Brian Gutekunst has been the Green Bay Packers general manager for over two years now. During that time he has put his fingerprints all over the Packers roster. He has earned a lot of accolades for his work in free agency. But as most Packers fans know, the core of the Packers roster is built through the NFL draft. So today, we take a look at how Brian Gutekunst and his first draft class from 2018 has fared so far.
A Look at Brian Gutekunst’s First Green Bay Packers Draft Class
Brian Gutekunst wasn’t a stranger when he was named the Packers general manager. From 2016-2017 he was the Packers Director of player personnel. From 2012-2015, he was Director of college scouting. In total, he has been with the Packers in some capacity for the past 22 years.
So when Brian Gutekunst took over for Ted Thompson, he understood the “Packers way”. Translation, the NFL draft is how they build their roster.
Judging a Packers draft class after one season would be difficult. Even reviewing a class with just two years of experience might not tell the whole story. But it should give Packers fans some idea on how Brian Gutekunst did in his first go around.
Here is a list of the players selected in 2018 and how they have performed so far.
First Round: Jaire Alexander, Cornerback, Louisville
It appears that Brian Gutekunst did pretty well with his first-ever pick as the Packers general manager.
Jaire Alexander has become the Packers top cover guy. In his first two seasons, he has started 27 games. During that time he has picked off three passes, committed 111 solo tackles, forced one fumble, and has had a 1/2 of a sack.
There is no doubt that the Packers would like to see his interceptions increase. But that could be due to teams avoiding throwing his way. His desire to be a willing tackler has been a pleasant surprise. Some might argue that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine isn’t using Alexander’s aggressiveness enough.
When Brian Gutekunst selected Alexander, some wondered if Alexander’s height would be a hindrance. But that hasn’t been an issue so far. It appears Alexander still is developing and that should excite Packers fans.
Second Round: Josh Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa
While Brian Gutekunst should be commended on his first pick, the same can’t be said about his second pick.
Josh Jackson has struggled in his first two seasons with the Packers. In his rookie campaign, he started ten games. For that season, he defended 10 passes, recovered one fumble, and had 39 tackles. He had his struggles, but there was hope he would grow in his second season.
But after missing most of training camp with an injury, Jackson struggled to gain traction in the Packers secondary. He was bypassed on the depth chart by backup cornerbacks Tramon Williams and even Chandon Sullivan. Most of his playing time can exclusively on special teams. The lowest point for Jackson came when he was a healthy scratch for two of the Packers games.
Jackson will need to show he can be a contributor in 2020. Williams is a free agent and the Packers might let him walk. If they do so, Jackson will be handed an opportunity to show he is worthy of his draft status. If not, Gutekunst will have missed on his second pick as a general manager.
Third Round: Oren Burks, Linebacker, Vanderbilt
When the Packers selected Oren Burks, they were hoping they were getting an athletic linebacker. During his time at Vanderbilt, Burks played both safety and linebacker. Gutekunst no doubt envisioned Burks playing the nickel linebacker spot in Pettine’s defense.
However, injuries suffered in the past two training camps have hurt his maturation. Even when healthy, Burks was bypassed by safeties Raven Greene and Ibraheim Campbell on the depth chart for nickel linebacker.
A lot of Packers fans questioned Blake Martinez and his lack of athletic ability. But still, Burks wasn’t able to crack into Martinez’s playing time. That should tell you what they thought of him. When Burks did get on the field, it was on special teams.
It appears Brian Gutekunst and the Packers will allow Martinez to walk via free agency. It is doubtful that the Packers will just hand Burks the starting inside linebacker job. But it might open the door for Burks to show what he is capable of.
Fourth Round: J’Mon Moore, Wide Receiver, Missouri
Brian Gutekunst selected three wide receivers in his first draft. J’Mon Moore was hands down the worst. Moore was a very productive wide receiver at Missouri. But that production never carried over to the pro ranks.
In his rookie year, he played in only 12 games and had just two receptions for 15 yards. He struggled in training camp this past season. He had issues with drops and struggled to create separation. His struggles and his play led to him being released after just one season.
Moore was a bad miss for Gutekunst and the Packers. The Packers are currently in dire need of wide receiver depth. Missing on Moore, even in the fourth round, has been a part of this issue.
Fifth Round: Cole Madison, Offensive Tackle, Washington State
It has been a long two years for Cole Madison. Madison was a very athletic offensive lineman out of Washington State. Many thought he would be moved from tackle to guard with the Packers.
But Madison never suited up for the Packers in his rookie season. Due to taking care of his mental health, Madison sat out his rookie season. When it comes to health, mental or physical, that should always come first.
