Finding the perfect pairing of pass catchers for the Packers in the 2023 NFL Draft
The NFL draft is like the old college orientation bit where the speaker had everyone look to their left and then to their right to understand at least one of those three was likely to drop out. It’s a numbers game. And NFL teams would die to have a 2/3 success rate, but no team does over any length of time. That means worrying all that much about how players inside a draft class fit is a fool’s errand.
Still, when putting together the ideal team, the goal is to find players with complementary skill sets. With the Green Bay Packers searching for dynamic offensive weapons to pair with Jordan Love, they likely have to add both a tight end and a receiver in the draft later this month.
And it would help if they fit together in this offense.
Rather than simply pairing two guys together, let’s bucket them in terms of type as the player who comes first really ought to affect the kinds of players who come second. Approaching it this way also sets us up to have to care about likely player availability and asset allocation. In other words, if the Packers take a tight end at the No. 15 pick, will they really want to take another pass catcher at No. 45 or will they feel like they’re an overspend when they have two players in house at receiver they already love?
Those are all part of the calculations we make below.
The stud receiver
Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Perfect Pair: Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
This pairing reflects priorities. The Packers need a middle-of-the-field target to go with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. It could be a tight end or it could be a receiver, but how redundant would it be to use another premium pick on a player who operates in a similar space? My answer is, “Enough to make me hesitate.”
In this scenario, others would make the case for Darnell Washington because of his superlative blocking and ability to play in line. His role would not detract from the opportunities JSN would see in the passing game. That’s true, but then what is Washington’s value really to the offense? Having to spend a top-50 pick on a player with fewer than 50 collegiate receptions and little realistic pathway to ever being the engine to the passing game, I don’t like the value.
Instead, wait until pick No. 78 or later and grab Kraft who also profiles as a physical blocker and schemed-up weapon in the passing game. He’s not quite the athletic specimen, but his role would look similar. And while he only had 36 deep yards last year as charted by Pro Football Focus, his athletic profile with a 9.68 RAS suggests there’s more meat on that bone.