It’s a tale as old as time — Brian Gutekunst trading up in the first round of the NFL draft.
The Green Bay Packers have plenty of needs. They also have plenty of picks. If they plan to move up again this year, 10 picks are enough ammunition to do so. There is a strong class of wide receivers, great depth at offensive line and cornerback, and plenty of linebackers to go around. The Packers could easily wait and fill in these positions, but there are plenty of big playmakers in the first round worth moving up for this year.
Of course, it’s fun to think that Green Bay could go crazy and trade way up. The last time the Packers traded up in the first round, B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews joined the team and a Super Bowl victory followed less than two years later. It’s not even out of the question that they would back out of the first round if that meant they had several early second-round picks. But let’s focus on teams that are logical trading partners come draft day.
That means we remove the top 10 right away. Let’s also take out the division-rival Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings. The Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans don’t have a first-round pick. No one can trust the New England Patriots.
Here are three teams the Packers could trade with to move up in the first round:
The Cardinals made the surprise signing of J.J. Watt after lots of speculation that he would come to Green Bay. Arizona had plenty of salary cap space, quarterback Kyler Murray should break out this season, and former teammate DeAndre Hopkins is also there.
Arizona still needs to build a core of solid players around Watt, Murray, and Hopkins though. Their defense is pretty good, but they could use another impact receiver, running back, and help on the offensive line. Luckily, there are plenty of receivers and linemen in this year’s draft.
Right now the Cardinals only have six draft picks: one in the first, one in the second, one in the fifth, one in the sixth, and two sevenths. That means they have no picks in the third or fourth rounds. Luckily for Green Bay, they have two fourth-round picks. Arizona has the 16th-overall pick, which is a very appealing spot. The Packers could trade their first-round pick at 29 and a fourth-round pick for 16. If they really want a certain player, they could even throw in a sixth-rounder.
If a cornerback like Jaycee Horn drops to 16, Green Bay would be smart to trade up and grab him. Cornerbacks like Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome II could also be available in this range. So if they start getting picked off, the Packers could jump up and get one if cornerback is on their radar. It’s just hard to tell what they really want right now. Cornerback makes sense, but so does an offensive tackle or an additional impact linebacker. They could always throw in a wild card and take a wide receiver.
Just like the Cardinals, the Colts only have six picks in this year’s draft. Another weapon for Carson Wentz and an offensive line to protect him would be nice. An elite defense could take them to the next level. They have the 21st pick in the draft, and the Packers could easily jump up eight spots to snag a player they want.
The Colts don’t have a third-round pick and only have one in the fourth. Green Bay could do a similar deal to the one outlined above and give up 29 and a fourth. I don’t know if the Packers would part with a third to upgrade their first-rounder, but if they keep both fourths it’s possible.
Linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame and Micah Parsons from Penn State might be still available, along with wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Rashod Bateman. Solid offensive lineman are all over this draft, but there are some pretty high tackles available like Teven Jenkins from Oklahoma State and Samuel Cosmi from Texas. Any of those players would look good in green and gold.
One or two of these players might drop, but not many of them. If the Packers are afraid a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers (pick 24), Cleveland Browns (26), and New Orleans Saints (28) might grab someone they have their eye on first, Green Bay should definitely trade up for them.
Jacksonville has 10 picks in this year’s draft just like the Packers. The rub here is that they have two first-round picks. They have the first pick, and it is almost guaranteed they’ll select Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson.
The team would probably prefer to use their second at pick at 25 instead of 29. But with so many positions of need, they could also drop four sports and get an additional draft pick with it. That’s another lineman for Lawrence or defensive depth so they can improve sooner than later. Lots of mocks have the Jaguars taking a safety or secondary. The players available at 25 should also be there at 29.
Green Bay could trade their pick at 29 and one of their two sixth-round picks for 25. As with the Colts pick, they could grab an impact player that teams like the Steelers, Browns, and Saints might also be looking at. Could be a wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher, or offensive lineman. In theory, moving up could mean nothing. It could also mean missing out on your next Hall of Famer. Grabbing linebacker Zaven Collins before the Saints snag him could mean a playoff win if both teams meet next postseason.
Will It Happen?
There are never guarantees in the first round. For every Jaire Alexander, there is a Derek Sherrod. There’s an abundance of good players, so if Green Bay sits tight they will still have a quality player. But players always drop, and the Packers are never afraid to trade up. It’s kind of Gutekunst’s thing.
Will he break tradition? It’s hard to say. No Packers fan is going to complain if the team trades up and gives away a fourth for a player like Jaycee Horn. Plugging him in with Alexander and Kevin King would immediately improve the Packers’ defense. There has to be a year where the Packers’ defense can hold a team to less than 25 points in an NFC Championship again, right?