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NFL Draft 2018: Creating a roadmap for the Packers’ draft

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It’s not just the “who,” but the “when” that matters when it comes to predicting Green Bay’s draft strategy.

Virginia Tech v Boston College
Harold Landry would make sense for the Packers at 14, but they’ll have plenty of suitable options.
Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

When Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers’ front office staff sit down with Mike McCarthy and Mark Murphy to decide who they’re going to draft, they’ll also have to determine another critical piece: who they won’t draft.

I don’t mean eliminating players with red flags, though they will do that as well. No, the calculation has to be made as to opportunity cost. A player’s value is as much determined by who a team isn’t picking as it is by the player himself. If the Packers take Harold Landry at 14, they’re not picking a host of other players, guys they presumably won’t have a chance to pick. What is the opportunity cost of making that selection?

Likewise, what is that player’s value relative to a player at that position later in the draft? If Green Bay believes it can find a quality edge rusher in the third round, then the relative value of picking one at 14 may be lower than it would be in a vacuum.

This is why mock drafts actually have some real, tangible value. It’s important to know when players are likely to come off the board. If a team likes a player as a second-round target, but he’s likely to go late-first, that’s critical information.

Value is determined both by the team’s opinion of the player and his market. If everyone loves Maryland receiver D.J. Moore, even if let’s say most teams only have an early second-round grade on him, he could be worth taking in the first round. There’s an unquantifiable benefit to getting a guy you covet even if his grade relative to his draft position doesn’t necessarily reflect it.

All of that is to say Green Bay has to know who it could take at Pick 45 and 76, and who could be available, in order to properly assess value at 14 and vice versa. All the pieces work together. With that in mind, I used the Packers’ traditional athletic profiles (with the help of Tex Western) to put together a roadmap of potential picks to navigate possible strategies and divine value.

The rankings are from NFL Draft Scout and names in italics have incomplete athletic profiles but are otherwise on track to fit the Packers’ thresholds.

Round 1 (Pick 14)

  • (5) Josh Rosen QB UCLA
  • (6) Minkah Fitzpatrick DB Alabama
  • (8) Denzel Ward CB Ohio State
  • (9) Tremaine Edmunds LB Virginia Tech
  • (10) Vita Vea DL Washington
  • (11) Derwin James S Florida State*
  • (12) Roquan Smith LB Georgia
  • (14) Da’Ron Payne DT Alabama
  • (15) Marcus Davenport Edge UTSA
  • (16) Calvin Ridley WR Alabama
  • (19) Harold Landry Edge Boston College
  • (22) Leighton Vander Esch LB Boise State
  • (26) Josh Jackson CB Iowa
  • (29) D.J. Moore WR Maryland
  • (31) Kolton Miller OT UCLA

*James is borderline on the 3-cone but is plenty talented enough to be included here, particularly with how inconsistently the Packers have applied their athletic profile to safeties.

Already, it’s important to be looking down the board. The value at receiver comes at the top of the fourth round and although the Packers would certainly like to add talent there, they don’t have to force it with Ridley.

Vea and Payne don’t fit here given Green Bay’s strength in its front, which leaves a group of defensive backs and edge players, the ideal scenario for the Packers.

If any of the Ward/James/Fitzpatrick group falls, it’s a no-brainer but the addition of Tramon Williams and a possible reunion with Davon House means the Packers don’t have to press their luck at 14 with a cornerback even though, as the board shows, there aren’t many great options likely available again until the mid-rounds.

Trading down into the late teens with a team who wants a quarterback could still nab the Packers a player like Landry or Jackson, while adding picks on Day 2. The top of the draft sets up beautifully for Green Bay to have options.

Round 2 (Pick 45)

  • (37) Mark Andrews TE Oklahoma
  • (39) Mike Gesicki TE Penn State
  • (40) Lorenzo Carter Edge Georgia
  • (51) Rasheem Green DL USC
  • (53) Courtland Sutton WR SMU
  • (54) Uchenna Nwosu Edge USC
  • (59) Justin Reid S Stanford
  • (62) Malik Jefferson LB Texas
  • (63) B.J. Hill DL N.C. State
  • (64) Equanimeous St. Brown WR Notre Dame

One reason to go defensive back in Round 1 (and to avoid receiver) is this scenario, where the best players available are either edge guys or pass catchers. I don’t believe the additional of Jimmy Graham would or should preclude the Packers from adding another tight end in the draft, even if he’s a move-only player at this point.

