Okay, let’s get real. None of us knows anything when it comes to the NFL draft. Some of us think we do. That’s what makes it fun and exciting. Draft week is finally here. Trying to guess who the Packers will take in the first round is folly, especially when you have the unpredictable Brian Gutekunst making the selection. But using the collective insight (???) of the mock draft gurus, maybe we can make some general assumptions and narrow it down to a handful of players.
One thing we can all agree on is that this draft is extremely top heavy with offensive players, beginning with a likely run of four straight quarterbacks at the top. No more than one or two defensive guys are likely to go in the top ten. It’s looking like picks 11 through 20 will be about a 50-50 mix of offense and defense. This means that only around five or six defensive prospects will be gone through the top 20. Every time an offensive player is picked, another quality defensive guy slides down closer to the Packers.
That brings us to what I believe is the Packers’ target zone, the early 20’s. If Gutekunst has somebody he really wants, this is where he’s going to go to get him. The value here will be on defense. In fact, it’s possible not a single defensive lineman will have been taken in the top 20. That is both exciting and suspicious. For example, Alabama’s Christian Barmore seems to be sliding down draft lists of late. Once regarded as a top 12 prospect, a recent draft preview article on packersnews.com suggested he may now be available at 29, or even slide to the second round. While I believe getting Barmore would be a home run, I wonder if he might be Montravious Adams all over again.
Michigan’s Kwity Paye may also slide down to that range. He would seem to be an incredible value in the 20’s. Versatile and athletic enough to play inside or edge. Here again, early mocks had him going much higher, but later versions have him drifting down.
The top two corners, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina, are probably gone earlier. The next two prospects, Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech, and Greg Newsome II, who played at Northwestern, may both be good enough to start immediately at the next level. Farley has had two back surgeries which may scare him out of the first round. There should also be versatile TCU safety Trevon Moehrig still available. A great leader who plays smart and fast, Moehrig would be an excellent addition when the Packers’ defense goes to multiple defensive backs, which is often.
My personal draft crush is Tulsa’s Zaven Collins. A unanimous first team All American and winner of the Bronco Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards, Collins would immediately upgrade the inside linebacker position, and could even move outside as an extra edge rusher if needed. He’s not the lighter, speedier linebacker many teams are trending toward, but at 265, he is amazingly fast for that weight, crushes ball carriers, and rushes the passer with a savage intensity. I want him. And he should be there in the 20’s. But we all know how the Packers seem to value the ILB position, so I’m not getting my hopes up.
Some think edge rusher is a sneaky need for Green Bay. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari will still be on the board. Incredibly productive in the rugged Southeastern Conference, Ojulari racked up 12.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two pass deflections. If it’s true you can never have too many good pass rushers, Azeez is the man.
Of course, it is possible Gutekunst will go offense in the first round. He needs a tackle and a center. But the value is not there. The top five tackles will be gone by pick 20. This draft is deep enough at tackle that a solid prospect can be had on day two. Alabama center Landon Dickerson will be there, but do you really want to use your first round selection on a center?
With other pressing needs, wouldn’t it be ironic if Gutekunst went receiver in round one this year? After everyone thought he would take one last year? Exciting pass catchers like Kadarius Toney out of Florida and Purdue’s Rondale Moore will be on the board. It would be fun watching Aaron Rodgers bond with those guys in this Matt LaFleur offense.
But the value when we get close to Green Bay being on the clock is going to be on the defensive side of the ball. So there you have it. Let the draft begin! My prediction is that the Packers’ first round pick will likely be a defensive player, and that it will come from a group that includes Christian Barmore, Kwity Paye, Caleb Farley, Greg Newsome II, Trevon Moehrig, Zaven Collins, and Azeez Ojulari.
How’s that for being wishy-washy?
Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.