The number one question on the minds of the fans is: how competitive are the Green Bay Packers going to be in 2018? Last evening provided some more clues to that mystery.
My big worry was that the four or five players who the Packers most needed would be gone just before the Pack got to choose at number 14 – but they weren’t. In a prior post, based on the views of people paid well to do such forecasts, I listed 11 players as possibilities: five defensive backs, three edge rushers, and three wide receivers. Who remains of that list at the end of round 1? Cornerback Josh Jackson, defensive end Harold Landry, and receiver Courtland Sutton.
It looked like the Packers were getting a break, when the Buc’s selected Vita Vea at No. 12 and the Redskins surprised even more, going with defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne at No. 13.
There sat Brian Gutekunst, with a great edge prospect, Marcus Davenport, still available. Not only that, but highly-touted cornerback Josh Jackson was still around. And if the Pack wanted a receiver, not a one had yet been taken. It seemed that the luck of the draw was working in Green Bay’s favor.
Instead, Gutekunst, on the clock, chose to trade away their first pick. In exchange, the Packers got the No. 27 pick, a fifth-round pick, and the Saints’ round one pick in 2019.
In defense of Gutekunst, getting a first-rounder, and perhaps one in the top 10 next year is a great trade – subject to just one reservation that I’ll get to.
The Packers’ scouting department apparently wasn’t as enamored with safety Derwin James or edge player Marcus Washington as many had thought. James, taken by the Chargers, slid to No. 17.
Green Bay’s quick trade back up to No. 18 suggested the Packers wanted Jaire Alexander more than Derwin James all along. Alexander got a little overlooked when he missed much of last season due to injury. It was some comfort to hear Mike Mayock say that he had Alexander pegged as the top remaining cornerback when the Packers chose him.
Giving up a third rounder to move back up strikes me as a fair deal – to jump up nine place in round one is a lot.
Barring trades, the Packers will next have the 13th selection of round 2, No. 45 overall.
Having traded away their third-round pick, the Packers are asking a lot if they think their next two picks – their first two picks in round four – will play a prominent role this season, but then again look what Aaron Jones did last year from his round five perch.
I suspect Brian Gutekunst is happy with his first-ever day in charge of a draft. He got good value on the trades and the cornerback that I think he was aiming for.
What the Packers Didn’t Get
The Packers didn’t get a first rounder that figures to play much in 2018, unless Kevin King or Tramon Williams gets injured, and even then Davon House would likely get the call ahead of Jaire Alexander.
The team didn’t land anyone to replace Jordy Nelson – and barring trades or free agent signings, the best they can do now via this draft is to get a fourth-round prospect on Saturday.
To be blunt, the Packers didn’t act to make this team stronger in 2018. The moves they made last night, just like Gutekunst’s other offseason moves, are indicative of a rebuilding effort focused on the 2019 season. That’s the one reservation I mentioned – a big one though.
I outlined this “rebuilding” scenario over a month ago. This must be Gutekunst’s plan, not a series of random acts. I think it’s defensible, as the Packers had too many shortcomings going into 2018 to become a serious playoff contender.
Most Packers fans, however, aren’t going to calmly accept another season resembling the last one. I’m thinking there’s going to be more pressure on Aaron Rodgers to perform miracles this season than ever before.
Final thought. I just chuckled as I watched the continuing fantasy over whether Dez Bryant might be coming to Green Bay. I’m not chuckling anymore. It’s a helluva risk for a guy with issues, but it’s about the last chance the Packers have of having a strong pass attack despite the loss of Jordy Nelson. If that’s been Gute’s strategy all along, and he pulls it off and it bears fruit, then he’s one hell of a gambler.