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The Green Bay Packers will have 10 picks in the 2021 NFL draft to build the foundation of the roster for years to come.
The draft provides an opportunity for all teams to both address immediate roster needs and build long-term depth across multiple positions. The best teams can identify the top talent in the draft while also creating a sustainable plan during the draft for constructing a competitive roster over multiple seasons.
The Packers have perceived needs for the 2021 season but also clear long-term needs, creating an intersection that could guide the path during this year’s draft.
Here are a few positions the Packers will likely draft in 2021:
At some point in the next few months, the Packers will exercise the fifth-year option on All-Pro Jaire Alexander, locking in one starter at cornerback for at least the next two seasons. But after Alexander, the cornerback position is mostly a mystery past next season. Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan are back on one-year deals in 2021 and Josh Jackson, so far a second-round bust, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Ka'dar Hollman, likely on the roster bubble entering 2021, is the only player at the position under contract past next season currently. Cornerback is a premium position, and this draft class looks deep in options, especially early. It would be very surprising if the Packers exit this draft without at least one cornerback.
The Packers didn't take a wide receiver last year, and the position will not only return every contributor from last season but also add veteran Devin Funchess. The short-term need here isn't extraordinary, but remember, the draft is about building out long-term depth, and the Packers have next to none at receiver. In fact, there is only one receiver (Chris Blair, who signed a futures deal in January) under contract past 2021. The Packers will likely extend Davante Adams, and Allen Lazard will be relatively straightforward to bring back in 2022 as a restricted free agent, but this is a position group likely headed for a transition phase. Drafting at least one receiver and preparing for turnover in 2022 makes a lot of sense. This might even be a spot for the Packers to target a receiver early. A chance to add a dynamic slot/gadget weapon will be available during the first two days.
Having David Bakhtiari and Billy Turner provides a quality offensive tackle tandem for at least another year, and the Packers clearly like the developmental path being charted by Yosh Nijman, who will be entering Year 3 in Green Bay. However, Bakhtiari (torn ACL) could miss time to start 2021, Turner isn't a guarantee to be on the roster past this season and Nijman has played exactly 14 NFL snaps on offense. There is no veteran swing tackle on the roster, and the long-term starter at right tackle isn't readily apparent. The Packers may like Elgton Jenkins' ability to play on the edges, but he's also a Pro Bowl guard who may need to play center. With only three offensive tackles on the roster, the Packers – a team that hasn't taken a true offensive tackle in the draft since 2016 – need to build young depth for the future and possibly find a starting-caliber option for 2021. Like cornerback and receiver, this is a strong class of offensive tackles. In terms of drafting an offensive tackle, the Packers are long overdue.
The return of Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke and Tyler Lancaster provides a foundation of experience for the Packers defensive line, but it's no secret that this position group needs to be better. And the best way to get better is to improve the talent base. This is as much a short-term need as it is a long-term need. Lancaster is on a one-year deal, and Lowry is probably going into his final year in Green Bay. The draft class isn't deep on defensive line talent, providing a hurdle for the Packers. Can general manager Brian Gutekunst find a capable player for the defensive line if he misses out on the top players in the class? Adding a veteran here at some point is possible if the Packers don't like the options in the draft.
– Edge rusher is the sneaky need of this draft for the Packers. Preston Smith likely won't be back in 2022. – The Packers need a lot more production and impact at inside linebacker, but the roster has several young players in place and it's certainly possible the team doesn't see the position as a draft priority. – The interior of the offensive line may need a new starter after losing All-Pro center Corey Linsley, but Lucas Patrick is a good fit at center and Jon Runyan Jr. might be ready to start in 2021. – There's a need for a third safety. This need might become a priority if the Packers plan to use Darnell Savage more at the "star" position. Having a safety capable of being an overhang defender and dime linebacker is almost a necessity in today's NFL. – Drafting running backs and tight ends in the middle rounds is a good strategy just about every year. It's a cheap way to build out the running back position, and it's a smart way to increase the chances of finding an impact tight end. – Specialists are possible. The Packers added competition at punter anad long snapper, but Gutekunst has already proved he's willing to use a draft pick on both positions. With a new special teams coordinator, JK Scott and Hunter Bradley are on the bubble.