Gutekunst spoke to the media late Thursday night following the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, taking questions about the Packers’ trades in round one and their eventual selection of Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander with the 18th selection. What fans can take away from the round is that Gutekunst feels good about how round one shook out for the Packers, particularly the fact that he was able to acquire an extra first-round draft pick in next year’s draft from the New Orleans Saints.
Despite considering picking Alexander when the team was on the clock with the 14th pick, the Packers moved back to 27, picking up a fifth-round pick and the aforementioned first-rounder in 2019. “It wasn’t mapped out,” Gutekunst said of trading all the way down to 27. “The ability to get a first-round pick in next year’s draft wasn’t something we were looking to acquire but it was too good to pass up.
However, moving back up a few spots in round one was always the plan once Gutekunst locked in that move. “As soon as we got off the phone and were off the clock, it was ‘okay, let’s get back into this range’,” Gutekunst said. Once that decision was made, he knew that trading up to the 18th pick, held by the Seattle Seahawks, would be a possibility: “I felt confident we could (move back up) ... I knew when we got back to 27 that was going to be one of the first calls.”
As for the GM’s belief in Alexander, the player chosen at 18, expectations appear to be high, and he was one of the team’s top targets from the beginning. “He was one of those targets early on that we liked quite a bit,” Gutekunst said. “(I’m) really excited to get Jaire Alexander onto our squad.”
One of the reasons Alexander was not a heavy focus of our analysis here at Acme Packing Company was his height. Standing just 5-foot-10 1/4, he misses the Packers’ previously established cutoff for cornerbacks by 3/8 of an inch. However, Gutekunst indirectly confirmed that the team’s limit is either softer than previously believed or that it has dropped slightly: “He was kind of right on the Mendoza line,” he said, implying that the team would not be comfortable with corners much — if at all — shorter. Still, Gutekunst echoed Jon-Eric Sullivan’s comments from earlier in the evening, citing Alexander’s physical and aggressive play style and his exceptional speed as positives.
When the Packers traded back from 14, however, a large portion of the fan base was in shock as the team passed up on safety Derwin James and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, both thought of as top-10 talents. In fact, the Packers had brought both players in for official visits prior to the draft. So why did the Packers pass on those two? “For us, that was the choice that we made and what was best for the Green Bay Packers at that time,” Gutekunst explained. “We would have been happy with either one of those players at that time, but we felt that (Alexander) was a player that we couldn’t pass up.”
That logic may seem a bit questionable, but when you put it into context with the fact that the Packers added a first-round pick in next year’s draft (and, with much less impact, another sixth-rounder this Saturday) at the cost of just a four-spot slide in round one and the team’s third-round pick on Friday, it begins to take shape. Still, if Alexander busts and either Edmunds or James end up as All-Pros, Gutekunst will carry the burden of that decision for the rest of his career in Green Bay.
For now, however, the new GM appears confident in his decision and in the player that the Packers added to their secondary.
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