- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The Green Bay Packers will enter the 2022 NFL draft with a strong roster overall but also clear needs. Armed with 11 picks, general manager Brian Gutekunst has a chance to fill in the gaps, improve his team’s chances at a Super Bowl this year and build on the foundation of the roster for years to come.
This post from Joe Goodberry represents a smart way of looking at roster needs. There are immediate needs, long-term needs and depth needs, and teams use the draft to address all three to varying degrees.
Instead of rankings roster needs, let’s categorize the individual needs into the four tiers: rookie contributors, long-term developmental players, positional depth and no clear need.
Need rookie contributors
Wide receiver: This is the only position on the roster with a clear and obvious path to immediate playing time for a rookie. The Packers have three veterans – Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and now Sammy Watkins – at receiver, but a talented rookie will have ample opportunities to get on the field in 2022, especially if the rookie is a more traditional “X” (Davante Adams role) or a legitimate deep threat (Marquez Valdes-Scantling role). In fact, the Packers probably need a rookie pass-catcher to come in and provide immediate impact. This is the weakest position group on the roster of a potential Super Bowl contender, and the passing game remains an important part of playing winning football in the NFL. Staying efficient and creating explosive plays with only Lazard, Cobb and Watkins would be difficult. The good news: More and more, rookie receivers are well-prepared to transition to the pro game and produce right away. The Packers also need long-term stability here; only 2021 third-round pick Amari Rodgers is under contract past the 2022 season.
Offensive tackle: Think of this as nothing more than a speculative need for a rookie contributor. In a perfect world, the Packers will survive temporarily with Yosh Nijman starting at right tackle before returning Elgton Jenkins around midseason and plugging him in as the long-term starter opposite All-Pro David Bahktiari, reducing the overall need at tackle. But if the Packers have different plans or want Jenkins returning to guard, a massive need would open up on the right side, and a developmental future starter is needed right away. Nijman is an ascending young player, but offensive tackle is too important of a position to not address soon, especially after losing Billy Turner. It’s certainly possible that a high pick at offensive tackle could beat out Nijman and win the Week 1 starting job at right tackle while allowing the Packers to eventually move Jenkins back inside.
Long snapper: The Packers are bringing back Steve Wirtel, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be the Week 1 long snapper after his struggles in 2021 and the arrival of new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. Maybe the Packers can find a veteran. Or maybe Bisaccia and Brian Gutekunst have their eye on a college option. Remember, the Packers took a long snapper (Hunter Bradley) in Gutekunst’s first draft.
Need developmental players
Edge rusher: The Packers have Rashan Gary and Preston Smith entrenched as the starters at edge rusher, but the depth looks shaky at a premium position. Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, Ladarius Hamilton and Randy Ramsey are the other edge rushers on the roster. Maybe one of the four will emerge as a quality backup, but the Packers can’t bank on it. Remember, in 2019, the Packers signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to big deals but still drafted Gary, who went on to play almost 25 percent of the team’s snaps as a rotational rookie. A similar situation could play out in 2022. The Packers need to start developing the future here, especially considering Smith turns 30 in September and has a year-to-year contract structure. Keeping the pass-rushing cupboard full of talent is so important, both in the present and future.
Tight end: The Packers are bringing back five tight ends they like, and it’s often hard for young players at the position to get on the field and create positive impact. But the team does need to start developing the future at tight end on multiple fronts. Robert Tonyan is coming off a major injury and is only signed for one more year, and Marcedes Lewis turns 38 in May. Only Josiah Deguara is signed at the position past 2022. The Packers may need to find a developmental tight end capable of creating big plays in the passing game or playing inline. Or, ideally, both.
Safety: Adrian Amos turns 29 this month and is entering the final year of his deal. Darnell Savage will enter the final year of his rookie deal if the Packers don’t pick up his fifth-year option. There isn’t an obvious No. 3 safety on the roster, and only Vernon Scott – a 2020 seventh-round pick who barely played in 2021 – is signed past this year. Henry Black played over 200 snaps as the third safety last season, so there is a chance for a versatile rookie to play right away. But the big need here is long-term. It could be difficult to keep a player like Amos past 2022, and Savage’s developmental pathway is more uncertain after a shaky 2021 season, so the Packers need to start developing a replacement.
Defensive line: The Packers like their top four up front after drafting TJ Slaton in the fifth round last year and signing veteran Jarran Reed in free agency, but the team could still use a penetrating pass-rusher type, and there might be a long-term need for a five-technique if Dean Lowry isn’t retained past 2022. While the immediate need might not be great, the Packers need to get better here.
Inside linebacker: De’Vondre Campbell re-signed, Krys Barnes returned on an exclusive rights deal, and both Ty Summers (2019 draft pick) and Isaiah McDuffie (2021 draft pick) are back. The depth here is fine, even after losing Oren Burks, but an opportunity to improve with a young developmental player is certainly available.
Need positional depth
Interior offensive line: Losing Lucas Patrick, who could play all three interior line positions, really hurts the depth. The Packers have three young starters – Jon Runyan, Josh Myers and Royce Newman – and Jenkins (once healthy) can always slide back inside and provide Pro Bowl level play, but the depth here is now questionable. Jake Hanson, Cole Van Lanen and Michal Menet would be the top backups, and Hanson and Menet are centers and Van Lanen is a tackle convert.
Cornerback: The Packers have three quality starters, and Shemar Jean-Charles – a fifth-round pick in 2021 – is one long-term developmental option. Still, the current depth at a key position isn’t great. Using another mid-round pick at cornerback is possible and maybe even likely, especially with Kevin King still unsigned.
No clear need
Quarterback: Having the four-time NFL MVP, a first-round pick entering Year 3, a 26-year-old third-stringer entering Year 2 in the system and a young developmental fourth (Danny Etling) is a good place to be at quarterback.
Running back: The Packers are going into the 2022 season with four capable running backs, including two excellent lead backs and two strong developmental options. It is worth noting that Kylin Hill is coming off a major injury, and Aaron Jones enters tricky financial territory starting next year.
Kicker/punter: The Packers have three kickers on the roster currently, and veteran punter Pat O’Donnell was signed to a two-year deal.