We’re rebuilding the Packers.
Why? Because we can.
Among the writing staff at Acme Packing Company we have a few certified Packers owners and enough people with enough time on their hands to make something crazy happen, so we might as well start with a hypothetical full rebuild of the team we love.
Here’s the scenario: you get to pick three players from the current Packers roster with whom to restart the team. It can be any three you like, so if you want to go with Mason Crosby, JK Scott, and Hunter Bradley, you certainly can.
Our choices and rationales are below. Who would you choose?
Rcon14: Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, and David Bakhtiari
Clark is due for an extension so that potentially pushes him off the list since he will no longer be incredibly cheap, but he has so much else going for him. He’s still somehow only 24 years old, and he was one of the most productive interior players in the league last year while spending much of the season playing on a bum ankle. If he’s closer to 100% for the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the best interior lineman in the league, non-Aaron Donald division.
Alexander is young, good, and plays one of the more valuable positions. His coverage style is a bit risky, and his hands leave a lot to be desired, but a shutdown corner is one of the most valuable things a defense can have, and he might not be too far away.
Bakhtiari is a bit older than I would like to go here, but he’s so good and offensive lineman age pretty well. Even with a down spell mid-season due to a back problem, Bakh was still rock solid. He’s a truly elite pass protector and should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame so long as injuries don’t cut his career short. He’ll also be due for an extension soon, but I have little concern about giving one to him.
Tex Western: Za’Darius Smith, David Bakhtiari, and Kenny Clark
The first two on my list are easy picks for me. Get a guy in his prime who can get after the quarterback, and few players did that better in 2019 than the higher-paid Smith Brother. Za’Darius finished second in the NFL in total quarterback pressures. Bakhtari is an easy number two because of his pass protection. It’s the corollary to Smith — if you have the best player in the league at keeping a quarterback upright, you keep him and build around him, particularly since he has proven to be a healthy and resilient player who rarely if ever misses a game.
That takes on added importance when you aren’t building around a quarterback, as I will not do here. If I’m building a team for long-term success, I’m not picking a quarterback who will turn 37 in December and who has seemingly been on a downturn over the past few years. I’m of course not building around a boom-or-bust rookie QB prospect, either.
That leaves me going with Clark as my third player. As others will undoubtedly note, Clark is the league’s platonic ideal of a pass-rushing nose tackle and he has yet to turn 25. In the modern NFL, you must have a top-level quarterback or a top-level pass rush, and while I’d love to find a way to get both, pairing Clark with Smith gives this team arguably the best outside-inside pass-rushing tandem in the league. That’s something you can build around.
Paul Noonan: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Rashan Gary
My goal is to be bad enough to draft a franchise quarterback who I can then extend on a 10-year, $500 million contract, however, I also don’t want my quarterback to be murdered while we rebuild, so I’ll keep our finest offensive linemen as well. Since we won’t be contending for a while, we may as well take a shot with our highly touted, highly raw edge rusher, who can help us tank now, and maybe grow into something in the future.
Given that we’re undergoing a total rebuild, it’s all about quarterback, but Aaron isn’t going to get the job done with no assistance and in any case, by the time we’ll be ready to contend again he will likely be too old to provide value. Keeping defensive players around piecemeal also seems like a poor idea, as it decreases the chances my GM will be able to build a cohesive unit, and while Kenny Clark may still be dominant several years from now, he’ll also be expensive. The Smiths will be in their late 20s/early 30s, and may even undercut tanking efforts. Perhaps you keep Jaire Alexander, but I’d rather put all of my efforts towards acquiring and protecting a highly touted QB.
Jon Meerdink: Jordan Love, Elgton Jenkins, Za’Darius Smith
Quarterback is the most crucial position on the field, and if we get this right on our rebuild, we’ll be set up for success. I don’t know if Love is really the long term answer, but Brian Gutekunst seems to like him, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, if he’s good, this rebuild will have the best thing you can get in football: a good, cheap quarterback. And if he’s not good, well, we’ll very quickly have the opportunity to replace him with another prospect.
Your quarterback needs protection, and while guard isn’t the premier position on the offensive line, Jenkins is a great mix of bargain pricing, current performance, and future upside. I’ll take that in a heartbeat.
Finally, our rebuilding team will also need a defense, and I’ll take a cornerstone pass rusher to get it going. Though I was tempted by Rashan Gary’s long-term potential, Smith is what Gary is supposed to be right now. We’ll need that in our hypothetical brave new NFL world.
Shawn Wagner: David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith
There is not a quarterback on this list, but a top left tackle still in his prime is a coveted asset to protect that individual. That makes Bakhtiari a shoe-in pick for the franchise.
From there, my picks could go a variety of ways. However, after seeing the Packers try and fail for years to find a reliable cornerback with the potential to be a lockdown starter and turnover creator, Alexander becomes extremely valuable and he’s still very young. HIs presence alone helps the safeties a ton, including Darnell Savage who is a close cut from this three-member list.
Meanwhile, pass rush is the name of the game in today’s NFL from a defensive perspective. Green Bay has sought out help for a few years in getting consistent production on the edge. Smith immediately fixed that problem. He’s a Pro Bowl talent, team leader, young, and can be lined up in multiple ways to help the defense create pressure. His traits and versatility make him indispensable for any franchise re-start.