24 October 2020

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Draft Preview: Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers had a bounce-back season in 2019 after having one of the worst records in team history in 2018. Heading into the season there were questions around how the Packers would function as previous head coach Mike McCarthy was fired the previous year after being with the team for 13 years. People were wondering how new head coach Matt LeFleur would work with Aaron Rodgers as McCarthy was the head coach for most of Rodgers’s time in Green Bay turns out Rodgers played fine with LeFleur. Rodgers had an impressive year as he threw for 4,002 yards while having a 62% completion rate and had 26 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions thrown. The Packers started the season with a 7-1 record, one of the best records in the league and once again Green Bay looked like Superbowl contenders. Second-year running back Aaron Jones also was a huge piece to the team as he had 1,084 rushing yards and was the co-leader for rushing touchdowns with 16 and also contributed in the passing game as he caught 3 touchdowns.

The Packers finished the season with an impressive 13-3 record, their first double-digit win season since 2016 the same year they also last reached the playoffs. The Packers earned themselves the #2 seed earning themselves a 1st-round bye and a matchup against the Seahawks in the divisional round. The Packers would go on to win 28-23 in a close battle against Seattle and were just one win away from making their 6th Superbowl appearance and had hopes of capturing their 5th Lombardi trophy. The Packers would go on to lose the NFC Championship to the San Francisco 49ers 37-20 as they could not get their offense rolling against the 49ers elite defense. With Green Bay being so close to capturing another championship they could use a little help and with their 10 total draft picks they can add some great talent to the team. Here are some positions the Packers could look to address in the draft.

Wide Receiver

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers receiving core was led by Davante Adams who is arguably the best route runner in the league. Adams was just 3 yards shy of recording a 1,000-yard season as he finished the season with 997 receiving yards with an average of 12 yards per carry. Adams had 5 touchdowns which are 8 less than what he had last year despite that he tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns. The second leader in reception yards was wideout Allen Lazard who had 477 receiving yards on 35 receptions following Lazard was receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling who had 452 receiving yards on just 26 receptions. Lazard and Scantling where both solid complementary receivers yo Adams buy you both failed to crack over 500 yards and failed to have over 4 receptions touchdown. Although they both stepped up their game as Adam would miss a couple of games as he battled with a toe turf injury but when Adams was on the field they both failed to take some workload of Adams.

The Packers made little to no efforts to boost up their help for Adams as they went out and signed wideout Devin Funchess who was hurt for all of 2019 while a part of the Colts as he suffered a broken collarbone before the start of the season. Funchess was the only receiver the Packers went out and signed in free agency although there is still a chance they add someone to the team just not a popular receiver. The Packers could look to target a wideout to take some pressure off Adams and a player who can do just that is Tee Higgins with a 6’4 216 frame it’s almost impossible to not feel his presence on the field. Higgins caught 59 catches for 1,167 receiving yards with an average of 19.7 yards per catch and 13 touchdowns for Clemson last year as he was often matched up with no cornerback bigger than him allowing him to catch anything thrown to him. A big red zone threat because of his size was one of Clemson’s biggest advantages as they would often throw a fade to Higgins in the corner along with just tossing up the ball to Higgins and let him moss whoever was covering him. With the presence of Higgins on the field, it would give Adams some breathing room and it’s not the length of Higgins that scares defenses it’s his skill-set at his size he possesses that make him dangerous. The Packers have the chance to have the best receiver at creating separation in Adams and a receiver who can potentially become the best get up and grab a receiver in the league giving Rodgers a pretty scary arsenal.

Linebacker

UW Athletics photo

The Packers lost one of their best linebackers in their defense as they lost Blake Martinez in free agency. Throughout the season it was questionable if Martinez would return to Green Bay or go look for a semi-big contract elsewhere. Martinez was one of the best cover linebackers in free agency making it almost impossible for teams to not chase him giving the Packers a slimmer chance to re-sign him. Martinez recorded 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 2 pass deflections, and 5 tackles for loss. The Packers responded to losing Martinez by going out and signing Christian Kirksey, another top linebacker who was unexpectedly released by the Browns as they could not come to terms on a new contract. Kirksey looks to have a bounce-back season, as these past 2 seasons he has been injured causing him to miss significant time, last season Kirksey suffered a chest injury early in the season causing him to only play 2 games. With Kirksey being a good linebacker in the past he has been battling injuries which may be something the Packers may keep in the back of their head.

Currently, the backup for Kirksey is Curtis Bolton assuming Kirksey will be the starter because of the praise Green Bay has for him. Bolton, a rookie, is also coming off a season-ending injury as he tore his ACL in preseason forcing him to miss the entire 2019 season. With both linebackers coming off a season-ending injury the Packers may look to add another healthy linebacker who can fill in as a potential rotational piece for Kirksey. A prospect to look out for is Logan Wilson who is coming off a solid season for Wyoming as he was a key rotational piece in their defense. Wilson recorded 7 pass deflections, 1 sack, 1 force fumble, and 4 interceptions along with an impressive 108 tackles which was one of the highest in the defense. Wilson was a mini ball hawk for the defense with his 4 interceptions and is an underrated linebacker when it comes to great coverage. Wilson has kept consistency for Wyoming during his time there as he always performed not at a high level but always improved his game never showing a descending game. Kirksey ends up being the starter for 2019 but Wilson can very well become a great complementary piece to his game and become a rotational player as they could use Kirksey as a three-down player.

Offensive Tackle

Associated Press

The Packers did a good job of protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers as they allowed the 12th least amount of sacks in the league with 36 and only allowed 85 QB hits which is one of the fewest in the league allowed. Pro Football Focus ranked the Packers offensive line as the 8th best in the league one of their best rankings in recent years. The offensive line was led by tackle David Bakhtiari who was named to his 4th consecutive All-Pro as he is one of the best offensive tackles in the league. Rookie left guard Elton Jenkins stepped up as he was called up during a week 3 matchup vs the Broncos as starter Lane Taylor went down with an injury. Jenkins easily became the rookie of the year for the Packers as he did not allow a sack in 571 snaps. Center Corey Linsley failed to improve his game as he allowed 5 sacks ranking 1st by his position and had 2 penalties one more than last year but he did rank first in pass block win rate for centers. Heading into free agency there were questions with the Packers and what they were going to do with Tackle Bryan Bulaga as he was turning 31 in March and had a long history of past injuries that forced him to miss some time in the past year.

The Packers would go on to release Bulaga and replace him quickly as they would go out and sign Rick Wagner, a 7-year veteran who recently spent the last 3 years with the Lions. Wagner wasn’t the best blocker for the Lions as in 2017 and 2018 he allowed 6 sacks and 3 penalties but he did clean up his play as last year he only allowed 3 sacks along with committing 3 flags. With Wagner not being the most solid blocker, Green Bay may look to add a tackle for the future in the draft. A prospect to look out for is Calvin Throckmorton, a player who showed he has great play in Oregon. Throckmorton showcased his impressive athleticism in many games and was one of Oregon’s pass blockers and did solid in the run game but he could work on it. Throckmorton can still use some development to take his game to an NFL starter worthy which is fine as he can take the back seat the first year and learn his way around the league.

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