The Green Bay Packers are one of the NFL’s premier teams historically and in the modern-era. Despite their prestigious place in the league’s hierarchy, the Packers and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers haven’t made the Super Bowl in a decade. They’ve lost two consecutive Conference Championships and four in the past seven years. A loaded 2021 draft class might finally push Green Bay over the summit.
Green Bay and general manager Brian Gutekunst shocked the NFL world last year by using their first-round pick on Utah St. quarterback Jordan Love. The move wasn’t well-received by Cheesehead nation. Love and Gutekunst’s other eight selections from last year combined for seven starts and 62 appearances. The Packers need more immediate production from this year’s class.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t create any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Round 1 (No. 29): Asante Samuel Jr., CB Florida St.
No, the Packers aren’t getting a weapon for Rodgers in the first-round. I support giving the MVP whatever he wants, but Green Bay’s front office seems highly disinterested in giving him any more pass catchers. It’s doubtful the Packers go anywhere other than cornerback if they take wide receiver off the table.
Samuel faces questions about his size (5-10, 180 lbs.) as he prepares for the NFL. However, his All-Pro father played cornerback at a similar size, and things turned out well. While the younger Samuel lacks high-end speed, his change of direction skills are unique. That agility makes it easy to mirror routes and stick with receivers step-for-step.
Samuel is unafraid of challenging receivers for contested catches and is a much better tackler than his father. That aggressive style could result in some pass interference calls in the NFL. However, those traits have me among the few people that believe Samuel can play outside corner in the league.
This selection came down to Samuel and Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis.
Ideal pick: Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Round 2 (No. 62): Milton Williams, IDL Louisiana Tech
Williams captured headlines with a fantastic pro day performance. He measured in at 6-3, 284 lbs. and finished above the 90th percentile for interior defensive linemen in six tests. His 39-inch vertical, 4.62 40-yard dash, and 6.87 three-cone were all at least in the 99th percentile. That’s an insane workout, even for a slightly undersized defensive tackle.
I prefer drafting Williams in the third-round instead of the second, but I don’t see him making it to 92nd overall. He could benefit from lining up as a defensive end in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme instead of as a true defensive tackle.
The concerns with Williams come from his lack of length and small stature. He also never posted standout production despite facing weaker opponents in Conference USA.
Ideal pick: Dyami Brown, WR North Carolina
Round 3 (No. 92): Tylan Wallace, WR Oklahoma St.
Green Bay’s offense won’t go hungry on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Wallace was one of the final second-tier wide receivers left on the board at 92nd overall. While the Oklahoma St. standout is only 6-0 and 194 lbs., there’s hope that he can do more than just play in the slot for the Packers.
Over his final three years with the Cowboys, Wallace became a consistent producer. He played in 32 games during the span, amassing 198 receptions, 3,316 yards, and 26 touchdowns. Wallace plays bigger than his size, battling for leverage and occasionally skying for a contested snag.
The Packers could experiment with Wallace to see which spot fits him best in their system.
Ideal pick: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR USC
Round 4 (No. 135): Monty Rice, LB Georgia
Gutekunst must take a capable linebacker in the mid-rounds if he doesn’t land Nick Bolton or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the top 64 picks.
Rice possesses less than ideal length for a linebacker, but he has the speed and instincts to make plays on early downs. Rice plays running lanes well and rarely finds himself out of position. He has good closing burst and rarely misses tackles despite his short arms.
Even after selecting Rice, the Packers don’t have a standout every-down linebacker.
Ideal pick: Dylan Moses, LB Alabama
Round 4 (No. 142): Dazz Newsome, WR North Carolina
Two wide receivers in one draft? I guess Christmas came early for Rodgers. Newsome ran a surprisingly slow 40-time at his pro day and had horrible agility testing. However, the tape tells a different tale. At UNC, Newsome regularly created yards after contact and shook defensive backs with his shifty change of direction skills.
Newsome flashed some vertical routes in 2019 that could excite teams despite his poor testing numbers. He’s a slot-only receiver in the NFL that could initially see the field as a punt returner. Newsome must eliminate body catches and do a better job selling defensive backs on his fakes to make an impact for the Packers.
Ideal pick: Walker Little, OT Stanford
Round 5 (No. 173): Bryce Thompson, CB Tennessee
Thompson built a strong résumé during his final three seasons with the Volunteers. He intercepted eight passes and got his hands on eight more during that time. Thompson thrived in the SEC, making a name for himself as an instinctive defensive back capable of diagnosing plays quickly. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have ideal deep speed and is a poor tackler.
Chandon Sullivan could hold Green Bay’s nickel cornerback spot entering 2021, but the former undrafted free agent hits the open market in 2022. That creates an opening for Thompson.
Ideal pick: Elerson Smith, EDGE Northern Iowa
Round 5 (No. 178): Drake Jackson, IOL Kentucky
The Packers parted ways with free agent All-Pro center Corey Linsley this offseason. Letting Linsley walk opened up enough cap space to re-sign Aaron Jones, but it also created a massive hole on Green Bay’s offensive line.
At 6-2, 293 lbs. with 31-inch arms, Jackson is an undersized offensive lineman with three years of starting experience. He could struggle against power rushers and nose tackles but has terrific hand placement and upper body strength. Jackson also offers some value as a blocker on the move.
Ideal pick: Derrick Barnes, LB Purdue
Round 6 (No. 214): Malcolm Koonce, EDGE Buffalo
Buffalo has several prospects in this year’s draft class, and Koonce is the cream of the crop. He’s 6-2, 249 lbs. and has ideal length for a 3-4 outside linebacker. In his final 17 collegiate games, Koonce amassed 17.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. He has fantastic bend for an edge rusher and an elite closing burst to bring down quarterbacks.
While Koonce has a solid foundation, he doesn’t have an arsenal of pass rush moves or counters yet. He also struggles to put up fights against offensive tackles in the running game. Koonce won’t offer much as an anchor on the edge unless he adds some muscle.
Koonce began rising up draft boards within the past month. The Packers might have to get him as early as the fourth-round.
Ideal pick: Cornell Powell, WR Clemson
Round 6 (No. 220): Josh Ball, OT Marshall
I’ve projected Ball to several teams in recent days because of his physical traits. The Florida St. transfer has character issues stemming from an incidence of dating violence while with the Seminoles. Ball could go undrafted, depending on what NFL teams find in their review process.
From a pure football standpoint, Ball is 6-7 and weighs 308 lbs. His 35-inch arms are extremely rare in this class, as is his footwork and ability to block in space. However, Ball is still thin in his base and needs time in the weight room before competing for starting snaps.
Ideal pick: Deommodore Lenoir, CB Oregon
Round 7 (No. 256): Paddy Fisher, LB Northwestern
Fisher doomed himself to go in the seventh-round or undrafted after a terrible pro day. The four-year starter from Northwestern ran a 4.91 40-yard dash, and the only drill where he climbed above the 45th percentile among linebackers was the three-cone. Fisher is a downhill run-stopper with limited range and value in coverage.
Ideal pick: Michal Menet, IOL Penn St.