The Packers decided to start again at head coach this year, tabbing former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as the man to help maximise the franchise’s Super Bowl window.
Inevitably, Green Bay’s chances rise and fall with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
However, for too long the team beloved by cheesehead nation has failed to surround their transcendent signal caller with top tier talent, preferring to let the former Cal star carry the team himself.
Whilst new GM Brian Gutekunst demonstrated a significant departure from his predecessor Ted Thompsons’s free-agency-adverse approach last season, this spring saw the arrival of some much more highly priced free agents. For Rodgers, this will be a welcome sight and could indicate Green Bay utilising the draft to add more depth and talent on offense.
Whilst former Seahawk and Saints star Jimmy Graham is top of the depth chart at this position, he wasn’t quite the end zone weapon the Packers would have been hoping for when they added him to the roster during free agency last year. Graham ranked second on the team in receiving yards, but only reeled in two TDs, a significant drop from 10 with Seattle the year before.
The former basketball star will be entering his tenth NFL season this year and has had significant injury worries previously. This could be a good opportunity to draft a pass catching tight end to learn from Graham and develop in LaFleur’s offense. Or, if Graham can’t quite return to his red zone dominance, it could enable a rookie to see the field in situational plays.
The top two tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant could both still be available when Green Bay makes its pick at 12, with another first round pick available to address other pressing needs on offense.
The Packers O-line ranked 29th in the NFL last season in sacks allowed, whilst also giving up 102 QB hits.
Whilst Rodgers is known for his elusiveness and ability to escape a collapsing pocket and still make plays, LaFleur will be keen to avoid the frequent sight of number 12 on the run. In addition, last year the offense also ranked 22nd in the league in rush yds/game.
A large part of that stems from the lack of emphasis given to the run game and talented running back Aaron Jones. As well as all that, it’s become quite apparent in Titletown that whenever Rodgers’ two bookend tackles David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga are missing, the protection crumbles.
Upgrading the interior of the line could be an option towards the end of the first round with either a center like Garrett Bradbury, or Alabama’s left tackle Jonah Robinson, who could be moving to guard in the NFL. The top tackles in the draft, Jawaan Taylor and Andre Dillard, are unlikely to be still hanging around the green room in Tennessee when the Packers use the 30th overall pick.
The hire of LaFleur indicated that Green Bay is planning for the future, not just focusing on the window they have under Rodgers.
LaFleur is a newbie head coach and the Packers will therefore be expecting some growing pains as he develops into the role. It was also a hire that probably would have run counter to Rodgers’ preferred candidate (in fact the franchise cornerstone wasn’t involved in the hiring process).
Rodgers is currently 35 and has shown some noticeable injuries of late.
In 2017. he only managed 7 games due to injury and was almost knocked out of the season opener in 2018 before leading the Packers’ comeback against the Bears.
Despite only joining the team in March 2018, backup DeShone Kizer hasn’t really shown enough to be considered Rodgers’ future successor. There may also be concerns about whether he can hold down the fort if Rodgers is lost for any number of games.
Whilst the Packers might use some of their mid-round picks to address the position, could they be considered a dark horse to move up if one of Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock or Daniel Jones begins to fall to the end of the first round? Probably not, but there’s always one surprise team who takes a QB in the first round and I want to be first to say it could be Green Bay…