Shortly after GM Brian Gutekunst used his top pick to select Utah State QB Jordan Love, he gave this explanation:
“We go through the same process every year. . .we build our board and try to stay true to the board and take the best player available. The way the board fell this year, he was the best player left and we’re excited to get him.”
I view the GM as a pretty transparent and truthful guy. Let’s take him mostly at his word, and see where it leads us.
I assume that the “board” the GM is talking about consists chiefly of two player lists: (1) the players in order of how the team ranks them as the best draftees, regardless of position; and (2) the best draftees at each of the various positions.
I’m going to chiefly use Pro Football Focus to see how it rated the Packers’ top picks. PFF is among the most respected analysts of college players entering the pro draft, and I understand that several pro teams employ PFF to assist them in determining who the best draft prospects are.
QB Jordan Love
The Packers traded up, to pick #26, to get the QB out of Utah State – he was the fourth QB chosen. PFF had Love rated as the 6th best QB in the class. However, on its overall best draftees board, it ranked Love only #76 – which equates to the twelfth pick of Round 3.
RB A.J. Dillon
Dillon went to Green Bay in late Round 2, at pick #62. I’ve checked and re-checked, but PFF did not list Dillon among their top 250 draft prospects! nfl.com had him going at #112; CBS Sports at #128; and Sports Illustrated at #174. Walter Football projected him going in Rounds 3-5, and USA Today had him going in Rounds 5-7.
TE Josiah Deguara
The Packers picked Josiah Deguara in Round 3, at #94. However, he was only listed as #191 on PFF’s big board – which equates to the twelfth pick of Round 6.
The pattern repeats itself with respect to the Packers later round selections. Green Bay chose Kamal Martin in Round 5, with overall pick #175; PFF had him going at #232. Gutey’s next pick, Joe Runyan, was taken at #192; PFF had him rated as #214.
The Packers picked Jake Hanson at #108, Simon Stepaniak at #209, Vernon Scott at #236, and Jonathan Garvin at #242; none of the four, however, was on PFF’s list of top 250 prospective draftees.
From top to bottom, and without exception, the disparities between Gutekunst’s board and almost everyone else’s is gigantic. Therein lies the problem.
The Packers almost without exception rated their draftees higher – much higher – than the many others who published mock drafts. This also means that Green Bay rated a great many players lower than did the other experts – including many of the players that the other 31 teams actually chose.
When I have more time, I’d like to go through the same analysis with the Packers’ 2018 and 2019 draft picks – will the same pattern of going against convention show up?
Who Green Bay Passed Up
Had the Packers not gone after a quarterback, and had they kept their 30th pick, who was available? At WR, there was Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman, who went at 33 and 34. If the Packers were insistent on adding a running back, all of the best were available at #30: LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire (32), Georgia’s D’Andre Swift (35), and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (41).
When they chose RB A.J. Dillon at #62, they passed up Houston OT Josh Jones (ranked by PFF at #14, drafted at 72) and Wisconsin OLB Zach Baun (74). nfl.com had Dillon going in Rounds 3-4, and Walter Football had him in Rounds 3-5.
Their third-round pick, TE Josiah Dugerara, came at #94; PFF rated him at 191. More highly-regarded tight ends who were still available included Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet (98) and Adam Trautman (105). Again and again, Gutenkunst’s board skips over the scouting community’s consensus picks in favor of dark horses.
So, had Green Bay roughly adhered to the conventional scouting wisdom – and even if they were crazily insistent on getting a QB, they could have landed Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (rated #65 by PFF, chosen 53 by the Eagles). And this could have been done without trading away their fourth-round pick, so they could have snared another player at #136.
The stats for Hurts last season: 237 completions out of 340 passes, a 69.7 completion rate, for 3,851 yards, 32 TDs, 8 interceptions. Oh, and he can run: 233 attempts, 1,298 yards, 6.5 average, 20 TDs. Jordan Love’s line: 293 of 473, 61.9%, 3,402 yards, 20 TDs, 17 interceptions; he also rushed 81 times for 171 yards, a 2.2 average – and no TDs.
Gutekunst himself brags about using the “best player available” approach – but he does not. I exposed the BPA idiocy back in early 2017 – see “Clearing Up the ‘Best Player Available’ Nonsense”. Even at that time, GM Ted Thompson claimed he used the BPA approach, though he really didn’t. Gutekunst now makes the same claim, but he doesn’t either: there’s no way Green Bay’s picks last week were the best college players still available. NO WAY! But if Brian thinks they were, then for sure it’s time for a new GM!
Let’s set aside for now the whole question of what the Packers biggest needs were, and whether they were addressed. It’s inescapable that the Packers are rating players markedly differently than everyone else: other teams, other draft experts, other media analysts, and even their own fans.
What is it that the club’s scouts and other front office personnel are viewing in a different light than most others? Is the club placing too much, or too little, emphasis, on: athleticism, speed, size, fitness, age, intelligence, years of college ball, the quality of their college opponents, big school vs. small school, football powerhouses vs. unsuccessful football programs, injury history, rawness/polish, work ethic, character, criminal record, whether a player (in Gutey’s words) “fits with our culture,” playmaking ability, versatility, clutchness, whether one is a team player, aggressiveness/roughness, demeanor/presentation, decision-making ability, etc.
Gutekunst and Co. have to be factoring some or many of the above traits differently than most others. The Packers are so out of the mainstream with its 2020 picks that it’s almost certainly a catastrophic series of blunders. Only the most optimistic and patient fans will insist on waiting several years to verify that’s the case. It took the jury of fans but minutes to render its verdict this season.
The damage is done. The best that can happen is to fix it going forward. That might entail massive changes in the way the team’s board is compiled, or making drastic changes in the personnel who have been compiling these boards.
Mark Murphy needs to privately launch a full examination of Gutekunst’s board, and take appropriate steps to prevent a reoccurrence. I know, I know. . .but it had to be said anyway.
Here’s another thought: maybe Gutekunst has commandeered the entire process, whereby he’s the sole person dictating who lines up where on the board, and the team’s scouting personnel, who number close to 20, have been reduced to being yes-men.
I can’t help but wonder: would a performance appraisal of the third-year GM reveal that, behind that meek and mild exterior, Brian Gutekunst is just a wayward gambler, who relishes taking wild risks rather than playing the conventional odds?