The term “silly season” refers to the absurd things reported from anonymous sources, the smokescreens, and general obfuscation occurring around the league related to draft prospects. It’s equally applicable to the clichés thrown around this time of year. Many are phrases that have become so overused that they’ve lost any real meaning they had in the first place.
Trying to project out player selection, before the combine and free agency, likewise falls into this category. It’s silly. On the other hand, it’s fun and if one accepts the silliness of the exercise, there’s genuine value in attempting to predict what types of players and player quality will be their when a team is picking. Given the shape of this draft, with a host of blue chip pass rushers, offensive-line depth, outstanding tight-end talent, and versatile safeties, the Green Bay Packers have a chance to fill myriad needs during draft week.
With hundreds of players in the draft and dozens of picks being made, the possibilities for projection are practically endless. To demonstrate the immense flexibility the Packers will have come April given the makeup of this draft class, let’s separate the options into narrative categories and have some fun with it. Free agency likely won’t change much about how Brian Gutekunst and company view this draft, so even though that could change the relative need for certain positions, even signings likely won’t salve the long-term wounds on this roster. That has to come from drafting and development. Luckily for Green Bay, its front office has been one of the best in the business at that for years.
All five options inject athleticism and play-making at key positions of need for the Packers while also offering value at their respective draft slots. Those values could change somewhat in the coming weeks with athletic testing and the inevitable injuries that crop up. The simple fact there are five wildly different, yet all potentially positive outcomes for Green Bay works to show just how ideally the strengths of this class match with the weaknesses for the current Packers team.
Operation ‘Get Aaron Some Help’
12. Jonah Williams, OT/G
30. Noah Fant, TE
44. Parris Campbell, WR
75. David Montgomery, RB
For starters, this isn’t happening. That’s not the point of this exercise. Instead notice the immense amount of talent the Packers could infuse into their offense in a single draft. Williams, if he fell to 12, would be a no-brainer pick as Bryan Bulaga insurance even if Green Bay signed a free-agent guard. He could also come in and be a Day 1 starter at guard if Matt LaFleur wanted to go that route.
Fant and Campbell offer athleticism and playmaking, with the ability to create chunk plays in this offense. Campbell could run sub-4.4 and Fant will likely be among the most athletic tight ends at the combine. While Montgomery would be a true luxury pick at 75, he’s an extremely talented back with wiggle and burst who could potentially be an upgrade over Jamaal Williams as the No. 2 in an Aaron Jones 1-2 punch.
Finally Fix the Defense
12. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE
30. Johnathan Abram, S
44. Mack Wilson, LB
75. Chase Winovich, EDGE
Ted Thompson’s résumé features drafts that look just like this. The Packers have previously dedicated swaths of picks to fixing a side of the ball or position groups. Thompson failing to properly fortify the defense, in part, led to his replacing last offseason.
Here, Gutekunst follows the lead set by Thompson by doubling up at a need position, something we’ve already seen him do after last year’s cornerback bonanza. Ferrell may not be ideally suited to be a stand-up pass rusher, but if he tests well in Indy, could allay fears about his athletic gifts and the transition to a 3-4 pass rusher.
Sandwiched between the pass rushers, the Packers could snag a pair of athletic overhang defenders who can run and cover. Wilson’s best traits are in coverage even if he’s inconsistent at this point. Abram offers speed, bone-rattling tackles, and much better coverage ability than most “enforcer” safeties.
The Need Draft
12. Jachai Polite, EDGE
30. Dalton Risner, OT/G
44. Nasir Adderley, S
75. Dawson Knox, TE
This is where the “don’t draft for need” crowd has to pipe down. This draft sets up beautifully for the Packers to fill needs while also getting value at critical positions. They don’t have to reach to fill needs.
Start with the guy who makes the most sense as a seamless fit into the defense at a premium position of need for the Packers. Polite shows twitch, bend, and impact play even if he’s a bit of splash player at this point. Pair him with a bulldog offensive tackle who could play right tackle or guard for the Packers and Green Bay immediately fortifies arguably its two biggest weaknesses with top picks.
Adderley isn’t the true single-high centerfielder he’s been made out to be, but his coverage instincts are outstanding as a former corner and his athleticism is made for the modern NFL where he’ll be asked to cover deep third and halves, along with tight ends in the slot. Speaking of tight ends, Knox’s skillset fits congruently next to Jimmy Graham. Overlooked at Ole Miss, Knox makes his living as a blocker, but flashed impressive receiving skills. Let me block opposite Graham as he learns the NFL game, and let him blossom into a Heath Miller-esque option for Rodgers down the line.
Let’s Get (A Little) Crazy
12. T.J. Hockenson, TE
30. Brian Burns, EDGE
44. A.J. Brown, WR
75. Chris Lindstrom, OL
Tight ends don’t go this high in the draft, but Hock has Big Draft talking about him like Rob Grokowski 2.0. Mel Kiper recently had him 6th on his overall board and with his combination of blocking and receiving skills, the leap to George Kittle in this Matt LaFleur offense shouldn’t be viewed as enormous.
Burns checks every box of the kind of player the Packers like: he’s absurdly young, crazy long, and we’ll see on his athleticism in Indianapolis. He, like Polite, floats in and out of games at times, but his splash reps are as impressive as any pass rusher in the class.
After that, it’s the Packers doing what the Packers do: draft receivers in the second round and convert guards to tackles. Brown, a size/speed monster, would be a luxury, but a welcome one for Rodgers. Pair him with Lindstrom, a tackle at Boston College who likely has to swing inside in the NFL and the Packers get to revamp the offense while adding a high-upside piece on defense.
12. Montez Sweat, EDGE
30. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S
44. Irv Smith Jr., TE
75. Yodny Cajuste, OL
Right now, before the combine and free agency, this is the sweet spot draft for the Packers. Sweat dominated in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, dovetailing with two outstanding seasons in the SEC. If he tests well, his frame, production, ability to punish offensive lineman with his powerful hands would be a welcome addition to the Packers pass rush.
Gardner-Johnson may be the best true deep safety in the draft, even with a rough 2017 season as a tackler. His speed, agility, and coverage instincts are the best in the class. Snagging S1 at 30 would be a steal for Green Bay.
Speaking of steals, Smith Jr. would be grand larceny at 44 with his blend of athletic tools and blocking prowess. He won’t be 21 until training camp and already proved himself worthy in the best conference in America as both a blocker and receiver. And much like Lindstrom, Cajuste is the prototype for the Packers. Take a college left tackle and let him play guard. He’s a mauler with questions about his feet. Put him at guard and he could be a starter right away for Green Bay.