Packers XLV

Packers' Draft Strategy Is Daring, With No Margin for Error.

Posted April 28th, 2019 @ 05:04pm

You can say one thing about the drafting mind of Brian Gutekunst: he's willing to take chances and he did just that on opening night of his second go-around running the Pack's draft--just as he did a year ago.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that when the Packers were on the clock at 12, their highest drafting position in a decade, I had some firm opinions: my top options were Brian Burns, Christian Wilkins, Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat or Marquise Brown. Guys I didn't want: Noah Fant and Rashan Gary.


It's not that I don't think Gary has the potential to be a star; I mocked him to the Lions at eight. It's just that he has 'boom or bust' written all over him and I thought there were some surer bets still on the board. I'm never a fan of 'freak' athletes whose numbers blow you away, but whose play doesn't match the measurables. I'm also not crazy about drafting those kinds of players who also happen to be injured. Gary disputes the torn labrum report, pointing to the 26 bench reps he did at the combine. But it sounds like his labrum will need some medical attention at some point.

By all accounts, he lives and breathes football, always practices hard and wants to get better. Anybody that runs a 4.6 at 277 pounds gets your attention. His physical attributes are similar to Za'Darius Smith and it sounds like they expect Gary to be in the outside linebacker rotation. Others believe he's better suited up front. Regardless, Mike Pettine likes to move everybody around in the front seven and Gary should be able to do that eventually. With the Smiths, Clark, Daniels, Lowry and Martinez, there are a lot of high character, productive players in the Pack's front seven who should be able to help unlock his potential.

There is a level of bust-ability with this pick and if Gary doesn't become a difference-maker, and I have my doubts that he will, the Pack will have whiffed on a big opportunity to help this team reload at a critical time.

Gutey's day one daring continued later in the first round when he parted with both early fourth round picks to move up nine spots to grab Maryland's Darnell Savage. He insisted he was certain he wouldn't have lasted to 30 and we'll never know for sure, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he thought Savage was worth the move, despite fellow free safeties like Adderley and Thornhill likely available at 30.

The Savage pick is getting the most love nationally among the Pack's new rookie class. When comps to Bob Sanders are being made, that gets my attention. Savage plays with an edge, like last year's first round pick and that's just what this defensive unit needs. He should step right into a starting spot next to Adrian Amos, with the ability to move up and play the slot corner at times, if needed. A versatile, hard-hitting, fast safety who is known to lead by example? A guy who one scout competed to the Honey Badger, without all the noise? I'm in.

Friday night, I went to the Avengers movie with my family, so I wasn't watching pick by pick. I had wide receiver on the brain, seeing all the big names sitting out there and knowing what a slot guy or a speed guy could do in Matt LaFleur's offense. The fact that Gutey ignored this position entirely, tells you that he believes in the three guys he drafted last year, along with Allison's return and Kumerow's possible rise. I still think they'll keep their eyes open for a veteran.

Instead, the Packers addressed the offensive line with the addition of Elgton Jenkins, the center/guard out of Mississippi State. After reading about his length, versatility and quickness, it's clear why the team pounced. He will immediately give Lane Taylor a run for his money at left guard, with free agent signee Billy Turner likely moving in at right guard. Assuming Bryan Bulaga has one year left in him, the Pack will hope that either Turner or Jenkins can be the long-term solution as his successor--or they'll reload in next year's draft.

The guard spot was a huge question mark a month ago, but with Jenkins, Turner and the return of last year's draftee Cole Madison, there is suddenly depth and competition there. There's a chance that Taylor, McCray and Patrick--last year's guards, could all end up out on the street.

I loved the third round pick, Jace Sternberger. The Pack had to find a young, athletic tight end who could cause matchup problems and the Texas A&M product could be just that. In most scouting reports, he was listed as the third or fourth best tight end in this class and may just be scratching the surface. After leaving Kansas and playing JC for a year, he broke out with the Aggies--so he's a one year wonder. I heard him compared to Travis Kelce on draft night and he says he plans to work as hard on blocking as he does on route running. He was not asked to do a lot of that at A&M. He'll learn from Graham and Lewis this year and likely get a chance to contribute quickly. If all goes well, he'll be the starter in 2020.

On to Saturday, where the Pack had to sit out the fourth round; payment for moving up for Savage. After an interminable wait, the Pack was finally on the clock at 150. My favorite RB, Memphis' Tony Pollard was gone (fourth round to the Cowboys), but there were a number of nice backs on the board. Gutey had other ideas, adding a defensive lineman, and teammate of Sternberger, Kingsley Keke. Reading his draft profiles, he projects as an ascending player with the physical tools to be a starter at some point. With Mike Daniels heading to free agency after this season, the Pack add another player to compete for that spot, along with Lowry, Lancaster, Adams and maybe Gary. It's tough to pass on another DL from the SEC, Gutey's clearcut favorite conference.

There was no way Gutey was going through the draft without adding a cornerback. Toledo's Ka'dar Hollman is a 4.37 speedster who has a chance to develop into a rotational corner, once he learns not to play with his hands (hopefully he won't study Josh Jackson's technique). He came up the hard way after going to work after high school and fighting his way to Toledo and now a day three draft pick. There are question marks at this position despite all the draft capital in recent years, so he'll have a shot.

The Pack finally added a running back with its next pick and Dexter Williams will have a chance to contribute immediately. He's had more than one issue off the field at Notre Dame but the Pack feels comfortable that those things are behind him. The emotional story of his mom facing terminal illness, yet planning to move to Green Bay with him, makes it hard not to root for him. LaFleur believes he's a perfect fit with his running style. Let's just hope that his nickname, Juice, doesn't portend bad things to come.

