It’s amazing just how much news coverage has been devoted to the Green Bay Packers this week. It is perhaps even more incredible how little of that airtime was devoted to their draft selections.
The news that Adam Schefter leaked this week regarding Aaron Rodgers’ increasing dissatisfaction with the franchise has caused a media frenzy the likes of which Titletown hasn’t seen since, well, last year’s draft. Talking heads all over the major sports networks are champing at the bit to eviscerate Green Bay’s handling of their malcontented Hall of Fame quarterback.
The lack of attention devoted to the actual, you know, 2021 NFL Draft has angered many fans of other NFL teams that are trying to focus on the blessings that their general managers have bestowed upon them. Hall of Fame wide receiver Joe Horn expressed dissatisfaction that ESPN was talking about Rodgers instead of his son being drafted.
This situation, unfortunately, goes both ways. The Rodgers hype generates the clicks, but major media outlets owe their readers and viewers the chance to actually pay attention to the moves that their teams are making. National media needs to look beyond the quarterback-tinted lenses that the NFL so often forces on its constituents.
That being said, now that it’s completed we can properly judge the 2021 Green Bay Packers draft class.
I wrote a brief Day 1 predictions piece a couple of days ago that was online for no more than two hours before the Rodgers news broke and rendered the whole thing obsolete. I was also, as a matter of fact, very wrong about my projections and inferences.
Now that the guessing games are over, let’s take a look at some of the good moves and bad moves the Packers made in this year’s draft.
While I thought there was a solid chance Green Bay could try to make amends with Rodgers and select a receiver in the first round, Brian Gutekunst instead opted to go with the obvious positional need at cornerback. After last year’s NFC Championship game and Kevin King’s injury issues, this was perhaps the best avenue for the Packers.
Eric Stokes was Green Bay’s pick at No. 29, a highly rated shutdown cornerback who can run a ridiculous 4.25 40-yard dash. I’ll refer any doubters to this nugget of information:
Griping about the lack of first-round offensive talent is fun and all, but this selection was the right call for the future of the team. In Stokes, the Packers have a player who should eventually take over for King as the starter opposite Jaire Alexander as he gets more acclimated to new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s schemes and playbook. His speed is certainly tantalizing. If Stokes has the skills to match the physical gifts, he will be a problem for opposing receivers.
Green Bay’s defense already has a bonafide No. 1 cornerback in Alexander. Adding Stokes and fifth-round DB Shemar Jean-Charles to that personnel group gives Green Bay one of the deepest and most talented secondaries in the league. Gutekunst did well to ensure that the Packers defense remains one of the best in the league.
Gutekunst doubled down on his commitment to the defense and drafting athletic players by taking defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton in the fifth round. The guy is massive. He’s 6’4″, 330 lbs., and according to this interview, can do a backflip.
Slaton fits the physical description of the massive run-stopping nose tackle that Green Bay has been trying to find since the departure of B.J. Raji. Slaton, who was originally scouted as an offensive lineman, will be raw talent the Packers can mold into a desperately needed run-stopper.
The selection of wide receiver Amari Rodgers out of Clemson will give [insert QB here] a Randall Cobb-type receiver who can work the middle of the field and take some of the burden off of Davante Adams. Rodgers will be a great complement to the other receivers in Devin Funchess, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who are all big-bodied outside threats.
Rounding out the draft with another three offensive line selections and an inside linebacker, Gutekunst addressed the three biggest areas of need early and often in this draft: CB, OL, and WR. The ILB selection, Isaiah McDuffie, will provide depth behind the second-year tandem of Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes.
I haven’t even talked about seventh-round selection Kylin Hill yet. Hill is another talented runner out of Mississippi State who should provide solid depth if anything were to happen to Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon. Hill also played a large role in helping to change the Mississippi state flag and received the keys to the city of Columbus. Every NFL team could use more people like Hill, regardless of production.
Oh, like, beyond the obvious? Something other than the gigantic bad thing looming over this franchise?
The selections on draft night confirmed one thing: The Green Bay Packers are not willing to bend over backward to give Aaron Rodgers whatever he wants.
I’ll save most of my hot takes for later in the week, but Gutekunst is in the business of building a championship team, not just a roster to appease one player. If that comes at the expense of angering a top-five quarterback and the best player in the history of the Packers, so be it. At the end of the day, it’s a business.
If we’re talking strictly about bad draft moves, some could construe that the Stokes selection was a bit of a reach. Elijah Moore was still on the board, who would have given Green Bay a WR with more pedigree than Amari Rodgers. With Stokes, the Packers are taking a bit of a gamble on a player who showed more athleticism than anything else, though his ceiling is so high that Gutekunst could not pass up the opportunity.
The WR selection will also lead to a crowded WR corps. There are going to be myriad mouths to feed between everyone behind Adams. Lazard, MVS, Funchess, and Equanimeous St. Brown are all established veterans on this team who could see their snaps decrease with the addition of Rodgers. Everyone will be looking to prove themselves after an admittedly embarrassing year of exposing the talent gap between Adams and everyone else in the position group, so the competition between the players could lend itself to increased production.
While it wasn’t necessarily a flashy draft, Gutekunst did not waver during the media frenzy. He made the moves he felt were best for the team.
It’s easy to forget just how successful Gutekunst has been at drafting since he took over for Ted Thompson in 2018. I have outlined his successes before, and this most recent draft looks to have the same savvy allure that Gutekunst has showcased in years past.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of this entire mess in Green Bay is that fans may get the opportunity to see whether or not the Love selection was as bad as it has been made out to be. If Love is indeed forced into action for whatever reason, it would seem that Gutekunst has been using every available resource to make sure that whoever is under center can find success.
I’d give this Packers draft as a whole a solid B+ or A-. Let’s hope I’m not as wrong about that as I was my pre-draft inferences.