Draft season is upon us with the first wave of free agency in the books. With the additions of Muhammed Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham, the Packers have filled a hole at tight end, and created a strength along the defensive line.
They’ve found a veteran stop gap with Tramon Williams at cornerback. He’ll replace the jettisoned Damarious Randall.
There are still needs on both sides of the ball. Brian Gutekunst has said despite being more active in free agency, the lifeblood of the franchise will still be the draft. The Packers need to be better in this regard. As great as Ted Thompson was in his tenure, his last few drafts left some to be desired.
For this exercise, which I will do frequently between now and April I used fanspeak.com. I went with Matt Miller’s big board because it was one of the most recently updated.
These drafts are never perfect, but this way instead of just plugging names to fill space, this can be a little more realistic.
Here’s how it shook out.
1 (14) Denzel Ward CB Ohio State – The first pick solves a big need for the Packers’ defense. Ward comes from a university in Ohio State that has had great success in churning out defensive backs in recent memory. Ward has the speed to play on the boundary and the quickness to play inside. There were other players on the board such as Virginia Tech’s Trumaine Edmunds and Iowa’s Joshua Jackson. I tend to like Jackson more as a prospect, but I think the Packers will like Ward’s speed. I went with Ward.
2 (45) Dallas Goedart TE South Dakota State – Yes, another tight end. Mike McCarthy has stated how much he loves tight ends in the past. He’s called it a premium position. The Packers tried to rebuild the position last year with the signings of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Bennett is now retired after his soap opera, and Kendricks is better suited to be a TE2. Goedart would be given time to develop behind Jimmy Graham and Kendricks, but also able to step in. The Packers need as many dynamic pass catching options as possible. Goedart is the full package at a position of need.
3 (76) Michael Gallup WR Colorado State – Yes, another pass catcher. The Packers need another boundary threat regardless of their reported interest in Jordan Matthews. Randall Cobb is on the final year of his deal. Matthews would likely be a short-term signing. The receivers behind the two experienced players leave a lot to be desired. Gallup is Davante Adams light, with a little better speed to get behind the defense. Aaron Rodgers would love him immediately. Another good thing about this selection is if the Packers were to sign Matthews, they could bring Gallup along slowly. Receiver is a difficult position to learn in the NFL. That’s especially true in the Packers’ offense.
4 (101) Nick Nelson CB Wisconsin – Another defensive back. As you’ve seen the Packers are rebuilding that position. You can’t rebuild the position if you only select one young player. Nelson tested beautifully at the combine. He played in a well-coached Wisconsin defense. He could also contribute on special teams. The Packers add another talented defensive back to compete with some of their holdovers.
4b (133) Hercules Mata’afa EDGE Washington State – He might be the most intriguing player in the draft. He’s too small to play inside in the NFL, but that’s where he played primarily in college. He lived in his opponents’ backfield. Mata’afa would give the more competition to the likes of Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel. Because of his experience, he could also kick inside on obvious passing downs should Mike Pettine choose to employ him that way.
5 (138) – Shaqiem Griffin LB Central Florida – This will be a popular selection because he is the best story of the draft. Griffin plays with one hand. There is some controversy as to whether the NFL will let him play with a prosthetic. What isn’t controversial is whether or not Griffin can play. He’s an off-ball linebacker with the speed to chase sideline-to-sideline. What he needs is a dominant defensive line in front of him as a way to stay of blocks. The Packers have that with their rotation of Daniels, Clark, Wilkerson, and Lowry. Griffin would inject some much needed speed into the Packers’ linebacker corps.
5b (172) Troy Fumagalli TE Wisconsin – A pick to make the home state happy. Fumagalli is another tight end, but he makes for the perfect role player. He has good hands in the red zone, but is also a willing and able blocker. This would give plenty of competition to the tight end room regardless of whether the Packers sign Richard Rodgers.
5c (174) Skyler Phillips G Idaho State – A little out of character here, because the Packers typically don’t take a true guard. Usually they are picking offensive tackles and kicking them inside to guard. Phillips’ value was too good to pass up here. He’ll be an instant contributor in the running game. As it stands now, the Packers’ starting right guard will be Justin McCray. This would add some competition to his plate.
6 (186) Kentavius Street DL NC State – Ted Thompson took an offensive or defensive lineman in every one of his drafts. Gutekunst has shown some similarities to Thompson. Here’s one. He takes a DT later even though it isn’t necessarily a pressing need.
6 (207) Equanimeous St. Brown WR Notre Dame – Again, value too good here to pass up. St. Brown is a long strider with deceptive speed. His size will immediately be intriguing in the red zone. He’ll become an even bigger weapon as he learns the position.
7 (232) JT Barrett QB Ohio State – I’m a Michigan Wolverines fan, so let me start by saying JT was short. The Packers will probably add another quarterback to bring to camp should they either trade Brett Hundley or move on from Joe Callahan. Barrett’s athleticism is intriguing and typically something McCarthy looks for in his training camp quarterbacks.
7b (239) KJ Malone G LSU – Karl Malone’s son, and he was built with his strength. Malone adds more depth on the interior and potentially some competition for last year’s 6th round pick Kofi Ameicha.
What I liked adding: The defensive back depth is good in this draft. I was able to get two talented corners in the first 131 picks. Ward and Nelson should both compete for starting spots in the near future.
The plethora of pass catchers was nice as well. Goedart, Gallup, and St. Brown all have chances to be good players. That’s especially true with Aaron Rodgers throwing them the ball.
What I didn’t like: I only was able to add one edge rusher. While I do like Mata’afa as a prospect, I think the Packers’ need at pass rush is one of their tops on the list. Unfortunately, the value did not present itself. If I were Brian Gutekunst I would be working the post-camp cuts and hoping that a full offseason for Vince Biegel does the trick to fix the pass rush.