Excitement is certainly building as the 2021 NFL Draft is now less than one week away.
For the Green Bay Packers, much of their draft night will be dependent on the 28 picks made before them. Or will it? The Packers’ recent propensity for trading up in the first round raises the likelihood that they could do so again if targeting specific players.
Today’s musings act as a round-one primer before next Thursday’s festivities. Will Green Bay adjust its pick position? What would be the biggest position of surprise? Those questions are addressed while looking at five reasonable prospects for the Packers.
Will this be the year the Packers stay put in the first round?
Barring a surprise fall from an elite cornerback or widely-recognized top-15 prospect, the Packers figure to be picking at a deep 29th selection with plenty of prospects of similar value. In the first three years under Brian Gutekunst as general manager, Green Bay has not left the first round without at least one swap in positioning. Could this be the year that the Packers actually make a pick at their original spot?
While it is too early to assess the Jordan Love move last year, it is hard to fault Gutekunst for moving up to snatch starting secondary players in Jaire Alexander (after an initial move back) and Darnell Savage his first two drafts. It is easy to justify trading away third-day selections with a successful string of moves. But with that being said, the Packers could benefit from sticking with their 29th selection this year and maintaining their fourth-round picks, choices that have produced starting role players over the past decade. Not having a fourth-rounder last season may have been the reason behind Josiah Deguara’s head-scratching third-round pick. Deguara represented a hybrid role player that Packer management had targeted and loved but thought they would lose between selections 94 and 175. To avoid missing on him, the Packers’ hand appeared to be forced to pick Deguara well above his slot value.
Gutekunst is aggressive and will never be accused of being too afraid to move up to get his man. But the 2021 NFL Draft is shaping up to give Green Bay more than enough value late in the first round without sacrificing the depth and contributions the fourth round can bring.
What position would surprise the most in the first round?
Quarterback in the first round was almost an afterthought heading into last year’s draft. But not only did the Packers surprise with that position in the first round, they surprised again in round two with a running back and in the third round with a tight end/H-back. However, with the Packers seemingly capable of adding depth at a variety of positions this year, it might be hard to surprise with any position outside another thrower or a specialist.
After such a strong year from Robert Tonyan and a relatively weak class at the top, perhaps tight end would be the most shocking. Running back would not be far off after Green Bay locked up Aaron Jones in the offseason and a second-year jump in snaps from AJ Dillon is widely expected. While a need at some point of the draft, wide receiver would be surprising only for Green Bay’s 20-year track record of adding talent beyond round one. Outside of those positions, however, it would not be shocking for the Packers to draft help at any secondary position or either side of the line. Further pass-rushing support on the edge is never a bad move and an upper-echelon inside linebacker, especially with a new defensive coordinator, is certainly an option if a player like Micah Parsons would fall.
While just about any position is fair game this year in round one, the offensive skill positions still might bring the most surprise if bolstered on draft day.
Here are five names on my draft night watch list for Green Bay
As mentioned above, the Packers have a number of directions they could go with their first pick in the draft, making any mock draft a difficult predicament. While wide receiver will undoubtedly fill the 29th pick on the national scene, it remains a “have to be see it to believe it” for me, especially in another deep receiving class.
With a week until the first round kicks off, here are five realistic names on my personal radar when Green Bay is on the clock.
- Christian Barmore - It is rare to see Barmore mocked to the Packers and I cannot figure out why. Green Bay has a definite need to upgrade its defensive line and add depth at the very least. The team crumbled on the interior without a healthy Kenny King for the first half of the season, struggling to generate pass rush through the middle or stop the run. Barmore has the versatility to line up wherever the Packers need him to along the line and provide support against both the pass and run. He would be an instant contributor and the Packers value linemen in the first round.
- Trevon Moehrig - The Packers took one versatile safety from TCU last year with Vernon Scott and Moehrig could fit the bill again. With Moehrig’s coverage skills, the Packers could add a slot defender to fill the valuable “star” nickel position under Joe Barry, while adding much-needed depth to the safety position. Even if strictly used as a high safety, perhaps Green Bay could use the speed of Darnell Savage to fill a larger variety of roles for the defense. Moehrig has been a quick riser on my draft board.
- Teven Jenkins - Green Bay’s pick in my mock last week would give the team the future right tackle it sorely needs both now and for the next several years. Even if he ultimately becomes a guard, Jenkins could be a very good and physical one for the Packers. If the Oklahoma State product slips a little bit to Green Bay, his ability to slide around the line presents tremendous value at the 29th pick.
- Tyson Campbell - Corner is a surefire area to watch in round one for Green Bay. I like Greg Newsome II but do not believe he will get to Green Bay. In many ways, Campbell is like Kevin King coming out of college with an intriguing blend of size, speed, and length that still needs further development. With that said, Campbell is fluid, shows a willingness to tackle, and has the skills required for a boundary corner. The stock of Campbell’s Georgia teammate Eric Stokes has been gaining steam as of late, but Campbell would be a late-first, early-second round corner to watch, and the 29th pick would be well in his range.
- Levi Onwuzurike - As mentioned with Barmore, the Packers could benefit greatly from interior defenders. Onwuzurike is not as consistent as Barmore, but his first step is the definition of explosive for his position. Onwuzurike is a little like Kansas City’s Chris Jones as a player that can overwhelm blockers from the snap when he is on. Like Jones, his college career displayed the traits to be a penetrating force in spurts but did not quite produce the stat line often associated with those traits. The former Washington Husky may not be a dominant force immediately as a pro, but he could fill a rotational spot for Green Bay in year one while he develops his craft and translates athleticism into results, much like Rashan Gary.