This writer views Green Bay’s 2020 draft conduct as one of the most momentous events in the team’s history. The repercussions will affect the team’s prospects for years to come. There are myriad topics and issues here that can keep TP gainfully occupied right up to the opening of training camp. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to take a further look at GM Brian Gutekunst’s draft history.
In my previous post, I produced compelling evidence that Gutekunst departed wildly from most other scouting assessments leading up to the 2020 NFL draft. He gambled on any number of players who were not nearly as highly-rated by other forecasters, and chiefly by Pro Football Focus. In this post, I’ve gone back to look at the Packers selections in 2019 and 2018 – the first two years of Gutekunst’s reign as general manager.
A quick note on comparators: There are at least a dozen national publishers of mock NFL drafts, though not that many make predictions covering all seven rounds. I’ve shopped around and sampled several such sources. These organizations, or in some cases individuals, derive their profits or earn their livings based on the accuracy of their forecasts.
They depend on the reputations they develop over time. They are generally knowledgeable, thorough, and best of all, they have no built-in bias in favor of a certain team. They are a great source of knowledge and experience that should not be disregarded – especially when they line up in lock step in disagreement with Gutey’s selections. It should be a bright red flag whenever a team’s draft picks differ so greatly from such a body of experts.
Green Bay had the luxury of 11 selections in Gutekunst’s first year on the job. I did comparisons with Walter Football (WF), draftsite.com (DS) and Bleacher Report (BR).
The Pack selected Jaire Alexander in Round 1, with the 18th overall draft pick. BR had him on the nose at 18, DS at 33, and WF at 42. The Pack aligned with the consensus.
The Pack chose Josh Jackson in Round 2, at 45. BR had him at 18 and DS at 23 – with both projecting Jackson to go before Alexander. WF had him at 40. Again, the Packers aligned closely with convention. Unless Jackson rebounds in his third year in the pros, it looks like everyone, not just the Pack, overrated the Iowa cornerback.
In Round 3, the Pack made Oren Burks a surprise pick at 88. WF had him at 127, BR at 245, and DS left him off its list. This constitutes a wild gamble by Gutekunst, and one that has failed miserably to date.
In Round 4, the Pack selected receiver J’Mon Moore at 133. BR rated him closely, at 129, but DS had him at 222, and WF omitted him entirely. The variance of opinions rendered this pick a considerable gamble, and by now it’s obvious the pick made a big mistake.
Early in Round 5, the Pack picked Cole Madison at 138. WF and BR were closely aligned, at 142 and 147 respectively, while DS had him back at 238. A consensus pick in two out of three cases.
The Pack selected Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round, at 207. DS had him at 65, and WF at 67 – numbers in line with a late-second round or early third-round pick. BR had him way down at 241. Chosen at #207, he was certainly a worthwhile late-round risk.
Interestingly, there was a guy who the Packers passed on, though all three comparators had him on their lists: Allen Lazard was rated at 202 by WF, at 212 by BR, and at 255 (second to last) by DS.
I did comparisons with the 2019 mock drafts of Walter Football (WF), CBS Sports (CBS), and nfl.com (NFL).
The Pack selected Rashan Gary in Round 1, with the 12th overall draft pick. WF and CBS both precisely predicted Rashan would go at #12; NFL had him at 17. Though many have doubted this pick, Gary was a consensus choice – we’ll see how he does if he is given increased playing time.
The Pack chose Darnell Savage at 21. WF had him at 43; CBS at 65; and NFL at 35. GB chose him earlier than others would have, but still the pick was in the ballpark.
The Pack chose Elgton Jenkins at 44. CBS had him at 48, and NFL had him at 78, while WF missed this boat entirely. Again Green Bay had him out ahead of others, but not wildly so.
The Pack chose Jace Sternberger at #75. WF had him at 81, CBS at 61, and NFL at 54. For once, Green Bay appears to have gotten a bargain: a player who others thought would be chosen earlier.
The Pack didn’t choose again until the fifth round, when they selected Kingsley Keke at 150. WF and CBS had Keke at 101, and NFL had him at 97. All three comparators agreed that Keke would go around 50 choices earlier than he did – maybe we should view his potential as that of a third-rounder rather than a fifth-rounder. I look forward to Keke getting on the field more often.
Green Bay’s late-round picks were also somewhat in line with the comparators. WF had Ka’Dar Hollman going at 162, and the Packers took him at 185. CBS had Dexter Williams going at 172, and NFL had him at 194 – and the Pack got him exactly at 194. Finally, WF had Ty Summers going at 170; Green Bay got him at 226.
In 2018, his first year as GM, Gutekunst adhered to the scouting consensus in most of his picks. However, the Round 3 choice of Burks, is looking like a misguided gamble. Also, the fifth-round gamble on Marquez Valdes-Scantling went against the consensus, as none of the three comparators had him anywhere on their lists.
In 2019, the club adhered pretty closely to the conventional wisdom, especially in the critical first three rounds. Gutekunst appears to have gotten some excellent values in obtaining players that comparators predicted would have been picked off earlier: Sternberger, Keke, Hollman, Summers. This was Gutey’s best draft – and the one most aligned with the scouting community.
It was in 2020 that Gutekunst strayed far off the reservation. As noted in my previous post (here), Jordan Love is a huge gamble, something you don’t want to be doing in Round 1. RB A.J. Dillon was an even more dubious choice – I checked with six prognosticators, and most had him going nowhere near Round 2. Nor did the comparators think much of TE Josiah Deguara, the Round 3 pick – Pro Football Focus viewed him as a sixth- round prospect.
Whenever Gutekunst has departed wildly from the general consensus, his gambles appear at this juncture to have been costly mistakes, such as with Oren Burks, J’Mon Moore, and MVS.
But in 2020, Gutey went completely against the grain on all of his highest picks: Love, Dillon, and Degurara. Sure, it’s premature to utterly write off these gambles, but the post-draft verdicts have been damning: the strong consensus is that Green Bay had not just a poor draft, but the league’s worst draft.
They say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. My sense is that Gutekunst, who was given a contract through 2022, has become overly confident and power-hungry in his third year on the job. His choices suggest that he thinks he can outsmart the rest of the NFL’s GM’s and owners. He just took huge gambles on all three of his first picks, and gave up his fourth rounder.
Our GM is staying true to the board – but this board has his imprint all over it. The board is his own creation. Our GM has gone rogue!
What Brian Gutekunst is relying on is his own judgment, and in doing so he’s disregarding that of almost every NFL scouting and drafting expert in the country. That’s a leap of faith I’m not prepared to make.
Now, more than ever, the Packers will have to rely upon those who were already on the roster – little-known guys who I’ve previously spotlighted, like Jace Sternberger, Reggie Begelton, Raven Greene, Curtis Bolton, and Chandon Sullivan.
Green Bay got zero immediate help out of this draft – that’s unheard of. Unless we get a bunch of breakout performances by relative unknowns – and that’s possible – Gutekunst just rendered the Packers a rebuilding project.