Packers 2024 draft class filled with college team captains

Whether it be on offense or defense, versatility was a common trait among the Green Bay Packers draft picks this weekend. On the defensive side of the ball, in particular, adding fast and physical players was another point of emphasis.

However, there’s one other commonality that many of these draft selections have, and that is being a team captain and leader at their respective schools.

Of the Packers’ 11 picks, six of them were captains during their time in school.

Jacob Monk was a two-time captain at Duke. Jordan Morgan was a two-time captain at Arizona. Both Evan Williams and Michael Pratt were three-time captains, while Kitan Oladapo and Ty’ron Hopper were captains for the 2023 season.

“I think it’s always been really important,” said GM Brian Gutekunst about players being team captains, “but yeah, we pay a lot of attention to that stuff. Our scouts do a great job as they go through really finding … it’s one thing to be a captain, but it’s also you want to know, is that really earned, did the guys really follow these guys.”

Of course, in this pursuit of finding former captains and team leaders, there is a balance that has to be struck with performance. At the end of the day, those leadership qualities won’t have the same impact if there isn’t talent to pair with it.

However, for the Packers’ scouts, this is something that is not only emphasized but prioritized. In addition to evaluating how the player performs on the field, there are countless hours spent meeting with prospects, their coaches, and the people around them to help paint the picture of who they are as people day in and day out.

Admittedly, as Gutekunst pointed out, this has become a more difficult task in today’s landscape. With players able to transfer freely, they may not have that same relationship with the coaching staff because they’ve only been at the school for six months. When transfers come in, the coaches may not have recruited them in high school, nor had multiple years to work with and develop them.

This has forced the Packers’ scouts to go outside of their comfort zones and “push that envelope,” as Gutekunst put it, to make sure they are still gathering the information they need to properly evaluate these prospects.

“I do think, you know, the boots on the ground,” said Gutekunst, “our area scouts that go into these schools multiple times, develop the relationships with the people, since COVID and some of the new rules, transfer rules, it’s gotten harder. Because a lot of these guys are transferring and moving schools, so the coaches that have been at these places haven’t known him for the whole time. They didn’t recruit them in the home and then they didn’t have them for three or four years and watch them grow.

“So they may have had them for six months, because they transferred in and that’s what they had them for. So our guys have really kind of had to get outside their comfort zone and their boundaries to find these things out, and they’ve done a wonderful job of it. And we’ve really pushed them to do so, and they’ve done an excellent job.”

In Gutekunst’s words, the locker room environment can be “fragile.” So being mindful of who is added to it is always front of mind for him. Gutekunst added that as they go about making additions through free agency and the draft, it’s important that he consider the players already on the team and the fit of the new player(s) on the already established roster.

This is not only an approach that the Packers take during the draft but in free agency as well. Earlier this offseason, the Packers two biggest additions were running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney–both of whom were captains with their previous teams.

Without a strong locker room culture filled with leaders, the Packers may not have weathered the storm during the first half of the 2023 season as well as they did, coming out on the other side of it playing like one of the best teams in football. Before a turnaround of that magnitude can take place on the football field, it starts in the locker room.

“Again,” added Gutekunst, “you’re never going to be perfect with those things, but we do feel that the guys we’re adding into that locker room, who they are and what they’re about is important. And those things are going to lead us to have a really good cohesive team. And I commend our guys for doing a really good job on that stuff.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire