It’s that time of year. SB Nation’s NFL communities have gathered once again for a full mock draft that will hopefully inform us of who is going to be on the board when the Green Bay Packers are on the clock in the first round.
Last year, we took two swings and missed on both as Purdue pass-rusher George Karlaftis and Georgia receiver George Pickens were both available with the Packers’ two first-round picks in the actual 2022 draft. Eventually, the duo was passed on by general manager Brian Gutekunst in favor of Georgia linebacker Quay Walker and Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt.
Here’s how picks No. 1 to No. 14 have played out in the 2023 edition of the community mock draft before the Packers were to select at No. 15 (no, we weren’t able to get the 13th pick from the Jets in a trade for Aaron Rodgers):
- Carolina Panthers: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
- Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
- Arizona Cardinals: Will Anders Jr., EDGE, Alabama
- Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
- Seattle Seahawks: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
- Detroit Lions: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
- Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
- Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
- Chicago Bears: Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State
- Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
- Tennessee Titans: Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
- Houston Texans: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
- New York Jets; Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
- New England Patriots: Broderick Jones, OL, Georgia
The selection that hurt the most, to me, was the Tennessee Titans taking receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba from Ohio State four picks before Acme Packing Company was on the clock. Smith-Njigba’s ability to play in the slot pairs very well with Christian Watson’s ability to take the top off of the defense. Had he been available at No. 15, he would have been right there among the top prospects considered for our selection.
Through 14 selections, here were the “best players available” that were still on the board, according to the consensus draft board:
- #8 Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
- #9 Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
- #14 Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
- #15 Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
- #16 Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
- #17 Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
With head coach Matt LaFleur coming out and saying that Rasul Douglas is going to get work at outside corner, it seems unlikely that Green Bay would turn in a first-round draft choice on another cornerback with Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes already under contract for multiple seasons. That rules out Devon Witherspoon and Joey Porter Jr. One would presume that they wouldn’t spend another high pick on a quarterback, either, as the team seems to be all in on the transition to Jordan Love.
That leaves us with three options: pass rushers Lukas Van Ness and Myles Murphy and receiver Quentin Johnston.
We know that the Packers are considering taking a pass rusher high in the draft, as the team has scheduled visits with both Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV and Georgia Tech’s Keion White, who are both considered second-round picks on the consensus draft board. Not to sound like a broken record here, but you can find receivers outside of the first round, as we all saw in 2022 when Green Bay took Christian Watson on Day 2 and Romeo Doubs on Day 3. The same cannot be said about edge rushers — at least consistently — as the athletically demanding position often sees its difference-makers fly off the board early and often.
This is why we narrowed down the selection to the pair of pass rushers, Van Ness and Murphy, who were among the best players available on the board at the time of this mock draft selection.
Van Ness, who played inside at times, is a player who best fits the role of a designated pass rusher — like Rashan Gary. Meanwhile, Murphy is closer to the all-around edge rusher who sets a good edge in the run game and was even asked to drop into coverage out of three-point stances at Clemson. This is sort of a “pick your flavor” type of situation, and it’s worth looking at who Green Bay is going to replace in the near future to inform this selection.
Despite his mid-2022 ACL tear, the assumption is that the Packers are going to pay former 12th overall pick Gary this offseason by giving him a long-term contract that should provide Green Bay with some cap relief in the short term. Meanwhile, Preston Smith — the Packers’ edge-setting drop outside linebacker — can be released or traded as soon as the 2024 season for cap relief. If Green Bay didn’t have Gary, we probably would have taken Van Ness to fill that role as the team’s designated pass rusher, but Murphy probably fits better as “the Preston replacement” out of the two options.
Below is Murphy’s scouting report from APC’s own Tyler Brooke:
A twitched-up and explosive pass rushing EDGE prospect with very good size and athleticism along with very strong hand usage. Elite/Very good burst and explosion off of the line of scrimmage, quick off the snap to create penetration or get around the outside of the line. Very good bend to turn the corner and trace his path to the back shoulder of the QB, taking a very hard angle around the corner. Very good endurance, effort, and motor, with explosiveness showing up throughout all four quarters. Good extension and play strength when stacking blockers or converting speed to power on a bull rush. Showcases very good hand usage and pass-rush moves, including a rip, dip, long arm, swim, cross chop, etc. Has a good feel for timing as a pass rusher, attacking the ball as QB’s pull back to throw. Can be over aggressive vs the run, flying upfield and allowing running backs to cut back behind him. Is so twitched-up off of the snap that he’s susceptible to jumping offsides.
If you’re not sold on the selection of Murphy yet, below is his Relative Athletic Score — where he ranks in the top three percent of edge rushers as an overall athlete.
Murphy’s got long odds to be selected in the top 5 on draft night — DraftKings Sportsbook has +2000 odds on that scenario. But whether he’ll be available at No. 15 remains to be seen.
In this scenario, Murphy is our choice for the Packers with the 15th pick. It would have been fun to debate between the merits of Murphy and Smith-Njigba, but the Titans made that decision for us.