(WFRV) – With less than a week until the 2021 NFL Draft, the trades have seemingly settled and the selection order is set – now, we watch and wait as the top prospects prepare to hear their name called and begin their professional careers.
The Green Bay Packers pick 29th after another appearance in the NFC Championship Game, but if history tells us anything, the Green & Gold may look to change positions. GM Brian Gutekunst traded down in 2018, up in 2019 and up in 2020.
With 10 picks this year, the Pack will look to add a few more pieces to an already loaded roster for 2021. In this article, we’ll run down the team’s greatest needs heading into the draft, as well as break down each position on the roster, give three “players to watch” at each spot, and mock the entire first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Packers have 10 picks in the draft, including three compensatory picks for players that left in 2020 free agency:
- First round: No. 29
- Second round: No. 62
- Third round: No. 92
- Fourth round: No. 135, No. 142
- Fifth round: No. 173, No. 178
- Sixth round: No. 214, No. 220
- Seventh round: No. 256
NFL Draft coverage begins with the first round on Thursday, April 29. All three rounds will be televised by ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network.
The first round begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, the second and third rounds will take place starting at 6 p.m. Friday, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Drafting for need can be a dangerous game, but the Packers ruffled some feathers going for “best available” in the 2020 draft – and have more glaring holes to fill this time around.
Offensive line: One of the most versatile offensive lines in football ran short on bodies toward the end of the season. All-Pro Corey Linsley is now gone, signing with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari continues to work his way back from a late-season knee injury, but it’s unknown if his timetable will match up with the start of the season. Right tackle Rick Wagner was cut to clear cap space.
One possible move would be to move Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins to center, his natural position. But is Jon Runyan Jr. ready to play every snap in his second season? Can Lucas Patrick continue to hold down the fort at right guard? Billy Turner will presumably hold down one of the tackle spots, but if Bakhtiari isn’t ready to return by the start of the season, the Packers may be counting on Jared Veldheer or even a player like Yosh Nijman to man one of the starting tackle roles.
In this draft, it’s not a matter of “if” the Packers will draft offensive linemen, but “when.”
Wide receiver: Is this the year the Packers pull the trigger on a first round weapon? Green Bay hasn’t drafted a receiver in the first round since 2002, and an inconsistent group behind Davante Adams have Green & Gold fans dreaming of skill position help once again. While 2021 is not quite as deep of a receiver draft as 2020 was, there are plenty of high-level prospects that saw significant success at the college level.
The big unknown in this situation is how the Packers view their own wide receiver room. Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a career performance in the NFC Championship Game, and Allen Lazard broke out in a 150-yard performance in a primetime game against the Saints in September, before going down for a month with a core injury. Do the Packers see Valdes-Scantling and Lazard as true second and third options? Will Tyler Ervin return healthy for the “Swiss Army Knife” role, or will Green Bay turn to a rookie to fill the returner/slot/do-it-all position?
Green Bay did not take a receiver in the 2020 draft, and that may change this year.
Defensive line: The Packers run defense improved drastically in 2020, but questions still linger about consistency alongside Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark. Sophomore Kingsley Keke may have broken out last season – but can he become an every-down player? Dean Lowry has been consistent and healthy in his career in Green Bay, but the Packers may need someone more explosive to provide another element of pass rush. Tyler Lancaster is back, despite the Packers not tendering him as a restricted free agent.
This position is thin heading into the summer. Will the Packers reach for one of the top interior linemen on the board, like Alabama’s Christian Barmore? Or will they spend another mid-round pick (or two) hoping to bolster depth and develop new players in defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s system?
Simply put, the Packers need to add bodies here.
Cornerback: Green Bay re-signed Kevin King to a one-year deal, reportedly worth up to $6 million. The move wasn’t exactly well-received by many in Packerland, but it made sense to bring back a serviceable CB2 on a team friendly deal, keeping consistency in the pass defense during a depressed cap year. If the Packers take a corner, it’s likely understood he won’t be a starter Year One.
Even so, Brian Gutekunst has shown he’s willing to invest premium picks in defensive backs. Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage are recent success stories as first round picks, and Green Bay needs depth at corner. Josh Jackson was a healthy scratch a handful of times last season, and he may need a big training camp to make the roster this year. The Packers need to add some other depth pieces and could opt for a player that can play multiple positions, such as slot corner, nickel, or dime.
Inside linebacker: The Packers cut Christian Kirksey to save cap room, leaving rookies Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin as the presumptive starters at inside linebacker. Both played well when healthy last season, but will Green Bay leave only a fifth-rounder and undrafted player as the anchors to its defense? Ty Summers saw more time at the position last year, but his impact is primarily felt on special teams.
