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With two first-round picks, two second-round picks and 11 picks overall, the Green Bay Packers might be one of the most fascinating teams going into the 2022 NFL draft, the mega roster-building event which kicks off Thursday night with the first round.
Can general manager Brian Gutekunst supercharge the Packers’ roster with instant impact contributors and long-term roster pillars? A team that has won 13 games each of the last three regular seasons and is returning four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers now has a unique opportunity to add a big chunk of top-tier talent.
How will the Packers go about attacking the process?
Contributors Brennen Rupp and Brandon Carwile joined Packers Wire managing editor Zach Kruse to answer a few big questions about prospects and the Packers as the team enters the 2022 NFL draft.
Ideal scenario for the Packers in the first round?
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Zach: Generally speaking, the Packers should be aiming to turn their first-round picks into two elite players at premium positions. More specifically, the Packers would probably love to exit the first round with an instant impact wide receiver and an instant impact contributor along the offensive line or defensive front. This is a strong overall roster that just needs some reinforcements at a few key spots. Brian Gutekunst’s hit rate in the first round is high through four drafts, and he’s specifically targeted young, elite athletes. Following this blueprint looks like the way to go.
Brennen: The first wide receiver doesn’t come off the board until the 15th pick and Chris Olave falls to the Packers at 22. Then the Packers find a trade partner to move out of the first round with the 28th pick to gain more draft capital, giving Brian Gutekunst even more ammunition to be really aggressive on day two and early on day three. The strength of this draft class is on day two and early on day three. If Gutekunst can move out of the first round with the 28th pick to get an extra day two pick and an extra day three pick he’ll have the ammo to move up and down the board on day two and early on day three to really hit the strength of this class.
Brandon: If the Packers come away with one of the top receiver prospects and a defensive prospect with great potential, that is a win for me. The defensive prospect can be a tackle, edge, safety, or corner, as long as the team believes that player has a high floor and will be a strong starter in the league. The defensive player doesn’t even have to play a big role right away, but the receiver needs to be talented enough to come in and make an impact in year one. If you want to get specific about it, I think Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave and Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones are the best-case scenarios.
One prospect you hope falls to the Packers?
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Zach: Jameson Williams. He’s the most dangerous offensive playmaker in the draft and would probably be the consensus No. 1 receiver in the class without the ACL injury. The Alabama receiver is a speed demon and big-play machine who could – once healthy – help Matt LaFleur’s offense create more explosive plays and points. The Packers need a new deep threat and a future No. 1 receiver. Williams, a Desean Jackson-like talent, could check both boxes emphatically.
Brennen: I hinted at it with my first question. If Chris Olave falls to the Packers he’d give them a pro-ready wide receiver that could step in from day one and quickly become Green Bay’s top wide receiver. He’s the best route runner in the class. He has strong, reliable hands and he’s a vertical threat. He checks a lot of boxes and if he somehow falls to 22, the Ohio State wide receiver would be a slam dunk pick.
Brandon: Jordan Davis out of Georgia would be hard to pass up. I mean, the guy is 6-6, 340 pounds, and ran a 4.7 at the combine. I understand why people are worried about Davis because he wasn’t an every-down player in college, but a player with his size and athleticism does not come around often. Let Davis be an early-down run stopper and use his traits to develop him into an effective interior pass rusher. Davis is a guy with a tremendously high ceiling who could learn from someone like Kenny Clark.
Should the Packers trade up in the first round?
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Zach: I’m torn on this. On one hand, this isn’t a top-heavy draft class, and there are a lot of good players likely to be available in the 20-60 range. Staying put and using all five picks in the top 100 could help build a solid foundation for years to come. On the other hand, the Packers are squarely in win-now mode, and with so much draft capital at their disposal, this might be the ideal time to aggressively trade up and get a blue-chip player. If someone like Jameson Williams or another top player falls into a reasonable range, go get him. If not, stay put.
Brennen: No. As badly as the Packers need to get one of the top wide receivers in this draft, none of them are worth the price of admission. They can sit back and take the best player available at 22 and roll the dice on George Pickens at 28. They could maybe even wait to strike until day two to get their wide receiver.
Brandon: I don’t think this is the year to trade up. Unless there is a wide receiver they are absolutely in love with, but even then, there is plenty of starting talent that would be available at the end of the first and even on day two. Maybe they trade up if an edge rusher with a top 10 grade falls within striking distance, but again, I don’t see it happening. I could see Gutekunst trading back before I see him trading up.
One first-round prospect you'd avoid for the Packers?
