In the fourth and final part of this series, I will focus on all first-round selections made by Green Bay in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Each week I have focused on a grouping of years to try and break down how the Packers fared and what I would have done (either differently or the same).
2016- Kenny Clark, NT
What a find for the Green and Gold in 2016. Clark, who came out of UCLA, was probably one of the few stars selected outside of the stacked top-five, which went Jared Goff-Carson Wentz-Joey Bosa-Zeke Elliott-Jalen Ramsey one through five.
Clark has been a great pairing with trench stalwart Mike Daniels, forming a great duo anchoring the defensive line for (hopefully) years to come. Add in offseason signing Muhammad Wilkerson, and those are three top players to help solidify the line.
Clark took a bit to get into the type of player he is now, as he only started two games, had no sacks and only 21 combined tackles in his rookie season. In 2017, he came into his own, amassing 4.5 sacks, 55 combined tackles and two forced fumbles.
Green Bay struck gold on this selection, as no other first-round selections after fifth have had the type of impact that Clark has had for the Packers.
GB selection: Kenny Clark My selection: Kenny Clark
2017- Kevin King, CB
While Green Bay technically didn’t make a first-round selection in 2017, King was their first selection made in last year’s draft. The team traded out of the 29th spot with Cleveland, and picked up, among others, the first selection in the second round, 33rd overall.
King, who was the sixth cornerback taken in the 2017 draft, faced off against Pac-12 competition, which definitely helped set him up for professional success once in the league. As a Washington Huskie, King had 22 pass knockdowns, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries, including 13 knockdowns alone in his senior campaign.
With how good King became in Washington state, opponents would rarely throw his way, demonstrating the amount of respect opponents had for his skill set, which also speaks for his low stats.
As a 6-3 corner, he is tasked with matching up with the Julio Jones’ and the A.J. Green’s of the world, even as a rookie. In five starts and nine total games (limited to shoulder and other injuries), King had 28 tackles and five pass defenses, but no interceptions.
Being tasked with handling the tallest (and normally best) opposing receivers was baptism by fire for King, but something he responded well to. 2018 is a year that King has a lot to prove but also has shown what he is capable of in the league.
The only player I would have somewhat been more interested in than King was Dalvin Cook, but with our plethora of running backs in the stable, I think King was definitely the correct choice for us in 2017.
GB selection: Kevin King My selection: Kevin King
2018- Jaire Alexander, CB
First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst was a master of deals on draft night in 2018, setting the table for future success while also trying to improve the position most ravaged by inconsistent play and injuries, cornerback.
By selecting Alexander, Gutekunst is taking a chance on a proven ACC defensive back who has the speed and tools to compete at the next level but still needs to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to be an NFL corner.
At Louisville, Alexander made a name for himself with consistent play, coupled with physical coverage and burner speed. Alexander also is a decent returner, with more experience coming on returning punts.
A five-interception junior season put Alexander on the draft radar, and even though he only played in six games his junior season and only had one interception, his potential was out there and he had the pedigree of a first-round talent.
Alexander, coupled with first-round talent Josh Jackson (who was taken in the second round), will have every chance to become an every down contributor for Green Bay. Alexander projects to play in the slot, which reminds me of a Micah Hyde-like contributor who brings speed and intuition to the table, along with returner capabilities.
Similar to 2016, there really aren’t any prospects jumping off the board that went after Alexander that would be better justified being drafted by Green Bay.
As a side note, moving down from 14th to 27th, then back up to 18th, all while picking up a 2019 first-round selection from New Orleans is an absolute steal by Gutekunst and his staff. NO could be one injury away from earning a top-10 selection, which would go directly to GB.
GB selection: Jaire Alexander My selection: Jaire Alexander
With that, that concludes the first-round selection series! Any suggestions for a new series? Let me know in the comments!뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23