Draft week is finally here and with ten picks, including two in the first round and three in the top 44, Brian Gutekunst and his staff have a chance to add some key pieces to the roster and give their new coach some guys that fit the way they want to play on offense.
At #12 and #30, I think there is a good chance that Gutey will field offers to move down and add picks. For this year’s exercise, I’m factoring in a pair of trades that, in the end, net Gutey one first round pick and three seconds.
A reminder that in the eight years I’ve done this, I’ve gotten exactly one player right: Randall Cobb. So take that with a grain of salt. Here’s how I see the top of the draft falling, followed by my picks for the Pack.
1–Arizona: Kyler Murray, QB Oklahoma
2–SF: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
3–N.Y. Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
4–Oakland: Ed Oliver, DE, Houston
5–Tampa Bay: Devin White, LB, LSU
6–N.Y. Giants: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
7–Jacksonville: Jawann Taylor, OT, Florida
8–Detroit: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
9–Buffalo: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
10–Denver: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
11–Cincinnati: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
12–Packers: TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa–If a top defender like Oliver, White or maybe even Bush is still on the board, I think the Pack would go in that direction. But if the draft falls this way, I think the Pack will pounce on the multi-faceted Hockenson, who can step in quickly and be a capable blocker in the run game and provide a reliable third down and red zone target, as well as a downfield threat. I’ve seen him mocked to the Jags, Lions, Bills and Bengals, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be there at 12, but ultimately, those teams have bigger needs and I don’t see them picking him. A number of prominent mocks have the Pack taking TJ’s Hawkeye teammate Noah Fant here, but it seems too early to me. Fant could be in play at 30 if the Pack go in another direction here, but if TJ is gone, I see the Pack taking Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins at 12. He’s everything you want in a D lineman, versatile, smart, a leader, extremely athletic and would look great alongside Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. With the latter a pending free agent, he provides some insurance as well. A sneaky wildcard here is Notre Dame’s DT Jerry Tillery, whom the Pack loves and who got a positive medical report on his shoulder this week.
(2) 36–Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio St.–The Packers trade down six slots and grab a Randall Cobb replacement that could become a taller version of Percy Harvin. The Packers trade pick 30 to San Francisco, for picks 36 and 105. Campbell is exactly the kind of player that the Packers lack and that LaFleur covets. A former track star, he has blazing speed and can be used in jet sweeps, bubble screens and serve as a threat in the middle of the field. He also steps into the long vacant kick returner role.
(2) 44–Juan Thornhill, FS, Virginia–Safeties are likely to fall off the board at the top of the second round (along with wide receivers) but the guy the Packers covet is still on the board here. A three time state champion high school basketball player, he would complement Adrian Amos perfectly, handling centerfield duties while Amos patrols near the line of scrimmage. This is a huge position of need for the Pack and they should have their choice of several good ones here.
2 (62)–Max Scharping, OT, N. Illinois– Gutey jumps back into the bottom of the second round by swinging a trade with the Chiefs, who have yet to make a selection, but are willing to wait a little longer for an extra pick. Green Bay sends #75 and #114 to the Chiefs for this pick, where the Pack plucks the Green Bay native to learn under Bryan Bulaga for a year (or until he gets injured) and then step into the right tackle spot. Scharping dominated from day one at NIU and has proven in the post-season and at the combine that he can compete with the big boys. Pass protection needs some work, but he’s expected to excel as a run blocker right out of the gate. We Packer fans just hope that this move works out better than the last time the Pack traded back into the second round to grab a tackle.
(4) 105–Germaine Pratt, ILB, NC State–As usual, the Packers will find a former safety-turned linebacker in the Oren Burks mold (and maybe Josh Jones, too). Pratt didn’t become a starter until his senior season, but had a breakout year for the Wolfpack, earning first team all ACC honors. With Jake Ryan’s departure, the Packers hope Pratt competes with Burks to earn snaps in Pettine’s defense.
(4) 118–Austin Bryant, DL, Clemson–If the Packers don’t land a defensive lineman before Saturday, Bryant would fit the bill as their first pick of the day. A two year starter who’s obviously played on college football’s biggest stage, Bryant needs to get stronger, but won’t be counted on a lot in 2019.
(5) 150–Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis–The Packers need to add a quality third back and Pollard gives the Pack a different kind of runner, who also provides much needed return skills–he returned seven kicks for touchdowns with the Tigers. Watch a YouTube collection of his highlights and you will see what he could add to the offense. He’s a terrific pass catcher and gadget play guy who would be an ideal third down addition to the running attack.
(6) 185–Porter Gustin, OLB, USC –Gustin reminded many of Clay Matthews when he arrived at USC, but those comparisons ended quickly because he couldn’t stay on the field, missing a majority of his last two seasons. He works his butt off though and is as intense as they come, so the Pack take a flyer that he can stay healthy and try to untap that potential at the NFL level.
(6) 194–Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington St. –There’s been a lot of speculation about whether the Packers might draft a QB early this year, since Brett Favre was the same age as Rodgers when Green Bay pounced on #12 in 2005. I think they’ll wait till late in the draft to take a flyer and Minshew is intriguing. He doesn’t have the strongest arm but he understands how to play and stepped into a difficult role with the Cougars (after the suicide of Tyler Hilinski) and led them to 11 wins. Packers bring him to camp and see if he can beat out Boyle for the QB3 role.
(7) 226–Blace Brown, CB, Troy–Surely the Pack can’t go through a draft without adding a cornerback, so they take a shot on Brown, a nephew of Herschel Walker and a converted wide receiver. He tore his ACL near the end of the ’17 season and wasn’t fully himself last season, but teams like his instincts and football IQ. Could become a special teams ace and a rotational corner, for a group that has some question marks after Alexander.
Alright, faithful readers: take your shots and give me your thoughts on what you hope or think the Packers will do in the draft. As always, I’ll analyze the first three rounds and look ahead to the later rounds on “In the Zone,” Saturday at 8am on KFAN and iHeart Radio.