Grading the Packers' 2023 NFL Draft … process
We weren’t in the war room. We didn’t sit down with Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur to hash out Player A versus Player B as the seconds ticked down on the clock during the NFL draft this past week.
In a lot of ways though, those conversations don’t matter, or at least don’t matter as much as what actually happened. Draft grades end up being an exercise in “did I like this player or not?”
But that asks the wrong question. History tells us player evaluation is wrong regularly, certainly more often than years of trend lines. So how did the Packers do based on what we know about the draft over the years? Incredible well.
Last week, I wrote about the key rules to follow in the NFL draft, ones supported by data. Noted The Leap reader Gutekunst IMO.
These are all either examples or variations of rules from that list.
Premium athlete at a premium position in Round 1
Coincidentally, this is what the Packers have done regularly in the Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst eras with Quay Walker really being the lone exception if we consider Devonte Wyatt as a pass-rush pick. Worrying about player evals in post-draft (and maybe even pre-draft) analysis functions mostly as an exercise in ego. If teams drafted solely on what we know works in the first round they would attempt the following: an elite athlete, at a premium position and one that on your team with your roster construction, maximizes contract value.
Historically, the NFL orders premium position players better, better athletes have higher hit rates at these positions and the value of a rookie pass rusher relative to other spots is as high as any position other than quarterback.
The difference between EDGE4 and EDGE3 or EDGE5 is negligible based on hit rates over the years. In other words, I’m not going to ding the Packers for having Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness rated over players I thought were higher-graded prospects because LVN checks every conceivable box for a first-round value.
Van Ness also checks one of our boxes from last week: pass rushers with premium agility. His 7.01 seconds in the three-cone drill at 270-plus pounds is stellar, already in the 80th percentile for EDGE players. Adjusted for height and weight, this is an extremely promising trait to have to go along with terrific power.