Green Bay Packers

Quinyon Mitchell Is An Intriguing Trade-Up Candidate For the Packers

Photo Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers efficiently replenished their pass-catching rooms top to bottom between Rounds 2 and 5 with Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed, Tucker Kraft, and Dontayvion Wicks. As this month’s draft rapidly approaches, Brian Gutekunst will look to address their new core needs: offensive line and secondary help. It wasn’t too long ago that David Bakhtiari and emerging young corner Eric Stokes looked like cornerstones in those departments, but major injuries have neutralized both players since then.

Gutekunst nailed his first cornerback selection in Jaire Alexander, who reset the market last offseason with a four-year megadeal. However, that is the only secondary player Green Bay has hit on with a premium pick in recent years, and it isn’t for lack of trying (see: Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Josh Jones, Josh Jackson, Kevin King, Darnell Savage Jr.). Many experts are projecting the Packers to land Iowa’s Cooper DeJean this draft season. He has appeared in so many mock drafts that it’s hard to imagine they’ll actually take him (see: T.J. Watt, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, etc.).

In his six drafts, we’ve learned that Gutekunst isn’t afraid to tap dance up and down the Day 1 board. I’d go as far as to say he’s pretty good at it. In his inaugural draft, Gutekunst traded down, then back up, netting Alexander and a future first-round pick. Had he not used that pick on Savage, whose Packers tenure reeked of unfulfilled potential, perhaps the move would’ve been more widely discussed. And then there’s Jordan Love, of course, a contrarian move that surely took a long time to resolve itself. But by now, it’s fair to say it was a massive win for the organization.

A Chad Forbes report characterized Gutekunst’s interest in moving up this year’s as one of the “worst-kept secrets.” It highlighted the Seattle Seahawks, who pick 16th, as a potential partner. Who might be appealing enough to prompt a move deep into the teens? Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell checks all the boxes. Many have Mitchell as the top corner on the board, but he may be attainable in an offense-heavy draft that may not see a defender selected in the top 10. Amid sustained success, Packers fans are used to picking further down the board, bereft of a shot at Sauce Gardner and Denzel Ward. Therefore, Green Bay has had to scoop up players like Randall and King.

Mitchell is highly coveted and will be tough to land, but the same was true of Xavier McKinney, the market’s top safety. His four-year, $67 million deal was a slam dunk for Green Bay, but it also reeked of some exhaustion with how difficult the position has been to fill over the recent years. For an organization accustomed to so much success through a strict draft-and-develop approach, its secondary struggles seem to have struck a nerve. Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Sitting tight and waiting for a DeJean or a Kool-Aid McKinstry to fall to them might land them in that category.

Much like their contrarian valuation of the wide receiver position, the Packers have made no secret of the premium value cornerbacks have in their draft process. After struggling to land corners in the back of Round 1, perhaps an aggressive move-up is in the cards. In addition to being highly touted, Mitchell fits Green Bay’s strict athletic requirements. The Packers notoriously emphasize size and relative athletic score (RAS), trusting their coaching staff to turn tools into production. Mitchell fits that profile: He’s 6’0” and ran a 4.33.

One might wonder what makes a prospect from the MAC such a smash hit in the eyes of evaluators. They must examine his tape through the lens of his inferior competition compared to other corners like McKinstry and Terrion Arnold from Alabama and Clemson’s Nate Wiggins. But there is a pretty strong history of highly touted, top-of-the-board corners becoming the stars everyone expected them to be. In recent years, there’s Gardner, who played in the American Athletic Conference at Cincinnati, Devon Witherspoon, Patrick Surtain, A.J. Terrell, Ward, and Jalen Ramsey. Jeff Okudah is a glaring rebuttal of that general hypothesis, but that one also sums up Detroit Lions football over that time period. There’s no denying how much better the odds get towards the top.

A jump into the teens is certainly a move that aligns with Gutekunst’s history. Now that there are some whispers of tangible discussions, it feels fair to conclude that he has his eye on the top of the cornerback market, just as he did for the free agent safety market. Quinyon Mitchell checks every box, from his athletic profile to his consensus ranking as one of the draft’s top corners. We are currently about three weeks from the Packers being on the clock, but don’t be too surprised if it comes a bit sooner.

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