The Packers need to add bodies at this position, and while the post-draft free agent market could be enticing to add a veteran presence, Green Bay could opt for a dynamic first-round talent in hopes he becomes a difference-maker in the middle.
The Packers’ 10 picks will likely see at least one player from each of these positions – but that coveted first round selection remains a mystery.
Roster Breakdown, Names to Watch
QB (need 0-1)
Current players: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
Draft projection: 6th-7th rounder, undrafted free agent
Names to watch: Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern; Ian Book, Notre Dame; Brady Davis, Illinois State
Why QB?: The Packers may opt to add another camp arm or even keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster, providing insurance for Rodgers and Love or even just a weekly scout.
RB (need 1-2)
Current players: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams, Mike Weber, Patrick Taylor
Draft projection: 4th-6th rounder
Names to watch: Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis; Kylin Hill, Mississippi State; Jarret Patterson, Buffalo
Why RB?: Green Bay spent a second-round pick on A.J. Dillon last year, but they could choose to add another one or two backs for depth with the departure of Jamaal Williams.
WR (need 1-2)
Current players: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Malik Taylor, Tavon Austin, Devin Funchess, Equanimeous St. Brown, Juwann Winfree, Reggie Begelton, Chris Blair
Draft projection: 1st-3rd rounder
Names to watch: Kadarius Toney, Florida; Rashod Bateman, Minnesota; Elijah Moore, Ole Miss; Rondale Moore, Purdue; Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC; D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
Why WR?: The Packers chose not to draft a wide receiver in 2020, and with another deep draft, Green Bay could look to add skill position talent around Aaron Rodgers and bolster depth.
TE (need 0-1)
Current players: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara, Dominique Dafney, Isaac Nauta, Bronson Kaufusi
Draft projection: 5th-7th rounder
Names to watch: Nick Eubanks, Michigan; Jacob Harris, UCF; Kylen Granson, SMU
Why TE?: Tight end is becoming a premium position in the NFL, and although the Packers have had good luck with undrafted free agents, they may opt to take the right player late.
OL (need 2-4)
Current players: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Lucas Patrick, Billy Turner, Jon Runyan, Simon Stepaniak, Yosh Nijman, Jared Veldheer, Jake Hanson, Zack Johnson, Ben Braden
Draft projection: 1st-4th rounder
Names to watch: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama; Alijah-Vera-Tucker, G/T, USC, Christian Darrisaw, T, Virginia Tech; Sam Cosmi, T, Texas; Quinn Minierz, G, Wisconsin-Whitewater; Brenden Jaimes, G/T, Nebraska; Cole Van Lanen, T, Wisconsin
Why OL?: The Packers will almost assuredly draft offensive linemen to fill holes and bolster depth. Look for the Packers to opt for versatile linemen that can play multiple positions.
DL (need 1-2)
Current players: Kenny Clark, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Dean Lowry, Willington Previlon, Anthony Rush, Delontae Scott, Damon Harrison, Billy Winn
Draft projection: 2nd-4th rounder
Names to watch: Christian Barmore, Alabama; Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA; Tyler Shelvin, LSU
Why DL?: Green Bay needs a consistent, explosive performer alongside Kenny Clark to provide interior pass rush and hold the line in run defense.
ILB (need 1-3)
Current players: Krys Barnes, Kamal Martin, Ty Summers, James Burgess, Oren Burks, Tipa Galeai
Draft projection: 1st-4th rounder
Names to watch: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame; Zaven Collins, Tulsa; Nick Bolton, Missouri; Tuf Borland, Ohio State
Why ILB?: Behind sophomores Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin, Green Bay has mostly unproven depth at the position and needs to add playmakers in the run game.
OLB/EDGE (need 0-2)
Current players: Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, Randy Ramsey, De’Jon Harris
Draft projection: 3rd-5th rounder
Names to watch: Joseph Ossai, Texas; Shaka Toney, Penn State; Patrick Jones, Pittsburgh
Why OLB?: The Packers are deep here, but with pass rusher becoming a premium position in the NFL, it never hurts to have more athletes to compete for time.
CB (need 1-2)
Current players: Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, Ka’Dar Hollman, Kabion Ento, Stanford Samuels, KeiVarae Russell
Draft projection: 1st-3rd rounder
Names to watch: Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech; Greg Newsome, Northwestern; Asante Samuel, Florida State; Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
Why CB?: The Packers brought back Kevin King on a one-year deal, but Green Bay needs explosive depth with question marks surrounding Josh Jackson and other young players.