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Zach: All the potential first-round offensive tackles (Trevor Penning, Bernhard Raimann, Tyler Smith) look risky. I wouldn’t necessarily avoid drafting Treylon Burks, but the Arkansas receiver is a boom-or-bust prospect, especially in the first round. He needed manufactured touches, was in a bunch of contested-catch situations and didn’t test well pre-draft. The upside is there, but he’s a unique receiver prospect. His athletic profile mirrors Josh Gordon and Laquan Treadwell, so the range of outcomes for his development is probably huge.
Brennen: Any of the quarterbacks. In all seriousness, I don’t think there is a prospect that the Packers should avoid. I’ll say Andrew Booth Jr. to give an answer. With Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas, the Packers don’t need another boundary-only cornerback in the first round. Having said that, there are cornerbacks that I could see the Packers taking in the first round (Trent McDuffie, Kaiir Elam). Both of those cornerbacks are elite athletes, young and have the ability to play in the slot.
Brandon: Basically any of the offensive tackles. I don’t think any of those guys are world-beaters, and this is a team known for developing offensive linemen from later rounds. Guys like Zach Tom, Darian Kinnard, and Abraham Lucas would all be solid options on days two and three. They did just lose Billy Turner, but let’s not forget how well Yosh Nijman played when called upon last season. It’s not as big a need as some may think.
Best first-round fit for the Packers?
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2)
Zach: Dax Hill is 21, highly athletic and plays a premium position, and the Michigan safety would be a dominant slot defender at the next level. But the Packers might not be interested in spending another first-round pick on the secondary. I’ll go with the boring pick: Chris Olave. The Packers need a receiver who can step in as a rookie and be a consistent separator in the passing game. That’s Olave all day. He runs crisp routes, gets open easily and is lightning quick. Aaron Rodgers will fall in love with his skillset immediately, giving him instant impact potential. Olave could be the next Greg Jennings in Green Bay.
Brennen: George Karlaftis. The Purdue edge rusher checks all the boxes for the Packers. He plays a premium position. He just turned 21 years old. He’s a freaky athlete. The Greek Freak could be utilized in a variety of ways by the Packers. He could line up on the interior or he could stand up and rush the passer. On passing downs, Joe Barry could deploy Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Karlaftis and Kenny Clark. That’s a scary sight for quarterbacks.
Brandon: I’m going to have to go with Jameson Williams. The only problem is, he probably won’t be there at 22. Williams has incredible straight-line speed that makes him a home-run threat anytime he is on the field. His size and speed match what Green Bay likes, and he has a wide catch radius, which is something they will be missing without Davante Adams. Williams could step in and be WR1, but we don’t know when that will be with him recovering from an ACL injury. However, maybe that works in the Packers’ favor so he can fall into their lap.
Prospects you love for the Packers on Day 2 and Day 3?
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Zach: Jalen Tolbert, Jelani Woods, Charlie Kolar and Spencer Burford. Tolbert might be the most skilled receiver outside the first round in this draft class. Woods looks like Marcedes Lewis 2.0, but with elite athleticism added in. Kolar might be the most underrated tight end in the class; he’s athletic, tough, smart and productive in the passing game. Burford is 21 years old with attractive athleticism and a bunch of experience at left tackle.
Brennen: On the offensive side of the ball on day two, it’s Alec Pierce. The Cincinnati wide receiver is a vertical threat. He’s an outstanding athlete with strong hands and he’s a good blocker out on the perimeter. He just screams “Packers” pick. On the defensive side of the ball on day two, I’ll go Amaro Barno. The Virginia Tech edge rusher is still new to the position, but he’s so explosive. Barno has the ideal length (6-4) for the position. He’s a disruptive force off the edge with his explosiveness. He’s a bendy edge rusher that gains ground quickly due to his quick get-off. He would be a great addition to the pass-rushing stable behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Blaise Andries is the offensive player on day three. The Minnesota Golden Gophers offensive lineman is one of the most versatile offensive lineman in this draft class. Andries finished his career with 21 starts at right guard, 11 at left guard, nine at right tackle and five at left tackle. He even took snaps at center during practice. On defense, it’s Carson Wells. The Colorado edge rusher has 29 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. The only player in the Pac-12 that had more than Wells in that two-year span was Devin Lloyd. Wells is an outstanding athlete. He’s explosive off the snap. With his athleticism, Wells was one of the biggest combine snubs. At Colorado’s pro day, Wells put on a show, clocking a 40-time of 4.59 and a 10-yard split of 1.62.
Brandon: Alec Pierce and Cameron Thomas. Pierce is an impressive athlete that grew a lot as a receiver during his career at Cincinnati. I think he is exactly what Green Bay looks for in a receiver but needs a little more polish to be a starter. Thomas is my draft crush. The edge rusher out of San Diego State is a really impressive athlete and has the tape to back it up. Bring him in and watch as he thrives as a do-it-all defender capable of playing inside.