Draft day is finally upon us—a day that, if you master, you’re almost assured of keeping your job as General Manager. It’s less risky than building through Free Agency as you’re given a 4-year window to young and constantly improving players while on the cheap vs. paying “already proven” players a high amount then rarely do they produce to the dollar amount they’re receiving.
Why the Draft is Awesome!— I’ve been a big proponent of the Draft & Develop philosophy, mainly because while giving you the best chance to build the best roster over the course of a long time, it also gives you the most lee-way (never know if that’s the correct spelling for that) to make “mistakes.” Quick example, if you (your team J ) misses on a 1st round pick, it doesn’t guarantee your team will be stuck. If your team misses on a big free agent, then you’re almost assured to be hamstrung for the next 2-3 years in the salary cap. Example, see Justin Harrell…the 16th overall (Packers 1st) selection of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was the epitome of a BUST, however compare that to the Packers signing Joe Johnson (former Saints DE) in 2002 to a 6-year $33M contract—which at the time was monstrous—and he played 11 games over 2 years before Green Bay cut him. That negative return far outweighs the bust of Harrell, not saying it’s OK to pick BUSTS, but the odds of picking a BUST in the 1st round is less-likely than having a high-priced free agent play to the big contract he receives. Also, given that the 1st round selection has the highest chance of turning into something special (vs any other round selection)—the best teams rarely get involved in what former GMs call the “Stupid Money Stage,” the first few days of free agency.
To close, I’m not saying Free Agency should be avoided at all costs, it actually serves a great purpose in building the best roster. It should be used for fringe guys to fill holes on a roster, for example, last year the Packers signed Jahri Evans to fill in at Right Guard…he started 14 games and rated as average (per Pro Football Focus) as a starter. That’s what you want from free agency, low-risk, and solid-return.
Ok—onto the 2018 draft…
Rare Air—Packers fans find themselves in rare territory. A top 20 pick, which since Aaron Rodgers took over as starting QB (2008), has only had once: BJ Raji selected at 9th overall in the 2009 draft. Green Bay sits at 14, which should net a high-talent/good player. It’s also a funny position because in order to move up, you’d likely be moving into the top-10, which would cost a ton, and by trading back, say to the 20’s, may not net you enough in return. It’s likely the Packers will stay at 14 and hopefully stick with picking the Best Available. Yes that may seem boring, however that usually the best method in order to building the best football team, but it especially holds true when the Packers have as many holes on the roster as they do…let’s take a look, shall we?
There are a bevy of players the Packers could have fall to them that would look nice wearing Green and Gold. We know the first 4 selections (in no order of course), so we can take those guys out right away:
- Saquon Barkley- HB Penn St. (the best player in the draft, in my opinion)
- Josh Rosen- QB UCLA
- Sam Darnold- QB USC
- Josh Allen- QB Wyoming
After those guys, it’s a guess as to who, what, where, and when guys will go. It’s assumed the best edge-rusher (and some say overall player) in this draft is Bradley Chubb, the standout DE from NC St. One can almost guarantee he won’t fall to Green Bay at 14, however there’s an obvious need for a pass rush (unless the USC boys play to their contracts—Clay Matthews and Nick Perry). Aside from Chubb, the list shortens pretty quick, look for the Packers to add a rusher early as it’s an area of need and it’s not a deep draft for those guys—potentials are:
- Bradly Chubb- DE NC St. (would need to trade up to get him)
- Marcus Davenport- DE UTSA (this pick screams Ted Thompson)
- Harold Landry- DE/OLB Boston College (maybe a reach at 14, but would love to either trade back and still get him or ideally pick someone at 14 then trade back up and take him).
Aside from Edge-rusher there are other huge needs on this team, and yet still some have been for years; Secondary. Even with the signing of Tramon Williams (9th rated cornerback from 2017 by PFF) and Davon House, the Packers still need a long-term answer to go along with their first selection last year (Kevin King). It seems that Josh Jones was selected as the replacement for Morgan Burnett—otherwise known as Captain Average. Jones has sky-high potential and flashed as a rookie, if he can make the jump from year 1 to year 2 like Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez did, then the Packers have found a real playmaker. The list of corners are deep in this draft and don’t be surprised if new GM Brian Gutekunst picks them early and often. Here’s a likely list of secondary guys that the Packers could select at 14:
- Joshua Jackson- CB Iowa
- Jaire Alexander- CB Louisville
- Denzel Ward- CB Ohio St.
- Derwin James- S FSU (the 2nd best player in this draft, in my opinion)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick- S Alabama
Those seem to be the obvious and popular guys rumored to be coveted by Gutey, however there’s a chance he could also pick a wideout or even an offensive lineman. Many may be upset, however there’s a need at each of those positions as well. If that’s the route Green Bay chooses there is only 1 lineman that comes to mind and a few pass catchers:
- Quenton Nelson- OG Notre Dame
- Courtland Sutton- WR SMU
- James Washington- WR Okla St.
- Calvin Ridley- WR Alabama
Closing out—General Manager, Brian Gutekunst, finds himself almost in a can’t-lose situation tonight. If he trades up it’s likely for Bradley Chubb or Derwin James, which would be tough to argue (as of tonight). If he trades back he’s just adding picks which is rarely the wrong move. If he selects any of the names I listed, they will certainly fill an immediate and long-term need. With that, if you’re a junkie as much as I am, you will have fun tonight!