Everyone knows that the Green Bay Packers need more speed at receiver in this upcoming draft, but unfortunately the board did not fall in their favor in SB Nation’s writers’ mock draft. Sitting at 22nd overall, we had to sit and watch as the Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints select Jameson Williams, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in back-to-back-to-back picks. Below are the 21 selections that were made before Acme Packing Company was up to bat with Green Bay’s first pick of the draft:
- JAX-Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
- DET-Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
- HOU-Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
- NYJ-Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
- NYG-Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
- CAR-Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
- NYG-Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
- ATL-Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
- SEA-Trevor Pennings, OT, Northern Iowa
- NYJ-Drake London, WR, USC
- WAS-Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
- MIN-Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
- HOU-Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
- BAL-Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- PHI-Jordan Davis, iDL, Georgia
- NO-Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
- LAC-Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
- PHI-Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
- NO-Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
- PIT-Devonte Wyatt, iDL, Georgia
- NE-Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
For whatever reason, edge rushers were dropping in this mock draft. Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, a potential first overall selection, did not come off the board until the 13th overall pick, and the best player available when APC was on the clock, according to the consensus draft board, was Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis.
Considering the circumstances, with the speed receivers off of the board, we decided to take Karlaftis, a talented edge defender, with the 22nd overall pick. The hope was that we would be able to land Arkansas’ Treylon Burks or Georgia’s George Pickens (who have come to Green Bay on visits) as the team’s next top wideout with the Packers’ second first-round pick at 28th overall.
Karlaftis should be off the board around this range, both based on the consensus draft board and the visits circuit. Just last week, the Arizona Cardinals, who pick 23rd overall, had him in on a visit, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
If the board shakes out like this on draft day, and the Packers don’t trade up into a range where they can lock in one of the faster receivers, it’s easy to envision this selection for Green Bay.
At the moment, the team is very light in front seven depth. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary is going to carry a $10.9 million cap hit on his fifth-year option next season, which means it’s time to start thinking about his future in Green Bay. The team also just extended Preston Smith on a long-term contract, but the details of the deal make it so the team can save $7.5 million in cap space in 2024 and $40 million in cash over three years with a release or trade after Year 2.
The edge position is not as addressed long-term as it may seem on paper, and the dropoff after Karlaftis is deep. Ranked 18th overall on the consensus board, the only other remaining top-40 edge defenders in the class at this point in the mock draft are Michigan’s David Ojabo (who is coming off an Achilles injury) and Minnesota’s Boye Mafe (who will turn 24 years old during his rookie season.) For reference, Gary is a 24-year-old currently.
Meanwhile, Karlaftis is a documented great athlete for his size (6’4”, 266 pounds), despite testing in below-freezing temperatures at Purdue’s outdoor pro day. The 21-year-old’s relative athletic score ranks in the top-10 percent among defensive ends, per Kent Lee Platte, led by his “great” speed and “elite” explosion grades.
And there's your George Karlaftis #RAS. Ended up a little higher since his splits were good. Still never ran the cone, but didn't need to with this.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 1, 2022
He scored a 9.18 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 120 out of 1455 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/iXXBvnoFJc #RAS pic.twitter.com/TcBWz2i0Uy
According to Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle, the only players to have a single-season Power 5 pass-rush win rate better than Karlaftis’ 33 percent in 2021 during the PFF era were Chase Young, Nick Bosa and Josh Allen. Allen was the lowest-drafted player among them and was selected seventh overall, 15 slots earlier than when the Packers would pick Karlaftis in this mock.
Positional value? Check. Young? Check. Athletic? Check. Productive? Check.
Some would be mad that Green Bay didn’t go with a receiver with their first pick, but there isn’t really a need to take one when the same tier of wideouts will be available at their next pick. The same can’t be said of a pass-rusher of Karlaftis’ caliber, which is why he was the selection.