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Packers Mock Draft 2023: Van Ness, a Darnell, and a Wisconsin product in the top 50

With a few of APC’s favorite prospects gone off the board early, Tex decided to give the Packers defense another freak pass rusher in the hopes that he can develop.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL Draft starts tonight, and that means that there’s time for still one more mock draft before things get moving. The Green Bay Packers will be on the clock about two hours or so into the event, as they hold the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft following a swap with the New York Jets.

For this mock, I used the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator, so address any major complaints about the draft board to them. I also moved up and down the board in a few spots to try to get both good value and to zero in on a couple of key picks. Let’s get to it.

#13: Lukas Van Ness, edge, Iowa

As draft day approaches, I can’t help the feeling that Van Ness just might be the Packers’ selection at 13. That’s especially true if tackles Paris Johnson and Darnell Wright and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba are off the board, as was the case in this mock. My hunch is that the pick will be one of Wright, JSN, and Van Ness, and I could see the Packers trying to get ahead of New England and the Jets with the 13-for-15 pick swap to give them their best chance of landing one of these three.

Van Ness could be brought along much the same way that Rashan Gary was. Use him as a situational pass-rusher as a rookie while he develops other areas of his game, then perhaps he’s ready to break out in year two if the team moves on from Preston Smith.

#38 (trade): Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

Trade details: #42 and #116 for #38 and #174

Justis and Tyler moved up for Washington on the Draft Talk podcast, and I did the same, I just didn’t get quite as aggressive to do so. But with Washington still available in the early second, I had to get him, especially with Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid already gone. This trade feels like good value — moving back from a mid-4th to a late 5th in order to climb four spots and secure my guy.

Washington gives the Packers a plug-and-play Y tight end who will be a menace as a run-blocker while he develops his raw receiving skills. I don’t buy any of the recent character concerns that have been swirling, either — that smells like a smokescreen.

#47 (trade): Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin

Trade details: #45 for #47 and #118

I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from Washington while on the clock with the 45th pick, adding a 4th-rounder to move back just two slots. That gave me back the pick I sacrificed in the move up for Washington, and I still have that bonus #5. Excellent.

At 45, the Commanders took running back Zach Charbonnet, which was fine with me. Here, I had my choice of second-round defensive tackles, including Mazi Smith and Gervon Dexter. I have a hunch that the Packers might like Smith, a raw lineman from Michigan with light college production who is also a freak athlete. Dexter’s also very much in play as well, but I stuck with the local guy from Janesville, largely due to his positional versatility. I think Benton could play anywhere up and down the line, and his Senior Bowl week showed a burst as a pass-rusher that he didn’t get to demonstrate while serving as a full-time nose tackle in Madison.

#78: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss

Standing pat at 78, I was thrilled to see Mingo fall to me, and I ran this card in. I could see Mingo going in round two, which is where Justis and Tyler got him, but his size and fit with the Packers is immaculate. If he’s there in the third, especially if the Packers don’t get a receiver earlier, this feels like a no-brainer.

#118 (trade): Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

In the fourth-rounder I re-acquired in my second trade, I decided to double down at tight end and took the guy with the 10.0 RAS. Kuntz is a work in progress, but if he and Washington develop, they would be excellent complements with Kuntz as more of a detached receiving threat.

#139 (trade): Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

Trade details: #149, #207, and #235 for #139

We had too many picks in day three, so I moved up for a player who I think can be very similar to Aaron Jones. Spears didn’t test as well as Jones in agilities, but he’s similar in terms of speed and explosiveness and he’s willing to get dirty as a pass-blocker. This would set up the Packers well for the running back position long-term with both Jones and Dillon in question for 2024 and beyond.

#174 (trade): Anthony Johnson, Jr., S, Iowa State

The pick I got back in the Washington trade ends up being my safety selection with Johnson, the converted cornerback. Johnson is one of the few safeties in this year’s class with a RAS over 8 and also one of the few with a 3-cone time under 7.10 seconds. He only played one year at the position after moving from the boundary, but he can pitch in as a backup and special teamer — and maybe in the slot a bit — as a rookie before potentially competing for a starting job in the future.

#232: Robert Beal, edge, Georgia

Beal has shown up in almost every mock draft I have done all year, thanks to his size and athleticism. He’s quick enough, but he ran a blistering 4.48 40 at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds, plus he has 34-5/8” arms and 10-inch hands. He wasn’t overly productive for the Bulldogs, but those are physical tools I’m more than happy to take a late-round flier on.

#242: Jake Witt, OT, Northern Michigan

Justis and Tyler put Witt on my radar, as I needed to get at least one body at tackle to see if we can develop someone long-term. Witt is a converted tight end who posted tight end-like workout numbers at Pro Day and hits all the Packers’ lineman numbers at 6-foot-7 and 302 pounds.

#256: Dylan Horton, edge, TCU

A third edge rusher? I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, but Horton stood out to me with big production as a senior (10.5 sacks, 15 TFLs). He’s also an intriguing fit as a Packers “type,” a thicker player (6-foot-4, 257) who runs well (4.74 40) but has below-average agility numbers. At this point, I’m only counting on one of Beal or Horton to make the team out of camp, with the other hopefully sticking around on the practice squad.