Draft gives Packers opportunity to restock receiving group
Two decades have passed since the Green Bay Packers have drafted a wide receiver in the first round.
The Packers have two chances and plenty of reasons to stop that trend this year.
Green Bay has two-time defending MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers back for an 18th season but needs to find guys to catch his passes now that the team traded All-Pro receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Packers received an extra first-round and second-round pick in the trade. The Packers haven’t selected a receiver in the first round since taking Florida State’s Javon Walker 20th overall in 2002.
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“You never really replace a guy like Davante Adams,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said last month at the league meetings. “It’s going to be more cumulative, how the whole team steps up and plays and what we can add to that. Getting the two picks and having four picks in the top 59 gives us a little bit of ammunition to try to make a difference there.”
Gutekunst made those comments before the Packers signed veteran receiver Sammy Watkins, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Even so, the depth of receiving talent in this year’s draft class also provides opportunities for the Packers to restock as they adjust to life without Adams. The Packers also lost free-agent receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Kansas City Chiefs and Equanimeous St. Brown to the Chicago Bears.
Wide receivers projected to get taken in the range of the Packers’ first-round selections include Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson. There’s a possibility Ohio State’s Chris Olave also could be available.
“There’s still a couple of receivers that are out there in the market that you can grab,” said SiriusXM draft analyst Mark Dominik, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager. “I think Green Bay’s kind of putting their hands in their pockets and (thinking), ‘We’re going to see the draft first,’ after they did the Sammy Watkins pickup. There will absolutely be a receiver there at 22 that you’re going to like. I think you’ll feel really good about that player. To me, that makes a ton of sense for them as an organization.”
Wide receiver isn’t the Packers’ only need.
After releasing outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and offensive tackle Billy Turner in a pair of cap-related moves, the Packers need to add a depth pass rusher and boost their offensive line depth. They also could need help on the defensive line even after adding free-agent tackle Tarran Reed.
53 FOR 53
The trade that sent Adams to Las Vegas brought Green Bay the 22nd and 53rd overall picks in the draft. The Packers used the 53rd overall pick to take Adams out of Fresno State back in 2014.
Adams isn’t the only receiver who’s found success in Green Bay after getting taken in the second round.
Previous second-round selections by the Packers also include Greg Jennings (2006), Jordy Nelson (2008) and Randall Cobb (2011). Don’t be surprised if the Packers use one of their two second-round picks on a wideout again this year.
WAITING ON OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Green Bay needs to add offensive line depth now that Turner is in Denver and Lucas Patrick has signed with the Bears, but the Packers’ history suggests they may wait until the later rounds to address this position.
The Packers haven’t taken an offensive lineman in the first round since drafting Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod 32nd overall in 2011, though they did use second-round picks on Elgton Jenkins in 2019 and Josh Myers in 2021.
They have a knack for finding quality linemen in the fourth round or later. That track record includes David Bakhtiari (fourth round, 2013), Corey Linsley (fifth round, 2014), Jon Runyan Jr. (sixth round, 2020) and Royce Newman (fourth round, 2021). Patrick, who started 28 games the past two seasons, was an undrafted free agent in 2016.
PRODUCTIVE CLASS LAST YEAR
The Packers would love to repeat the success they had with last year’s class. Three players from that class — Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes (first round), Myers and Newman — were starters as rookies.
SPECIAL TEAMS HELP?
Something to monitor on the draft’s final day is whether Green Bay targets any players specifically for what they can contribute on special teams, the Packers’ biggest weakness last season.
The Packers already signed former Raiders cornerback Keisean Nixon in part because of what he did on special teams while playing for Rich Bisaccia, Green Bay’s new special teams coordinator. The Packers have two picks in the fourth round, one in the fifth and three in the seventh.
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