The 2021 NFL Draft is a very important one for general manager Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers. This isn’t an overstatement. For the second year in a row, the Packers fell a game short of the Super Bowl. The team was silent during free agency. And because of that, Gutekunst and the Packers need to bolster their roster through the draft. That being said, the way that Gutekunst approaches the Packers draft could dictate their 2021 season.
Trade-Up, Trade Down, or Stay Put, the Options for Brian Gutekunst
Since 2018, Gutekunst has been in charge of the Packers draft moves. In the three drafts, he has been a part of, he has made moves in round one every time. With this year’s draft being a crucial one for the Packers and himself, his approach will be under the spotlight.
To understand what Gutekunst might do, one needs to take a look at his past approaches. Here is a breakdown of what he has done over the past three years…
First Round of the 2018 NFL Draft
Back in his first draft, Gutekunst looked nothing like a rookie general manager. His moves in round one were a thing of beauty that veterans usually make.
That year, Green Bay had the 14th overall selection in the draft. Gutekunst made a gutsy move by trading with the New Orleans Saints. The Packers moved down to 27th overall, in doing so, receiving the Saints first-round pick the next year. By receiving their future first-round pick, Gutekunst set up the Packers two first-rounders in 2019.
However, Gutekunst was not done with his wheeling and dealing. He traded back up to 18th overall with the Seattle Seahawks. Along with sending the 27th pick to the Seahawks, they gave up a third and sixth-round pick.
With the 18th overall pick, the Packers selected cornerback Jaire Alexander. Alexander has since turned out to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The selection of Alexander is arguably the best pick Gutekunst has made in his short time as Green Bay’s general manager. Not to mention, his approach netted the Packers a second first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
First Round of the 2019 NFL Draft
Thanks to his astute moves in the 2018 NFL Draft, Gutekunst was well-positioned for 2019.
With their first pick, the Packers shocked many by selecting defensive lineman Rashan Gary. Heading into this draft, Gary was considered one of the most athletic defensive linemen available. But while at Michigan, his production never matched his athletic ability. Many fans were hoping for one of the other pass rushers on the board to be taken at the time of their selection.
Nevertheless, it appears that Gutekunst knew what he was doing. Gary has improved in each of his first two seasons in the pros. In 2020, Gary posted five sacks on 11 quarterback hits. His play allowed him to leapfrog Preston Smith as one of the Packers starting outside linebackers.
The Packers were also penciled in with the 30th overall pick, which was originally owned by the Saints. But once again, Gutekunst made a move.
Gutekunst, for the second year in a row, made a deal with the Seahawks. The Packers moved up to the 21st selection, giving up the 30th pick, the 114th pick, and 118th pick to do so. With the 21st overall pick, Gutekunst selected safety Darnell Savage Jr.
Since then, Savage has started 29 games as fellow safety Adrian Amos‘ running mate. In those 29 starts, he has picked off six passes, registered 130 tackles, and had one sack. He is one of the core pieces of the Packers secondary.
First Round of the 2020 NFL Draft
In the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, Brian Gutekunst once again displayed an aggressive approach. Although, this time, it was a move that shocked many. Not just Packers fans, but the whole NFL world.
Gutekunst displayed the same aggressive approach he did in the past two drafts he ran. At the same time, many have wondered why he chose Love with Aaron Rodgers still as the Packers starting quarterback.
Either way, Gutekunst and his offensive draft approach remained consistent. He focused on the player he wanted and made the move needed to get him. Even if it was a player who may not contribute anytime soon.
Brian Gutekunst and the 2021 NFL Packers Draft
This year, Gutekunst might not benefit from an aggressive approach. After all, Gutekunst has been put in a difficult position due to the team’s salary cap issues.
Green Bay’s salary cap is about as tight as they come, being one of the reasons the Packers were non-players in free agency. The team still has major holes to fill, and as they have signed no help from the outside, Gutekunst will need to fill these holes in the draft.
With that in mind, it will be difficult for Gutekunst to use the same strategies he has in the past. Instead, it is a strong possibility that Gutekunst will be a seller this year, not a buyer.
Gutekunst could be looking to gain as many players, who can play on rookie deals, as possible. Most would expect a team that fell just short of the Super Bowl to go all in. But with the way the salary cap is stacked against Gutekunst, the Packers do not have that luxury.
Taking this into consideration, expect Brian Gutekunst to move down from the 29th spot. It will give him and the Packers more picks to fill these holes. While this may not be the most exciting approach, it is simply the one that the team may have to resort to.
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