Despite his stellar accomplishments — drafting future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, building a world-class offensive line largely on middle-round picks, revolutionizing Green Bay’s secondary by signing cornerback Charles Woodson, and bringing home a Super Bowl championship — the writing was on the wall for long-tenured Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson after several sub-par off-seasons.
Having allowed not one, but two Pro Bowl-caliber defensive backs (Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde) leave in free agency, it was apparent that a change of regime was finally in order. For new GM Brian Gutekunst this leaves a number of tall tasks, including repairing a floundering secondary, adding to a running back group that badly needs a lead runner, and revamping an aging wide receiver corps. So, putting on my Gutekunst hat, here is my attempt to revert Titletown back to championship contention:
Round 1, Pick 14: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
For all the hype surround Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who has been dubbed a generational talent and a sure-fire top-five pick by a bevy of analysts, there is a legitimate argument to be made that LSU’s Derrius Guice is even better. With tremendous burst, balance through contact, and a natural forward lean that allows him to brace for impact and truck defenders, Guice is as pro-ready as they come, and complements that with the instincts and vision to anticipate holes opening and tacklers swarming the backfield. Guice’s most impressive trait; however, might be his subtle elusiveness. While he doesn’t make flashy, grandiose cuts in the way of LeSean McCoy or Tarik Cohen, Guice is still adept at sidestepping defenders behind the line and even putting on a move or two in the open field.
Guice may not be getting all the hype, but he checks virtually every box, and has the potential to be a Pro Bowler from his rookie year on. For the Packers, who have not drafted a running back in the first round since Darrell Thompson in 1990, Guice could be the game-changer that elevates their offense to Super Bowl caliber. A backfield featuring Guice, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery could quickly emerge as the best in the NFL.
Derrius Guice creates business decisions. So violent and it doesn’t matter who he’s going up against he will still try to run them over and I would not bet against him pic.twitter.com/tfj3youI5l
— Matt (@NFL_Draft1121) February 8, 2018
Round 2, Pick 45: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State Right now, Green Bay’s tight end up depth chart features three names: Lance Kendricks, a 30-year-old entering the final year of his contract, Richard Rodgers, an impending free agent, and Emanuel Byrd, a 2017 undrafted rookie whose claim to fame last year was literally running out of his shoes during the final game of the season. It’s safe to say that tight end is a pressing need for the Green and Gold. Enter 6’4″, 260-pound Dallas Goedert. While he may not have the ridiculous height and length of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, Goedert can still be a veritable nightmare in the passing game all over the field.
Most notably, Goedert has tremendous core strength, and regularly stays up and gains yards after the catch, even after coming down with jump balls. However, it is at the goal line where Goedert truly makes his money. With crafty route-running, masterful body control, strength at the catch point, and “late hands” that rarely afford defenders a possibility to even play the ball, Goedert has all the tools to be a touchdown machine. Something that his 21 career scores serve as a testament to. Although the Packers hardly need help in the red zone — finishing finishing fourth in the NFL in red zone scoring percentage last season (61.9%) — adding to an area of strength never hurts. The combo of Aaron Rodgers-to-Dallas Goedert could be one to fear and revere for years to come.
Round 3, Pick 76: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington With rumblings that Randall Cobb and the aging Jordy Nelson could become cap casualties following Davante Adams’s lucrative contract extension, the Packers are once again in need of weapons to support Aaron Rodgers. While Dante Pettis was not tremendously productive at Washington, accumulating just 761 receiving yards in his senior season, he has all the tools to succeed at the next level. Pettis may be the best route-runner in this wide receiver class. From his signature shoulder dip to get through jams to his utterly violent changes of direction, Pettis is a bona fide ankle-breaker with straight-line speed to boot.
On top of this, Pettis has a tremendous catch radius. He consistently catches balls away from his body — often contorting and leaping to do so — and has an innate awareness of both the sideline and defensive backs. Furthermore, Pettis is a phenomenal return man, recording four punt return touchdowns in his senior season. While he does need some refinement, this Adam Thielen clone could give the Packers the deep threat element they have painfully lacked since Jordy Nelson’s ACL tear in 2015.
Round 3, Pick 101: Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama For a long time under old defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers were famous for being one of the few teams in the NFL to almost exclusively play a press-man scheme. In recent years, however, the team began incorporating more zone concepts, in part due to a windfall of injuries at the cornerback position. Now, under new DC Mike Pettine, the Packers will likely look to get back to the old press-man look. But it will require an influx of depth. Anthony Averett is not a refined technician, and tends to be stiff and overzealous in coverage. However, he also brings numerous attractive traits to the table.
He is physical at the line of scrimmage, and often also continues to be physical at the tops of routes. This allows him to better limit separation. He has enough size and length (6’0, 185 pounds) to disrupt passes at the catch point, and has progressed in the way of turning his body back to the quarterback to play the ball. While he may be beaten by craftier route runners, he has the strength and tenacity to be a solid complementary piece in the Packers’ scheme.
Round 4, Pick 116: Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State With top pass rusher Nick Perry coming off a down year and Clay Matthews gradually inching towards retirement, edge rusher is a major need for the Packers. Although he is far from a sure thing, Josh Sweat is an athletic, high-upside prospect, and could end up having a similar long-term impact to many pass rushers taken before him. A former five-star recruit, Sweat has allegedly run a 4.46 on the 40-yard dash.
It shows in the way he explodes off the line and tracks down ball carriers from behind. Sweat also has tremendous upper body strength and is able to keep defenders at bay while setting a hard edge by leaning in with his shoulder. While Sweat’s bend is only average, he consistently gets his hips squared to the quarterback, allowing him to take efficient routes. Though his production (just 5.5 sacks in 2017) is somewhat concerning, Sweat is young (21), athletic, and has already developed swipe and rip moves, making him a potential mid-round steal.
