The NFL has made it easier on NFL teams to build their rosters. Free agency starts after college bowl games, the Senior Bowl and it’s progeny, and the NFL combine. Teams have seen what the draft has to offer. A good GM who knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team as free agency begins, knows how to focus his cap-limited resources. His draft strategy must fill the holes that free agency and his existing lineup cannot. The option of drafting for the future success of the franchise over immediate improvement has already been attempted by Brian Gutekunst before at the expense of a first round and fourth round pick in 2020. They will not recoup that investment by trading Love this year. Love’s third season could be a breakout or bust for his NFL future. Unless a team sees something on tape that this writer and most pundits have not, a trade now would result in minimal return. A trade after a successful preseason may increase his value. In any event the Packers will need a backup quarterback, but having just experienced the backlash of their franchise passer after one attempt to draft his replacement, would Gutekunst even contemplate pulling that stunt again after dolling out a multi year capitulation to Mr. Rodgers? The Packer front office may make mistakes, but they also learn lessons. If the Packers draft a QB , it will be a late round project.
While the Packers were smart to lock up De’Vondre Campbell based on last year’s performance, their tight cap restraints will make it impossible to lock up many good players that contributed to the Packer depth in 2021. Ben Braden, Billy Turner and Za’Darius Smith were the first to go. With Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari both coming back from serious injuries, the strength of the 2020 roster, offensive tackle, is now a need. Good offensive tackles are hard to find the farther you get away from the first round, so that may be the Packer day one direction.
Unfortunately, finding dynamic pass catchers that can contribute in year one are also few and far between past round one. While the Packers have a history of finding day two draft gems, their last attempt at day three wideouts, three draft picks in 2018, (Moore, MVS, and Brown) did not result in any player being offered a second contract. The failure of former third rounder Jace Sternberger, the age of Marcedes Lewis and Tonyan’s injury also put a hole in the tight end depth chart. The Packers have tried the third round twice but Sternberger failed and Josiah Deguara will need a breakout year to replace Lewis or Tonyan’s production.
Finally, defensive line could use a difference maker. Kenny Clark is an All Pro but no D-line teammate has come close to his level of consistent performance. While La’Darius Smith did not contribute much in 2020 due to injury, the Packers could also use a third pass rusher on the edge. The 2022 draft has a long list of defensive lineman that pundits think have potential and a decent crop of pass rushers. Will the Packers prioritize these potential gaps?
By signing Campbell, the Packers shored up a defense that played well enough to be champions. The offense needs pass catchers that “have the trust” of Aaron Rodgers. That phrase has become annoying to some fans but like it or not it is here to stay. The Packer’s tag of Davante Adams must result in a long term contract. Any other result is a failure of the overall plan. If Gutekunst is getting input from Rodgers on player acquisition, one doesn’t need to speculate on Rodgers’ desire to have Adam’s back. Even with Adams and restricted free agent Allen Lazard back the Packers need at least two more receivers. A speed specialist to replace MVS would help blow the top off defenses. The 2022 draft has a large number of wideouts that ran sub 4.40 forties at the combine. The Packers must look long and hard at that group and diligently try to acquire one speedy receiver in this draft.
With the Packer’s needs coming into clear focus, April 28th looks like a potentially good day for the Packers. Their needs fit the draft class’ strongest areas of depth. Let us hope four starters come out of the three day circus, and that our fans get to experience the draft up close and personal, at Lambeau Field, in the near future.