Starting with the 29th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, unless they decide to either move up or move back, is when the Green Bay Packers will be making their first selection. And while they certainly have their fair share of needs that they will be sure to address across all seven rounds, they will not just pick a player because of the industry’s perception of when this player should go.
Their anti-early wide receiver policy that the media loves to throw around every time Aaron Rodgers throws a bad pass or one of his pass catchers drops it certainly has some legs to it, but the fact that it is beat like a dead horse each and every season makes it tough to listen to commentary at times. This year could potentially change that narrative if GM Brian Gutekunst decides to go WR in the first round, but who knows if that is actually a viable option.
These three following players are options that are likely on Green Bay’s board but may have some sort of caveat attached to them, whether it involves a cloudy injury history, questions about his level of play, or just being unsure about how he would translate to the NFL from the collegiate ranks. If there is enough there to have questions about the player, then using an early selection on them should not happen.
Cornerback – Virginia Tech
Injury concerns surround Caleb Farley, as the Virginia Tech cornerback has dealt with a torn ACL, bulging discs, sciatica, all the while playing a position where physicality, athleticism, and speed is the name of the game.
Farley opted out last season due to COVID-19 concerns, and while that would not necessarily be a red flag, it is for someone who A) has not played now since 2019, and B) reinjured his S1 in his back, which required his second microdiscectomy since February 2020. All of those injuries in a nutshell certainly can and should make teams wary of selecting him, even with his on-field accolades.
Farley looks to be the CB4 in this class, behind Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, and Greg Newsome II, and is teetering on the Round 1/2 edge, something that certainly can show him how much a team believes in him. Even with the kind of need that Green Bay has in its defensive secondary, taking a big chance on a player with that kind of injury history would look a lot like what has happened with the Kevin King experiment, something fans do not want to have to go through again.
Wide Receiver – Florida
Speed sells – even if you are not Al Davis, and that is exactly what Kadarius Toney is hoping makes himself stand out amongst the plethora of below-average height WR options in this year’s draft. The Florida prospect is a prospect built on agility and after-catch abilities, which certainly will play well in the NFL – but his speed certainly can hold him back as well.
Having to deal with contentious press coverage could easily set Toney a step or two behind at the start of the play, knocking his timing off with his QB and potentially taking him out of the play entirely. Using a first-round selection on a player that may not even be able to get open on a regular basis due to his stature would be a tough pill to swallow, even for the mob that is demanding a first-round wideout.
Toney’s skill set would project well into HC Matt LaFleur’s offense, that is obvious – but his size is what makes it tough to see GB using their first-round pick on him. A ton of pause comes with taking Toney in the first, but as a second-round option (even if the team decides to move up slightly to get him) would be a steal and a great value.
Any TE before Round 4
Look, the role of tight end on this GB offense is underrated and underappreciated, and while Robert Tonyan Jr.’s 2020 season may be a tough one to replicate, his $3 million-plus salary shows that his role on this team moving forward will certainly be a large one.
Which means that taking another TE before Round 3, like they did last year with Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara, is completely unneeded, unless by some miracle Pat Freiermuth from Penn State falls. Outside of Freiermuth and likely top-five selection Kyle Pitts, there is no proven TE option that is deserving to be selected that high by the Packers.
Tommy Tremble from Notre Dame projects to be a solid plug-in fit for the Packers, but what does he do better than Jace Sternberger? Than Deguara (when healthy)? The infatuation with adding TE’s to this offense is fine and all, but keeping them as dreams and not turning them all into realities is exactly the type of approach Gutekunst and LaFleur need to take, starting in this draft.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23