GREEN BAY, Wis. – How about a mock draft before the official start of free agency?
The Packers signed linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive tackle Rick Wagner on Monday. Really, though, their presence doesn’t change anything at those positions other than take the pressure off general manager Brian Gutekunst to reach to fill those needs. Kirksey has missed 23 of a possible 32 games the last two seasons and Wagner has been a slightly below-average starter.
This is my seventh mock draft. As always, I played the role of Gutekunst and the Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine handled the rest. (Here is the full mock draft to see who went where and who was on the board.)
First round – USC OT Austin Jackson. With the linebackers off the board, I took out a major insurance policy at offensive tackle. Remember, David Bakhtiari will be a free agent next offseason, as well. You better protect the quarterback. In the NFC North, Chicago has Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn coming off the edge; the 49ers have Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead. Also considered: TCU DT Ross Blacklock.
Second round – Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk. It’s time to dive into the receiver class. Aiyuk immediately becomes the Packers’ best slot receiver since an in-his-prime Randall Cobb. He has the speed to go deep and the power to break tackles. Plus, he’s an excellent returner. Also considered: Nobody. (In retrospect, knowing how this played out, I would have taken Blacklock in the first and offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland in the second. I didn’t think Cleveland would be available at this point, though.)
Third round – Colorado LB Davion Taylor. Taylor is a linebacker with the speed of a cornerback. At 6-foot and 228 pounds, he ran his 40 in 4.49 seconds at the Combine. He didn’t play football in high school due to religious beliefs and walked on at Colorado. He’ll need some time but he’s worth the investment. Also considered: Appalachian State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz.
After Appetizers, Packers Ready for Main Course of Schedule
After a buffet of mediocre teams and quarterbacks, the Green Bay Packers will take a step up in class with Arizona, Kansas City, Seattle, Minnesota and the Rams.
Fourth round – Missouri DT Jordan Elliott. An All-American in the rugged SEC, Elliott checks off the final box on Green Bay’s list of primary needs. Also considered: Nebraska DL Khalil Davis, who might be a more realistic option to be available at this spot.
Fifth round – Liberty WR Antonio Gandy-Golden. Small-school players better have traits and production. He caught 150 passes for 2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019. He’s also 6-foot-4 and can run.
Sixth round – Tulsa CB Reggie Robinson. Robinson led the American Athletic Conference with 17 passes defensed (four interceptions, 13 breakups). At 6-foot-1, he’s fast (4.44) and strong (22 reps on the bench). Also considered: UCLA RB Joshua Kelley.
Sixth round – Tulsa OLB Trevis Gipson. Gipson had a strong senior season, ranking among the conference leaders with eight sacks and 15 tackles for losses. Before his senior year, he worked out with Von Miller. Also considered: Nobody.
Sixth round – Baylor DT James Lynch. Lynch had a prodigious final season with 13.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for losses, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks to be a unanimous first-team All-American. He lacks physical traits but his motor is full-go. Also considered: South Carolina State OT Alex Taylor, Penn State DL Robert Windsor.
Seventh round – Virginia WR Joe Reed. Reed was productive on offense but a wrecking ball as a returner. At 6-foot and 224 pounds, he ran his 40 in 4.47 and put up 21 reps on the bench at the Scouting Combine. Also considered: Nobody.
Seventh round – Cincinnati RB Michael Warren. Warren had big years as a sophomore (1,329 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, plus 25 receptions) and junior (1,265 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, plus 21 receptions). Also considered: Nobody. I wanted a running back who can catch.