The Brian Gutekunst era officially kicks off this week, with the Pack’s new GM—armed with a league high 12 picks—set to deliver his initial draft class. Gutey needs to be up to the challenge as the Packers look to remain near the top of a stacked NFC.
It would be beyond surprising if he actually keeps all 12 picks—the smart money says he’ll move up and down a bit and end up drafting nine or ten players. For the purposes of my mock, I’ll make the picks as scheduled, while considering what could happen if Gutey swings a deal.
First, here is how I have the first 13 picks falling:
1. Cleveland: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: I can’t see Dorsey and Wolf swinging for the fences with Josh Allen here.
2. N.Y. Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB Penn St.: Eli’s team is suddenly the least relevant in the division. That won’t work in New York. They bring in an instant star and try to wring a bounce back season out of Manning.
3. N.Y. Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: See above. Jets go with the QB with the most star power and rolls the dice that he grows up quickly.
4. Cleveland: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: He would look SO good in green and gold. Pairs with last year’s #1 to build the foundation of a budding defense.
5. Denver: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Elway’s talking about trading out, but Allen getting mentored by Keenum sounds like a winning combination for now and the future.
6. Buffalo (trade with Colts): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Colts have needs everywhere, so they add a second #1 and give Buffalo their QB of the (near) future.
7. Tampa Bay: Derwin James, S, Florida St: Fits a need for Bucs and has lots of college fans in the area.
8. Chicago: Quentin Nelson, G, Notre Dame: Virtually every mock has this one. Which means it can’t possibly happen.
9. San Francisco: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: Last year’s #1 pick might soon be behind bars. Smith slots in to replace him.
10. Oakland: Tremaine Edmonds, LB, Virginia Tech: He’s young and raw, but Gruden loves him and he fits a need.
11. Miami: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: This might be a spot the Pack looks to move up to to grab Denzel Ward. With top four QBs gone, Fish could look to add picks. If not, they take the best player left on the board.
12. Indianapolis (from Bills): Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Colts D desperately needs some beef and by moving down they get the best nose tackle in the draft.
13. Washington: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio St.: They would look long at hard at the tackle, McGlinchey, and the Pack dearly hopes they do. But Ward’s value is too hard to pass up at a position where they need a playmaker.
If it falls this way, with the top six defensive studs off the board, the Pack brain trust will likely be disappointed. I think they will try hard to move up to 10-12 if one of them is still available. If Ward, James, Fitzpatrick or either of the two LBs are on the board, the Pack takes one of them. But if they’re all gone, I’ve got the Pack drafting:
14. Marcus Davenport, OLB, Texas-San Antonio: The concern, of course, is the small school background. But Davenport appears to have as much or more upside of any pass rusher in the draft. Gutey swings for the fences here that Davenport can navigate the extreme rise in competition and become an instant rotational player in the front seven. With Matthews and Perry always banged up, there is a desperate need for a pass rusher to make things a bit easier for the guys on the back end.
(Bonus pick: I think the Vikes wait on the offensive line until Friday and draft South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert with pick #30, as they envision double tight end looks with Rudolph and the rookie. They deem another weapon for their shiny new QB the top priority).
Round 2 (45) Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado: It would be a huge surprise if the Pack doesn’t pick a corner with one of its first two picks. Oliver has the height and the ability to press at the line that the Pack’s scheme covets. Very athletic kid who has a chance to be a long-time starter, which Packers would need him to be, since Williams and House are likely one-year stopgaps. He can also fill a need as a punt returner.
Round 3 (76) Dante Pettis, WR, Washington: I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gutey move back into the second round to try to lock up the tall, speedy DJ Chark from LSU if he’s still there at around pick 60. If he’s still available, he’s the pick here. If not, Pettis would give the Pack a complement to Adams as a speedy outside threat. His record nine career TDs as a punt returner would give Green Bay a nice new weapon on special teams.
Round 4 (101) Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford: The more things change, the more they stay the same as Gutey continues his run on the Pac 12. Schultz is a complete tight end and will provide the blocking ability the Pack lost with the departure of Richard Rodgers (Jimmy Graham will not be asked to do much blocking). He has good hands, but not great speed. Could be a nice addition for the run game and become a reliable third down target for #12 down the road.
Round 4 (133) Chuks Okorafor, OT, W. Michigan: The Pack may end up addressing their unsettled situation at right tackle sooner, but if they wait, the massive Okarofor would be a solid pick. He’s played both tackle spots and at 6’6” 330, he’s got the measurables to compete at this level. PJ Fleck would call him ‘elite.’
Round 5 (138) Jack Cichy, OLB, Wisconsin: The Somerset native would likely be drafted a couple of rounds higher had he not missed his last 20 games. Despite 18 months of inactivity,the Pack likes the value here to pair him with former teammate Vince Biegel. With 12 picks, the team can afford to roll the dice that Cichy’s health problems are a thing of the past.
Round 5 (172) Quin Blanding, S, Virginia: A four-year starter who played virtually every snap for all four seasons, he’d be an instant addition to the special teams units. Pack needs depth here with the loss of Burnett, but with Jones, Brice and Evans ahead of him on the depth chart, he won’t be counted on for defensive snaps early.
Round 5 (174) Tony Brown, CB, Alabama: Another pick that will be asked to compete right away on special teams. Pack likes his toughness and ability to tackle, but he still needs to work on coverage abilities. Probably projects as a backup throughout his career, but could turn into a solid nickel corner in a couple of years.
Round 6 (186) Matt Gono, G, Wesley: Gutey’s predecessor was very good at finding linemen on day three and let’s hope this kid is the latest. He’s probably a couple of years away, after playing at the Division III level, but the Packers figure to have a couple of in-house candidates to replace Jahri Evans if he isn’t resigned. Gono is big and raw, but has potential to be a starter down the road. Pencil him in for the practice squad in 2018.
Round 6 (207) Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami: At just 5’9” he draws comparisons to Danny Amendola and figures to be featured in the slot in the NFL. Tough, productive player at the U who is also a solid punt returner. He has a shot at stealing Trevor Davis’ roster spot, after Davis ran his mouth at the airport. This would make three rookie candidates to audition as the team’s 2018 punt returner.
Round 7 (232) Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado: After drafting three backs last year, this is not a need pick. But Lindsay is more of a third down, receiving option—something the Pack doesn’t have on the roster. Nicknamed the Tasmanian Devil, Lindsay is a bundle of energy on the field. He’s just 5’9” 190, so he won’t be asked to run between the tackles, but could make the team as a change of pace back.
Round 7 (239) Matt Dickerson, DE, UCLA: Gutey just can’t let a draft go by without one Bruin being drafted. An injury ended his senior year midway through the season, so his draft status is cloudy. Think of him as a poor man’s Dean Lowry—he lands on the practice squad this year and will work to earn a roster spot in 2019.
This is my ninth Packer mock draft and I believe I have gotten precisely one pick right in the nine years: Randall Cobb. I’ll consider the draft an instant success if they are able to grab one of the six elite defenders with the #14 pick. The defense needs a difference maker and all of those guys have a chance to be special.