With the 2018 NFL Draft now behind us, APC has finally taken a breather to absorb all of the Green Bay Packers’ decisions in the draft. The weekend included three trades involving draft picks, 11 selections, and a host of undrafted free agents agreeing to terms with the team.
For this week’s walkthroughs, we each discuss what we thought the best moment, decision, or set of decisions from this past weekend was.
Evan “Tex” Western: The handling of cornerbacks vs. edge rushers
I wanted to say the selection of Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round, but I was actually calling on the Packers to pick him in round four when they got J’Mon Moore instead. So in hindsight, I’m excited that they got him eventually, but I liked him more than the three players they chose ahead of him.
Thus, I’m going to be a little off-the-wall here and go with what the Packers did with their defensive needs — specifically, the focus on cornerbacks and not forcing a pick on an edge rusher who wasn’t a good value. For one thing, I love the selection of edge rusher Kendall Donnerson with the 248th overall draft pick. A few weeks ago, I mentioned Donnerson’s name as someone to watch, and I’m in love with the ridiculous athleticism that he displayed (admittedly, doing so in shorts at Pro Day). In year one I think that will serve him well on special teams as he learns the finer points of rushing the passer, and I think in the future he’ll make for an excellent rotational pass-rusher in the future.
In the meantime, while I would have been pleased to see Brian Gutekunst move up for Harold Landry in round two, he ended up getting excellent value by taking Josh Jackson at 45. Jackson and first-rounder Jaire Alexander seem on paper to be a better fit and a better tandem than Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins were three years ago.
Sure, the Packers could have taken a player like Obo Okoronkwo or Josh Sweat when they traded up into round three, but both of those players have valid concerns. While I might have overlooked Okoronkwo’s height or the condition of Sweat’s knee, I trust the evaluators who didn’t.
Furthermore, because I’m a fan of Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel and I think they’ll develop nicely into contributors this season, the need for a pass-rusher who can make an immediate impact was always a longer-term issue rather than one for this fall. The secondary, on the other hand, needed bodies who can contribute right away and Gutekunst got them. Now, with an extra first-rounder in the 2019 draft (which appears to be stocked with pass-rushing talent), he should have some flexibility this time next year to make a move upwards for a top prospect on the edge.
Paul Noonan: Trade Back
Woooooooo! I wasn’t as big of a fan of the trade up a few moments later, but I think it can be excused given the fact that the entire sequence of events led to a free 2019 first round pick. While they gave up a 3rd rounder to move back up for Jaire Alexander, the sheer volume of late picks they possessed allowed them to trade back into the 3rd. I’m a fan of Alexander, but I’m especially a fan of getting a first round pick from a team with a questionable front office and a 39-year-old quarterback that plays in a very tough division. While the Saints were an impressive 11-5 last year, they’re also an older team that is very dependent on Drew Brees to remain competitive, much as the Packers are reliant on Aaron Rodgers. Having two first rounds picks is a great thing, but there’s a small, but real chance of that pick being top 10 when it’s all said and done.
I love trading back and collecting value. Most studies show that no NFL team is significantly better at picking the “correct” players in the draft, and that success is driven by number of picks (And especially number of picks in the first 4 rounds). Having two firsts means the possibility of adding two stars, and a good chance of adding at least one. And all they had to do was agree to move back 13 spots.
Peter Bukowski: Patience
It was an opportunity Brian Gutekunst waited two decades to have: making the first-round draft pick for the Packers. With multiple blue-chip defensive players on the board at 14, Gutey must be been metaphorically frothing at the mouth to take Derwin James, one of Green Bay’s draft crushes.
Instead, he traded back four spots, picked up a future first (!) and still got one of the best corners in the draft in Jaire Alexander. As top prospects began to tumble on Day 2, the Packers didn’t get greedy and move up for Courtland Sutton or one of the top pass catchers. No, they stayed at 45 and let Josh Jackson, a player they could have taken at 14 or 18 with good value, fall into their lap.
Eschewing receiver on Day 2 let them load up on Day 3 when J’mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown all slid to them, the last of which was most surprising. When St. Brown was on the board, rather than worry about how many other receivers had been drafted, Gutekunst did what the patient team does and threw more capital at a problem. One of those guys is going to be a player.
