We thought it would be fun to look back at general manager Brian Gutekunst’s draft history as we approach the 2023 NFL Draft. Each day this week, we’ll go through a new class that Gutekunst has brought in to Green Bay. The first is 2018, his inaugural crop of draft picks.
2018 isn’t close to his best draft, but we got to start somewhere. Take a journey with us through memory lane as we give a letter grade to each and every one of Gutekunst’s draft choices from that offseason.
#18 Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Obviously, the gem of Gutekunst’s first class was cornerback Jaire Alexander, his first draft choice. The Packers actually received two (2!) first-round draft picks in a trade back with the New Orleans Saints when New Orleans moved up for defensive lineman Marcus Davenport. I remember thinking at the time that giving up two first-round picks was an indication that the Saints were going to go quarterback, which at the time would have meant drafting Lamar Jackson. I bet New Orleans would rather have had that result with the benefit of hindsight.
Not only did Gutekunst add the pick that was eventually traded to move up for safety Darnell Savage in 2019, but the Packers were able to land a Pro Bowl cornerback in the trade back in 2018. Alexander has started all 62 games that he’s played in since he entered the league, recording 244 tackles, 58 pass deflections and 10 interceptions. Unfortunately, he’s also the final remaining player from the 2018 class still on Green Bay’s roster.
#45 Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Grading the second-round selection of Josh Jackson is very tough for me because I don’t if his career changes under different circumstances. Jackson ended up playing in 42 games with 15 starts during his Packers career but peaked with his 10 starts as a rookie.
The story on Jackson coming out of the draft was that the former wide receiver had played in one of the heaviest zone-leaning defenses at the college level in Iowa, which meant that he actually translated better to the safety position than he did to playing man-to-man cornerback. After his rookie season, the Packers would address the safety position twice with expensive players: free agent signing Adrian Amos and a trade up for Savage in the first round.
In the end, Jackson would only go on to start five more games in Green Bay and record 12 pass deflections and zero interceptions in his Packers career for a player who came in with highly touted ball skills. He would be traded in the final year of his rookie contract for special team rental Isaac Yaidom, but Jackson has since seen playing time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season.
If I were grading just the result of Jackson’s career in Green Bay, I would give it a D — just because he didn’t flat-out bust. I do think that under different circumstances he could have developed into a better safety prospect than he was as a corner, though, which I’ll give credit for.
#88 Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt
At the time, Burks was ranked 125th on the consensus draft board, so his selection came a full round earlier than expected. I remember going to watch his Vanderbilt film after the selection and turning on the Alabama game, where he looked good in space — as a quarterback spy, for example — but the former safety struggled to hold his ground as a linebacker even at the SEC level.
Burks ended up being a key special teams player, which is the role he’s now playing with the San Francisco 49ers, but you don’t take special teamers in the third round. Unlike Jackson, Burks actually finished out his rookie contract, but this is a pick I didn’t really understand from the beginning. Burks finished his Packers career with 59 games played and seven starts with 92 tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass deflection recorded.
#133 J’Mon Moore, WR, Missouri
Draft picks like Moore are why I didn’t give Jackson or Burks an F. Moore played in 12 games as a rookie with the Packers, earning just two receptions for 15 yards. He would get waived the next offseason and would never play in another regular season game at the NFL level. He’s now a member of the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL, a league where he missed out on playing time in 2021 due to injury.
It’s hard to swing and miss on a fourth-round draft pick worse than that.
#138 Cole Madison, OL, Washington State
This draft pick feels unfair to judge considering the circumstances. Madison was clearly a talented offensive lineman but left the team during his rookie season as he was reportedly dealing with the circumstances of his former friend’s (Washington State quarterback Tyler Hillinski) suicide and the fact that Hillinski was diagnosed with CTE at such a young age.
In his second year in the NFL, Madison tore his ACL and by Year 3 he was waived with a failed physical. The pick didn’t work out, but I don’t really blame anyone other than the terrible circumstances.
#172 J.K. Scott, P, Alabama
Outside of Matt Ariza and Michael Dickson, J.K. Scott was probably the third most-hyped punter prospect in recent memory. Scott was a recognizable name as a punter, which in and of itself made him one of the more popular players at his position from the beginning of his career.
Scott seemed to be a fine punter through about October, but when it got cold at Lambeau Field it appeared to have impacted his ability to perform. He ended up playing in 48 games for the Packers, turning 194 punts into 62 played downed inside the 20. Scott’s still punting with the Los Angeles Chargers, but he didn’t come to the Pro Bowl heights that were once hoped for him.
#174 Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, South Florida
Make no mistake about it: The selection of MVS in the fifth round was an absolute steal for the Packers. Sure, Valdes-Scantling had his limitations and drop issues, but he also ran a 4.3 40 at 6’4” and 206 pounds. Green Bay currently has a fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft because MVS signed a $10 million per year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, which essentially made this selection a free rental of his services.
The second-best player and maybe best value selection of Gutekunst’s first draft ended up starting in 39 games for the Packers over 59 available games, recording 2,152 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns.
#207 Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
With more than 200 players off the board, all you’re looking for is contributions on the field with later-round draft choices. St. Brown was a solid blocker, occasional ball carrier and a special teams contributor. That’s enough boxes to check for this to be a positive selection. In four seasons, St. Brown played in 37 games with 10 starts and posted 543 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown and even eight tackles during his Packers career.
#232 James Looney, DL/TE, California
Originally drafted as a defensive lineman, Looney would eventually convert to the tight end position by the end of his run in Green Bay. The highly-athletic player wasn’t able to translate his measurables to on-field success and never played in a game for the Packers.
#239 Hunter Bradley, LS, Mississippi State
In total, Bradley played in 56 games for the Packers during his rookie contract. He was eventually released at mid-season in 2021 for Steven Wirtel, but still gave Green Bay plenty of cheap snaps over the course of his career.
#248 Kendall Donnerson, EDGE, Southeast Missouri State
Like Looney, Donnerson is another highly athletic project who never ended up getting on the field for a Packers regular season game. The small-school pass-rusher continued to get looks from teams, though, as he’s signed with four different squads since his stint in Green Bay. He’s still looking for his first opportunity to get on the field in an NFL game.
Join the conversation by scrolling to the comments and let us know if there’s a grade you disagree with.