The last time the Green Bay Packers selected an offensive player in the first round of the NFL draft was in 2011. That year, then general manager Ted Thompson selected Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. You would have to go even further back in time for when the Packers selected a non-offensive lineman. That would be wide receiver Javon Walker back in 2002. The lack of offensive players not selected in recent history by the Packers in the first round is remarkable. Especially since it has been the Packers offense who have led this franchise for so long. That success has to do with quarterback Brett Favre and currently Aaron Rodgers. But now, the Packers need offensive help. Specifically at the wide receiver. Even with the need at wide receiver, there is a chance that the Packers might keep the streak intact. Current general manager Brian Gutekunst possibly could shun their offensive needs and once again grab a defensive player in the first round.
Could Brian Gutekunst Go Defense With the Packers First Round Pick?
By no means are we saying that the Packers should use their first-round selection on a defensive player. Except for the recent signing of Devin Funchess, Brian Gutekunst hasn’t done much to upgrade the Packers wide receivers. In fact, the Packers wide receivers have some major questions going into this year’s draft.
The Packers also need help with their depth at offensive tackle. Gutekunst signed free agent Rick Wagner this off-season. However, Wagner is looked at as a stopgap replacement for the now-departed Bryan Bulaga, the longtime starter at right offensive tackle. Like with wide receiver, selecting an offensive tackle in the first round would help with the Packers depth chart.
Even with knowing all that, there is a chance that Brian Gutekunst will look to bolster the Packers’ defense. If there is a defensive player he feels could contribute to the Packers defensive, he very well might make take a defensive player. The possibility is there, but will Gutekunst be willing to turn his back once again on the Packers offense?
Inside Linebacker a Possible Target
Last off-season, Brian Gutekunst provided a lot of talent for Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He signed three big free agents for the defense. Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos all signed big free-agent deals. All three contributed mightily for the Packers as well. Gutekunst also spent the Packers two first-round picks on defenders, on outside linebacker Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. Gary was used sparingly, but Savage became a starter at safety opposite of Amos. Even with the influx of talent, the Pettine led defense had its struggles last season. Gutekunst could be hell-bent on improving the Packers defense, which could lead to a defender being the Packers top choice once again.
The Packers defense does have some holes they could fill. Even though the Packers signed free agent inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, the inside linebacker position seems like it needs more. Kirksey has battled injuries the past two seasons and it isn’t a lock to be the player he once was. Along with Kirksey, former third-round pick Oren Burks has been a disappointment so far in his career. Selecting an inside linebacker in this year’s draft could provide the necessary depth. As well as a possible starter in the Packers defense.
There are two inside linebacker prospects that could be on the Packers radar. Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray and LSU’s Patrick Queen are arguably the top two inside linebackers in this year’s draft. Both are explosive and would provide top-end athletic ability.
There have been mixed reports on where both might go. There is a very good chance both might be off the board when the Packers are on the clock. But if one, or even both, slide down the first round, it would leave Brian Gutekunst with a difficult decision to make.
Don’t Sleep on Defensive Line
Kenny Clark has established himself as one of the better young defensive linemen in the NFL. He is the star of the Packers interior defensive line. It is quite shocking that Brian Gutekunst hasn’t locked him up to a long term deal yet. But that contract should be coming soon.
Last off-season, defensive end/tackle Dean Lowry signed a new contract. Lowry earned that contract by having a strong 2018 season. His production also could have played a part in the Packers deciding to cut veteran Mike Daniels. Lowry’s production dropped last season, but there is no doubt that he is still a big part of the Packers plans.
While Lowry and Clark are locked up on the Packers defensive line, the other spot is in need of help. The Packers were hoping that former third-round pick Montravius Adams would be the answer at that spot. Unfortunately, Adams hasn’t lived up to his draft status. He has struggled to earn the starting spot and his play has been lacking.
Tyler Lancaster, a former undrafted free agent, saw a lot of time opposite Clark and Lowry. But Lancaster, at best, is a backup player. If the Packers had more depth on the defensive line, it could be argued that he wouldn’t have a roster spot at all.
The Packers did spend a fifth-round pick on Kingsley Keke last season. The Packers seem high on the former Texas A&M product. He did play in 14 games last season but only registered three solo tackles. If Gutekunst is sold on Keke making the next jump in his maturation, he might not be willing to use his first-round pick on a defensive lineman in this year’s draft.
But if they don’t think Keke is ready for prime time, there are a couple of prospects that should be available when the Packers select in the first round. TCU’s Ross Blacklock and Auburn’s Marlon Davidson are both viable options late in the first round. Walterfootball.com has them ranked as the fourth and fifth-ranked 3-4 defensive ends in this year’s draft.
Is it Time to Address the Offense?
While the Packers still have holes on their defense, you have to wonder how much longer they can keep spending their first-round picks on defense. The Packers offense relied heavily on Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones last season. It wasn’t by choice, it was out of necessity. Brian Gutekunst didn’t upgrade the offense in free agency, which leads you to believe he will have to do so through the draft. The depth at wide receiver in this year’s draft is one of the best we have seen. But even with it being so deep, a first-round pick on one seems pretty logical.
Along with the offense in need of first-round help, you have to wonder how much longer Gutekunst can provide talent for Pettine before he finally says “do something with what you have”. Gutekunst signed three starters in free agency last season for the Packers. He also spent two first-round picks on defense, with one, Savage, being a starter. While there are holes, the defense has enough talent that they should be producing more. That falls on Pettine’s shoulders and puts him squarely on the hot seat this coming season.
For most Packers fans, the streak of not spending a first-round pick on an offensive player needs to come to an end. If not, the weight of carrying the offense, and arguably the team, once again falls on Rodgers.
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