The NFL Draft might actually be exciting for Green Bay Packers fans for the first time in a while.
Losing star wideout Davante Adams hurts, but the trade with the Las Vegas Raiders gives the Packers four of the top 60 picks in this year’s draft. Moving Adams’ cap hit also gave general manager Brian Gutkeunst the ability to retain some key players including De’Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, and Robert Tonyan while also giving him the flexibility to add some players in free agency.
There’s a good chance that the Packers will continue to make strategic moves prior to the draft, but at this moment the team is facing a serious need at wide receiver. At the time of writing this the top receivers on Green Bay’s depth chart are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Juwann Winfree, and Amari Rodgers.
That ain’t gonna cut it.
On the bright side, the Packers have a ton of early picks to resolve that issue while also adding key playmakers at other positions of need. Let’s dive into a three-round mock draft, but before I do that, a couple of notes:
- This was created using The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator, so please don’t get mad at me in the comments about how a guy should or shouldn’t be available at each pick.
- This is based off my personal rankings and grades based off of what I’ve seen on film from these prospects. I may be higher on some of these players than others out there.
- Mock drafts are fun. Let’s not take this too seriously.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into it.
Pick 22: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Packers could very well go for a wide receiver with their first selection, especially if there’s a run of wideouts getting selected heading into the 22nd overall pick. With the way the draft board panned out, however, there were enough receivers still on the board that I felt comfortable going for great value instead.
Getting a third impact EDGE player on the roster with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary would be a huge boost to Green Bay’s defense. The lack of depth outside was an issue at times last season, and a player like Purdue’s George Karlaftis slipping this late into the first round could be too tempting to pass up on.
Karlaftis has a great combination of functional strength and athleticism when on the field. While his athleticism as a pass rusher is often brought into question, his athleticism compared to his size at nearly 6’4” and 266 pounds is quite impressive.
Whether it’s turning speed into power or attacking blockers and getting extended to disengage, Karlaftis showcases very good functional play strength. His versatility as a future defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker would make him an interesting and versatile piece in Green Bay’s defense.
Pick 28: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Packers didn’t need to reach for a wide receiver with their first pick, at least not in this mock draft. A few receivers were still on the board, and one of my highest-graded prospects was still on the board with the 28th pick.
If you could only describe Olave using one word, it would be “smooth”. He got significant playing time with the Buckeyes in all four college seasons, finishing his career with 175 receptions and 35 touchdowns.
That experience and playing time made Olave a polished route runner. Whether it’s using leverage to his advantage, setting up defensive backs by switching speeds, or simply relying on excellent technique and quickness, Olave is able to do everything possible in order to create separation at the route stem.
That’s exactly the kind of wide receiver the Packers could use with the departure of Adams. He’s a little undersized compared to the usual big-bodied receivers that Matt LaFleur covets, but Olave’s playmaking ability should be too hard to pass on if he’s still available this late into the first round.
Pick 53: Jalen Pitre, CB/S, Baylor
If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last few months, whether on APC or on Twitter, you know that I’m obsessed with Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre.
The real question is whether or not the Packers will use one of their top picks on a defensive back. By bringing back Rasul Douglas on a three-year deal, the Packers already have three starting-caliber cornerbacks and two starting safeties under contract.
However, the Packers lack any kind of safety depth, and are likely going to be relying on Jaire Alexander to be their slot defensive back. If one of Jaire, Darnell Savage, or Adrian Amos go down, the Packers don’t have anyone that can fill in adequately at the moment.
Pitre is a prospect who could thrive in the slot or as a versatile defender in heavy-DB personnel packages. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in his final college season after racking up 75 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
The Baylor prospect is a fearless defensive back who loves to attack downhill and make plays in the backfield. His athleticism and instincts allow him to quickly read and react after the snap to put himself in position to make the play. While his skills in man coverage are still a question mark, the physical and mental tools are all there for him to be a playmaker in the secondary.
Pick 59: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Two receivers?! If the Packers don’t make a swing at bringing in a veteran wideout before the draft, this could be a very real possibility.
Where Olave is a receiver prospect who wins by creating separation, Georgia’s George Pickens wins by playing like an absolute bully. His explosiveness off the snap allows him to stretch the field vertically, while his aggressive mentality and size can frustrate defensive backs when he plays physically, especially as a blocker. He isn’t afraid to talk some smack after bodying a DB either.
George Pickens has some pop in those mitts! pic.twitter.com/ptwbmqoWHJ— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 14, 2022
A torn ACL during 2021 spring practice kept Pickens off of the field for the majority of his final college season, but he was able to see some snaps in the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff. That knee injury shouldn’t be too big of a concern moving forward given the fact he was still able to make some big plays after returning in the postseason.
Pickens has the size at 6’3” and gritty demeanor that LaFleur will fall in love with. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers took a swing at him earlier if other receiver prospects were already off of the board in the first round.
Pick 92: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
It doesn’t feel like a proper Packers mock draft if they don’t take an offensive linemen. The real question is whether Green Bay goes after a guard or tackle.
With Billy Turner off to play for Denver, the Packers will need to figure out what to do at right tackle. They could move Elgton Jenkins back out to tackle, but it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be ready to play by the time Week 1 comes around. That leaves Yosh Nijman as the most likely internal option for the time being.
Finding a project tackle with some upside isn’t a bad strategy, allowing whoever that is to get some reps on the right side before Jenkins returns and evaluate the situation from there. A great option to do play the role on Day 2 is Washington State’s Abraham Lucas.
Lucas has great athleticism and movement skills to go along with very good football IQ. Packers fans who get frustrated with Royce Newman’s ability to handle twists and stunts will love watching Lucas, who does a great job recognizing any games developing in front of him. I don’t love his anchor, but my colleague Justis Mosqueda pointed out to me that the same thing was said about David Bakhtiari coming out of college.
Most importantly, Lucas meets Green Bay’s usual thresholds for athletic testing. He’s absolutely a prospect they’ll be keeping their eyes on heading into April.