The Packers were delighted to see Madison make it to this past year’s training camp. He appeared to be in a good mental state and in good shape. He made the Packers roster this season but never played a snap. Unfortunately, Madison suffered a knee injury that forced him to the injured reserve.
Madison will be dealing with a very long rehabilitation. His status for the start of next season is up in the air.
Fifth Round: JK Scott, Punter, Alabama
While at Alabama, JK Scott was a major special teams weapon for Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. His booming punts helped Alabama pin opponents deep for the Crimson Tide. His ability drew Gutekunst to spend a fifth-round pick on Scott. The selection was a surprise to most and a lot, including us, felt it was one that was unnecessary.
There is no arguing that the Packers needed some help at punter. But for a roster that was looking to upgrade its talent, it seemed like a reach. Scott has been the Packers starting punter the past two seasons. He has had his moments. He started out red hot last season. But his play quickly cooled off and Scott had some very tough moments.
Scott is still young, 23 years old, and his bright spots have given the Packers hope. But he needs to be more consistent. Still, many will wonder if it was necessary to select a punter in the fifth round of this draft.
Fifth Round: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver, South Florida
Out of the three wide receivers Brian Gutekunst selected in 2018, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been the most productive.
In his rookie season, Valdes-Scantling caught 38 passes for 581 yards with two touchdown receptions. He showed the speed that he displayed at the NFL combine. Many, including this writer, believed he would be even better in his second season.
Those beliefs proved to be wrong. His receptions dropped to 26 as well as his receiving yards, down to 452. He was able to catch two touchdowns, but his play, was at best, uneven. His concentration was also very disappointing.
As we have written recently, it is highly doubtful the Packers are going to give up on him. But the Packers need more production out of the wide receiver position. Valdes-Scantling improving would help with that.
Sixth Round: Equanimeous St. Brown, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Equanimeous St. Brown was the third of the three wide receivers selected by Gutekunst in the 2018 draft.
St. Brown has all the physical attributes you are looking for out of an NFL wide receiver. For being 6’5″, St. Brown has really good speed. He caught 21 passes for 328 yards. He also contributed to the Packers special teams.
St. Brown was expected to compete for a wide receiver spot this season. But he injured his ankle and was lost for the season. He is expected to be ready for training camp this season though.
If Gutekunst does what he says and upgrades the wide receiver position, it is hard to say where St. Brown sits. He has the size and skill to be a contributor, but he might be lost in the numbers.
Seventh Round: James Looney, Defensive Line, California
James Looney played in three games his rookie season. This season, he was cut during training camp. He was re-signed to the practice squad. However, if he makes the Packers 2020 roster, it will be at a new position.
Looney was shifted to tight end during this season. From everything we saw out of him in 2018, it probably was a good career move. He struggled on the defensive line and it appeared he didn’t have much of a future as a defensive lineman.
His move to tight end seems like a last grasp to get something out of Looney. The chances of him making the transition are remote at best.
Seventh Round: Hunter Bradley, Long Snapper, Mississippi State
Just like with JK Scott, the selection of Hunter Bradley was also a curious selection of Brian Gutekunst.
When Thompson was removed as general manager, the Packers roster was in need of some major talent infusion. The chance of seventh-round picks making an NFL roster is slim. But when your team needs help at skilled positions, they are worth a chance. So selecting a long snapper, one that wasn’t even rated the best long snapper in the draft, seemed like a major reach.
For Bradley, and Gutekunst’s, credit he has been the starting long snapper the past two seasons. His snapping hasn’t been an issue, but still, selecting a long snapper is a head-scratcher.
Seventh Round: Kendall Donnerson, Southeast Missouri State
As odd as it sounds, we feel that Kendall Donnerson was worth the shot. A highly athletic EDGE pass rusher out of a small school, it appeared Gutekunst was taking a chance more on the upside than for what he could do now.
But Donnerson never did pan out. He never played in a regular-season game for the Packers and spent most of his time on the practice squad. He was released during training camp last fall.
Overall Analysis of the 2018 Packers Draft Class
Brian Gutekunst got three starters, Alexander, Scott, and Bradley, out of his first draft class. Overall, so far, it appears to be a very unimpressive class, excluding the selection Alexander.
Gutekunst has bolstered the Packers roster through free agency. But his drafting needs to be better. We will cut him some slack since it was his first year in charge. Also, he has added more of his own people to the front office since then. Still, looking back at 2018, it wasn’t a glowing start to his general manager career
Next year, when we look at his second class, Packers fans will be hoping that it is better than his first. If it isn’t, the Packers might need to depend even more on free agency. Which isn’t what you want to do as an NFL franchise.
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