Last year, the Green Bay Packers shocked just about everyone when they selected Jordan Love in the first round of the NFL Draft. We all know the story by now, but when you set aside all the chaos, it was a future-minded move. They followed it up by selecting AJ Dillon out of Boston College in the second round. With Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams already on the roster for 2020 and both being proven, multi-faceted backs, it was another pick made with the next few years in mind.
Because of what the Packers did in 2020 —and how close to a championship they still appear to be — it’s time to flip the draft blueprint for 2021.
Saying that the formula needs to be opposite this year isn’t a knock against Love and Dillon. It has to do with where the Packers are right now. Aaron Rodgers just took home another MVP award. They were the one-seed in the NFC and played in an NFC title game at Lambeau Field for the first time in No. 12’s career — and he’s been in five NFC Championship games. Davante Adams emerged as a legitimate candidate for the best wide receiver in the entire league. Guys like Darnell Savage, Jaire Alexander, Elgton Jenkins, and Robert Tonyan took their games to the next level.
While it’s fine to keep perspective on the future, if there was ever a time for the Packers to draft instant-impact players, it’s now.
We know about their salary cap problems. They’ve already cut Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner, and they restructured David Bakhtiari‘s contract to flip a large chunk of his roster bonus into signing-bonus money to be paid out over the next few years. But there are still plenty of moves left to be made for the Packers to gain some leverage when it’s time to ink free agents to contracts. Even if they manage to wiggle some money loose, odds are good it won’t be enough to encourage any sort of free-agency spending spree. This puts Green Bay’s focus on the draft.
Regardless of how the draft plays out in front of the Packers before they select at 29 — assuming they stay put — there will be numerous options for prospects who can make an impact right away. While the Love pick was a curveball, this year is not the time for a similar selection. And I don’t mean quarterback. Obviously they aren’t going that route, right?
It’s a joke. You can laugh or roll your eyes; either is acceptable.
Heading into the draft there are names like Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue), Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa), and Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan) that all project to go late in the first round or early in the second. All three play at positions that the Packers need to address this offseason, and all three seemingly wouldn’t have trouble finding the field immediately.
It doesn’t have to be those exact guys. They are just examples, and they could go before Green Bay selects at 29. The point is that they need to go this route, taking players who are pro-ready now, if they really want to legitimize the front office’s claims that there’s a championship window now.
Fans have been clamoring for a while to add another good wide receiver. Logic tells us Green Bay won’t be handing over a bag to add Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, or Will Fuller. They just don’t have the financials for it right now. Look to the draft.
Same with the offensive line. If they don’t bring back Linsley, they sure as hell aren’t going to be signing anyone better than him in free agency, so look at guys you can draft and plug in right away. The Packers took three offensive linemen last year, all in the sixth round. All three came with reputations that suggested they wouldn’t be starters right away, but they have potential. This year they need someone like a Mayfield, or like an Alex Leatherwood, who can come in and bolster that offensive line from the get-go in training camp.
Last year the Packers made moves looking towards the future. And those bridges, or THAT bridge with the quarterback situation, will have to be crossed at some point. If Green Bay would’ve gone 10-6 last year and flirted in the playoffs before bowing out, we would be having very different conversations right now about this offseason. Instead of J.J. Watt rumors, you’d probably be hearing about a more conservative approach from Green Bay.
But the 2020 Packers were quite literally a couple of plays away from the Super Bowl. Last year’s draft was about looking ahead. What was accomplished in 2020 warrants a different approach come April.