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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group

Final thoughts on Packers and 2023 NFL draft

The Green Bay Packers have 11 picks in this year’s draft, including four in the top 100. They have a number of immediate needs to fill and have to prioritize putting the right players around Jordan Love to give him the best chance of being successful all while striking a balance with planning for the future as they find themselves in a transition period.

Before Brian Gutekunst comes on the clock, here are my final thoughts on the Packers and the 2023 NFL draft:

— There are three positions the Packers must address: wide receiver, tight end, and interior defensive lineman. All are low on depth, experience, and each needs more playmaking. I fully expect the Packers to leave the draft with at least four total tight ends and receivers.

— Taking a tight end in Round 1 is a move that’s very much in play for the Packers, but from a value perspective, with a majority of rookie tight ends not making a big impact right away and needing two to three years to fully develop, waiting until Day 2 – especially with such a deep draft class – makes the most sense. If you look around the NFL at the top tight ends, there just isn’t a strong connection between on early tight end selections turning into the top players at that position.

— Based on Brian Gutekunst’s comments about the quarterback position, specifically that they need one or two more on the roster and that there are a few prospects they like, my guess is they take a quarterback in the fourth or fifth round range.

— We’ve seen Gutekunst spend draft picks on special teams before, selecting JK Scott and Hunter Bradley, and he could again do it again at kicker. The only kicker on the roster right now is the inexperienced Parker White. A few of the top options include Jake Moody, Christopher Dunn, Jack Podlesney, and Chad Ryland.

— By 2024, the running back position for the Packers might be in flux. Aaron Jones could be released, and AJ Dillon is a free agent. While the draft is about planning ahead, if there’s one position where that isn’t completely necessary, it’s running back. Although selecting one is justified, it’s not a necessity either. Green Bay can cross that bridge in 2024.

— There should be plenty of options at tight end, edge rusher, receiver, and defensive tackle on Day 2 that fit what the Packers typically look for. We can’t, however, say that about offensive tackle, which is why my guess is that this is the position the Packers take in round one if Darnell Wright, Paris Johnson, or Broderick Jones is available.

— Offensive tackle may not be a pressing need, but landing one of the three top options gives the Packers flexibility to play Zach Tom at center or guard as the rookie competes with Yosh Nijman at right tackle. Without question, the Packers need more playmakers around Jordan Love, but any success he will have starts in the trenches, and adding right tackle completion truly allows Matt LaFleur to put his best five on the field. This selection also better prepares the Packers for 2024, when they could be without both Nijman and David Bakhtiari.

— In every Gutekunst draft so far, he has traded up within the first three rounds. This year, he should instead be looking to move down. To help with their salary cap situation in future years, the Packers need more inexpensive rookie contracts on the 53-man roster. They also have several needs that have to be addressed, so the more picks to do so, the better. And as already mentioned, there will be Day 2 options at several positions of need for Green Bay.

— The players that I believe are in play for the Packers at pick 13 are Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Joey Porter, Deonte Banks, Paris Johnson, Darnell Wright, Broderick Jones, Lukas Van Ness, and Myles Murphy.

— Gutekunst has added three offensive linemen in each of the last three drafts. I’ve already touched on the need at tackle, but don’t overlook the interior offensive line either. The only player at guard or center that we know will be starting beyond 2023 is Elgton Jenkins. Josh Myers has been inconsistent, Jon Runyan is a free agent, and other options include Royce Newman, Jake Hanson, and Sean Rhyan.

— If we use the Packers’ pre-draft visits as our guide for how they might approach the draft from a position standpoint in each round, here is what that blueprint might look like:

R1: OT, Edge, TE

R2: Edge, TE, IDL, WR, CB

R3: TE, WR, IDL, S

R4-7: S, TE, QB, RB, IOL

— Can the safety position be upgraded? Absolutely. Do I think doing so is a must? Not at all, actually. At the very least, the Packers have options with Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, Tarvarius Moore, Dallin Leavitt, and Innis Gaines on the roster. They will most certainly add a safety in this draft, but I don’t expect them to do so early on since this is a below-average class as a whole, with many of the top options being nickel defenders more so than true safeties.

— The Packers need more pass-catching options for Love, but as Gutekunst told reporters on Monday, don’t expect the Packers to get tunnel vision either. His goal is still to put together a well-rounded roster that can win in multiple ways. For sure, the Packers will add to receiver and tight end, but if you’re hoping for them to do so right away, that may not be the case.

— Miscellaneous team needs: With Love at quarterback, I expect more motion from the Packers this season, which means greater value in having a gadget-type player on the roster. Perhaps this could be a role for Bo Melton or maybe the Packers address it in the draft. In the slot, there are two ways that the Packers could go about addressing that need. They could either find a specific player to fill that role, such as Smith-Njigba. Or, with LaFleur preferring that his receivers be able to move around, they select a receiver who can play both inside and out, like Rashee Rice.

— With the current construction of the roster, the Packers need all the tight end help they can get. But two specific needs within that room are a dynamic pass-catching presence or a more well-rounded option at the position. Robert Tonyan was reliable as a pass-catcher but limited. There was never a true passing game threat available for the Packers in 2022. The skill sets that made up that room were also very specific, with Tonyan being the only real pass catcher while Josiah Deguara and Marcedes Lewis were blockers. A player who can be effective in both areas will help open up the playbook and offense for LaFleur.

— When there is a need to fill, Gutekunst makes sure to address it in the draft. In all but one draft with Gutekunst at the helm, he has double or even triple-dipped at a specific position. That will likely be the case once again with tight end, receiver, the interior defensive, and of course, the offensive line all being position groups where we could see that same approach.

— No one should be surprised if the Packers spend a first or second-round pick on a cornerback. It’s a premier position loaded with talent in this year’s draft class, and doing so will give Green Bay added flexibility to move Rasul Douglas to safety.

— Pay attention to the Packers’ official pre-draft visits list. Last offseason, six of the top 30 visits were drafted by Green Bay, and three more spent time with the Packers in some capacity during the 2022 season. Also, be mindful of each prospect’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Of Gutekunst’s 42 RAS eligible picks, 30 scored above 8.0 and 18 above 9.0.

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