I particularly like the middle group of players on this list for Green Bay at 45 even if the rankings here don’t reflect it. Sutton, Nwosu, and Reid would be ideal fits at need positions for McCarthy’s squad and it won’t matter who they take in Round 1, as that group likely wouldn’t be affected because of their positional versatility.

Going James/Ward at 14 and then Carter/Nwosu at 45 or Davenport/Landry at 14 and Reid at 45 would each be excellent outcomes for the Packers with quality receivers left on the board. But if Sutton is there at 45, I think Green Bay should run the pick to the podium.

Round 3 (Pick 76)

  • (65) Obo Okoronkwo Edge Oklahoma
  • (66) Brian O’Neill OL Pittsburgh
  • (68) Hayden Hurst TE South Carolina
  • (74) Micah Kiser LB Virginia Tech
  • (77) Duke Dawson CB Florida
  • (82) Tony Brown CB Alabama
  • (88) Deon Cain WR Clemson
  • (90) Kyle Lauletta QB Richmond
  • (95) Michael Gallup WR Colorado State
  • (98) Deadrin Senat DL Florida State
  • (99) DaeSean Hamilton WR Penn State

My prediction for the first three picks have consistently been Edge, DB, and OL in some order and if O’Neill is on the board at 76, that could all but guarantee it. He’s exactly the type of athletic tackle the Packers covet (and swung-and-missed on with Jason Spriggs). In a perfect world he’s not playing for them anyway.

But looking at this list, the best players for the Packers are on the bottom and will likely have a chance to nab one at Pick 101. I think there’s a solid chance the Packers make a pick at 14 and 45, before trading 76,101 and possibly 133 to get back into the second round.

Yes, there’s a ton of great value in the fourth and top of the fifth for Green Bay, but it has the chance to utilize its draft capital to snag three impact players. Particularly given the lack of relative value in the third and having the first pick of the fifth (which should net them a fourth-round talent) giving up the fourths to get back into Round 2 makes perfect sense.

Round 4 (Pick 101, Pick 133)

  • (101) Jaylen Samuels ATH NC State
  • (103) Isaac Yiadom CB Boston College
  • (104) Jessie Bates S Wake Forest
  • (105) Jalyn Holmes DL Ohio State
  • (106) Tre’Quan Smith WR UCF
  • (110) Quenton Meeks CB Stanford
  • (116) Tyquan Lewis Edge Ohio State
  • (119) Royce Freeman RB Oregon
  • (120) M.J. Stewart CB North Carolina
  • (123) Kentavius Street DL NC State
  • (124) Kylie Fitts Edge Utah
  • (135) Josh Sweat Edge Florida State
  • (140) Godwin Igwebuike S Northwestern
  • (141) Joe Noteboom OT TCU

The flexibility Gutekunst created with the pick swap in the Damarious Randall trade has been vastly underplayed. Now, he’ll get to snipe a Day 2 talent on Day 3.

If they didn’t get a chance to take Sutton, one of the receivers makes sense here. Even if they do take the SMU star, they could double up give the players they’ll have to choose from at the end of Round 4 and start of Round 5. Remember, they also have Pick 138 (5.1).

They can double up on a number of need positions, including edge and defensive back. Because of the players available here, and the ability to fortify need positions, the Packers can worry less about choosing between edge and secondary early on. That type of elasticity matters.

What we learned

The draft sets up well for the Packers given their needs, and a relative lack of talent in the third round could incentivize Green Bay to move back into the second even if it means giving up their cache of fourths.

They could still use their three fifth-rounders to get back into the fourth if they so chose, remembering the draft is really effectively only four rounds. After that’s it’s priority free-agent picking and flyer-taking.

Expect the top of the draft to be Edge/DB or DB/Edge in some order, but Green Bay doesn’t have to sweat the order with quality depth at each position. Ideally, one of the top defensive backs falls, with more opportunities to add quality pass rushers later in the draft.

Finding a backup OL could be tough and the Packers may simply may have to wait until the later rounds.