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Packers GM Brian Gutekunst talks receivers ahead of the NFL draft

“I think we’re kinda looking at everything right now.”

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst met with the local media for his pre-draft media availability. The topic of the day was the same as it has been since the moment Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders: wide receivers.

First, Gutekunst was asked about veteran wide receivers, starting with the signing of Sammy Watkins. On Watkins, the former first-round pick who has started 91 career NFL games, Gutekunst stated, “He’s got some juice still left in him.” Near the end of his media availability, while answering a question about how new receivers will have to adjust to the offense, Gutekunst pushed back about including Watkins in the group, which made it sound like there’s a chance for him to be an early-season contributor depending on how the receiver room shakes out.

When the topic of adding another veteran receiver to the roster came up, Gutekunst said, “I think we’re kinda looking at everything right now.” With receivers like AJ Brown, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf still yet to sign long-term contracts, that phrasing leaves open the door for the Packers to look at those options between now and Thursday. Beyond trade options, wideouts like Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, Will Fuller, T.Y. Hilton, DeSean Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr. are also still on the market as free agents to be signed post-draft.

When it comes to the draft class, Gutekunst noted that both the Day 3 and undrafted free agent depth in the class at both the offensive line and receiver positions are above where they typically stack. Due to the NCAA giving everyone who participated in the sport a free year for the 2020 season, many of the players in this draft class are fifth- or even sixth-year seniors. According to Gutekunst, this “pushed the depth up” in the class. It’s worth noting that the Packers have three seventh-round picks in 2022 and are slated to pick six times on Saturday.

Examples of this extra year benefitting players at the receiver position would be Bo Melton (Rutgers), Velus Jones Jr. (Tennessee), Dai’Jean Dixon (Nicholls State), Dontario Drummond (Mississippi) and Braylon Sanders (Mississippi). All five of these players are expected to be drafted this weekend and returned for an extra season after originally being projected as undrafted members of the 2021 NFL draft class. In Jones’ extreme example, he will turn 25 years old in early May after spending six years in college football split between USC and Tennessee.

When asked if age is a component in evaluating where players stand as prospects, now that 25-year-olds and 20-year-olds are in the same class, Gutekunst said, “Yeah, the age factor is part of the equation.” The Packers, famously, tend to pick young players, particularly in the early rounds of the draft. It’s worth noting, though, that they brought in Jones, an All-SEC return man, for one of their 30 visits this offseason.

Gutekunst couldn’t go one single presser without answering a question about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, though. He was asked how involved Rodgers is regarding this upcoming draft after Rodgers, famously, wanted to be heard out by the decision-makers, to which Gutekunst replied that he’s in “pretty consistent communication with Aarron” but that “this is his down time and I know he enjoys that.”