Green Bay Packers

I Felt Like Bill Murray Watching The Packers Draft 

Photo credit: Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Sitting through the first round of the NFL draft as a Green Bay Packers fan is like being in the movie Groundhog Day.

There’s the weeks of daydreaming, researching, and mocking. Then there’s the countdown as the Packers inch closer to being on the clock. And then the commissioner approaches the podium and you usually have a couple of names dancing in your head. This year, it was probably Cooper DeJean, Graham Barton, or maybe Nate Wiggins.

And then the pick is announced, and your facial expression inevitably doesn’t change. There’s no jumping up with an emphatic, “Yes!” There’s no fist bump with your buddy. Every year, it’s just, “Okay, that makes sense, I guess.”

That’s not to say the results haven’t been okay over the years, but just once it would be nice to actually get excited about the pick. I looked back at previous No. 1 picks. The last one I was really excited about was Clay Matthews in 2009, and that was after trading back into the first round after drafting B.J. Raji.

The beauty of the Packers draft version of the Groundhog Day plot is they generally provide the desired emotions with their Day 2 picks – and that held true again over the weekend.

Overall, I like the draft a lot. As expected, Brian Gutekunst replaced the three departed offensive linemen with three rookies. He also completed the renovation of the safety room with another three guys, led by Georgia star Javon Bullard, who provided us with the best reaction ever to getting the news he was now a Green Bay Packer. Two former SEC stars manning the safety spots? I’m in.

Let’s not forget Bullard was named MVP of the 2022 national title game as a cornerback, so the versatility he provides to the back end will allow defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley to have lots of fun disguising his looks.

Now, back to that first pick. I don’t hate the Jordan Morgan selection. I expected them to take a lineman and mocked Amarius Mims to the Pack, but he was already off the board. I thought Tyler Guyton was the best tackle on the board, but I should have considered how strongly the team considers flexibility, and Morgan can play anywhere but center.

It feels like he’ll get a chance to compete with Rasheed Walker at the left tackle spot. If he can’t beat out Walker, maybe he’s in play at right guard or tackle if they’re seriously considering moving Zach Tom to center. The Pack entered the draft with five reliable linemen. They had projected starters but no depth. Morgan and fifth-round pick Jacob Monk add plenty of competition to the group.

The third guy, Travis Glover, a tackle from Georgia State, may need a little polishing but is an interesting prospect.

I’ve buried the lede here. My favorite pick of this draft was LB Edgerrin Cooper, who I came this close to mocking to the Packers but ultimately felt that Gutey might see value there a round later. For years, I’ve dreamed of having a pair of speedy, athletic linebackers like the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers always seem to have. In Walker and Cooper, the Packers finally have that potential.

Watch his highlights, and you’ll also dare to dream. ESPN’s Louis Riddick gushed that the Pack just got the league’s next great linebacker. That’s a high standard; I’ll settle for perennial All-Pro. Cooper becomes part of the trade compensation for Aaron Rodgers. Here’s hoping his play helps make this trade look better and better over the years.

Adding Cooper and Bullard on Friday was just the start. Gutey added juice to the running back room with third-round pick MarShawn Lloyd. Jaylen Wright was my draft crush, but it’s hard not to fall in love with Lloyd’s potential. It will be a surprise if he is not Josh Jacobs’ backup when the season starts. A strong summer performance could make A.J. Dillon a cap casualty.

The final pick on Friday night was a bit of a letdown. Missouri’s Ty’Ron Harper was widely expected to be a fifth-round pick and was a double-down of the Cooper pick. There were a couple of highly regarded CBs and edge guys on the board, but the Pack surprisingly ignored those two spots this draft, other than adding Penn State Kalen King with their final pick. Oh, great, another K. King at corner.

Harper spent most of his career at Florida before transferring and had an up-and-down career, but he finished strong and was a captain at Mizzou in his final year. That became a theme of this draft class: six of them were team captains. The Packers have a type.

The other two safeties that Gutey added on Saturday were also team captains. Evan Williams wasn’t on my radar, especially after the team moved up 15 spots to make the pick. I was hoping for Iowa State CB T.J. Tampa, who was inexplicably still on the board. But the Pack likes Williams’ tenacity, tackling, and blitzing. They believe Hafley will find a role for him in pressure packages. They definitely need bodies in the safety room, so doubling up here makes sense.

Then Gutey tripled down at safety, selecting Oregon State’s Kitan Oladapo at pick No. 169, precisely the spot I mocked him to the Pack (which happens about as often as I pass up a Culver’s drive-thru). He lacks the versatility of his fellow rookie safeties and projects more as a strong safety. However, the team also believes he could earn snaps at linebacker.

Finally, I loved the Michael Pratt pick. The team made it clear it was looking to add to the quarterback room, but Pratt seemed like a potential late Day 2, early Day 3 guy and was not expected to be available in the sixth round. Most draft experts I heard believe he has the chance to start for someone down the road. He will give Sean Clifford competition for the No. 2 spot and might be a tradeable asset in the next few years.

Eleven drafted rookies have been added to the league’s youngest roster. The rest of the division seems to have gotten better, with strong draft classes and two new potential franchise quarterbacks. The NFC North will be tough, and the Pack accomplished what they needed to do to keep pace.

The defense plugged two big holes with an instant starter, and the offensive line has been restocked. Was it an exciting draft? Not really. But in my eyes, Groundhog Day was a great movie and not a bad way to experience the draft year after year.

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Photo credit: Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The best general managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their roster. Brian Gutekunst has been quoted multiple times saying that roster building is a 365-day-a-year […]

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