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6 prospects who make sense as the Packers’ 2023 1st-round pick

If Green Bay picks in the top third of the class, their options are clear.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 12 Championship - TCU vs Kansas State Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From an athletic standpoint, the Green Bay Packers are pretty particular about the prospects they draft, especially at the top of the draft. With the Packers currently holding the 11th overall pick with a 5-8 record during their bye week, we figured it’s time to look at what their draft guardrails could translate to in April.

First of all, we’ll be working off of the 2023 Consensus Big Board, which currently averages 53 big boards and 350 first-round mock drafts to give us an expectation of which players should be drafted where. Secondly, we’ll take a look at the top 15 prospects in the draft, as that is likely the range that the Packers will be picking in.

If we’re making cuts to the board to more easily narrow down on potential Green Bay targets, the first slice to make is the quarterbacks. Three quarterbacks (Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis) are expected to be top-10 picks based on the consensus board this draft class and the Packers have already come out and stated that they want starter Aaron Rodgers to return to the team in 2023. Beyond that, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have also hinted that they want to pick up backup quarterback Jordan Love’s fifth-year option for 2024 this offseason, which leaves little to no room for Green Bay to add a quarterback at the top of the draft.

The second set of cuts should come at cornerback, one of the deepest positions at the top of the draft. Four cornerbacks (Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., South Carolina’s Cam Smith and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez) rank on the consensus board’s top 15. With recent investments already made in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas, it seems very unlikely that the Packers would turn in a high draft pick at the position.

Here comes the cut to the board that Green Bay fans are going to hate: USC receiver Jordan Addison. APC touched on this topic in October when we wrote about receivers who fit the team’s athletic profile, but here’s a reminder: The LaFleur-era Packers have been really strict about their size requirements at the position, as the team demands a certain level of run-blocking ability out of everyone they put on the field. This is terrible news if you want Addison, last year’s Biletnikoff winner while at Pittsburgh, in Green Bay. Addison is listed by USC as a 175-pounder and might actually be playing lighter than that. That’s a non-starter, based on the LaFleur-era trends.

We can start to have a conversation about who’s still on the board after these cuts now, but if we want to be realistic, we have to mention that two of the remaining prospects will not make it out of the top-five picks — barring a major medical or off-field issue between now and April. Those players are Alabama pass-rusher Will Anderson (number two prospect on the consensus board) and Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (number four). Anderson and Carter would have been top draft picks in last year’s draft class, had they been allowed to declare for the 2022 draft, and are the prize non-quarterbacks this year.

Who does that leave us with?

Now that the process of elimination has been established, let’s talk about the five top-15 prospects (and a dark horse candidate) who actually make sense as realistic Packers targets in the first round of this upcoming draft. If you think Green Bay is going to end up drafting another lineman at the top of the draft, you’re probably going to end up being right.

The flashy name in this class is going to be receiver Quentin Johnston of TCU, who is listed with a 6’4”, 215-pound frame by the Horned Frogs. The long, fast receiver posted a career-best 903 yards in 2022 as TCU has made a run into the college football playoffs. After a slower start to the season, Johnston has recorded a reception of at least 48 yards in five of his last seven games.

The other offensive prospect is Northwestern left tackle Peter Skoronski, who has earned three All-Big Ten honors in his career and just won the Rimington-Pace Award as the Big Ten’s top offensive lineman. Peter’s grandfather, Bob Skoronski, was a team captain for the Lombardi Packers and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 1976. There are questions about Skoronski’s arm length, which could potentially push him into guard, but he is expected to be the top offensive lineman off of the board in April.

The final three players in the top 15 are all defensive linemen: Clemson pass-rusher Myles Murphy, Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee and Texas Tech pass-rusher Tyree Wilson. APC brokedown the 2023 roster last week and even if Devonte Wyatt emerges as a starter next season, they’ll likely need another 3-4 defensive end who can play a starter’s share worth of snaps. That’s the selling point for Bresee, the former top recruit in his high school class, coming to Green Bay. The Packers have a solid trio of edge rushers going into next season in Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and Kingsley Enagbare, but the signings of Preston and Za’Darius Smith didn’t stop the team from drafting Gary in the same offseason back in 2019. That should leave the door open for both Murphy and Wilson, who may need to start for the Packers if Gary starts 2023 on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL. Our own Tyler Brooke mocked Wilson, a Texas A&M transfer, to Green Bay in his mock draft this week.

As I mentioned, there’s a dark horse selection lingering: Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. If Green Bay wants to add pass-catching talent, they might be better off switching their attention from receiver, especially in this draft class, to tight end. We know they tried to trade for Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller multiple times in 2022, so it’s not out of the question that they would take this approach.

While Mayer ranks just outside the consensus board’s top 15 prospects, he is one of the more polished tight end prospects that we’ve seen come out of the college game. As a true freshman, he out-performed third-round pick Tommy Tremble and now leads the Fighting Irish in receiving yards by north of 450 yards. Over his college career, he’s recorded 180 receptions for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns, monster numbers for a 21-year-old tight end. Beyond that, he’s not a receiver cosplaying as a tight end; He can line his hand up in the dirt and block, as well.

Who knows how many of these players will actually be on the board when the Packers are on the clock in April? There are still games to play in 2022, so we don’t even know where Green Bay will officially pick in the draft.

With that being said, if you look at the landscape of the 2023 draft class, it’s fairly clear that the Packers’ next first-round pick will probably come from a list of six players, featuring four linemen. If you want a pass-catcher, hitch your wagon to Quentin Johnston or Michael Mayer, as there simply are not many options at the top of the draft who fit Green Bay’s profile. LSU’s receiver Kayshon Boutte, a projected top-15 pick, returning to school for another year put a real dent in those chances, so you might as well get used to seeing these six players’ names and pick your favorite out of the bunch.