Help Wanted: Packers Scouting Combine Preview
Falling one game short of the Super Bowl and with a 36-year-old quarterback, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has a big offseason in front of him.
He crossed one item off the to-do list by re-signing longtime kicker Mason Crosby. That leaves right tackle Bryan Bulaga as the big in-house free agent. Bulaga is coming off a terrific season but has a length injury history. The Packers don’t have anyone on the roster to replace him, but they don’t have an abundance of cap space, either.
There are major holes at inside linebacker and receiver; and there could be one at right tackle, depending on Bulaga’s future. The Packers haven’t used a pick in the first three rounds of a draft on a receiver since Davante Adams in 2014. An incredibly deep draft class awaits.
While Gutekunst said the focus isn’t on the 49ers, it’s clear he must fill in the blanks to compete against the defending NFC champions, who crushed the Packers twice. That means resources must be used to fix a run defense that was destroyed in the championship game. That starts with inside linebacker, where Blake Martinez secured a million tackles and got the defense lined up but lacked a second gear.
2019 Season in Review
The Packers won a combined 13 games in 2017 and 2018 but went 13-3 in 2019 under first-year coach Matt LaFleur. Green Bay made a surprise run to the NFC Championship Game but got smoked by the 49ers. The Packers were incredibly healthy and incredibly opportunistic in winning one close game after another. That indicates they could take a step back in 2020. On the other hand, a second year under LaFleur and some shiny new toys on offense could set up the Rodgers-led offense for a much more productive season.
2020 Draft Position
Green Bay owns the 30th pick of the draft and has 10 picks in all – one in each of the first five rounds, three in the sixth and two in the seventh. There’s not much ammunition to move up in the first round. More likely is a move down. In a deep class of quarterbacks, Green Bay potentially could move out of the first if a quarterback-hungry team doesn’t want to roll the dice that its guy will be on the board in Round 2.
The Packers have used their first pick on a defensive player in each of the last eight drafts. If one of the top inside linebackers is on the board at No. 30, that streak could extend to nine. However, three-down inside linebackers with sideline-to-sideline speed don’t grow on trees. Will Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen last to No. 30? There is a dire need at receiver but the depth is so strong that they can easily wait until the second round to get an immediate contributor. Other needs include offensive tackle (beyond Bulaga, left tackle David Bakhtiari is entering his final season under contract), center (Corey Linsley is entering his final season under contract), tight end, defensive line, cornerback (Kevin King is entering his final season under contract) and a developmental quarterback.
Five Players Packers Must Watch
Oklahoma LB Murray: The guess is Queen blows the doors off the Combine. Will Murray run himself out of Green Bay’s pick, as well?
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault: If there’s one receiver who could tempt the Packers in Round 1, it’s Shenault. He’s a dynamic playmaker and YAC machine in the mold of the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel. There isn’t a slot receiver on Green Bay’s roster.
Wisconsin LB Zach Baun: If Queen and Murray are gone, what is the fallback plan at linebacker? Baun rushed off the edge for the Badgers but could be in line for a Joe Schobert-style transformation. Appalachian State's Akeem Davis-Gaither and Oregon's Troy Dye are a couple midround options with coverage ability.
Baylor WR Denzel Mims: Few receivers in the draft made as many spectacular catches as Mims. The question is his speed and route-running skill.
Wisconsin OL Tyler Biadasz: Right guard Billy Turner was a disappointment and Linsley might be too expensive to bring back in 2021. Biadasz won the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center. Does he have the athleticism to fit LaFleur’s zone scheme?
Who Makes The Call and Recent Draft Hits and Misses
Gutekunst will consult with LaFleur but this is the third-year GM’s show. He knocked it out of the park in free agency last offseason but his first two drafts have produced tepid results. In 2018, first-round cornerback Jaire Alexander is a stud but second-round cornerback Josh Jackson and third-round linebacker Oren Burks were stuck on the bench last year and he might wind up 0-for-3 at receiver. In 2019, second-round guard Elgton Jenkins looks like a potential Pro Bowler but first-round outside linebacker Rashan Gary barely played, first-round safety Darnell Savage was so-so despite making the all-rookie team and third-round tight end Jace Sternberger was derailed by August injuries.
Mock Draft 4.0
In the video is our pre-Scouting Combine mock draft. As is the case in previous mocks, I served as Gutekunst and the Draft Network's Mock Draft Machine handled the rest.
Get to Know the Scouting Combine Prospects
In our annual series, get to know the prospects on and off the field.
Introducing the 27 Safeties
Introducing the 34 Cornerbacks
Introducing the 31 Linebackers
Introducing the 34 Edge Rushers
Introducing the 25 Defensive Linemen
Introducing the 20 Tight Ends
Introducing the 25 Offensive Tackles
Introducing the 17 Guards
Introducing the 10 Centers
Introducing the 55 Receivers
Introducing the 30 Running Backs
Introducing the 17 Quarterbacks