Two weeks ago, we had our first mock draft round-up of the 2023 offseason, in which Notre Dame All-American tight end Michael Mayer was taken in 7 of 17 selections by the Green Bay Packers. Since then, the mock draft turnout has slowed down with the national audience focused on the playoffs, but Mayer has become even more of a favorite to be chosen by the Packers.
Here’s who nine notable mock drafts over the last two weeks have Green Bay picking with the 15th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Four Selections: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Michael Mayer tossing a safety around. pic.twitter.com/Kt2rydHtxB— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) November 28, 2021
When we asked Packers fans what the team’s biggest needs are going into the offseason, the tight end position was only voted in behind safety in the pecking order. Mayer would give Green Bay some pass-catching and in-line blocking upside that would be hard to come by via free agency. General manager Brian Gutekunst’s pockets are going to be tight this offseason, whether Aaron Rodgers returns or not, meaning that it will be hard to address the position outside of the draft.
At the moment, Mayer ranks 16th on the consensus draft board, moving up two spots since the last time we checked in on him two weeks ago. In a draft that doesn’t have many star prospects lasting beyond the first five-ish or so picks, Mayer is legitimately in play for the Packers if he’s available when they’re on the clock with the 15th pick. Some fans are going to reject the notion of a player at his position going that high, but it’s less absurd when you compare him to other available options.
Here’s what Renner had to say about his pick:
Michael Mayer is actually the in-line blocker and receiving weapon that they’ve been looking for at the position, and I think they’ll become enamored with him.
Two Selections: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
#14 pic.twitter.com/xhUDAsSW9W— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) January 25, 2023
Branch, just as in the last roundup, is the second-most selected player for the Packers. Since then, I’ve been able to give his game a look and came away with a couple more questions than answers.
First of all, Branch was Alabama’s nickel defensive back, meaning that he was rarely seen when the Crimson Tide played their “base” (four defensive back) defense. When he was on the field, he mostly played the slot while Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams (who are both also in the 2023 draft class) played the true safety roles.
Branch does a good job of jumping routes and making plays on the ball, but struggles as a tackler. The selection of Branch would feel very much like a second chance at Darnell Savage, who is already under contract in 2023 and is expected to have one of the highest cap hits on the team next year as he plays on his fifth-year option. That option, by the way, is fully-guaranteed.
With Eric Stokes set to come back from injury, it gives Green Bay two options, Savage and Rasul Douglas, in the slot already. Do the Packers need another slot or a true safety? For me, it’s the latter.
Here’s what Brooks had to say about his selection:
Adding a high-IQ defensive back with position flexibility upgrades the athleticism and playmaking ability in the secondary.
One Selection Each
- Brian Bresee, DT, Clemson (Pete Fiutak, College Football News)
- Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia (James Fragoza, Pro Football Network)
- Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia (Daniel Jeremiah, NFL)
Three players, including two Bulldogs, each were selected by the Packers once in mock drafts. Brian Bresee of Clemson might be the second interior defensive lineman off of the board in this upcoming draft and has been highly touted since he was a superstar recruit coming out of high school.
Nolan Smith of Georgia was another super recruit but missed the last month of the regular season and the postseason due to a torn pec. The edge rusher also has size questions, as he likely played in the 230s. Green Bay has been known to like significantly larger outside linebackers, with Rashan Gary listed at 277 pounds and Preston Smith listed at 265. Former Packer Za’Darius Smith, who was part of a three-man rotation up until the 2022 season, is also currently listed at 272 pounds.
The interior defensive line finished as Packers fans’ third need going into 2023 while outside linebacker finished fifth. The only top-five need (in the mind of fans) which didn’t appear in this roundup was receiver (fourth).
The one position fans don’t think is a major need that continues to be selected by Green Bay in mock drafts is tackle. As we’ve mentioned before at Acme Packing Company, there are 11 offensive linemen who were on the 2022 active roster who are under contract for the Packers going into next season — if you include the restricted free agent Yosh Nijman who is likely to be given a second-round tender. The only way Green Bay can afford to spend a significant pick at the position, especially after handing Elgton Jenkins a multi-year contract, is if left tackle David Bakhtiari is let go as a cap casualty.
After the 2022 season, Gutekunst stated that he “would hope” that Bakhtiari is the team’s starting left tackle next year. I’m not convinced the team moves on from any of their big-name players this offseason, no matter who is under center.