The Packers signed Sammy Watkins yesterday, continuing their annual tradition of filling holes with veterans pre-draft to be able to draft whoever they’d like. Nothing is more certain than the fact that the Packers will draft whoever they’d like.
Of course, the burgeoning Aaron Rodgers as assistant GM relationship may affect this draft more than any non personnel employee has in a long time. Let’s take a look at how the signing should affect the team’s draft plans.
They May Not Take a Wide Receiver in the First-Round
The sole remaining immediate need for the team is a third edge rusher. Don’t be surprised if someone like Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, or maybe Jerry Hughes is signed over the next week or so. The deal would have to be cheap and each of those three is in the prime championship chasing phase of their career.
If one isn’t signed, expect the Packers to take an edge in the first. Even if it means reaching for someone like Arnold Ebiketie or Drake Jackson with the 28th pick. Preston Smith’s new contract has a lot of easy outs, and third edge could very quickly become the weak link on defense.
There are also needs at safety and interior defensive line, which Gutekunst/Thompson have a history of liking in the first round. A Karlaftis/Cine pairing in the first may be disappointing for fans enthused about a first round WR for the first time in close to 20 years, but it would be best for the team.
Ted Thompson specialized in second-round wide receivers (Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb) and while Gutekunst hasn’t taken one yet in his tenure, he was around for each of those picks. Signing Watkins would allow him to make the defense elite in the first-round while mining for a hidden gem like Alec Pierce or Jalen Tolbert in the second and then a speed demon like Tyquan Thornton later on.
They May Take a Wide Receiver in the First-Round
The whole Packers don’t take first-round wide receiver thing has always been about bad luck. Last year the team reportedly loved Rashod Bateman before that it was Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk. Each of those guys was stolen from them and in 2019 they may not have had a first-round graded wide receiver on the board.
There could be some sort of voodoo making it so the team is incapable of taking a first-round wide receiver, but I don’t think it’s policy based. They wouldn’t have offered Davante $28mm a year if they had a policy to devalue wide receivers.
Watkins also isn’t good enough to force the team to forego a receiver pick. The best-case scenario for him is that he actually plays all 16 games, is a reliable deep threat, and maybe squeaks by 800 yards. That’s a WR3 not an alpha who makes it so you can’t take someone else in the first.
Watkins Doesn’t Change Much
Watkins will likely turn out to be a good signing, Gutekunst signings usually are. But, in the end, it’s doubtful that he changes their draft board and Gutekunst will always stick to the board. If the board falls in a way that makes it so they can shore up the defense they will, but they probably would’ve done that even without the signing. If Jameson Williams or Chris Olave falls to the 22nd pick, they’ll probably still pull the trigger.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.