After an incredible 13-3 regular season led by a resurgent Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers still couldn’t take the next step and lost yet another NFC Championship game — this time at the hands of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Packers have lost key players in free agency like Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams. They have had to restructure any player who is willing because of their precarious cap situation.
If the green and gold want to take the next step this season, they will have to do it through the draft. Here is my first Packers mock draft, using Pro Football Network’s simulator.
Pick 29: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Let cut to the chase here. Aaron Rodgers needs weapons next season. Davante Adams may be the best wideout in the entire league, but he alone isn’t enough at the wide receiver position. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling showed flashes this season but remain inconsistent.
Kadarius Toney could be the perfect fix at the second wideout spot with his top-end speed and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. His acceleration makes him a dynamic deep threat who can take the pressure off Adams and provide Rodgers with another wideout he can trust.
Toney is also a capable punt returner, which would fill another hole for the Packers. His ability to take end-arounds and jet sweeps gives Matt LaFleur a player who fits his offensive philosophy.
Pick 62: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, FSU
Kevin King may be returning on a one-year deal, but corner is still a need for the Packers. While Jaire Alexander might be the best CB in the NFL, the Packers have a bunch of question marks after him in King, Chandon Sullivan, and Ka’dar Hollman.
Asante Samuel Jr. might be one of the best corners in man coverage to come out of this draft class. He always took the most challenging assignment during his time at FSU and adeptly covered the opposing team’s best wideout one on one.
Samuel is a bit undersized at 5’10” and 183 lbs. Consequently, several draft pundits have teams kicking him inside to play in the slot. For context, he is the same height as Alexander and will need to add some weight to compete at the next level. However, despite his more diminutive stature, Samuel could play on the outside.
The Packers can add some much-needed depth to their secondary with Samuel. In Green Bay, he can learn from one of the best corners in the game.
Pick 92: Brady Christensen, OT, BYU
Almost everyone knows about BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, but it’s about time people start looking at his blindside protector, Brady Christensen.
Christensen was an All-American this year, helping the Cougars finish with an impressive 11-1 record. He also dominated at his pro day, showcasing his strength and athleticism by running a 4.89 40-yard dash and putting up 30 reps on the bench press.
With the loss of All-Pro center Corey Linsley and the cap casualty of Ricky Wagner, the Packers’ offensive line is already a little thin. Compound that with star left tackle David Bakhtiari recovering from his torn ACL, and the green and gold will need to invest some draft capital in the trenches to keep Rodgers upright next season.
Trade: Pick 108: Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
With the Packers in win-now mode, I was more than willing to be aggressive and deal away some capital when I felt a quality player slipped far enough to warrant a trade, so I dealt the Atlanta Falcons pick 135 and 173 to move up to 108.
The Packers have a significant hole in the middle of their defense. If there is anything I learned from watching the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run, it’s that you need to have speed at the linebacker position to cover sideline to sideline. Surratt has plenty of speed, plays the game at a breakneck pace, and finds a way to be around every play.
Pick 142: Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
Just because I drafted Toney in the first round doesn’t mean that I will not take another swing at this talented wideout class. Shi Smith’s stats aren’t eye-popping by any means. He never got more than 700 yards in a season during his time in Columbia, but you have to consider the circumstances around him.
In his first three seasons, he was pushed down on the depth chart in favor of future NFL players Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuels. And when he got his shot to be WR1 this season, he dealt with a coaching change and quarterback instability.
Smith operates from the slot, and if you look back at the tape of his one-on-one drill at the Senior Bowl, you will see that he can create separation with his footwork and elevate on jump balls. He can serve as potentially a third or fourth wideout and create more competition for the final wide receiver spots.
Pick 178: Paris Ford, S, Pitt
Ford is 6’0”, 190 lbs, but don’t let his small frame fool you. He loves to lay punishing hits on ball carriers, flying down the field at breakneck speed. Although Ford usually connects on these hard tackles, sometimes he whiffs, letting the ball carrier get free down the field. But that’s not enough of a concern to overlook him.
He’s incredible in the pass coverage. Ford showed out in his redshirt sophomore season, recording 14 pass breakups and three interceptions. He was excellent in zone coverage, covering a lot of ground with his speed, disrupting passing lanes, and forcing quarterbacks to squeeze passes into incredibly tight windows.
He could figure to play as a nickel corner for the Packers and bring more depth into the lackluster cornerback room.
Pick 214: Dax Milne, WR, BYU
Yes, we’re both targeting Zach Wilson’s blindside protector and his favorite target in this draft. Milne lit up college football last season, racking up an impressive 1,188 yards in his junior season — just two years removed from being a preferred walk-on.
Milne dominated when faced with man coverage and showcased his ability to run crisp routes and create separation. His perceived reliance on Wilson is holding back his draft stock. But looking back at the tape, you can see that Milne often bailed out Wilson, making adjustments on the ball and coming down with contested passes.
Milne will challenge for a roster spot with his competitiveness and ability to return punts, and he could potentially develop into a starting-caliber wideout.
Pick 220: Cary Angeline, TE, NC State
At 6’7”, Angeline’s frame is a safety blanket against zone coverage. He’s a decent pass catcher but mainly a red zone target. He doesn’t have an extended route tree, but he can use his size when he executes the routes he’s familiar with.
His great blocking in both pass protection and the run game makes him an attractive pick here. While the Packers did bring Marcedes Lewis back on a one-year deal, he shouldn’t be guaranteed to make the roster. Instead, he should duke it out with the younger, cheaper Angeline for a roster spot.
Pick 256: Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina
I’m betting on Jackson’s potential with this pick. He was incredibly productive in his last two seasons at Coastal Carolina, racking up an impressive 18 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss.
Though these numbers did come against inferior competition, he showed flashes of being a solid pass rusher with his ability to use his hands to attack opposing offensive lineman. He might find himself part of the pass-rushing rotation early on, but he could carve out a spot for himself down the road.