They didn’t press. They didn’t force it and yet came out with a loaded draft class including, by my count, 5 top-100 prospects despite having just three picks in that range (Moore and St. Brown were top-80 players on my board).
Bob Fitch: JK Scott
Scott is giving us a lot to work with here. The guy looks like Tim Riggins (credit to Matub), grew up a Packers fan and idolized Favre, and his first name is an acronym. When he booms a 70+ yard punt in the national spotlight, it’ll give the announcers the opportunity to exclaim “Great Scott!”, a saying with more history than I ever imagined. He’s a towering figure at 6’6” with surprising athleticism. Athletics are in his bloodline as his father was a two-time all-american pole vaulter at Wisconsin, and Scott trained with his sister who was a sprinter at Harvard. The NFL should be considered lucky to have him as a player; he nearly quit football after his Freshman year at Alabama as he developed tendonitis in both of his knees. Scott has over a dozen highlight videos on youtube, including one that looks like the Bigfoot Patterson-Gimlin film of him at practice that has over 3 thousand views. Who needs Jeff Janis if every punt is a coffin corner?
Matub: Giving me something to root against
As mentioned above, trading back was Paul’s favorite decision and mine goes hand-in-hand with that. I’ve often been an advocate of the “second team” to root for. As long as that team doesn’t see yours, what’s the big deal? I have nothing against any Packers fan who hopes for the Browns to improve or wants the Jets to crawl out of their pit of mediocrity. This coming season, every single Packer fan gets a second team. That team is “anyone who plays the Saints”. The worse the team from “Nawlins” plays, the better the draft pick that goes to the Packers in 2019. Any decision that leads to watching and caring about more football games is something that I can get behind.
Shawn Wagner: Maximizing Value
For the majority of the draft, I was impressed by the Packers’ relative lack of reaching. Even though Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds represented high-end value picks after dropping to pick 14, Green Bay had seemingly zeroed in on Jaire Alexander. Instead of selecting Alexander higher than the normal mock draft range, the Packers were able to trade down and acquire a first round pick next year while still getting their man four picks later at a better slot value (despite trading a third round selection).
The Packers likewise made excellent value picks with Josh Jackson in the second round and Equanimeous St. Brown in round six, two players who could have come off the board much sooner. While Oren Burks and Marquez Valdez-Scantling may have been picked slightly higher than expected, both present outstanding, somewhat-rare athletic traits that could pay off as soon as next season. Green Bay’s other third day selections were right on par with where they should have been drafted and the team bolstered depth at several positions, adding an offensive line swingman, edge rushing project, another size-speed receiver specimen (J’Mon Moore), a versatile defensive lineman, and two potential special teams starters.
In comparison to many other years, there was less head-scratching in the Packers’ 2018 NFL Draft. Green Bay got excellent value and that is a major reason why many experts gave the Packers a passing grade, if not an overall A.
Mike Vieth: Josh Jackson and Equanimious St. Brown
I’d have to say that my favorite moves from draft weekend have to be the picks of Josh Jackson and Equanimeous St. Brown. If you go back to a Walkthrough in February, we talk about our draft crushes and both players were among those I mentioned.
Now, I’ll be the first the admit that I didn’t expect either to actually be picked, especially in rounds later than I was originally thinking, but that made me even more excited with the Packers picking them.
I figured Josh Jackson would have been a great player to pair with Kevin King and that they would mean a great future for the secondary moving forward. Now, throw in Jaire Alexander with those two and the future looks even brighter, especially with Davon House and Tremon Williams back in the fold to hold down the fort and teach these young corners what the NFL is about.
Getting St. Brown in the sixth round could be a steal for the Packers. I think most would have said that at some point the Packers would have to take a wide receiver, but for St. Brown to be the third receiver taken is a huge get. APC’s Peter Bukowski had a great article earlier this week talking about his potential. He has the size, decent speed, and impressive route running ability that could take the place of Jordy Nelson in the next year or two, if not sooner.
Getting these two players where they did were excellent moves by Brian Gutekunst in his first draft. Not only were these two players creating some buzz pre-draft but they have the potential to fill much needed holes on the roster and both could turn into playmakers for the future.