We made it.
We’ve finally made it to draft day.
It is a time of vindication for every pre-draft predictor out there who sees their projections come to life. It is also a time of bitter defeat for those that have boasted that their predictions are the one true way, akin to that of a biblical prophecy.
I’m not one to typically make any bold “they should” or “they shouldn’t” claims. Clickbait culture and its subsequent discourse isn’t my jam. However, there is value in looking into draft trends of each team to make fair inferences on what they will do come draft day.
What is an inference, you ask?
I’ve been teaching what inferences are to my middle schoolers for the past day or so — so please excuse me while I go into teacher mode for a second. We have been running with this definition: an inference is a prediction based on evidence. That evidence is two things: what we already know and things that we can conclude from textual references.
Obviously, we are not working with mentor texts like my students, but we have a small catalog of draft history with Gutekunst to set a precedent for references. That data will be pulled from the Day 1 actions of the 2018, 2019, and 2020 drafts. The “what we already know” segment of this piece will look at Green Bay’s current roster construction and positional areas of need that emerged last season.
Once we piece together this puzzle, we should make some fair inferences regarding the direction the Green Bay Packers will go on Day 1 in this year’s draft.
Checking our References
Did you know that Green Bay has traded up in the first round in all three years of Brian Gutekunst’s tenure as general manager?
Well, sort of. In 2018, the Packers traded down from pick 14 to 27, only to shoot right back up to 18 to select Jaire Alexander. In 2019 they had two first-round selections. They took Rashan Gary at 12 and traded back up into the first round to select Darnell Savage at 21.
Then, there was the Jordan Love selection at 26 last year. Green Bay did not give up much to get him — a pick swap and a compensatory fourth-rounder. While that move did not go over well with the fan base, it was the latest maneuver from a GM who has displayed tactical savvy regarding movement in the first round.
If we are going off trends and history — 3-for-3 on trading up — I would anticipate that Gutekunst’s phones will be hot Thursday night. Trading up may not be out of the realm of possibility. While a big-time move may not be the play, something similar to the last year’s trade-up for Love may be a move that the Packers could explore. Giving up a compensatory pick or two to move up a handful of spots would ensure that Gutekunst & Co. would get their guy, whoever that may be.
Speaking of trends, it is also noteworthy that until the inexplicable Love selection, Gutekunst had only taken defensive players in the first round of the draft. Regardless of the glaring need at receiver, Green Bay chose to stack its resources on the defensive side of the ball. The fruits of that labor were realized during this last season, though with some vaguely alarming contract situations right around the corner, it would seem that the Packers may finally go in a different direction.
What We Know Now
The recent departures of Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor have left questions of depth on the offensive line. Kevin King was re-signed as a second cornerback, but after an injury-addled 2020 campaign, he cannot necessarily be trusted to be the future of the position. Green Bay’s starting inside linebackers are a pair of talented yet raw second-year players.
All three of those positions would seem to be some of the most glaring needs, and it is certainly likely that any combination or all of those will be addressed over the course of the draft. However, one situation arises that may paint a clearer picture of the direction the Packers may go with their first-round pick this year.
With the exception of Allen Lazard, the current top-four Green Bay wide receivers are slated to be free agents in 2022. This isn’t to say that extensions aren’t looming — I’d be stunned if the Packers don’t give Davante Adams a blank check in the near future — but the situation is definitely a cause for concern.
There is also ample pass-catching talent to be had towards the end of the first round in today’s draft. Elijah Moore is an interesting prospect, and would fill that Randall Cobb-shaped void that has been in my heart since his departure. Allegedly, Green Bay has been doing “extensive research” on Rashod Bateman, who would also be an excellent fit on the team. Kadarius Toney would be a good WR pick as well.
Given the Packers’ apparent steadfast aversion to giving Aaron Rodgers first-round wide receiver talent, I would be disappointed but not surprised to see the team pass on an early WR again in favor of a perceptibly more immediate need. However, Rodgers’ contract situation clouds up what is already a gloomy cap picture for Green Bay.
What does all of this say about who the Packers might draft on Day 1?
Regardless of who is selected, I’d infer that Gutekunst is going to trade up in the first round again. He’s done nothing to suggest that he won’t at least move in some direction in the draft, and with Green Bay’s current slot of 29, there is hardly anywhere to go but up.
If the Packers do trade up: how far up the board would they go, and what position would they use the pick on?
The conservative thinker may infer that Gutekunst is going to stick with what has been working for him. That frame of thought would see him select a linebacker or cornerback. Perhaps an offensive lineman.
However, based on what I know and what I’ve seen happen in the draft under Gutekunst’s tenure, I believe that he will not be afraid to make a big splash in the draft once again. Last year that (unfortunately) took shape in the form of Love, but I believe in people’s capacities to grow and learn from their mistakes.
My official, totally spot-on inference: the Packers will trade up in the first round to draft a receiver, giving Rodgers his first first-round receiver for his 17th year in the league.
And as a Minnesota-based Packers fan, I hope it’s Bateman.