskey are still on the board. Foskey plays a more premium position and would add some upside to an edge rusher room that is currently headlined by an ACL-less Rashan Gary. Benton just dominated the Senior Bowl and would be an immense help in defending the run game, which is an issue that seems to plague the Packers every year.
Grade: B+, my biggest worry is that the Packers haven’t had good luck recently with the Third Round and Tight Ends.
I would give this Mock Draft an A- overall. Each position is a position of need, and each player is ranked appropriately for their selection. Quentin Johnston at #15 and Keeanu Benton at #78 would’ve made this an A grade in my mind but that being said, if this was the result on draft day, I think most Packers fans including myself (and the front office) would be very pleased.
For more mock drafts (like this one), breakdowns, analysis, and other content on the Green Bay Packers, keep it here at Wisconsin Sports Heroics.