Green Bay Packers

What Positions Should the Packers Double-Up In the NFL Draft?

Photo Credit: Sarah Kloepping via USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers attacked wide receiver in the draft after they traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, picking Christian Watson in the second round, Romeo Doubs in the fourth, and Samori Toure in the seventh. After those moves, but before the 2022 season, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said this of the wide receiver position:

I think we’ve certainly added some competition. I think that was really important. Not the only position we added a lot of competition, but I think we’re certainly very much of belief that competition’s going to bring out the best and the cream’s going to rise, and that’s something that we needed to do and I think we accomplished that.

As a result, the Packers saw plenty of solid-to-explosive performances from Watson and Doubs in 2022. Adding competition at positions of need by utilizing multiple picks in the same draft proved successful. Because of this success in 2022, the Packers felt comfortable revisiting it and double-dipped at defensive line, defensive back, wide receiver, and tight end in 2023.

The Packers famously ended up with the youngest roster in the NFL. They started slow but ended up sneaking into the playoffs and making a little run. Gutekunst noticed the growth and benefit of letting competition play out by saying, “The competition in the rooms allowed us to grow at an accelerated pace, so that’s the biggest thing.”

It’s clear, especially in light of the successes of the 2022 and 2023 drafts, that Gutekunst will be emboldened to revisit this strategy to bring more competition to 1265 Lombardi Avenue. So, where may the Packers specifically look to double- or triple-dip? Three positions stand out: off-ball linebacker, safety (still), and offensive line.

Under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, the Packers are transitioning from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense, which means they’ll be operating with an additional player expected at off-ball linebacker. After releasing De’Vondre Campbell, they only have Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie, and Kristian Welch on the roster at the position. While I’d expect three or more linebackers to be added through the draft and the back end of free agency, they could also sign undrafted free agents.

During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the Packers relied upon undrafted free agent Krys Barnes for 500-plus snaps each year. Additionally, the linebacker class is a thinner one this year. NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler has zero inside linebackers within his top 35 players and only five within his top 100. Don’t be surprised if the Packers haven’t selected a linebacker in the first two days of the draft and look to multiple Day 3 picks and priority undrafted free agents to fill that position.

At safety, the Packers decided to invest at the top end of free agency by signing Xavier McKinney. The Packers lost Darnell Savage to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jonathan Owens to the Chicago Bears. Similar to linebacker, safety is a bit lighter at the top end of the draft, with only six players in Dane Brugler’s top 100. The Packers could bring back Rudy Ford on a cheap deal. Or, with McKinney’s high-end play, they have more flexibility to play him in multiple roles and draft more limited role players in the later rounds.

Green Bay’s draft strategy will likely include investing most heavily in the offensive line. I expect the Packers to draft three O-linemen, potentially two in the top 100. Why? Starting center Josh Myers and backup guard Royce Newman are in the final year of their deals, and neither has merited a second contract. Additionally, Green Bay released tackle David Bakhtiari, and swing tackle Yosh Nijman signed with the Carolina Panthers. Dane Brugler has four center, eight guard, and 10 tackle prospects in his top 100. It’s not outside of the possibility that the Packers use four of their 11 draft picks on the offensive line. That’s where need meets value in this draft, and the Packers will attack it.

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