What Are the Packers Going to Do in Round 1?

The Packers have clear needs at both cornerback and edge rusher, but in his final news conference before the draft, Brian Gutekunst declined to state a preference on the two positions. He did say that it’s more difficult to find big, athletic players with which to populate a defense, but that’s all he’s given us as far as hints on what he’s thinking.

Conventional wisdom would say Gutekunst is probably right. It’s generally more difficult to find elite athletes who also have elite size, which would put a guy like Marcus Davenport very much in play at 14. He’s as athletic and big as they come.

But taking a broader view, this draft appears to have more options throughout the draft to get an edge rusher (or even a defensive lineman, period) than they do an elite corner.

With that in mind, it’s my belief that the Packers will look for the best available defensive back early, then look to fill in their front seven later. Philosophically, I think you should look for volume up front on defense and talent in the back.

Assuming someone like Bradley Chubb doesn’t make an unexpected fall to 14, I would have four defensive backs at the top of my board if I was making the picks for the Packers:

  1. Derwin James
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick
  3. Josh Jackson
  4. Denzel Ward

James and Fitzpatrick both appear to be overwhelmingly talented. It doesn’t matter if we don’t have a good look at their full athletic profile. The attributes we do have combined with their play on the field makes them near locks as picks.

Jackson fits what the Packers want from defensive backs nearly perfectly. It would be great if he was a little faster, but his size and agility should more than make up for it.

Ward, meanwhile, looks like he’ll come off the board very early. If he falls to 14, it makes the Packers’ decision an interesting one. He’s got the athletic chops to do the job in the NFL, but will Gutekunst break from tradition and select an (ever so slightly) undersized corner in his first draft?

We’ll find out on Thursday.

This post is an adapted transcript of the most recent episode of Blue 58, a Packers podcast from The Power Sweep. Listen to the full episode below, and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunesStitcheriHeartRadioCastBox and more to stay on top of the best in Packers news and analysis.