The “silly season” leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft has seemed a little bit sillier than usual. Between the pandemic-related complications and the Packers picking at 30, it’s seems extra difficult to predict what the Packers will do, especially if Brian Gutekunst does what he’s hinted at doing and moves around the board again.
Nevertheless, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least take a guess at what the Packers would do. So here they are: our best guesses as to what the Packers will do Thursday night. What’s your prediction?
Tex Western – An offensive lineman (hopefully Josh Jones)
What positions do the Packers like to draft early? It’s a pretty simple formula over the past two decades or so: pass rushers, pass defenders, and pass protectors. Yes, pass catchers would seem to be a priority this year, but unless the Packers move up for a guy like Justin Jefferson, I think the top-tier receivers are all gone by the time we get to 30 and the Packers end up moving back if they want to land a player in the Brandon Aiyuk/Jalen Reagor tier.
If we assume that the Packers stand pat, I’m sticking with those three spots I mentioned above. I don’t see an edge player as the pick, especially not given the 2019 investments at the position, and I’m not really a big fan of this year’s cornerback class. That leaves me with the offensive line, where the Packers most definitely need a long-term answer at tackle. There will almost certainly be a run on linemen early, but I do think there’s still a decent chance that a guy like Josh Jones slips to 30. If he’s there, the Packers should call the pick into the league office at the speed of light. (And I do mean that literally, as it’s the speed that the photons and electrons involved in internet signals can move.) If Jones isn’t there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an uber-athlete like Ezra Cleveland be the pick, either.
Jon Meerdink – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
A few caveats: I think the Packers would prefer to either draft an offensive lineman or trade back. If the top linemen aren’t available and the choice is between Mims or some other receiver (Brandon Aiyuk, Michael Pittman, etc.), I think they’d trade out of the pick and let the receiver board settle a bit.
However, this prediction is assuming they’re standing pat at 30, and if they do that and the higher-end receivers are gone, I think Mims is their choice. Gutekunst has shown a strong preference for enormous receivers, and Mims offers that in addition to tremendous agility (at least in the drills). I think that sells him as far as the Packers are concerned.
I wouldn’t love this pick; I’d rather have Aiyuk or probably just about any other receiver, but I think if the Packers stay at 30 and it comes down to picking among available receivers, Mims will be the choice.
Shawn Wagner – A lineman on either side of the ball
I really like Brandon Aiyuk if he’s still on the board, but I think the Packers attend to the line in some fashion in round one. As Tex mentioned, players like Josh Jones and Ezra Cleveland make a lot of sense as potential left tackles. With Bryan Bulaga already gone and David Bakhtiari entering a contract season, Green Bay has a chance to draft a potential starter in year one (to compete with Rick Wagner) or a long-term answer. Either way, the Packers have lacked strong depth at tackle for a few years and this pick would represent a solution to that problem.
Green Bay could very well also draft a defensive lineman in the first round to strengthen its pass rush, but most notably its run defense. Athletic, high-effort players like Ross Blacklock, Justin Madubuike, and Neville Gallimore make a lot of sense as interior defenders that could help in both areas. I would not blame the Packers for taking a receiver in round one, especially if a notable one falls, but the depth at the position allows the team to take a different approach on the first day.
Jonathan Barnett – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
This is who I think they will take. Part of this is how I am guessing things will fall and who will be available. I would most want to see Justin Jefferson or Brandon Aiyuk in this spot, but I think the best value is likely going to be Clevelend. He has very quick feet, but needs to get some technique work on using his skills to get ready. I think he can move right into the right tackle spot and be effective. It is worth pointing out that while he does need to work on staying lower some and moving his feet a little better, he has an elite RAS score (9.93). That does fit into some of what we have seen with Packers recent drafts.
Now, I think there is a real need for WR, I also think that there are several WRs who will be valuable in the second round. The draft is more about value of the pick than the needs you have. I think the Packers are likely to go with someone like Cleveland since they are likely to find a valuable pass catcher in the second round.
Paul Noonan - Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
My own personal rankings have Jefferson as second to only CeeDee Lamb but there’s a decent chance he falls just far enough. Lamb, Jeudy, and Ruggs are almost assuredly going earlier, and someone will like Reagor enough to pull the trigger as well. With the depth available at wide receiver, plenty of teams will also defer their decision to later rounds. This should leave the door open for the Packers to snag Jefferson, who excelled on the field for LSU, posted an outstanding RAS, and has well-developed route-running skills. Outside of Lamb, there is no receiver I’d prefer to bolster the offense immediately. Brandon Aiyuk would be a fine consolation prize.
Kris Burke – Any one of Josh Jones, Kenneth Murray or Justin Jefferson. If not, nobody.
I can’t for the life of me pick a single player so I’m cheating. These three are the best at the three biggest positions of need for the Packers and there are multiple scenarios where at least one will fall to 30th. Gun to my head, should all three somehow make it that far down, I take Jefferson. I also wouldn’t mind Gutey trading up to get him although I really don’t want to give up that second-round pick so a jump of 10 spots or more might be ruled out.
As for Jones or Murray, Jones could very well push Rick Wagner immediately for the starting right tackle job and Murray would give Green Bay something at inside linebacker they haven’t had in a really long time: an elite athlete.
If all three are gone, trade back and load up on some receivers on day 2.