This weekend’s entertainment mainly focused on loss. Who will survive in the Avengers and the Battle for Winterfell? For the NFL though, the festivities were focused on gaining people rather than losing them. The 2019 draft is over and there are eight new Green Bay Packers, with more to come as the team adds priority undrafted free agents. It’s far too early to know whether or not this draft class is good or bad; these guys haven’t taken an NFL snap yet.
We may not know how these draft picks will do on the field, but there is important insight to be gained from these selections. Despite being with the team for a long time, Brian Gutekunst was largely an unknown as the man in charge. But now Gutekunst has been general manager of the Packers for two drafts; that means his patterns and preferences are more clear to those on the outside.
With two years of data to look at, what are Brian Gutekunst’s draft trends?
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
One of Gutekunst’s priorities since taking over is getting bigger, faster, more explosive athletes. On paper, that’s exactly what he’s done. Relative Athletic Score (RAS) uses measurables and testing numbers to determine how a prospect compares to others in their position group. Based on this metric, the Packers drafted the third-most athletic class in the 2019 draft. Every player but Sternberger had above an 8.0. Gary, in particular, had one of the most impressive scores for an edge, with 9.95.
The 2018 class was similarly loaded with athletic ability. Only Cole Madison (and the two specialists if you want to be a stickler) had a score below 8.0 at their position. Prospects are always a gamble, but Gutekunst has brought in high-upside pure athletes. If nothing else, if Lambeau Field is ever attacked by White Walkers, Green Bay has capable defenders.
Matt LaFleur wants to be a trickster. A renewed emphasis on the run game and versatile players allow him to disguise his intent and keep defenses guessing. Mike Pettine loves to shuffle his defensive players around. Gutekunst shares this approach for players on both sides of the ball. Gary can play on the edge or the interior defensive line. Savage can line up near the line of scrimmage or as a deep safety. Packers’ scouts believe Elgton Jenkins can play any spot on the offensive line in a pinch.
Again, last year’s class is no different. Jaire Alexander can be a slot or outside corner. Josh Jackson has the skills to play safety if needed. Oren Burks is a former safety. All three wide receivers could play slot or boundary. This approach allows the Packers to keep their players fresh, bringing Rashan Gary inside lets Mike Daniels take a breather for example, and allows them to keep opposing coaches guessing.
Minimal contact with his early-round draft choices
In 2018, Jaire Alexander was rarely linked to the Green Bay Packers and had little contact with the team. The same is true of Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage in 2019. None of these future first-round Packers were brought in for a visit or a casual hang.
Yet scouts said they were locked on Gary since February. The Packers clearly had the information they needed on him and didn’t feel the need to bring him in for more. The GM’s early round visit choices could be based on subterfuge, in case someone falls, or simply to answer important questions, but it’s clear Gutekunst doesn’t need to have extended face time with a prospect to draft him.
Much more contact with later-round draft choices
Thompson famously used his pre-draft visits on Day 3 or UDFA types. Gutekunst bucked this trend but still drafted many of his later-round visits. Oren Burks, Kendall Donnerson, J’Mon Moore, and MVS all visited Green Bay before being drafted by them in 2018, and Tim Boyle joined the team as an UDFA. Jace Sternberger and Ka’Dar Hollman had visits before being drafted last weekend. For UDFA signees Curtis Bolton and Randy Ramsey, this won’t be their first visit to Green Bay.