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) February 8, 2018
Round 5, Pick 152: Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech
Having parted ways with two Pro Bowl-caliber guards in Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, the Packers have encountered a conundrum at the position of late. Although Lane Taylor has produced on one side — and rightfully earned himself a contract extension — the other side has been a revolving door of various replacements, including veteran Jahri Evans. With Wyatt Teller; however, the Packers could shore up the guard position for years to come. Or at least collect a valuable depth piece.
A former defensive lineman, Teller has transitioned phenomenally into a tough run blocker who anchors well, stays low through contact, and knows how to efficiently get to the second level. That style would work wonders for Guice and the Packers’ revamped backfield. He also plays with a visible mean streak and regularly puts rushers on their backs.
Round 5, Pick 173: Jason Cabinda, LB, Penn State
A year ago inside linebacker would have been a position of serious need for the Packers. However, following major leaps in development from youngsters Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, the Packers can now afford to wait to take a linebacker — and would be picking mostly for the sake of depth and competition.
In Jason Cabinda, the Packers would be getting a physical, high-motor linebacker who stays patient in his gaps and accelerates to finish tackles. Cabinda has also shown to be a real asset in coverage, with the ability to swiftly react to throws underneath and come around defenders to bat down passes. Seeing how Martinez struggled against the pass this past season despite his improvement in other areas (posting just a 44.0 coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus), having Cabinda in the fold could prove vital if Martinez does not progress further next season.
Round 5, Pick 175: Siran Neal, DB, Jacksonville State
In recent years, the Packers have taken a liking to hybrid defensive backs who can thrive at multiple positions. Whether it be Casey Hayward, who plays both inside and outside cornerback, Micah Hyde and Josh Jones, who have seen time at both safety and slot corner, or Damarious Randall, who has almost exclusively played cornerback in the NFL but saw significant snaps at safety in college, the Packers have put a premium on versatility. So, if Siran “Low-Budget Minkah Fitzpatrick” Neal is still on the board in the fifth round, rest assured that the Packers will be salivating.
In Neal, the Packers would be getting a long (6’1), rangy corner with rare physicality in the slot. An instinctive, ball-hawking safety with a fearless temperament in the run game. And a capable special teamer all in one. Neal may not be an game-breaker, but he has a chance to make an impact almost anywhere on the field.
Round 5, Pick 177: Chris Herndon IV, TE, Miami
After selecting Dallas Goedert earlier in the draft to serve as a mismatch in all facets of the passing game, the Packers can now double-down on the tight end position with Chris Herndon IV, who would serve a much more multifaceted role.
Having lined up in line, at the H-back spot, and at fullback while backing up former first-round pick David Njoku, Herndon is a highly capable blocker, and should contribute significantly in any running scheme. However; Herndon is no slouch as a receiver, either. A long strider with a lean, muscular frame and strong core, Herndon can consistently separate from slower linebackers. He’s also shown an ability to stay balanced through contact and fight for extra yards. With blocking tight end Richard Rodgers and fullback Aaron Ripkowski both due to hit free agency soon, Herndon could become a valuable depth piece if he recovers from his recent season-ending knee injury.
Round 6, Pick 189: Greg Senat, OT, Wagner
Much like how Siran Neal gained exposure for a stellar performance against top-shelf receivers like Oklahoma State’s James Washington during Senior Bowl Week, Greg Senat flashed his own pro potential at the East-West Shrine Game, going toe-to-toe with premier edge rushers like Joe Ostman.
As a prospect, Senat is extremely raw. He frequently allows pass rushers to get low position on him, causing him to stumble back. At the same time though, Senat has tremendous size and length (6’8, 290 pounds), and is adept at landing the first punch and finishing blocks. If he manages to stay low, that is. Senat anchors well and plays with a mean streak in the run game. With an excellent physical profile and intriguing athleticism due to his basketball background, Senat could see a career arc similar to Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant, and may grow into a capable backup to right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Round 7, Pick 232: Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
Although he somewhat came into his own this year as a return man, former 2016 fifth round pick Trevor Davis has still generally been a disappointment for Green Bay. Seeing that he has recorded just eight catches for 94 yards over his first two seasons, the Packers could decide to move on this off-season. If they do, Ray-Ray McCloud would be the perfect successor.
Averaging 12.1 yards per punt return over his junior season, McCloud developed into a major special teams weapon for the Tigers, and could do the same for the Packers. However, that is not to say that he is limited to just one role. McCloud has deadly speed and quickness, and has developed an ability to track and find deep balls, which made him a capable complementary weapon in the passing game during his final year at Clemson. If he continues to grow, he could eventually become a valuable gadget player for Green Bay.
Round 7, Pick 239: Devante Kincade, QB, Grambling State
Short and skinny (6’0, 190 pounds), Devante Kincade does not fit the prototype for a typical NFL quarterback. That said, Kincade is the perfect prospect to take a late-round flyer on. For starters, he is deadly fast, with a projected 40 time of 4.52, and maddeningly shifty in the open field. However, Kincade is more than just a runner. He has consistently demonstrated above-average arm strength, elusiveness in the pocket, and an ability to make throws from different arm slots. He has also shown the capability to make difficult, NFL-caliber passes outside the numbers.
Although Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley struggled for much of last season, he showed enough flashes against teams like the Steelers, Browns, and Bears to warrant keeping around as the second-stringer for another season. However, that does not preclude the Packers from gambling on the kid from Grambling, whose intriguing upside would fit in nicely behind two fellow athletic, strong-armed passers in Rodgers and Hundley.