Green Bay Packers Twitter is quite an interesting thing. On one side, lies the “in Gute we trust” group. This is a group that thinks General Manager Brian Gutekunst can do no wrong. On the other side, rests the Packers fans who want Gutekunst fired; seems like massive overkill. Believing that he has not done enough to make the Packers a true Super Bowl contender. While it is quite entertaining to hear from both sides, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Gutekunst has had some hits, but he has also had some misses. The 2022 Green Bay Packers Draft might turn out to be a very good example of Brian Gutekunst’s work as the man in charge of the Green Bay Packers roster.
READ MORE: Rams Draft Review
An Outlook of the 2022 Green Bay Packers Draft
The 2022 Green Bay Packers draft class might be one of the most important draft classes of Brian Gutekunst’s tenure as the Packers general manager. With an ageing quarterback who has won back-to-back NFL MVP awards, fans expect the Packers to win now. The offense needs to be priority with some key outgoing players such as Davante Adams. Unfortunately, with the salary cap in shambles and the Packers highly invested in Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, and Kenny Clark, help will have to come from young players.
That is why the 2022 Green Bay Packers draft class is so vital. Not only for winning now but also for winning in years to come. The roster construction, as is, makes Brian Gutekunst’s job very difficult. He needs to make sure he has the talent to win now, but also to win down the road. That is the basis of the “fire Gute now” crowd. Gutekunst has done a rock-solid job of signing free agents, but his track record of drafting has not been as stellar. With this Green Bay Packers draft class, it appears that the Packers have answered some questions. But it also has created some questions.
Building Up the Offensive Line for an Aging Quarterback
Regardless of opinions about Brian Gutekunst, he has put an emphasis on protecting his ageing quarterback. Not only have the Packers invested big in Bakhtiari, but they have invested highly through the NFL draft on young offensive linemen. Elgton Jenkins (second round), Josh Myers (second round), Jon Runyan Jr. (sixth round), and Royce Newman (fourth round) are all current starters and all are Gutekunst draft picks. Jenkins is coming back from a season-ending knee injury, but when he comes back, he is expected to be the starting right tackle.
But that did not stop Gutekunst from once again investing in the offensive line in this year’s Green Bay Packers draft class. Out of the Packers 11 draft picks, the Packers selected three offensive linemen. Sean Rhyan (third round), Zach Tom (fourth), and Rasheed Walker (seventh) were selected in this year’s draft. Not only are all three talented offensive linemen, but all three have the attributes to become starters.
Gutekunst, along with director-football operations Milt Hendrickson, has put an emphasis on getting talented offensive linemen. Not just for Rodgers, but for the future for possibly Jordan Love. If the theory of “winning in the trenches” is real, then Gutekunst and Hendrickson are doing the right thing. This year’s Green Bay Packers draft class of offensive linemen illustrates they are making sure they have the talent for seasons to come.
An Emphasis on Building a Great Defense
Since head coach Matt LaFleur took over, it seems the Packers philosophy of building their roster has changed. Not only does the offense emphasize the run and play-action pass, but they also seem to want a dominating defense. The proof of that comes with the first two picks in the Green Bay Packers draft.
In drafts prior, Brian Gutekunst did not put much stock in upgrading inside linebacker and defensive line. The lack of power from those positions is one of the biggest factors in the defense struggling prior to 2021. But after signing De’Vondre Campbell, which turned out to be a great signing, the light turned on for Gutekunst. That being: a defense is better when you have talent at inside linebacker and on the defensive line. Selecting Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt not only provides players at positions of need, but it increases the athletic ability of the Green Bay Packers defense.
Walker has a lot of similarities to Campbell. He is big, can run, and appears to have the ability to be a three-down inside linebacker. The naysayers who have said inside linebacker does not matter in the NFL have been proven wrong. Teaming Walker up with Campbell gives the Packers defense something that has been missing. Two linebackers who can run and make plays.
