After a tough 6-9-1 season, the Green Bay Packers began retooling first with the hiring of Matt LaFleur as new head coach, quickly followed by Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator. Looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft in April, the Packers have numerous needs; none of which more apparent than wide receiver and offensive line.
Davante Adams and his 111 receptions and 13 touchdowns are a given as the number one wide receiver. However, behind him there are big question marks. Randall Cobb caught only 38 passes, missing six games due to injury and is free agent and might not return. Rookies Marquez Valdes- Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown had 38 and 21 receptions, respectively. Third-year pro Geronimo Allison had 20 receptions, but is also a free agent.
The offensive line gave up 53 sacks this year and backups Lucas Patrick, Justin McCray and Adam Pankey are all “exclusive rights free agents”. Corey Linsley has been a rock at center, but Byron Bell missed significant time due to injury. Aaron Rodgers was under a lot interior pressure this season and the Packers would be wise to address this early in the draft. The Packers have the 12th and 30th picks in the first round and should have over $40 million in salary cap space. They should be able to fill some holes as we take a closer look at players likely available in the middle and late first round.
Ben Powers (Oklahoma, guard)
In need of interior pass protection, Powers could be the best of a relatively thin offensive guard class. The tackles and center have been more or less solid for the Packers, but because of the glaring need for better guard play, Powers would be a wise early pick.
Chris Lindstrom (Boston College, guard)
Although Boston College used a heavy run-oriented attack, Lindstrom started as a tackle, so he’s likely ready for pass blocking duties in the NFL. Don’t be fooled by his “power blocker” reputation. Lindstrom has quick side-to-side movement, essential to handle quick interior pass rushers.
Dalton Risner (Kansas State, offensive line)
The fact that Risner can handle multiply positions across the offensive line makes him immediately stand out. He enters the draft with solid fundamentals and could be a top back up or move right in at one of the potential openings the Packers may have. David Bakhtiai and Corey Lndsley should be mainstays on the line, ,but opportunities are wide open at the other positions.
If none of the above three are on the board, Beau Benzschawel out of Wisconsin is also a solid option.
The Packers went with wide receiver in the draft last season, but with the uncertainty of Cobb’s situation, the need for a receiver is still present. Here’s the top receivers that the Packers should target:
Marquise Brown (Oklahoma)
Brown is lightning fast, quick, small and is great after the catch. His skill set fits perfectly in the Green Bay offense and would be an excellent replacement for Cobb, should he move elsewhere as a free agent.
Hunter Renfrow (Clemson)
The Tigers have had numerous weapons over the past few seasons and Refrow has been one of the most consistent. He hauled in 178 passes for 15 touchdowns in his collegiate career. While not a highlight reel player, Refrow possesses toughness, strong hands and good quickness and would be a solid option for the Packers.
Although the tight end position was manned by veteran Jimmy Graham, he is 32-years old and not as dynamic as once was. He caught 55 passes for only 636 yards and two touchdowns. This position could become thin quickly, so here’s the tight end prospects worth considering:
Irv Smith, Jr. (Alabama)
The exposure in the big games certainly didn’t hurt Smith’s cause his overall athletic ability is intriguing. What he does at the combines could determine where Smith falls in the draft. He hauled in 44 passes for seven touchdowns, strong enough to handle passes in traffic and tough to bring down after the catch.
Noah Fant (Iowa)
Fant has great size at 6-foot-5 and will use that to his advantage over much smaller defenders. Drafting Fant would be a dream for Rodgers, adding another huge target, particularly in the red zone. Fant has a knack for for finding the end one, having scored 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He is Iowa’s all-time leader in touchdowns by a tight end.
Clay Matthews has been excellent for many years in Green Bay, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and coming off a season with only 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks. There are questions about his return and his future effectiveness. A couple linebackers the Packers could consider are Brian Burns out of Florida State and Jachai Polite out of Florida.
A clear hole was created with the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix trade. Therefore, the safety position could be addressed via free agency or the draft. If so, keep your eyes on Juan Thornhill of Virginia and Deionte Thompson of Alabama.
Finally, considering the need to improve the pass rush, the Packers could consider the likes of Josh Allen (Kentucky), Joe Jackson (Miami) and Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
No matter which dirction the Packers take with their upper round draft picks, there is plenty of talent on the board to fill some much needed holes entering the 2019 season.
Correction: Packers have the 12th pick, not 10th as stated before.