Delighted (with a Capital D) with the Draft Decisions.Posted:May 1st, 2022 2:05 pm
All anyone could talk about heading into the draft was what the Packers would do to add to their wide receiver room. And most of the talk after the draft has focused on the surprising trade with the Vikings to move up and get Christian Watson and then finding two more intriguing pass catchers on day three.
I get it, I’m as guilty as anybody of focusing on how the Packers are going to replace the productivity they lost in Davante and MVS. But, here’s the headline of the 2022 Packers draft: If Gutey hits on his two first round Bulldogs, Joe Barry’s defense has a chance to be a top five unit in the league.
There are seven first round picks on this Packers defense. The two Thursday night picks were at spots that have not been traditionally targeted early by the Pack and potentially plugged the only two holes the starting defense faced. I’ve long admired the speed in the middle of the defense that the 49ers and Bucs have year after year. Now by adding the freaky athletic ability and upside of Quay Walker next to De’Vondre Campbell, the Packers have two inside linebackers who can play three downs. Walker is better against the run than the pass right now, and that suits me just fine. He’ll learn what it takes to chase down backs and tight ends and is an instant upgrade over Krys Barnes.
I didn’t expect the Pack to consider De’Vonte Wyatt because at 24, he’s older than they like. But the idea of putting him next to Kenny Clark and knowing how disruptive that pair could be up front, was too much to pass up. Green Bay has settled for the likes of Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster for too long. Both are solid depth pieces—and Lowry had a pretty good season, but Wyatt has a chance to take the defense to another level. Don’t be surprised if Lowry becomes a cap casualty with this selection.
If Walker and Wyatt can step in and have a similar impact that their former teammate Eric Stokes made for the Pack last year, this team will be a Super Bowl favorite, no matter how successful the rookie receivers are.
With Aaron Rodgers running Matt LaFleur’s offense, this team will still average close to 30 points per game, provided Bakhtiari and Jenkins are both back to their pre-ACL selves sooner rather than later. We know the offense will take a step back without Adams, but Rodgers will spread the wealth, showing that his team’s 7-0 record in games #17 missed was no fluke. He won’t force balls to his favorite target and he'll be more inclined to play within the offense and take what the defense gives him.
On to Friday night, where you figured the Pack might be poised to move up in the second round, after seeing how quickly the wideouts flew off the board in round one. If they had their eye on a guy, they had the draft capital to go get him. Who would have ever thought their trade partner would be the Vikings, who after turning the Pack away when they came calling for pick 32, decided to take the same offer for 34?
Christian Watson, whose dad was a Packer draft pick 30 years ago but never made the team, was the apple of their eye and one night after the Vikes allowed Alabama speedster Jameson Williams to join the NFC North in Detroit, they gave the Pack a chance to get the only other receiver they had a first round grade on.
Watson checks all the boxes the Pack was looking for. 6’4”, 4.36 speed, he dominated at the Senior Bowl, quelling concerns about the corners he faced at the FCS level. His team at NDSU was a run first operation and when they decided to throw the ball, everyone in the stadium knew it was going to Watson and he was still uber-productive. It’s not easy to earn early snaps and early respect from Aaron Rodgers, but if Watson can show that the 12 drops he had the last two seasons are a thing of the past (Adams and James Jones had similar concerns coming out of college), he has a chance to impact the passing game from day one.
Their second receiver drafted, Romeo Doubs from Nevada, is another tall, speedy productive pass catcher who was also one of the best put returners in the nation. He’ll instantly take over those duties and challenge for playing time, if he can pick up the offense and develop a rapport with Rodgers. I had him in my mock draft, though in the seventh round, because he has a ton of upside and checks all the athletic boxes the Packers like. With their final pick, the Pack added former Nebraska and Montana receiver Samori Toure, who averaged nearly 20 yards per catch last season. He’s probably a practice squad candidate in ’22.
So, as it stands now, the Packers wide receiver room looks like this: Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, Christian Watsib and Romeo Doubs—these guys are locks. Sammy Watkins is likely to be the sixth, though they didn’t give him a lot of guaranteed money, so if he doesn’t have a strong camp, they could move on. Holdovers Malik Taylor, Juwann Winfree and Toure will also be in the mix. Lots more competition now and they may even look to add a veteran receiver in the coming weeks, now that compensatory picks are no longer figured into free agency additions.
It’s no surprise that the Pack reloaded the offensive line, following the departures of Billy Turner, Lucas Patrick and Dennis Kelly. They’re getting high marks with the guys they added. Sounds like both third round pick Sean Rhyan, out of UCLA and fourth rounder Wake Forest’s Zach Tom could compete for starting spots on the right side of the line right away. If you assume either Elgton Jenkin or Yosh Njiman has the inside track on the right tackle spot, then last year’s starter Royce Newman will face some serious competition and at the very least, the line looks like it will be eight or nine deep, as we’ve grown accustomed to.
The Pack is also getting high marks for fifth round pick, edge rusher Kingsley (JJ) Engabare, who was widely projected as a third round pick. The Pack needs a third rusher, with Za’Darius Smith now in Purple, and Engabare, out of South Carolina, has a chance to beat out Jonathan Garvin and Randy Ramsey.
With four seventh round picks, the Pack threw some darts. Tackle Rasheed Walker out of Penn State reportedly has starter potential at tackle down the road. Georgia Tech safety Tariq Carpenter projects to be an instant mainstay on all four special teams and has a chance to watch Amos and Savage this season, with a chance to be a ’23 replacement for either. He posted a photo of himself as a kid wearing a Packers Super Bowl XLV t-shirt and said he’s always dreamt of playing for the Packers. He becomes an instant fan favorite. Before adding Toure with their last pick, they selected defensive tackle Jonathan Ford out of Miami, who looks the part, but was not very productive as a three year starter with the Hurricanes.
All in all, this 12 man draft class has a chance to contribute quickly on both sides of the ball, and if even half of them pan out, will provide some much needed low cost roster options, as this team deals with its inevitable salary cap issues in the coming year or two.
The Packers gave new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia a couple of new returners (Watson and Doubs) and newcomers like Carpenter, Engabare and Walker to help on all four units.
As long as Rodgers is under center, I will have zero concerns about the offense moving the ball. And if Gutey struck gold with his young puppies out of Georgia, this draft will be remembered as the one that put the Pack’s defense over the top.