While much of the past week’s news cycle has been focused on the Packers’ past, it’s time to focus on the future. The NFL draft is less than three weeks away and the Packers have a new head coach, two first-round draft picks, and a GM eager to make his mark on Packer history. Bad drafts have put a pox on this team, but the cupboard isn’t bear. The Packers have a top-five wide receiver, the best pass blocking left tackle in the league, ascending stars on defense, and a quarterback that could beat Thanos (even with the Infinity Gantlet).
If the Green Bay Packers can have a good draft, get the new offense to gel quickly, and avoid the injury plague, there is no reason to believe they can’t be contenders again with a short turnaround. That first bit is paramount: the Packers need to hit on their draft picks.
I’m putting my couch GM hat on again and offering my top five options for the Green Bay Packers with pick 12. There are at least 20 names I’ve seen that “won’t be available by pick 12,” but for the purposes of this exercise there are only four players I’ll assume will be unavailable: Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Quinnen Williams.
Ed Oliver, iDL Houston
Oliver being available at 12 would be both a blessing and a no-brainer for the Packers. He offers an absolutely ridiculous athletic upside and plays like a streaking comet in the night sky: compact, blazing-fast, and an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Oliver followed up an impressive combine with an incredible pro day. His athletic numbers would be top teir for about six different positions. There are concerns about his size and fit in a 3-4 system, but Mike Pettine is a creative DC that loves interior pass rush. If anyone can utilize Oliver correctly, it’s Pettine. Mike Daniels enters the last year of his deal, and third contracts are a rarity in Green Bay. Bringing in Oliver prepares the Packers, and pairing Oliver with Kenny Clark keeps the d-line a strength for years to come.
T.J. Hockenson, TE Iowa
The Packers have skimped on spending high draft capital on offensive weapons for years; it’s time to get Aaron Rodgers the present he deserves. Hockenson is the perfect player for Matt LaFleur’s offense, which thrives off of misdirection, a strong ground game, and RPO. Hockenson can block like a lineman, run routes like a wide receiver, and make me smile like a cold six-pack of High Life. The Iowa star provides LaFleur with a versatile weapon that highlights the strengths of his offense. Watch George Kittle in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and imagine Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback instead of the randomly generated Madden QBs the 49ers had for a taste of what this could look like.
Brian Burns, EDGE Florida State
The Packers loaded up on edge rushers in free agency, but as the old saying goes, “you can never have too many pass rushers.” I think Lincoln said that. Burns is a big guy with Gumby-like flexibility and a utility belt of pass rush moves. He wins with speed and compliments the Smiths, who win with power, nicely. Drafting Burns would offer Pettine some fun options on defense: the depth could let him keep all of his rushers fresh and play them all in their best situations or he can play Za’Darius Smith on the interior more frequently and pair Preston Smith and Burns on the outside.
Devin Bush Jr., LB Michigan
This draft class not only has two top-tier off-ball linebackers, but two top-tier off-ball linebackers named Devin. A stellar combine performance showed his high athletic upside and alleviated some of his size concerns, and many, including this author, consider Bush the top linebacker in the class. Bush would be an ideal defensive field general for the Packers: he has the speed and athleticism to roam the field, the moxie to deliver hits, and the instincts to be a playmaker and leader. Due to cap tightness, Blake Martinez’s future in Green Bay is unclear after this season. Drafting Bush makes a lot of sense.
Dalton Risner, OL Kansas State
The versatile Risner is in a strange spot where pick 12 might be too rich, but he may be gone by 30. But no matter where he would play on the line or where the Packers would draft him, Risner would be an ideal Packer. With experience at center and right tackle, he has the positional versatility Green Bay loves in their lineman. Risner could easily be the answer at the elusive right guard position or the heir apparent to Brian Bulaga at right tackle. Risner is tenacious and plays with attitude. Off the field, he’s already shown to philanthropic and charitable: he already has his own nonprofit organization. He’s an eloquent and direct public speaker. Risner fits everything one could want in a Green Bay Packer.