Exit Survey: Packers 2018 NFL Draft
First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst and his front office navigated their way over the weekend through the NFL Draft, acquiring eleven players over seven rounds and scores more in undrafted free agency and tryout opportunities.
Now that the dust has settled and all 32 teams have made their draft picks, let’s tackle some of the pressing questions leftover from one of the busiest NFL weekends.
What were the biggest differences between the approaches taken by Gutekunst and former general manager Ted Thompson?
It may be an easy stance to take to criticize the back-half of general manager Ted Thompson’s tenure. Beat writers covering the Packers reported that even inside the organization some were of the belief Thompson wasn’t aggressive enough with the team’s roster.
Brian Gutekunst certainly demonstrated a level of aggression over the course of this past weekend we hadn’t seen from Thompson in some time. Sure, the Packers and every other team would love to trade down (as Jon wrote before the draft). New Orleans’ offer to move up thirteen spots on Thursday was, in the eyes of the Packers, too good to pass up.
Thompson executed more than 30 trades on draft day throughout his tenure, so Gutekunst merely trading down in the first round isn’t particularly unique. Perhaps the difference between the two men’s approaches is how Gutekunst moved up from 27 to 18 to select Jaire Alexander.
Just once in Ted Thompson’s tenure as general manager did he move up in the first round – a 2009 trade that netted the Packers an additional first-round pick they used to select linebacker Clay Matthews.
The Packers spent their top two picks on cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. What role will veteran cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House play in 2018?
The NFL Draft should not be viewed in a vacuum, instead we should evaluate the draft based on how the rookies make an impact both in the short- and long-term. Last season, the Packers selected a pair of defensive backs – Kevin King and Josh Jones – with their first two selections. Green Bay relied heavily on both last season, and the results weren’t what they expected.
It's bad practice in the NFL to bring in veterans to simply mentor young players. Given the disparity between what you have to pay a veteran player and a player on their rookie contract, teams have shied away from keeping veterans around just to "coach up the young guys." Instead, veterans who mentor younger players are expected to contribute on the field.
That's exactly what the Packers are expecting from Williams and House in 2018.
This season, it seems the Packers have learned from what ailed them in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will now enter his first season with six defensive backs that were selected in the first or second round of the draft.
That’s an awful lot of talent for a coordinator who thrives on his cornerbacks being able to win one-on-one matchups. It’s a good sign that the defense will improve in 2018.
What draft picks aren’t guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster?
The Packers have historically shown favor to rookie draft picks when building their initial 53-man roster out of training camp. Consider the case of fourth-round linebacker Carl Bradford. Early in training camp of his rookie season, it was evident Bradford was completely overwhelmed as a pass rusher. Green Bay kept him around for two seasons before jettisoning him into free agency.
Brian Gutekunst will build the roster his own way, so precedent doesn’t hold much water. If there’s one position to keep a close eye on in the lead-up to training camp, it’s wide receiver. The Packers’ roster at the position looks like this:
- Davante Adams
- Geronimo Allison
- Michael Clark
- Randall Cobb
- Trevor Davis
- Jake Kumerow
- J’Mon Moore
- Colby Pearson
- Equanimeous St. Brown
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling
- DeAngelo Yancey
Yancey and Clark were both seen in high-regard by the team following 2017, and will have every opportunity to stick around this season. As we saw last season when the team drafted and unceremoniously released both Yancey and Malachi Dupre, the Packers will release a draft pick. It’s no sure thing all three rookie receivers make the roster.
Is Packers 6th round draft pick and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown the Lonzo Ball of the NFL?
There may not be a more interesting family in this year’s draft than Equanimeous St. Brown’s. If you’re unfamiliar, the SparkNotes version is this: his father’s long had a dream for all three of his sons to play in the NFL, and his mother only communicates with them in German. Equanimeous, the oldest son, comes from Notre Dame where he was on the receiving end of passes from DeShone Kizer.
Equanimeous, like Lonzo, is talented enough on his own to belong in the pros. His father’s antics – he hawks a protein shake in lieu of Big Baller Brand – have elevated his sons’ visibility.
I doubt the Packers will see much in the way of a distraction from John Brown (Equanimeous’ father) in training camp. Brown doesn’t have the same level of braggadocio as Lavar Ball, and seems to genuinely want to see his kids stand up on their own merits and play pro football.
The Packers now own the Saints’ 2019 1st round pick. Was the controversial trade Thursday night worth it?
Yes. It’s an exercise in futility to grade draft classes days after the event is over, but the net result of the Packers’ trade with the Saints was a huge positive for Green Bay.
There are some scenarios where the trade may look foolish in hindsight, namely if Saints pass rusher Marcus Davenport develops into an elite player. To a lesser extent, the Packers passed on safety Derwin James – the most-desired player available at fourteen as voted on by our readers.
In this moment with what we know now, the Packers were wise to make the deal. They wound up with a cornerback they believe can make a difference, and now enter next year’s draft with two of the top 32 selections.
What Packers draft pick has the best chance to make an instant impact as a rookie?
Sure, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson are going to go a long way to shoring up a Packers secondary. If you’re a Wisconsin Badgers fan, too, then you know first-hand how disruptive Jackson can be. I think the player who can make the biggest impact next season, though, may be third-rounder Oren Burks.
Burks fills a variety of positions for the Packers. He’s an athletic upgrade over the departed Joe Thomas (now in Dallas) and can do some of the same things that Josh Jones did throughout his rookie season. He’s part-safety, he’s part-linebacker.
If Burks plays well as a rookie, his ability frees up others in the Packers defense to continue to specialize in their skills. Jones can focus on his playmaking abilities, linebackers Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan can cut down running backs and the pass rush will have more chances to get home.