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Packers Position Needs Should Drive Picks in 2021 Draft

The biggest lie told by NFL general managers is that their sole motivation for picking a player was, “He was the best player available.” Player evaluation is not precise. You can’t say one player is 1 percentage point above every other player available. Every good GM puts players into categories because they grade out as potentially equivalent.

Smart GM’s find “difference makers”; players that could eventually be considered All-Pro’s, or sometimes better yet, just below that level, so that the team does not need to pay the accompanying bonus. But finding 10 great centers does not make a Super Bowl contender. An NFL GM must fill every position. Every team need. Every draft has players that will rise to the top performers for their position, but not every draft has quality players at EVERY position. If you are in need of a cornerback, but the draft only has one or two quality corners that are drafted in the first round before the your team selects, you can pick five cornerbacks in rounds 2-7, but you will not improve your team.

To accurately evaluate Packer draft picks requires three to four years. If you look at the top of the 2017 Packer draft, passing on T.J. Watt was a mistake. The error was compounded by taking Kevin King instead of future Pro-Bowl pick, CB Shaquill Griffin.

The Packers did pick a Pro-Bowl player in round 5 of the 2017 draft. The final Pro-Bowl player of the 2017 draft for any team is Aaron Jones. Jones was taken 36 picks after the only other 5th round Pro-Bowler from that draft, tight end George Kittle of the 49ers. The Packers got the steal of the 2017 draft in Jones. If they had picked Watt in round one and Griffin in Round 2, the Packers might be Super Bowl champs. But the draft is imperfect. This year will again require skillful evaluations and some luck.

The Packers have multiple needs. Defense Line, center, cornerback, inside linebacker, running back and wide receiver. An extra offensive tackle sure sounds nice too. Seven position needs, with ten projected picks thanks to projected compensatory awarded picks for Blake Martinez, Brian Bulaga and Kyler Fackrell. The decision on who to pick must be based on the quality of player available and the quality of players at the same position that will be available in later rounds. Premium positions usually are focused by GM’s in early rounds. True offensive tackles, defensive edge rushing linebackers and pass rushing defensive tackles/ends. Cornerbacks, and most importantly, quarterbacks. After these positions, a good GM looks for dominant players with “upside”. Upside, the potential to improve and become a dominant NFL player.

The question of the 2021 draft is which players will be available for the Packers with the 29th pick and subsequent picks. This years draft will be the closest example of a crap shoot that current NFL GM’s will ever experience. The college season was limited. Some quality players opted out. The tape that most GM’s use for evaluation just isn’t available for this draft. Mock drafts have players all over the board. An example is Daviyon Nixon. Nixon is listed as the 135th best player on CBS Sport’s big board. Yet, he is Mel Kiper’s top rated defensive tackle and a Kiper top ten pick. Nixon made a spectacular interception against Penn State, a high-light reel winner, but he has only started 8 games in his Division One career at Iowa.

All of those starts were in 2020, a Covid influenced year of competition that many say was inferior due to reduced competition, practice and games played. This year the Packers need a solid draft to fill positions immediately. There will not be the luxury experienced by the 2020 draft picks. The Packers cannot financially retain all of their quality free agents. Holes in the offense and defense need to be filled in the 2021 draft. Many of Gutekunst’s 2021 picks may be based on limited game tape. If he finds three quality starters, Ron Wolf’s patented test of a successful draft, then the Packers have a chance to maintain their North Division supremacy. Let us hope that all ten 2021 picks produce for the Packers, and do so early in their careers.

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is a lawyer, victim advocate, writer, and long term Packer fan and Packer history enthusiast.

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4 Comments

  1. PF4L February 19, 2021

    The biggest lie told by a NFL general manager: “He fell to us”
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    “Many of Gutekunst’s 2021 picks may be based on limited game tape. If he finds three quality starters,…………….”
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    Citing the fact Gute has found a total of 3 quality starters in his first 3 drafts (with plenty of game tape and scouting), that comment made me giggle.

    Reply
    1. Mick February 20, 2021

      LOL! Another GM quote; “he was a player we targeted all along”. Or, “we were giddy to find this player still available in the latter part of the 6th round”. Well Mr. GM; there’s a reason he lasted that long!!!!!!! EGADS!

      Reply
  2. PF4L February 19, 2021

    Packers 2021 top 3 draft picks…

    1st round…Kenneth Gainwell (RB)
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    2nd round..Kylen Granson (TE)
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    3rd round…Paul Blackwell (LS)

    Reply
    1. Mick February 21, 2021

      LOL; Talk about a ” draft and develop philosophy-” ——– that’s more like a ” draft and unable to develop” philosophy!

      Reply

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