Although written many times, the time to find Kenny Clark a running mate was well overdue. If Wyatt can avoid issues off the field, he is expected to finally be that player. He is big and has really good athletic ability. It might take him some time to develop his running-stopping skills, but he should be instant help in the pass rush. Walker and Wyatt should bolster the middle of the Packers defense. If they turn out to be players, Gutekunst should be commended.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Gutekunst decided it was time to give special teams some help. Unfortunately, that would have come in handy last season since the special teams cost the Packers their 2021 season; and cost Maurice Drayton his job, deservedly. Still, it’s good to see Gutekunst finally do something on special teams.
Along with the hiring of Rich Bisaccia and the signing of punter Pat O’Donnell, Gutekunst brought in some help via the NFL Draft. First-round pick Christian Watson was an electric kickoff returner at North Dakota State. Fourth-round selection Romeo Doubs was a punt returner at Nevada, along with being a standout wide receiver. Both players are expected to be major upgrades for the return units. Packers fans should be delighted to finally see returners who can make plays. Or at the very least, field a kickoff or punt cleanly.
Walker could also play a part in special teams. While Walker should be a starter on defense, with the new emphasis Bisaccia and LaFleur are putting on special teams, Walker could find himself a part of special teams. Seventh-round pick Tariq Carpenter is expected to be converted from safety to inside linebacker. But in all reality, Carpenter will not be much of a factor on defense. He was selected to be a major part of special teams. He was a standout special teams player at Georgia Tech and he is expected to be the same with the Packers.
Expecting Big Things from the Young Wide Receivers
Sure, the Packers signed veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins this off-season. But his place on the 53-man roster is not set in stone. Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are two other veteran pass catchers. Both are nice components to the Green Bay Packers offense, but neither has the ability to be the Packers number one pass-catching option. Amari Rodgers is expected to make a jump in his second season. But the only thing he displayed in 2021 was the inability to handle the punt and kickoff return duties.
That leaves Watson, Doubs, and seventh-round selection Samori Toure to be contributors in their rookie seasons as pass catchers. Watson has the most ability, but he is still pretty raw as a wide receiver. In fact, it can be argued, as of right now, Doubs is the better wide receiver out of the two. Even though Toure was selected in the seventh round, in his three years at the University of Montana prior to transferring to Nebraska, he showed big playability. There is no arguing, all three have the tools to develop into solid, maybe even spectacular, NFL wide receivers.
But Gutekunst is taking a major risk with banking on one or even two of them contributing right away. Aaron Rodgers will not be patient in waiting for these three to develop. He has said that he wants to win another Super Bowl. To do that, they will need to mature right away. For a team that has said they are in “win now” mode, it is a very risky bet to expect these three to be instant contributors.
Tight End Position Presents a Major Question
Gutekunst did not spend one of the 11 selections on a tight end. This remains a mystery. The Packers wide receiver position had some major holes going into the NFL Draft; pundits could equally argue the the tight end position did as well. Still, even knowing that, Gutekunst chose to do nothing.
The Packers re-signed Robert Tonyan this off-season. However, he is still recovering from a season-ending injury. An injury that might not allow him to return until midseason, at best. The ageless wonder Marcedes Lewis is expected to return. But while he is still the best blocking tight end in the league, he is not much of a threat as a pass-catcher. Gutekunst over-drafted Josiah Deguara in the 2020 NFL Draft. He showed a little promise in 2021, but his best spot is at h-back, not as an inline tight end. Despite Deguara showing some promise, he still has a long way to prove his third round spot.
Gutekunst recently stated that they “really have something” in tight end Tyler Davis. Coaches must have seen that something during practice sessions. In games, Davis caught four passes for 35 yards with one touchdown. He posted those numbers when the Packers were without Tonyan. To expect Davis, who had only four catches in 2021, to be a major weapon in 2022 seems like a very big long shot.
Gutekunst is, apparently, once again expecting Rodgers to be a miracle worker with the young wide receiver group, and the unknown at tight end. Speculation has focused time writing about LaFleur’s offensive scheme. If Gutekunst stands pat and does not bring in veteran help at wide receiver or tight end, Packers fans will see how great LaFleur’s offensive scheme truly is.