The Art of the Smokescreen

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By GregMeinholz

The Art of the Smokescreen

It’s that time of year when NFL GM’s try to act like they have other plans.

It’s lying season, people. Every General Manager worth anything around the league has a plan by this point.  If they don’t, they’ll probably be finding themselves standing at the unemployment line pretty quickly. And with a little less than three weeks before the NFL Draft, with that plan, comes the task of throwing off the opposition. They have their list of options ready, but they want to make everyone else think they’re going in a different direction so most of those options are still available come their time on the clock. 

Every GM is trying to run that smokescreen even if it isn’t for who they pick. Perhaps they’re trying to gain leverage elsewhere. Look at the Bears a few weeks ago. They did a horrendous job of it considering they only received a conditional 6th-round pick for Justin Fields. Still, they were trying to run a smokescreen for whether or not they were going to keep Fields or draft Caleb Williams with the first overall pick. No one was falling for that, but hey, we’ll give the Bears an A for effort. 

Luckily, as Packer fans, we’ve been blessed with a General Manager in Brian Gutekunst who seems to know what he’s doing in that aspect. 

Nobody ever really seems to have a true grasp on what is going on at 1265 Lombardi Ave in the off-season. Let’s look at the last few drafts. Receivers, receivers, and receivers were on everyone’s boards for the Packers in round 1. But not once did they choose a receiver with that pick. To be honest I chalk it up to the draft industrial complex not truly knowing a team’s tendencies and just throwing their stock in the popular picks. Last year for the first time, I truly believed it was time to see that first-round pass catcher whether it be a receiver or tight end. Of course, I was wrong, and instead, they got a good tight end and receiver in the second round. 

One smokescreen in Brian Gutekunst’s repertoire appears to be the pre-draft visit. There have been situations where players the Packers have brought in for visits have been on the clock at their projected selection point and the Packers have passed on them for others. Occasionally the Packers even draft players in the first three rounds they never even interviewed or brought in for a visit. In fact, the Packers never interviewed Jaire Alexander before drafting him in 2018. 

That’s right, the Packers traded up nine spots and also sacrificed a third and fifth-round pick for a Louisville cornerback that they never even brought in for a pre-draft visit. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this was a good trade in hindsight considering Alexander would go on to have a great career that is still in progress. But it tends to be forgotten that Alexander was Brian Gutekunst’s first-ever draft pick. 

His first-ever draft pick was a smokescreen. Many had the Packers choosing a DB in the first round, but not many chose Alexander. Some of that could be the lack of a pre-draft visit. Names like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James were brought up for the Packers in round 1, The Packers originally held the no. 14 pick in the draft. They eventually traded this to New Orleans for future draft compensation but the two DBs brought in for visits were not taken by the Pack. Alexander was still a first-round pick caliber player but perhaps not for the Packers even though he’s had an outstanding career despite. Even though Gutekunst has made it seem like this was his plan all along, we may never know if this was on purpose or not, but Alexander has been such a great feature in Green Bay, that it’s hard to ignore.

This year, we may never know. There are so many options for the Packers in the first round that there’s bound to be some white lies here and there. Recently the Packers brought in Amarius Mims, an OT out of Virginia Tech for a visit. Mims checks a lot of boxes in terms of athleticism, but there is a lot of speculation that he’s being used as a smokescreen due to his lack of experience. Perhaps just before the Packers are on the clock a team will trade up and take Mims think they’re ahead of the Packers as the Packers smile and nod knowing they fooled another as they grab a Graham Barton, Cooper Dejean, or someone else anticipated. 

Smokescreens are used to ensure you receive the pick you want wherever you are in the draft. Hopefully, to the Packers’ success, they find another one that they prefer over the others but until then, Go Pack Go.

Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to CheeseheadTV as well as PackersTalk. Follow him on Twitter @gmeinholz for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.