The Green Bay Packers have safely secured a draft pick in the bottom four of the 2021 NFL Draft after a great regular season that was largely unaffected by this year’s crop of rookies.
AJ Dillon has made some nice-looking plays over the last month and it makes one wonder what he could have done if he hadn’t been out with COVID-19 for much of the season. TE Josiah Deguara tore his ACL and didn’t contribute to the Packers’ run this season and first-round pick Jordan Love didn’t see any significant time under center because Aaron Rodgers was busy stringing together an MVP season. Elsewhere, fifth rounder Kamal Martin and sixth rounder Jon Runyan look like they could be valuable to the Packers moving forward.
Last season, Packers faithful and many pundits wanted the Packers to draft a weapon for Rodgers to toss the ball to. While that could have been a good move, the Packers proved they didn’t necessarily need that. Besides, this year’s draft has a better crop of WRs to choose from — particularly late in the draft where the Packers will be.
Reviving the Mock Draft Roundup for the offseason, we took a look at where mock drafts from around the sports landscape have the Packers going in the 2021 NFL Draft. Spoilers: it’s similar to what it looked like last season.
USA Today & CBS Sports: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney might be the after-the-catch weapon that the Packers saw in Brandon Aiyuk when they were targeting him last year. Toney is elusive after the catch and is super adept at breaking tackles. While he’s not the best route runner, he is a pure athlete who can be molded into a weapon for the green and gold as Toney was a track athlete and played quarterback in high school. Also, who better to learn route running from than the best route runner in the league – Davante Adams, willing mentor.
What Packer fans would enjoy about Toney is that he plays tough. As I said before, he’s great at breaking tackles, but he’s also more than willing to put his hands on someone as a blocker. Toney lines up primarily in the slot, can be a jet motion guy and can fill a void in the punt and kick return duties that – despite the signing of Tavon Austin – the Packers are still trying to figure out.
Bleacher Report & PFF: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Another WR being looked at for the Packers is Chris Olave, a talented prospect from Ohio State, but who at the time of publishing looks like he’s going back to college for his senior season. This is a skeptical choice for the Buckeye as his QB Justin Fields is making the jump and Olave is a first-round talent. Olave is more of a route-running technician than Toney and would have been a nice target right away for Rodgers.
Draft Network: Zaven Collins, ILB, Tulsa
Bronko Nagurski award winner Zaven Collins is going in a different direction then adding a weapon, but it might be even more crucial. I’ve been advocating for an inside linebacker who can move in space and help defend running backs and tight ends in space as offenses move closer and closer to big/multiple personnel sets. Collins is a 6’4” 260-pound playmaker who could be the force multiplier that unlocks this Packers defense. They already have stars all over the defense (see: Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith, Darnell Savage, Adrian Amos) but haven’t met the level of play they should with all these players involved.
Collins has good athleticism that allows him to shoot through gaps as a pass rusher, but also has great sideline-to-sideline speed when he’s in pursuit of the ball carrier. Green Bay has pieced together some sort of second-level defense this past season, but a more solid foundational piece is necessary to making this defense get better.