NFC North Offseason Grades: Were Packers Best or Worst?

How did the Green Bay Packers fare in the offseason? And how about the other NFC North teams? Here are your offseason report cards.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers received a B-minus in Gilberto Manzano’s NFC North offseason report cards for Sports Illustrated. That seems pretty solid until you consider that’s the worst mark in the division.

Manzano zeroed in on the Packers’ two big offseason additions: running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney.

Signing McKinney “will help out a secondary that hasn’t gotten much production outside of cornerback Jaire Alexander,” Manzano wrote. “The team double-downed on safety help with the second-round selection of (Javon) Bullard. With their first second-round pick, the Packers took (linebacker Edgerrin) Cooper, a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. 

“The Packers have whiffed on their recent draft picks on the defensive side. If Cooper and Bullard make an immediate impact, the Packers could contend for the NFC North title in 2024.”

Not that general manager Brian Gutekunst has made a series of great picks, but saying the Packers “whiffed” might be a bit strong. Here are the Packers’ picks on defense from the first three rounds of the previous five drafts.

2023: Edge Lukas Van Ness (first round).

2022: Linebacker Quay Walker (first round), defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (first round).

2021: Cornerback Eric Stokes (first round).

2020: None.

2019: Edge Rashan Gary (first round), safety Darnell Savage (first round).

The short list of players shows the Packers simply haven’t taken a strength-in-numbers approach to fixing the defense.

Yes, in the five drafts from 2019 through 2023, the Packers used six first-round picks on the defense. However, focusing on only the first three rounds, those are the only picks used on the defense. Even extending it out to the first four rounds would add only defensive tackle Colby Wooden in 2023.

All of that made this offseason a major change of direction for Gutekunst. Not only did he use his second-round picks on defensive players, but he signed the best safety in free agency in McKinney.

“It’s been so nice to have X,” defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said this week. “What a pro. How hard he works, the communication, the way he is in the meeting rooms, the way he looks out for the younger guys – that’s the stuff you don’t see. All the stuff I explained to you in my first meeting, yeah, we think he can do all those things – and he’s shown that he can.

“But the coolest part about him is, and I told him this the other day, you don’t find out about somebody and who they are and how hard they work until they get here. That’s been the thing that’s probably made us the happiest. Great pro, great attitude, great effort. He’s done a great job so far, so really excited to have him here, continue to have him grow in the scheme and really understand the scheme. I think it’s our job to put him in position to make a lot of things happen. It’s been fun to see everything that he can do and how quickly he can learn. I’m really glad we have him.”

The Bears got an A, with No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams having “the luxury of throwing to (Keenan) Allen, (D.J.) Moore and fellow rookie (Rome) Odunze – three wideouts who are capable of being the No. 1 option on most teams,” Manzano wrote.

Allen helped break in Justin Herbert with the Chargers. His presence could help make Williams the first 4,000-yard passer in Bears history.

The Lions got an A-minus because “it’s tough to find a weakness” on the roster built by GM Brad Holmes. Their one big weakness, cornerback, was fortified with first-round pick Terrion Arnold, second-round pick Ennis Rakestraw and veteran Carlton Davis.

For the Vikings’ grade and much deeper dives into the teams, click here.

More Green Bay Packers News

Derrick Ansley | Kicking battle | Navy SEALs | Josh Myers | “Night and day” on offense | Jones and Jacobs

College coaches: Edgerrin Cooper | Javon Bullard | MarShawn Lloyd | Ty’Ron Hopper

All-Star Scouts: Jordan Morgan | Edgerrin Cooper | Javon Bullard | MarShawn Lloyd | Ty’Ron Hopper | Evan Williams, Kitan Oladapo | Travis Glover | Michael Pratt | Kalen King

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.