1. The Draft order
The draft order, as usual, finds the Packers picking late in the first round. Notably, the Bears have the third pick and the Minnesota Vikings have no picks in the first round. Here is the order:
1. Cleveland Browns
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Chicago Bears
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
5. Tennessee Titans from Los Angeles Rams
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Buffalo Bills
11. New Orleans Saints
12. Cleveland Browns from Philadelphia Eagles
13. Arizona Cardinals
14. Philadelphia Eagles from Minnesota Vikings
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Baltimore Ravens
17. Washington Redskins
18. Tennessee Titans
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Denver Broncos
21. Detroit Lions
22. Miami Dolphins
23. New York Giants
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Houston Texans
26. Seattle Seahawks
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Dallas Cowboys
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
31. Atlanta Falcons
32. New Orleans Saints from New England Patriots
The Packers have more needs this year than in the recent past. With more players exiting in free agency, this year’s draft may be critical to the Packers continued success. Here is my list of the top five needs in order (if you watch Good Packer Nation Morning, you have already heard my rationale behind these).
- Edge rusher/OLB
- O lineman
- Running back
- Inside linebacker
3. Popular Picks for the Pack
As free agency wore on, the popular picks that Packer Nation wanted at number 29 changed. Early on there were a lot of Packers fans that thought a tight end in the first round would be a great pick if one of the top guys was still on the board. Now, no one really wants a tight end in round one. Here (in no particular order) is a survey of some of the picks that have surfaced in mock drafts of late:
- Gareon Conley
- TJ Watt
- Forrest Lamp
- Joe Mixon
- Dalvin Cook
- Takk McKinley
- Taco Charlton
Of course, the picks of the other teams will shorten this list as some will not be available. Other teams have needs and are high on certain guys too, which is why our live draft simulation should be more than fun. It will also give an idea of how the actual first round may play out on the 27th. It is much more valuable to see what the other teams are doing as the first round choice is dependant on that key determination of who is available.
4. Choices near pick 29 on my big board
My big board is a compilation of draft guides, stats, and my own personal viewing of the tape on these guys. I also gave a little nod to players that are at premium positions over those who are not. I have several players hovering around number nine that may (possibly) be available for the Pack. Many I think will be gone but that is what the draft is for. Notables include Christian McCaffery (20) who is a long shot but if he falls to the Packers, would case a significant discussion to take place, Quincy Wilson (27), Jabrill Peppers (29) who could be seen as a replacement for Hyde if Davon House pans out, Takk McKinley (28), Adoree Jackson (33), and even guys like Carl Lawson (34) and Tyus Bowser (33) may be around. NOTE: TJ Watt, while further down the board, is a guy that I would like the Packers to consider and do not think will be available in round two. The parallels between Watt and Matthews make me think that Ted Thompson may be higher on TJ than some other GM’s in the league. If they were to draft him, I would not be upset at all.
5. Pertinent Questions for the Packers
Here are some questions I would have to ask myself if I was Ted Thompson going into this year’s draft. Each year is different and while Ted seems to be a creature of habit and some draftniks go to great lengths to determine profiles for Ted’s picks and assume that he will not pick outside of that range. They base this on past picks in past years. I don’t make that assumption. Other than the assumption that Ted doesn’t like shorter cornerbacks (and Sam Shields pushes even this but he was undrafted) I don’t buy the line that stats of the past determine picks of the present. The Packers have their reasons for projecting NFL success and certainly the measurables are a factor, also, I believe a factor in the profiling is the belief that other teams will be thinking the same thing and palyers may be available in later rounds because of those other teams or that they may in fact be available after the draft (though passing on a possible first rounder would not fit the UFA part) and are very patient and stick to those guns. So yes, the Packers have a system and do not operate outside that system. But the system itself, if it is worth anything at all, has built into it a process by which to choose a player that doesn’t fit neatly into their boxes.
Here are some of what I feel are the most important questions the Packers have to answer this year:
- Can this year truly be a “draft and develop” year? While I am generally a proponent of the Packers draft and develop strategy, I don’t think they can approach this years draft with the same rigid adherence that they have in the past. The defense was bad last year and saw some important pieces exit this off-season. Also, a couple of key components that the Packers drafted to develop did not have good seasons last year (Randall, Rollins). The offensive line is right now depending on the development of Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs. And the running back situation is dependant on a wide receiver who developed into a running back. So can the Packers truly draft players that they plan to develop? The situation on defense in particular says that they cannot. With that said, they may have to be willing to trade up and choose less players but get ahold of an extra guy that can make an immediate impact.
- Should the Packers go away from “best player available” if another plug and play guy is available at a position of need? To me, the most likely scenario where this comes into question is if Christian McCaffery is available and
the Packers have him rated very high, but an edge rusher or cornerback who could help the defense is there as well. The best player available philosophy says that McCaffery is the pick but a great offensive player will only be on the field sharing the ball with all the other offensive players that the Packers already have and the offense itself can only score when it is on the field. The rest of the time, McCaffery along with Aaron Rodgers et al will be sitting and watching a defense that gives up points in droves. To me, there needs to be a negative point given to offensive players that offsets the obvious need to re-tool our defense.
- If the Packers don’t like what they see at 29…should they trade back? I think this is a year where the Packers should have trade partners on the phone if they don’t like how the first round plays out.
- Should the Packers entertain trades for Brett Hundley? I will be the first to say that I think Hundley is a player that gives the Packers little in terms of leverage this year. Having missed the entire pre-season last year, he cannot have the value that he might after next season. At the same time, the Packers (due to the number of free agency losses) are looking at a 2018 draft in which they should already have several extra picks. If they can move up in a round by trading Hundley, I think they should do it.
- Where should the focus be? The Packers don’t draft for need but they do need to have a focus this year. Best player of
available could hurt them very quickly if the Packers end up drafting offensive players in the first two rounds. The defense needs help and should be a focus. Within that bigger question, the next question is “Where should the focus on the defense be?” I think linebacker would be my position of focus as the team at least brought in Davon House this off-season. That is not to say that the Packers don’t need to focus on the defensive backfield with the exit of Hyde and as much as we play nickel. But we are a 3-4 base defense and our linebackers corps is thin right now.
So there are some points to ponder and questions to mull as Packer Nation goes into the live draft simulation on Monday. These questions will be hanging over Ted’s head on the 27th. Let me know what your take is on this year’s draft in the comments below or back on the Facebook fanpage. And tune in to Good Packer Nation Morning live on the Facebook page Monday (9:00 Central, 10:00 Eastern) as we set up and run the first round. We will go “on the clock” and you can pound the table for your favorite player!