The 2021 NFL draft begins in earnest this Thursday in lovely Cleveland, Ohio. After months of speculation in a unique predraft process, teams will acquire their new players and prove most of the speculation wrong. With 10 picks and a history of going against the grain when it comes to their selections, the Green Bay Packers are one of the more challenging teams to predict.
In an act of solidarity with the media, I, too, will provide my gut feelings towards this year’s Packer draft class.
Trading up in round one
In each of his three years as general manager, Brian Gutekunst has moved around the board in the first round. Based on Gutekunst’s comments yesterday, he believes the Packers’ roster is in a good spot, and the 2021 class is strong.
Without forcing himself to draft for need, Gutekunst can go and get his guy regardless of position. While many teams might try to drop down for 2022 picks, the Packers have 10 picks and not a lot of cap space. Maximizing this class by taking their favorite guys, giving up some lower picks to do so, just makes sense. Indianapolis and Pittsburgh make sense as trade-up partners. Who might the Packers jump up for? That I can’t predict.
The Packers will take a wide receiver in the first three rounds
Despite the (dumb) narrative that the Packers don’t give Aaron Rodgers enough support, the Packers have done well protecting Rodgers, giving him a stellar ground game, and resigning the players that make his life easier. With most of their wide receivers on expiring contracts, however, it’s time for the Packers to dip their toes in the deep WR pool of the 2021 class.
This move looks towards the future more than patching an immediate need and allows them to develop their next star receiver while also making Rodgers’ (or Love’s) life easier.
Packers will relax measurement thresholds
Speaking of wide receivers, 2021 is considered as historically deep as 2020s class. The big caveat this year is that while 2020 featured a lot of big, outside types, 2021 has a lot of smaller slot/gadget types. Meanwhile, there are a plethora of smaller, nickel-type cornerbacks throughout the draft.
The Packers are traditionally stingy with height requirements, but breaking the rules isn’t unheard of. Randall Cobb was the shortest receiver they’ve drafted, and Jaire Alexander was smaller than their prototypical cornerback. With needs at both positions and different schemes than in the past, this seems the year to break the mold and take a risk on some smaller guys.
The Packers will double up: at offensive line
Taking one of the talented offensive tackles in the first round would make sense, but the Packers have been successful in finding offensive line starters in the later rounds. Just last year, the Packers took three offensive linemen in round six. I expect a similar approach this year. In a Thunderdome-style gladiatorial battle (read training camp battle), expect the Packers to take multiple tackle and center prospects in the draft and let the best ones emerge.
The Packers exit the draft without a defensive lineman
There’s an argument to be made that the Packers’ biggest need is along the defensive trenches; Kenny Clark simply doesn’t have much help. However, outside of the few top guys, there isn’t much talent in this year’s class along the defensive line. The Packers don’t force themselves to draft for need and likely will look for cheap veterans after the draft or UDFAs instead of risking a draft pick.
Any predictions of your own? Leave them in the comments!Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.