On Monday, it was reported that the Green Bay Packers had agreed to a trade with the New York Jets for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. One of the least valuable terms of the trade, but most interesting, is the fact that the Packers elected to move up from the 15th overall pick to the 13th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
While Green Bay’s position clusters of visits make it clear that the squad wants to take an edge rusher, safety and tight end on the second day of the draft, their strategy at the top of the draft has been held close to the vest. At the moment, their highest-ranked player who has taken a visit with the team this offseason is Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright, with three first- to second-round tight ends falling behind him.
If the Packers have narrowed down their scope to Wright, the team moving up in the draft — rather than accepting, say, an extra fourth-round pick — would make some sense.
First, you have to consider the position. While Green Bay does return both of their preferred bookends from 2022, left tackle David Bakhtiari is set to command a $40-plus million cap hit in 2024 which firmly places him on “cap casualty watch” next offseason. Flexibility at left tackle could allow the team to post-June 1 trade Bakhtiari or even move Bakhtiari at the trade deadline, if the team isn’t in contention for a playoff run at that point. Not to mention, Bakhtiari hasn’t been 100 percent on a turf field since his ACL tear back in 2020. Right tackle Yosh Nijman recently signed his restricted free agent tender, but is only on a one-year contract with the team.
Second, you have to consider the players. Recently, rumors have been swirling around that the Arizona Cardinals are considering taking Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. as early as the third overall pick in the draft, if they can’t trade back. Meanwhile, one rumor I’ve heard consistently throughout the last month or so is that the Pittsburgh Steelers are among the most active teams in the trade market, as they want to move up for a left tackle. For reference, the Steelers’ projected left tackle at the moment is Dan Moore Jr., a 2021 fourth-round pick.
According to the consensus draft board, there are four first-round tackles in this upcoming draft: Johnson, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Wright. If the run starts early, potentially third overall, that could be a reason why the Steelers — who are slated to pick at 17th overall — want to move up to ensure that they’ll be able to select one.
Third, you have to consider the teams that the Packers jumped. Before the 13th overall pick, there are a few teams who could consider taking an offensive lineman early. The Cardinals are one at three, with the Chicago Bears being another at nine. The Philadelphia Eagles might consider Skoronski, who is projected primarily to play guard at the next level, at 10. The Tennessee Titans could use a left tackle at 11, with Taylor Lewan being let go, if they don’t trade up for a quarterback.
That’s why the Packers, like the Steelers, might have thought to themselves “We got to move up for one if we want one.” By sliding up from 15 to 13, the Packers not only earned the right to pick ahead of the Jets but also the New England Patriots, two more teams who are expected to be in the tackle market.
If I were to bet on Green Bay’s selection today, just based on reading the tea leaves, I’d put my chips in on Wright. Maybe they take a pass-rusher like Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness or Clemson’s Myles Murphy, but it seems like they’re positioning themselves to draft Wright based on their recent actions. Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State would be another name to entertain, but I simply believe the top receiver in the draft will go off the board before the 13th overall pick.
For what it’s worth, Wright is the only first-round tackle who actually ran the agility drills this offseason and ran them well. That, historically, has been a significant predictor in the type of linemen that the Packers have drafted over the last decade under general managers Brian Gutekunst and Ted Thompson. Maybe Green Bay is telegraphing the selection and, maybe after the trade up to 13, there’s nothing other interested teams can do about it.
Trades don’t happen for the sake of action. If the Packers decided to move up in the draft days ahead of when they’re on the clock, they did it for a specific reason. If you look at the move, within the context of everything else that’s happening around the league, it really feels like tackle — particularly Darnell Wright — is the player that Green Bay is expecting to target with the 13th overall pick.