The Green Bay Packers have plenty of positions of need entering this year’s draft. Even after a season that saw them go 13-3 for a second consecutive year under Matt LaFleur, there are holes to fill on the roster.
What the Packers do early on is anyone’s guess, but many believe they will focus on defense with their first couple of picks. With needs for a second cornerback behind Jaire Alexander, a tag-team partner for Kenny Clark up front on the defensive line, and maybe even another inside linebacker, that priority would make sense for Brian Gutekunst and co. If they go defense first, they could still address the offense and hit a sneaky jackpot by selecting Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the middle rounds of the draft.
There’s no doubt that the Packers could use a bit of a facelift at the wide receiver position beyond Davante Adams. If they don’t want to use an early-round selection on a wideout, or if the pass catchers they like are gone by the time Green Bay picks in the first and second rounds, Smith-Marsette could be a fine safety net to fall back into in either Round 4 or 5.
Smith-Marsette came into his own near the end of his final season in Iowa City. His production won’t be reflected in his numbers, but a lot of that is due to factors outside his control. His vertical speed and the ease with which he displays it make scouts drool. Iowa deserves credit for finally getting Smith-Marsette the ball in various ways last year, recognizing how versatile he is. It paid off big-time.
If you’re able to address two needs with one selection, all the better. Smith-Marsette’s track background molded him into one of the most lethal returners in college football. The Packers have long had a stale return game. While it’s not a focal point for most teams, it still helps to have a home-run hitter back deep to help flip the field. Smith-Marsette is that and then some.
Like all prospects, Smith-Marsette doesn’t come without flaws. Sometimes his concentration isn’t great, and he’ll drop the occasional easy pass. For Packers fans, he’s reminiscent of Marquez Valdes-Scantling: good size and vertical speed, occasional critical drops. While this isn’t completely off the mark, there are a couple of things worth noting.
One, Valdes-Scantling showed clear improvement throughout last season. In fact, he may have been Green Bay’s most consistent player in the NFC Championship. Secondly, Smith-Marsette and Valdes-Scantling may be similar players, but Smith-Marsette’s versatility, plus his short-route-running ability, set him apart. Valdes-Scantling has already established himself as a deep threat for the Packers’ offense. Smith-Marsette has the potential to be that for Green Bay but would still have to prove it.
Of course, there is the possibility that Green Bay opts to address wide receiver earlier than where Smith-Marsette projects to go. Even if they do, they could double down and still take Smith-Marsette. Packers fans begged and pleaded for Green Bay to take a wideout last year, to no avail. Maybe this year they opt to double-dip? It wouldn’t be the first time they have done that.
The last time Green Bay drafted a wide receiver was in 2018. They ended up selecting three that year, in Rounds 4, 5, and 6. The year prior, they drafted two wide receivers, both in the later rounds. And in 2014, when they took Davante Adams in the second round, they also nabbed receivers in Rounds 5 and 7. Oftentimes when the Packers take a receiver early, they come out with more than one selection at the position.
They can go cornerback, defensive line, inside linebacker, or, hell, even wide receiver with their first selection. They can attack other areas or go off the radar in Rounds 2 and 3. Regardless, a real value pick could be awaiting the Packers in those middle-to-later rounds if Ihmir Smith-Marsette is still on the board.