Packers’ draft must solidify OL, TE, ILB

By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s draft flexibility makes weekend exciting, unpredictable
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The Packers’ possibilities going into Thursday night’s first round of the 2019 NFL Draft are many, but their goal is simple: (A) to stay put and choose wisely when possible; and (B) to bend the draft to their will when necessary.
Packers GM Brian “Gunslinger” Gutekunst did both in last year’s draft.
Gutekunst’s draft-day maneuvering in his first go-round – coupled with his free-agent signings in the offseason – gives the Packers great flexibility.
Green Bay holds the 12th, 30th, 44th, 75th, 114th and 118th picks. That’s more than enough ammo to build around the free agents.
Za’Darius and Preston Smith are bookends at outside linebacker. Adrian Amos affords leadership in the secondary. Billy Turner is an experienced, athletic and versatile offensive lineman.
A stud inside linebacker, a speed edge rusher and an athletic safety all would fit nicely in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s attack. Each position may be addressed in this draft.
Either Delaware’s Nasir Adderley or Virginia’s Juan Thornhill makes sense for Green Bay with the 44th pick.
Retaining Jimmy Graham and resigning Marcedes Lewis doesn’t preclude them from taking a tight end in the first round. But it does remove the urge to reach for one.
Iowa’s Noah Fant is a speedy, sure-handed tight end that could make an immediate impact on passing downs. Fant would be a serious option if he’s still available at 30.
If not, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. may be around at 44.
Either fits the bill as an instant impact player with long-term potential as the starter.
Fifth-round pick Cole Madison’s return after a year off should help the Packers’ offensive line, but it doesn’t mean they won’t select one, perhaps as early as the 12th pick.
Without further ado, here is my “Packers draft plan” for 2019, also known as their best-case scenario:
** If LSU inside linebacker Devin White is available when the Packers are on the clock with the 12th pick, they should take him. It should be a no-brainer. He would be a Day One running mate alongside Blake Martinez in a revamped defense.
White’s sideline-to-sideline speed and play-making ability make him too good to pass up.
If White’s gone, Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat would be the next-best option. Sweat could play on passing downs right away, while being groomed as a one-day starter.
Sweat’s a beast.
If Sweat is gone it becomes decision time. A call from another GM wanting to trade up for a quarterback would be sweet.
One possibility is the New York Giants at 17.
If Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins falls to 12, and the Giants want to trade up, here’s what the NFL’s trade value chart says:
** To trade down with the Giants, the Packers would receive New York’s 17th pick and its 37th pick. In return, the Giants would get the Packers’ 12th, 75th and 118th picks.
I would make that deal in a heartbeat.
The Packers would hold the 17th, 30th, 37th and 44th picks. That’s four Top 50 players in one draft.
In this scenario, Green Bay’s flexibility would be endless.
Here’s how I would go:
** I would draft Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford at 17. He’s a rare athlete at 6-4, 329 pounds who has played both guard and tackle. He would be the Packers’ Day One starter at either left or right guard, with potential to play tackle later on.
With Ford, Turner, Madison and Bryan Bulaga’s return, the Packers’ offensive line would be in its best shape in a long time.
** At 30, I’m all in on Mississippi receiver A.J. Brown. He’s a terrific athlete who can play in the slot or on the perimeter. At six feet, 226 pounds, he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and has both the agility and power to run past or run over would-be defenders.
If Brown’s gone, I would take the best tight end. If Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Fant are gone, I would take Alabama’s Smith. If he’s gone, too, I would select Alabama inside linebacker Mack Wilson.
They can’t all be gone.
** At 44, Delaware’s Adderley would be a nice fit at safety. Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger, a nifty pass-catcher, needs to get stronger in the run game.
Clearly, the possibilities are many.
My best guess is Green Bay stays put and drafts either the best offensive lineman or defender on their board.
On Friday morning, I’ll have a column recapping the Packers’ first round of the draft. Wish me luck.
Better still, wish the Packers luck.