Identifying non-wideout impact prospects and draft-day trade scenarios
Wide receiver remains the topic du jour in Green Bay, but other questions surround the Packers' draft plans.
Seven days remain until draft week finally (mercifully) arrives. Before the end of the month, the Green Bay Packers will finally have answered the biggest remaining questions about their 2022 roster, mainly at wide receiver. So with that moment of clarity on the horizon, we offer the penultimate pre-draft free edition of the newsletter.
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Among the wide receivers likely to be available when the Packers pick, which one is the best fit for the team?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Because the question asks for the wide receivers "likely to be available" as opposed to "plausibly," I lean toward Georgia standout George Pickens. As Peter has pointed out for weeks, only a few prospects from the 2022 rookie class have a clear path to develop into traditional X receivers. Pickens, with a 6-foot-3, roughly 200-pound frame and overall stellar athletic testing, fits the bill physically. His best tape in college also showcases No. 1 wideout talent even if his limited action due to an ACL tear complicates his evaluation.
Pickens won't enter the league with the same level of refined route-running one expects from Chris Olave or a hypothetically healthy Jameson Williams. But Pickens has demonstrated that he can consistently get behind defenders while also beating them in contested catch situations, making him a matchup problem even before he learns the finer points of the position. With Sammy Watkins already in Green Bay and several speedy options for the Z receiver available on Days 2 and 3, securing a prospect with Pickens traits in the first round makes sense.
Peter Bukowski: For me, it’s Arkansas stud Treylon Burks, a player the Packers have already had in for a top-30 visit. One of the reasons may have been to see how he moves after he put together somewhat disappointing testing numbers despite looking like a phenom athlete on tape.
Burks’ ability to win on the outside in contested situations, make plays after the catch, and be deployed all over the field, fits beautifully with the Packers offense. While Deebo Samuels comparisons have become far too commonplace for a unique player, Burks not only fits the type, but we already saw him do it, getting jet sweep handoffs, playing in the backfield, and taking handoffs like Samuel.
What’s more, the Packers run a version of the Kyle Shanahan offense in which Deebo thrived. Burks would likewise shine in such an offense with manufactured touches and a coach creative enough to get him the ball in his hands with space to operate.
Which non-wideout could the Packers take in the first round that would make the maximum impact on 2022?
JBH: The Packers don't have many full-time openings in their starting lineups outside of receiver, but the offensive line offers some playing time to a rookie. By all accounts, David Bakhtiari will return to left tackle without restriction in 2022, and Josh Myers will hold the starting job at center. Everything else brings some kind of question, as Green Bay doesn't know when Elgton Jenkins will return from his torn ACL and where he might play, leaving Jon Runyan Jr. and Royce Newman somewhat in the lurch.
If the Packers prefer to keep Jenkins inside to boost the run game and help a still-inexperienced center, then finding a bookend tackle to pair with Bakhtiari makes sense. Charles Cross has typically gone much earlier than Green Bay's picks in mock drafts, but he could conceivably last until the 20s. If so, Brian Gutekunst could make him Billy Turner's successor at right tackle with Jenkins returning to guard whenever he receives medical clearance.
PB: Boston College guard Zion Johnson. He’s probably not the player I would pick at 22 or 28 given the relative positional value of an interior offensive lineman, but he plays a position where he could contend to start right away, which is only also true of receiver among any position on the team.
It’s hard to have an impact playing 40% of the snaps, which is what an OLB3 or S3 would be playing this season, even if those are potential starting spots in a year or two, and have better value overall.
With the offensive line's best five up in the air, Johnson could compete right away for Lucas Patricks’s vacated right guard spot with Royce Newman (and maybe Jon Runyan Jr,) where Johnson has more upside than any of those players.
What plausible trade scenario do you think the Packers could make on Day 1 of the draft?
JBH: While not probable, Green Bay could trade up to target a premium player. If, say, Olave lasts until the late teens, they could move up a handful of spots to secure his services. According to the Rich Hill draft chart, Gutekunst could package the 22nd and 92nd overall picks in exchange for the 17th overall pick, currently held by the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers probably wouldn't mind recouping a Day 2 pick after sending their second-rounder in the Khalil Mack trade while the Packers could jump a few teams who might also have interest in a premier wideout prospect.
PB: 28 for 40+41 with the Seattle Seahawks trading up for a quarterback. If the Packers snag one of their prized receivers at 22, trading back to add picks would make good sense unless another favorite of theirs happens to fall.
Imagine adding a player like Treylon Burks or Chris Olave, then having the chance at four more picks in the top 60. They could double dip with another premium receiver prospect like George Pickens or Christian Watson, while also adding a high-level edge rusher or offensive lineman.
Safety gets deep around 25-40 where players like Baylor Jalen Pitre, Michigan’s Daxton Hill, and Georgia’s Lewis Cine join players like Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker to form an appealing tier of safety options for the Packers. Getting more bites at the apple on a team needing cheap players this season and beyond would be terrific value.
PB: Sometimes Reddit is right. No, hear me out. Let’s not forgot all the conspiracy theories and cousin’s sister’s best friend’s Facebook friend said, but Packers Reddit had the Davante Adams trade to the Raiders before it broke and the Sammy Watkins deal multiple days before it broke.
Now, the conspiracy du jour is that Alabama star Jameson Williams is the Packers WR1 in this draft. On its face, this is not outlandish as Williams would likely have gone in the top-10 had he not torn his ACL back in January.
We might not ever know if Reddit just got lucky with the Adams deal, especially with plenty of people speculating about it when Adams bought a house in Las Vegas days before that trade. Watkins was one of three major veterans Green Bay could have signed.
But … let’s say the Packers trade up for Jameson Williams next week and do it ahead of Burks and Olave. It’ll probably never happen and it’s still probably luck, but if that trade-up happens, Packers Reddit posters will officially have my attention.