With the final pick, the Packers finally added an inside linebacker and they're getting good reviews on the addition of Ty Summers, from TCU. He was projected as a fourth or fifth rounder and appears to be a speedier version of Jake Ryan. He'll have a chance to contribute immediately on special teams and if he turns heads might get a chance on defense at some point as well.

Draft grades are like mock drafts: meaningless. But they're fun to read and reaction to the Pack's class ranges from A (Pro Football Focus) to C+ (Mel Kiper), with a bunch of Bs in between.

I think this class will ultimately be judged by what the two first rounders become. Gutey and his staff need to hit on these two picks. If they do, Pettine's defense could become the strength of this team in short order. If they don't, we could be in for another year of mediocrity.

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Comments (12):

Anyone hear Davey on his morning show yesterday? He was concerned about the Vikings drafting of the best center in the draft. They should have went OT. He was then wondering if the Packer TE may end up better than the Viking TE. Then when against the Packers first pick, he convinced himself he is ok with that. I love homers!

on April 28th, 2019 at 06:03pm

You guys sure Ted Thompson isn't still running the show? Cuz this draft absolutely stunk to high heaven! Drafting injured players w/o a position. Trading a boat load of picks to move up for a guy who was gonna be there the next round. And just drafting bad players overall. Gutey is worse than TT.

on April 29th, 2019 at 02:00pm

Well, the draft is complete. 2 first round picks - one unproductive workout warrior and an overdrafted safety. One can't help but wonder how many 1st or 2nd round picks this team will need before getting the D-backfield right. Out of the last 7 1st/2nd round picks since 2015 only Alexander is better than garbage and even he is only mediocre. LaFleur doesn't have the cred to demand respect from an HOF QB. This team is going to be a dumpster fire next year and Rodgers will be the one striking the match.

on April 29th, 2019 at 03:03pm

Oh Synner - yore nickname will become Spinner if you try spinning cr@p like this any more. See at the family lunch on Sunday, honey. Love - Yore Mom

on April 29th, 2019 at 03:37pm

The worst 1st round by any team in the draft and that includes the Raiders debacle.

on April 29th, 2019 at 03:56pm

Roscoe Lombardi here telling all my fellow Rodgers fans, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Now we have the best team in the league, but his new GM ain't doing us any favors. As long as we have #12 slinging the rock, we'll win the Super Bowl, as has been proven time and time again. But this new GM, Gesundheit, ain't so much as a patch on the trap door of Ted Thompson's wool underwear. If brains were gasoline, this here GM wouldn't have enough to drive a piss-ant gokart around a Cheerio. Like my daddy, former Redskin coach Vince Lombardi used to say, "he's more confused than a blind lesbian at the fish market." This draft smelled worse than the north end of a south bound pole cat. Like my daddy used to say, "Phony as double D implants on an anorexic stripper."

on April 29th, 2019 at 04:27pm

I'll wait to see how they play before either raving or ranting. But one interesting thing I ran across is how this draft group rates on a measuring system called Relative Athletic Score (RAS.) According to that the Packers have the third most athletically gifted group in this year's draft, just behind the LA Chargers and New Orleans. On a scale of 1-10 the Packers' RAS score is 8.5. 7 of 8 score 8.0 or better and 4 are 9.0 or higher, including top pick Rashan Gary. What this means is that they are rated very high for size, speed and explosiveness. Put this group together with last year's draft and take a look at the entire Packers roster now and it's evident the new coaching regime has "stuff" to work with going forward.

on April 29th, 2019 at 05:37am

Well...another year Head Cheese and I are shut out on our Packer Mock Draft. I believe that if Pittsburgh would not have traded up to 10 to get the guy I mocked..Devin Bush.. Gutey was set to take him. Pitt fleased him on this and thus they went for his teamate Gary. The time they took to make the pick tells me they were very surprised. That being said immediate help is probably coming with Savage....a safety who can run and cover and tackle...something our safety's hace lacked since Nick Collins. Teamed with Amos they will make a nice tandem. The only other immediate 2019 contributor I see is Dexter Williams a nice complement to Jones and Big Williams. The other guys will be rotational players for the most part with Gary getting a chance to see if he is ready. Gutey went for athletes like PackLifer said that can be hopefully coached up in time. Still interesting to see who will play in the slot. GO PACK GO !!

on April 29th, 2019 at 10:49am

We the Vikings supposedly have the best draft every year,what have we the Vikings won,your right Greg, I love Homers!!

on April 29th, 2019 at 11:44am

Well, they tripled down edge rushing like I wanted even if it's not guy I was thinking. I really kinda wanted Sweat. I don't know why. Now is when they sell us on how underrated each late round pick we took was and try build story lines and interest in OTAs. We won't know anything until late in the preseason. They did basically nothing at wide out. So they must really trust that one or two of the three rookies from last year are going to figure it out. We are all still just holding our breath since we have this new coach. It really feels like they trying to catch lightening in a bottle this year versus playing it safe, but maybe that's just how the media is writing. I don't know. I want to be optimistic, I really do.

on May 1st, 2019 at 09:31pm

Looking at the draft in context with the overall team prospects:

on May 2nd, 2019 at 05:37am

ProFootballFocus rates Packers as most improved team in NFC North with their draft:

on May 3rd, 2019 at 05:37am

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