The dust has settled on the 2021 NFL Draft as we’ve now had a little over a day to digest everything that took place. When looking at the Green Bay Packers draft from an outside perspective, it was rather polarizing, receiving draft grades as high as an A, as low as an F, and everywhere in between.
Personally, I really like how it turned out as Brian Gutekunst and Co. were able to check a number of boxes. But I’ll get into that more below, along with several other items, as I share my 14 takeaways from Green Bay’s draft.
Green Bay Packers find immediate contributors
With Green Bay’s cap situation this offseason, their biggest infusion of outside talent was going to come from the draft. And they were able to do that early on, finding some immediate help.
As always, it’s going to be to varying degrees, but the Packers’ first three selections will all see playing time right away. Stokes may not be CB2 right out the gate — although I wouldn’t completely rule that out — but he should see his fair share of defensive snaps.
Josh Myers will likely be the team’s starting center Week 1, while Amari Rodgers will see plenty of snaps in the slot/gadget role in this Matt LaFleur offense. Even Day 3 picks TJ Slaton, and Shemar Jean-Charles could work their way in as the season progresses.
Emphasis on special teams
The Green Bay Packers’ special teams unit was once again very poor in 2020, and it was quite clear that there was an emphasis on improving that unit in this draft—as there should have been.
Stokes, Rodgers, Jean-Charles, and Isaiah McDuffie are all players who will provide that unit with a boost immediately.
Surprised at no edge selection
With The Smiths and Rashan Gary for 2021, the Packers are well covered at edge for this season. However, there is no such thing as having too many pass rushers, and as we look ahead to 2022, there is some uncertainty.
I’d venture to guess that Preston Smith won’t be back given his cap hit, and at this time, my gut says Za’Darius receives an extension, but we don’t know that to be certain either.
Perhaps finding an additional edge rusher was on Green Bay’s radar but the board didn’t fall correctly. This could also be a vote of confidence for Jon Garvin and Tipa Galeai
RAS took a back seat
As I discussed leading up to the draft, 22 of Brian Gutekunst’s 25 RAS eligible draft picks scored above 8.0 on the scale. But this year, we saw more leniency when it came to that threshold.
Myers only completed the bench press after fighting through a foot injury during the 2020 season. Rodgers and Jean-Charles scored well below the 8.0 mark, while Slaton, McDuffie, and Kylin Hill were all close but still below.
I wouldn’t read much into this, but I did find it interesting and noteworthy.
The Packers still need a QB
As I recently wrote, this has nothing to do with the Aaron Rodgers’ situation. Currently, Green Bay only has two quarterbacks on the roster, and even if they only plan on carrying two on the 53-man, teams need at least three and possibly four quarterbacks to get through training camp—there are just too many reps to go around.
Not to mention that most teams prefer to carry an extra quarterback on the practice squad throughout the season. In his post-draft meeting with reporters, Gutey mentioned that they would look at both rookie and veteran options.
With the Green Bay Packers taking three offensive linemen in this year’s draft, that is now the fourth time in the last five drafts that they’ve taken three of the same position. It’s certainly an effective way to increase your chances of finding a player who will stick.
Loading up at CB and OL
After the draft was over, Gutey told us that their plan was to address the cornerback and offensive line positions—and they certainly did. Of the Green Bay Packers’ nine picks, five were one of those two positions.
Not only did the CB room need to be addressed for the 2021 season, but with Jaire Alexander being the only player that we knew would be on the team in 2022, it was a future need as well. When it comes to the OL, the depth of this unit was a big contributor to Green Bay’s success last season, and with losing Corey Linsley, along with the futures of Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner unknown past this season, there was an emphasis on adding to that position.
Prioritizing OL versatility
Speaking of the OL, it’s been clear that the Green Bay Packers covet versatility, and that’s the type of players they targeted. Elgton Jenkins can literally play any position, while Turner can play guard or tackle, and Patrick can play guard or center.
Two of their new offensive line additions in Cole Van Lanen and Royce Newman have similar abilities. While I believe each will get their chance to play tackle, both can move inside if needed. The same goes for UDFA signing Jacob Capra from San Diego State.
Currently, the Packers have a ton of flexibility along the offensive line.
Amari Rodgers adds new element to offense
As we saw in 2020, having a true slot/gadget player in the Matt LaFleur offense wasn’t a must—this was still the top scoring offense in football, but that doesn’t mean it won’t help either. With Rodgers, they have an element that was missing last season, especially with Tyler Ervin out most of the year.
Rodgers gives them a slot presence that they haven’t had since the days of Randall Cobb, and he will be a weapon pre-snap as well as on designed touches. Any time an already explosive offense can add a new element, that’s always going to be a good thing.
The LB Position
Many draft analysts had the Green Bay Packers taking a linebacker in the first round, but that is something that may have never been on their radar given how they historically value the position. Instead, they’ve shown that they’ll take their chances with regular Day 3 selections at the LB position, adding through UDFA signings, or bringing in a low-cost veteran, banking on someone stepping up—and last year that player was Krys Barnes.
This draft checked a lot of boxes
In terms of positional needs, Green Bay was able to address all of their big ones. They added two new CBs, one of which should contribute right away. Gutey gave LaFleur a missing element in his offense, and they bolstered the OL depth. Green Bay also added to the LB and RB rooms—which was also needed, and hopefully, found Kenny Clark some help.
Day 3 Favorite: TJ Slaton
I really liked the Packers Day 3 selections, but my favorite is IDL TJ Slaton. He’s not someone who is going to fill the stat sheet, but as a true nose, he will occupy space and defenders. This will benefit both the edge and linebacker positions and provides the Packers with the flexibility to move Clark around and avoid double-teams.
Now, there is still work to be done and development needed, but there is a lot to like about Slaton’s game and what he can provide.
The Packers value premiere positions in Round 1
This isn’t ground-breaking news but further confirmation of what we already knew. Wide receivers and linebackers dominated the mock drafts this offseason, but the Green Bay Packers spend their premium pick on premium positions. Over the last 16 drafts, they’ve spent just one combined pick on a receiver, linebacker, interior offensive linemen, or a tight end.
An unspectacular but very good draft
I imagine that most — at least those outside of Packer nation — will find this draft safe or unspectacular. And I can see why. There really isn’t a flashy selection, but as I mentioned above, from the Packers’ standpoint, they checked a ton of necessary boxes.