Predicting which player the Green Bay Packers will take in the first round is never easy, but it got that much harder when Brian Gutekunst was named the team’s new general manager. At least with Ted Thompson calling the shots, you knew the first pick would fill a major need and would come from one of four conferences (ACC, Big 10, Pac-12 and SEC). Now even that might not be the case.
OK, for the sake of argument, let’s assume the following 13 players are off the board when the Packers are on the clock later tonight: quarterbacks Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen, running back Saquon Barkley, offensive lineman Quenton Nelson, defensive end Bradley Chubb, defensive tackle Vita Vea, inside linebackers Roquon Smith and Tremaine Edmunds, cornerbacks Minkah Fitzpatrick and Denzel Ward and hybrid safety Derwin James.
If any other player cracks this group of 13 – perhaps quarterback Lamar Jackson or offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey – Gutekunst should grab whichever player gets pushed down. Any of them would be a great addition to the Packers. So would inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, but I just don’t see him going at 14.
If none of the “Big 9” non-quarterbacks fall all the way to 14, Gutekunst should seriously consider trading down. Unless he’s convinced that small-school defensive end Marcus Davenport will be a star, the difference between the player picked at 14 and the player picked at 24 will be minimal. In fact, there may not be a huge difference between the player picked at 14 and the player picked at 40. It’s simply that kind of draft.
Of course, there is another option – one the Packers haven’t done since 2002. They could trade up and guarantee getting one of the “Big 9” non-quarterbacks. And to be honest, that would be my preference. If giving up a 4 or even a 3 could secure someone like Edmunds or Fitzpatrick, what’s the big downside? Gutekunst needs to come out of round 1 with an impact player, and that’ll be a lot easier at 11 or 12 than at 14.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see an aggressive Gutekunst move up and select one of the “Big 9” non-quarterbacks, but I’ll make this prediction assuming he stays put at 14. In that case, the most likely candidates are James and McGlinchey.
I think there’s at least a chance of James falling to 14 if he gets past Tampa at 7. Some late mocks have Fitzpatrick falling to Green Bay, but I just don’t see that happening. If none of the “Big 9” are available, McGlinchey would be a solid pick. His value is probably in the 20s, but he’s a good player who would be able to step right in and start at right tackle – likely pushing Bryan Bulaga to right guard or the street.
If Gutekunst isn’t completely sold on the mountainous McGlinchey (6-8, 310), trading down probably makes the most sense. There simply isn’t another edge rusher or cornerback worth taking at 14. Would a team want to come up? Perhaps, especially if Rosen – my No. 1 QB – or the electrifying Jackson is still available.