Packers Puzzling Draft Leaves Fans With Questions

Packers+Puzzling+Draft+Leaves+Fans+With+Questions

Sportingnews.com

Hunter Firment, Maroon-News Staff

This is a sports-commentary piece, meaning it represents the writer’s individual opinion.

Going into this year’s NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers had a wide receiver group that featured superstar Davante Adams, talented Iowa State alum Allen Lazard and some local backyard football players. All jokes aside, most NFL insiders and football fans would agree that this group needed to improve via the NFL Draft. 

I’m actually one of the more optimistic people about the group’s upside. Young players including Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have flashed glimpses of potential, but they have not been consistent enough to be NFL starters.

Mind you, this draft class featured one of the deepest groups of wide receiver prospects in recent NFL history. Fans were under the impression that the Packers would select a stud pass-catcher with one of their early picks, giving aging superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers another weapon to throw to. However, that was not the case. As the first-ever virtual NFL Draft unfolded, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had other ideas. 

The  Packers’ questionable draft decisions began with a trade. In the first round, the Packers traded the No. 30  (first round) and No. 136 (fourth round) picks to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 26 pick. With that pick, the Packers added… a quarterback, Utah State’s Jordan Love.

You would think that with Rodgers as one of the game’s most talented quarterbacks, a selection in the first round would be used elsewhere. But Gutekunst liked what he saw in Love, despite coming off a season in which he threw an FBS-leading 17 interceptions. Love is heralded by most analysts as a guy with huge arm talent who is a bad decision-maker. In essence, he is a development project. 

A team that was one game away from a Super Bowl appearance last year went with a project that raised several red flags. First, what does this move say to Rodgers? He needs a couple of key pieces and in the perfect spot to snag a receiver, with talented wide receiver prospects on the board like Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Baylor’s Denzel Mims, the organization decides to take his successor. Are the Packers planning for the future without Rodgers?

The problematic situation only got worse when the Packers selected Boston College running back A.J. Dillon with their No. 62 overall pick in the second round. The 247-pound running back is a solid power back, but the Packers already have star Aaron Jones (who led the NFL in touchdowns in 2019) and a viable backup in running back Jamaal Williams. The two were a formidable one-two punch for the entirety of the 2019 season. 

Packers fans were still hopeful that they would get a late-round steal at wide receiver and leave the draft feeling optimistic, then the rest of the draft unfolded. For the remainder of the Packers’ selections, the Packers took a tight end, a linebacker, three offensive linemen (in a row), a safety and an edge rusher. 

While those are all closer to genuine immediate needs for Green Bay, there was no receiver. Not a single one. The Green Bay Packers entered an NFL Draft in which 37 wide receivers were taken and left with none.

So after the draft’s conclusion, the Packers’ wide receiver room includes Adams, Lazard, Devin Funchess (from the Indianapolis Colts), Reggie Begelton (from the CFL), Jake Kumerow, Valdes-Scantling, St. Brown, Darius Shepherd and Malik Taylor. They did sign one undrafted free agent wide receiver, Michigan State’s Darrell Stewart, but he is not likely to make the roster. 

However, in post-draft interviews, both head coach Matt LaFleur and GM Gutekunst were optimistic about the group. They stated that the guys they had on their board to select at receiver were not available for the Packers’ first-round pick and they did not like the late-round receivers enough to take one. This is definitely an interesting take when the Packers at pick No. 26 had the opportunity to have their choice of Higgins, Mims and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, among several other talented players that were targeted by teams in later rounds. 

The Packers also did not draft any cornerbacks, a position of need heading into the draft. They also have not resigned veteran corner Tramon Williams. If they do not find another corner in the offseason, younger players like Josh Jackson and Chandon Sullivan could be forced into starting roles come Week One. If they are able to bring Tramon back, it should be a fairly strong group barring injuries. 

The Packers did strengthen their offensive line which desperately needed depth, especially after losing a Green Bay legend, tackle Bryan Bulaga. 

Michigan interior lineman Jon Runyan was, in my opinion, the team’s best draft pick and is a versatile player in the trenches. He can play both guard and tackle, and the Packers will likely use him at both positions in his first year in Green Bay. 

They also added some role players on both sides of the ball. In a recent interview with USA Today, Matt LaFleur said Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara will be used in a Kyle Juszyzch role. Juszyzch was a fullback extraordinaire for the San Francisco 49ers during their Super Bowl run last season. He could catch out of the backfield and block, and LaFleur sees some of the same attributes in Deguara. 

Dillon may get some touches next season, and with Jamaal Williams’ contract expiring in 2021, Dillon may be the backup for the future. 

Linebacker Kamal Martin from Minnesota will be a rotation guy in a linebacker group that just added ex-Cleveland Brown Christian Kirksey in free agency. 

But leaving the draft without a day one starter at any skill position is a head-scratcher. LaFleur and Gutekunst are putting a lot of faith into the group of guys returning from last season, which after a 13-3 year and an NFC Championship game appearance (albeit, they were destroyed by the 49ers), does make some sense. 

However, you have to think Rodgers and company would have liked a little bit of help on the outside. It will be interesting to see how the Packers deal with their wide receiver group and if they have any potential moves in mind before the 2020-2021 NFL season.