The offseason is (hopefully) a couple of months away for the Green Bay Packers, but the team’s college scouting department is already hard at work preparing for the 2022 NFL draft. In place of our weekly film study piece after the bye week, now feels like as good of a time as any to take some time to look at some NFL draft prospects that would be good fits for the Packers.
Green Bay’s roster could look drastically different in 2022. Aaron Rodgers could retire or be playing on a new team, while Davante Adams is slated to be a free agent unless general manager Brian Gutekunst is able to figure out a contract extension. Meanwhile, the Packers are in salary cap hell with a number of key contributors slated to hit free agency.
Reloading via the 2022 draft will be vital for the Packers if they want to compete in the post-Rodgers era, whether that’s next season or in the not-so-distant future. Draft stock will continue to fluctuate for college players across the country, but a handful of prospects have caught my eye heading into bowl season.
Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry has completely turned around Green Bay’s defense, but there are still some holes that will need to be filled this offseason.
Secondary help, particularly in the slot, will be a top priority for the Packers front office. Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan will be unrestricted free agents after this year, while third safety Henry Black will be an ERFA. Finding someone that can play both in the slot and as a third safety in sub packages this offseason would be huge.
Baylor’s Jalen Pitre could be the perfect player to fill that role. I don’t normally “pound the table” for potential Packers prospects, but this guy is a perfect fit for what Green Bay is looking for. As this year’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Pitre has racked up 17.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles this season.
At 6’0” and 197 pounds, Pitre is a prototypical aggressive slot defensive back, or “star” in a defensive scheme like Barry’s. He’s an extremely instinctive player, sniffing out screens and misdirection while exploding into the backfield to make plays. In coverage, he can be sticky in man-to-man and showcases good aggressiveness at the catch point to make plays on the ball.
Two more plays from Pitre.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 6, 2021
1) Excellent screen recognition for a TFL.
2) Lays the lumber on a drag route despite being blocked.
Kid can absolutely play. pic.twitter.com/DFxJ2wgThH
Pitre isn’t getting a ton of national attention right now, but by the time the NFL Scouting Combine comes around, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the spotlight. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised if the Packers try to make a run at Pitre in the first or second round in April.
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
There’s a chance that the Packers lose Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown this offseason. Even if the Packers are able to bring back a couple of those guys, they’re going to need to find a way to get more help at the wide receiver position.
In the event that the Packers aren’t able to retain Lazard, they will need to find a big-bodied receiver who can be an asset in the running game as a relentless blocker. There aren’t a ton of top-tier receiver prospects who are nasty blockers, but Treylon Burks out of Arkansas is someone who could fill that role.
Burks possesses a strong frame at 6’3” and 225 pounds, using that size and good play strength to relentlessly attack his blocking assignments. He has deceptive speed given his size, being able to burn past defensive backs on vertical routes, then uses great body control and aggressiveness at the catch point to routinely come up with 50-50 balls.
YOU GOT MOSSED— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 9, 2021
BACK-TO-BACK GRABS BY TREYLON BURKS @RazorbackFB pic.twitter.com/4FlR80d3VS
Although Burks doesn’t possess a fully-developed route tree, Burks is a game-changer given his size, speed, and aggressive mentality. The Arkansas receiver would be a great fit in Green Bay given Matt LaFleur’s love for wideouts who are willing to block for their teammates.
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
If the Packers are looking to draft a wide receiver early (don’t hold your breath), the good news is that there are plenty of talented receivers who might be available. Burks is a great fit in the event Lazard leaves in 2022, while Penn State’s Jahan Dotson would be an ideal replacement for MVS.
Despite playing with a quarterback who isn’t exactly NFL-caliber, Dotson has had a tremendous 2021 campaign. In 12 games, the Nittany Lions receiver has caught 91 passes for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 13.0 yards per catch.
Dotson is a deep-threat out of the slot with great top-end play speed and explosiveness. As a high school champion track athlete, Dotson’s speed looks effortless, and his footwork and lateral agility allows him to start and stop on a dime to make defensive backs look foolish.
Jahan Dotson's acceleration/speed/pro ready routes should make him a high impact rookie— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) November 8, 2021
He's a 1st round WR pic.twitter.com/5Xrnwin9bb
Something that surprised me watching Dotson’s tape was his ability to make catches outside of his frame. He’s not the biggest guy at 5’11” and 184 pounds, but Dotson’s body control, leaping ability, and reliable hands allow him to make some impressive plays.
Without MVS, the Packers lack a true deep threat. Dotson would be a nice replacement if it came to that.
Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Much like the wide receiver position, the Packers are going to have some big questions to answer at tight end this offseason. Robert Tonyan will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a torn ACL, while Marcedes Lewis will be 37 years and nearing retirement.
Finding a tight end in the draft who can be a weapon in the passing game while also being a reliable blocker wouldn’t be the worst strategy. A prospect like that could replace Tonyan if he doesn’t return in 2022, while also being a long-term replacement for Lewis as a blocker.
There aren’t any head-turning tight ends in this year’s class, but Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer has a chance at being a solid Day 2 pick. Over these three years in College Station, the junior tight end has caught 16 touchdowns while amassing nearly 1,500 yards through the air.
Wydermyer has been used as both a blocker and receiver for Texas A&M. Although his pad level is usually too high to drive defenders back, Wydermyer does a nice job of getting extended and using his play strength to latch onto defenders, making it hard for them to disengage to make plays. His skill-set as a blocker had Jimbo Fisher using him often in pass protection as well.
What a grab by Jalen Wydermyer pic.twitter.com/x7TaJzhYBX— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 5, 2020
As a receiver, Wydermyer isn’t a sharp route-runner, but his athleticism allows him make some nice contested catches, while also making him a threat after the catch. He’s not going to put up eye-opening numbers as a pass-catcher, but his all-around talent would make him a nice piece for Green Bay’s offense.
Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
The Acme Packing Company staff asked that I mention Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal when discussing potential draft prospects for the Packers. Aside from the Wisconsin ties, Chenal could be a nice depth piece as an off-ball linebacker in Green Bay.
An in-state recruit for the Badgers, Chenal has come into his own during his senior season. Playing in 10 games, he’s racked up 106 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and seven sacks, becoming a key player for Wisconsin’s defense.
Chenal has solid size at 6’2” and 260 pounds and makes plenty of plays by exploding off the snap when breaking downhill to make plays in the backfield. He also does a nice job of constricting rushing lanes by stacking blockers, lowering his pads and launching with his hips to stand offensive linemen up rather than getting washed out of the play.
#Wisconsin LB Leo Chenal has been so good for the Badgers this season. The pass rush upside plus the stack and shed ability at the second level allows him to wreak havoc in both the running and passing games.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) November 20, 2021
I’ll be keeping an eye on him against Nebraska today. pic.twitter.com/xQ8uwpFFxQ
That being said, Chenal isn’t a great lateral athlete. He’s instinctive in zone coverage and has a good feel of when to trade off on routes, but his struggles changing direction would make him a potential liability against some of the NFL’s more athletic tight ends.
Perhaps Chenal would be best-suited in a role similar to Oren Burks, playing reps as an off-ball linebacker and edge rusher given his physical tools. Chenal won’t be a top pick but could be worth a flyer on Day 3 of the draft.