5 Quick Things: Round 1

Here are five thoughts following the first round of the 2023 National Football League draft:

1) Anybody who doesn’t like the pick of edge rusher Lukas Van Ness hasn’t seen him play. The former Iowa star is going to be a very good pro. He’s big (6-5, 272), fast (4.56), strong, and relentless. Older Packers fans should think of him as a heavier and more explosive Bryce Paup, who went to multiple Pro Bowls in the 1990s. Ideally, Van Ness will be able to hold down the starting job opposite Preston Smith until Rashan Gary returns from a knee injury at some point next season and then rotate into games as the top backup. Whether Van Ness will be ready for such a significant role will largely depend on Jason Rebrovich, his position coach, whose resume before coming to the Packers last year was rather underwhelming. Gary, on the other hand, had the excellent fortune of learning under Mike Smith, long regarded as one of the premier assistants in the league.

2) Van Ness is the seventh defensive player selected in the first round by GM Brian Gutekunst in the past six drafts, but unless he’s the second coming of Clay Matthews Jr., it’s hard to believe he will make a big difference next season. That’s because Joe Barry is still on the staff. And it’s not just the beleaguered coordinator. D-line coach Jerry Montgomery has been with the Packers since 2015 and has very little to put on his resume. Passing game coordinator Greg Williams was unemployed when he was hired a few months ago following a nondescript stint in Arizona. And secondary coach Ryan Downard was recently promoted, I guess due to his stellar work with Darnell Savage. Perhaps all these No. 1 picks will pay off in the future under a different staff, but for now, it kind of feels like buying a Porsche and handing the keys to a blind man.

3) The first round began with the Packers having the worst collection of wide receivers in the league, and it ended the same way. And while Gutekunst will almost certainly add a player or two at the position later tonight, it sure looks like Jordan Love will debut at quarterback with a dearth of quality pass catchers. That’s a far cry from how Aaron Rodgers broke in 15 years ago. His starting wide receivers were Pro Bowler Donald Driver and rising star Greg Jennings, and his No. 3 was James Jones, who was coming off a 47-catch rookie season. That’s a half-dozen more receptions than current No. 1 Christian Watson had a year ago. After his retirement as general manager in 2001, Hall of Famer Ron Wolf stated that one of his biggest regrets was not surrounding quarterback Brett Favre with sufficient talent at wide receiver. It’s hard not to think Gutekunst will someday look back at his career and feel the exact same way as the man who hired him.

4) Gutekunst should spend every waking hour before the start of the second round figuring out a way to get his hands on Michael Mayer. Not only is the former Notre Dame star the best tight end available, but he’s also the most ready to play. That’s extremely important when the veterans on the Packers’ roster are Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis. Aside from Mayer, the only other tight end likely to contribute immediately in the NFL is Sam LaPorta, who started over 30 games for Iowa. Georgia’s Darnell Washington, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft are talented and intriguing prospects, but all three are very raw and unlikely to make much of an impact next season. It’s difficult to imagine Mayer making it to the Packers at No. 42, so Gutekunst should consider trading up at least five spots.

5) I watched my first draft in 1983. My parents let me stay home from school because the event was held on Tuesday. It started at 8 a.m. and concluded at close to midnight. I watched every minute, even though the action consisted of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle reading the names of college players off cards and four men discussing what they heard. There were no players in attendance or YouTube “celebrities” on stage. There weren’t tens of thousands of delighted fans, just a few hundred disgruntled New Yorkers. And it was fine to criticize picks back then because so few people were paying attention. Mel Kiper’s now iconic on-air verbal altercation with Colts GM Bill Tobin in 1994 would never happen today. Call me a “get off my lawn” old man if you want, but I miss those drafts, even though the Packers were usually choosing players like Dave Drechsler, Brent Fullwood, Alphonso Carreker, and Robbie Bosco in the first few rounds.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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April 28, 2023 10:58 am

I didn’t have ESPN until sometime before the ’88 draft. It was on a Tuesday and I took off work to watch it. I was so disappointed when the Packers took some guy named Sterling Sharpe instead of Tim Brown.

April 28, 2023 11:37 am

This is always my first stop for Packers news because I know you’ll give us the truth. I don’t always agree, but I always appreciate your willingness to be critical. It’s a refreshing change from all the cheerleading that goes on elsewhere.

As far as last night is concerned, I was hoping for Broderick Jones, but Van Ness looks like a good pick. Once we upgrade at safety, the next DC should be able to put a great defense on the field.

April 28, 2023 1:01 pm

Very happy with this pick. I was hoping for either EDGE or OT, and Gute resisted the temptation to draft a rnd 2 quality slot WR with the 13th pick in this draft, or over-draft Michael Mayer.

With all but 1 TE on the board, the Packers should have plenty have options. If they trade up for Mayer I hope it doesn’t cost more than a 4th rounder.

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