Heading into his fourth draft class as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst has shown the type of GM he can be early on in his career, trading up in the first round all three of his previous drafts. With the 2021 NFL Draft just over two months away, Gutekunst will need to reign in his thought process for how he wants to upgrade this team through the draft.
For upgrading the offense, this draft will produce many Day 2 and Day 3 contributors, an element that will help improve the likelihood of keeping this team competent and competitive moving forward. Surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers with offensive additions is the name of the game at this point, something that has earned various degrees of reviews over the past three classes.
Focusing specifically on running backs, wide receivers, and offensive linemen, the copious amount of talent spread throughout all seven rounds will help Green Bay maximize their pick allotment, which will grow once the compensatory selections are released. Getting to utilize double-digit selections is what has helped keep Gutekunst aggressive in moving around the board in early rounds, and this draft should be no different.
With your household names (Najee Harris, Travis Etienne) that will be off the board within the first two rounds, there are also plenty of mid-tier options that Gutekunst could look to if either Aaron Jones and/or Jamaal Williams departs in free agency.
Two RBs out of the University of North Carolina (Michael Carter, Javonte Williams), Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis), Chubba Hubbard (Oklahoma State), and Trey Sermon (Ohio State) lead the next cropping of options. Of this group, Carter, Gainwell, and Williams should be looked at as the best ones, and could very easily be there for the taking in round 3.
Late-round options for GB include Kylin Hill (Mississippi State), Jaret Patterson (Buffalo), Elijah Mitchell (Louisiana), Demetric Felton (UCLA), and Larry Roundtree (Missouri) – these five all come into the league with various physical attributes and would fill different roles in Green Bay (Felton would be a solid Tyler Ervin replacement).
The most cried-for group in all position groups by fans wanting to improve this team, this year’s wide receivers should stand toe-to-toe with last year’s class, which produced Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, Jalen Reagor, and others.
Led by three SEC options in Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle (both from Alabama), this draft class has a ton of firepower – unless GB is sold on climbing into the top 12 for any of these three options, they will not be there at the end of the first round.
If wanting to add a WR option later in the first round, the likes of Rondale Moore (Purdue), Kadarius Toney (Florida), Rashad Bateman (Minnesota) would constitute likelier selections at the end of the first round.
For Day 2 or 3 selections, Elijah Moore (Ole Miss), Dyami Brown (UNC), Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC and Equanimeous’ brother), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State), Terrace Marshall Jr. (LSU), and D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan) are projected to go anywhere from rounds 2-5, providing later value for Green Bay to take advantage of.
This is an area that will certainly be under the microscope heading into the ‘21 season, for many reasons.
With left tackle David Bakhtiari going through his torn ACL recovery, the LT starting spot will be a bit of an unknown to start the year. Plus, with starting right tackle Rick Wagner recently cut to help save money (and with Wagner contemplating potential retirement), both bookend spots are up for grabs.
On the interior, starting center Corey Linsley headlines the center group in free agency, and while not cheap he certainly should be top priority for the team to resign. Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick return, as does Jon Runyan Jr., who impressed in his rookie season, to help carry over some semblance of consistency for next season.
When looking at the draft, the top tackle options are Penei Sewell (Oregon) and Rashawn Slater (Northwestern), two options that will likely be gone before the 12th selection. Interior-wise, Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) looks to be the only sure-fire 1st-round inside lineman, with Wyatt Davis (Ohio State) and Trey Smith (Tennessee) just outside.
If looking to use a Day 1/2 pick on upgrading the OL, the likes of Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State), Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame), Samuel Cosmi (Texas), Jalen Mayfield (Michigan), Alex Leatherwood (Alabama), and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) would be ripe for the picking.
In terms of guards/centers, Green Bay could look to Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State), Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame), Jackson Carman (Clemson), Quinn Meinerz (UW-Whitewater), Landon Dickerson (Alabama), or Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma) across the first three rounds of the draft.
Understanding the needs of this team moving forward is only one piece of the puzzle, but the options to help get this team over the hump are there – just remains to be seen how Gutekunst and the front office will address those holes moving forward.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