Top draft prospects for Packers explained

Jacob Westendorf
Green & Gold Express

Brian Gutekunst’s last two draft classes have gone exactly according to plan. He found players that were both impactful as rookies and players that look to building blocks for the foreseeable future.

That sets up for the Packers to need a war chest of salary cap space to give second contracts to all of those players as soon as next offseason, but that is a good problem to have.

The Packers at this time a year ago were in unknown territory. Aaron Rodgers was gone. Jordan Love was going to be the starter. Yes, the Packers were publicly confident in Love, but until something happened on the field, it was hard to know exactly what the team was going to get.

Combine that with the fact the offense was going to be historically young, there were no expectations for the Packers to compete for a Super Bowl.

Those days are gone now. Love is good. The Packers have a quarterback of the future. The rest of the roster is set to be built around him now.

This year’s draft class is going to be scrutinized heavily, because it could be the one that pushes the team over the top and into the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.

Here is a list of the picks the Packers will have for this draft class.

Round 1, Pick 25

Round 2, Pick 41 (from Jets for Rodgers)

Round 2, Pick 58

Round 3, Pick 88

Round 3, Pick 91 (from Bills for Rasul Douglas)

Round 4, Pick 126

Round 5, Pick 169*

Round 6, Pick 202

Round 6, Pick 219*

Round 7, Pick 245

Round 7, Pick 255*

With those picks in mind, here are some scenarios that could emerge for the Packers’ draft class with the help of Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator.

Day 1:

Gutekunst has been noticeably unpredictable during the first round during his tenure as general manager.

He took a cornerback during his first draft class that the team would historically have thought was too short. That player was Jaire Alexander.

He’s taken an inside linebacker and older prospect in the first round. Of course, he was also responsible for one of the biggest stunners in recent draft history.

He moved up to pick Jordan Love following a 13-3 season and appearance in the NFC Championship Game.

One thing appears to be certain. Gutekunst will treat the draft like a long-term proposition regardless of the situation of the current team.

This year, however, is where the first round is interesting.

The Packers could be looking to fortify their offensive line by taking a tackle early, such as Georgia’s Amarius Mims or Washington’s Troy Fautanu.

Gutekunst could also look to fortify the interior of his offensive line with someone like Duke’s Graham Barton. Barton is not limited to just playing guard or center. Some teams could see him as a tackle, and the Packers could be one of those as well. Some have speculated that he is a better prospect than Elgton Jenkins.

The Packers loved Jenkins and spent the 44th overall pick on him. It’s unlikely they’ll have the luxury to wait for the second round of this year’s draft class to be able to take Barton. He is flying up the board in mock drafts from the experts.

Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon could be another option if the Packers wanted to upgrade at center.

If the Packers decide to go away from the offensive side of the ball, something they’ve done every year but one in the last 10 years, they could address their defense at any of the three levels.

The defensive line or edge rushing group could use another boost. The Packers took Iowa’s pass rusher Lukas Van Ness last year with the 13th overall pick. That said, there are never too many good pass rushers on a defense, and Preston Smith will be 32 this upcoming season.

Rashan Gary looked like a star coming into the season but fizzled down the stretch.

The big key is Kingsley Enagbare will likely miss time with a torn ACL that he suffered in January.

If UCLA’s Laiatu Latu is available, that could be a consideration at the Packers’ pick in the first round. The same is true for Florida State’s Jared Verse.

If they’re looking on the defensive line, there are a few players that could fit the mold.

Texas’ Byron Murphy or Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton are both guys that could give the defensive line a boost.

Kenny Clark is playing on a contract set to expire following the 2024 season. TJ Slaton is playing on an expiring contract as well. While it seems unlikely, the Packers could look to the future early.

While Devonte Wyatt and Karl Brooks have had some nice moments, neither has proven to be a high impact player.

Linebacker is another position the Packers need to add bodies. Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper appears to have caught the Packers’ eye enough to bring him in for a top-30 visit prior to the draft.

It’s unclear if he’s going to require the use of a first-round pick, but he will likely require a premier asset for the Packers to add him.

The defensive backfield is another popular spot for the first round. Iowa’s Cooper DeJean is one of the favorites amongst mock drafters for the Packers to select in the first round. He could play nickel corner or safety in Jeff Hafley’s 4-3 scheme.

A scout recently told Bill Huber of Packer Central that DeJean was the perfect complement to Xavier McKinney.

DeJean may not be available when the Packers are on the clock, which could cause them to look elsewhere.

The safety class, by consensus, is not a good one, which could cause the Packers to wait until later to add to their safety room.

If they did not want to wait, Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin or Washington State’s Jaden Hicks could be players that sneak into the end of the first round.

If they wanted to add a cornerback, Alabama’s Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry are potential options. Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell is the best fit for Hafley’s scheme but likely requires a move into the top half of the first round.

If the Packers are going to make a bold move up the draft board, it feels likely it’d be for a defensive back or offensive tackle. Penn State’s Olu Fashanu and Toledo’s Mitchell are two players that would fit that bill.

Day 2:

Gutekunst has four picks on the second day of the draft, which arms him with the ability to move anywhere.

For as much focus as the first round has had on defense, every pick the Packers have had in the second round over the last two years have been used on offense.

Last year’s second- and third-round picks were Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed and Tucker Kraft.

All three players look to be building blocks for the future.

The second round could be where Gutekunst looks to address the running back room, depth at safety, and the offensive line.

Running backs that could go on Day 2 include Michigan’s Blake Corum, Texas’ Jonathan Brooks and Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright.

Wright and Florida State’s Trey Benson both fit well as change-of-pace types to the Packers’ current backfield of Josh Jacobs and AJ Dillon.

Safety depth could be players that slip through the cracks of the first round and into the second round like Nubin. Other players could include USC’s Calen Bullock and Georgia’s Tykee Smith and Javon Bullard.

Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie was referred to as the most interesting player in the draft class at offensive tackle by Dane Brugler.

If Gutekunst is confident in Rasheed Walker as the long-term left tackle, he could take a swing on Amegadjie as a long-term swing tackle.

If the Packers want to move around the board, the second day of the draft could be a big moving day, as they have plenty of ammo to move around.

Day 3:

The third day of the draft is typically about depth and fortifying the special teams.

Gutekunst will likely look for more depth on his offensive line and has stated he wants to get back into the practice of drafting quarterbacks. Tennessee’s Joe Milton is the most interesting of quarterback prospects that could go on the third day of the draft.

On the offensive line, Wisconsin’s Tanor Bortolini played every position and broke Jason Kelce’s record for 3-cone time at the NFL Combine. His versatility and athleticism likely will appeal to the Packers.

For special teams, one potential option is Michigan wide receiver Cornelius Johnson. He played more than 200 special teams snaps at Michigan, and blocked a punt in the Wolverines’ 42-3 win over Iowa in the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game.

His upside as a receiver and ability to contribute on special teams could cause the Packers to use a pick on the third day of the draft.