S/Specialty DB (need 0-2)
Current players: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Chandon Sullivan, Will Redmond, Henry Black, Vernon Scott
Draft projection: 4th-6th rounder
Names to watch: James Wiggins, Cincinnati; Jacoby Stevens, LSU; Andre Cisco, Syracuse
Why DB?: Green Bay covets versatility at positions like slot corner, nickel and dime. They’ll also look to replace a hybrid linebacker/safety presence in Raven Greene.
P (need 0-1)
Current players: JK Scott, Ryan Winslow
Draft projection: 6th-7th rounder, undrafted
Names to watch: Drue Chrisman, Ohio State; Max Duffy, Kentucky; James Smith, Cincinnati
Why P?: The Packers brought in Ryan Winslow to compete with JK Scott in the offseason, but they could opt to draft a punter late to improve consistency at the position.
K (need 0)
Current players: Mason Crosby, JJ Molson
Draft projection: None
Names to watch: Riley Patterson, Memphis; Luis Aguilar, Northern Arizona
Why K?: Green Bay is very unlikely to draft a kicker, with longtime starter Mason Crosby coming off one of his best seasons.
LS (need 0)
Current players: Hunter Bradley, Joe Fortunato
Draft projection: None
Names to watch: Adam Bay, Wisconsin
Why LS?: The Packers brought in Joe Fortunato in free agency to compete with Hunter Bradley at the position. Green Bay is highly unlikely to draft a long snapper.
First Round Mock
With 32 picks in the first round, the hot topics between February and April become centered on mock drafts.
Analyzing team needs, reporting rumors and success at the collegiate level, here are my projections for how the first round shakes out.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars select QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: Presumably a no-brainer as the No. 1 overall draft pick since the 2019 national championship game, Lawrence is considered a generational, can’t-miss prospect. With a star pedigree, strong intangibles and a 6’5″ frame, Urban Meyer will have his quarterback for his first season in Jacksonville.
2. New York Jets select QB Zach Wilson, BYU: Wilson has drawn comparisons to former Packers quarterback Brett Favre for his playmaking ability and his feast-or-famine style. Competition level becomes the main concern on Wilson, but the Jets have seemed set on him for weeks.
3. San Francisco 49ers select QB Mac Jones, Alabama: The most hotly-debated selection in the draft turns into the Heisman Trophy finalist and national champion for the Crimson Tide. The 49ers gave up multiple first round draft picks to move up, and in one of the deepest quarterback classes in recent memory, it appears they will go with a signal-caller. Regarded as a low-ceiling prospect, Jones is considered pro-ready to plug into Kyle Shanahan’s dynamic offense in San Francisco. He made very few mistakes at Alabama, completing 77 percent of his passes for 41 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2020, albeit to an all-star cast of receivers, tight ends and running backs. He may not have to sit behind returning starter Jimmy Garoppolo for long.
4. Atlanta Falcons select TE Kyle Pitts, Florida: Seen as another can’t-miss prospect, Florida’s athletic pass-catching tight end is a difficult matchup for any player on opposing defenses. Standing 6-6 and weighing 245 pounds, Pitts could draw attention from linebackers for his size but blow by them with this 4.44 speed. The Falcons have been open to trading this pick, but if they stand pat, they’ll get the best remaining player on the board.
5. Cincinnati Bengals select OT Penei Sewell, Oregon: As quarterback Joe Burrow returns from injury, the Bengals see an opportunity to add a big piece to a much-maligned offensive line. Sewell is regarded as one of the top offensive tackle prospects in recent years.
6. Denver Broncos trade with Miami, select QB Justin Fields, Ohio State: Trade! With Denver not altogether settled on the up-and-down performance of Drew Lock, the Broncos pull the trigger on a top 10 trade with a willing Miami team. The athletic, super-accurate Fields could be the piece to supplant lock and bring Denver back into contention in the AFC West, facing quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert several times each season.
7. Detroit Lions select WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU: Regarded as one of the top wide receiver prospects in recent years, the Lions get a gift as the draft’s second-best weapon falls to No. 7. With the departure of Kenny Golladay and others, the Lions grab Chase as immediate help for new quarterback Jared Goff.
8. Carolina Panthers select OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern: After the season, many thought Carolina would opt to draft a quarterback after a rocky year with Teddy Bridgewater. Instead, the Panthers traded for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, giving the young quarterback a second chance nearing the end of his rookie contract. Carolina used the franchise tag on one of the top right tackles in the game, Taylor Moton. Here, they grab his counterpart on the left side, selecting versatile lineman Rashawn Slater.
9. Miami Dolphins trade with Denver, select WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama: Stockpiling yet another pick (or more), the Dolphins gladly trade down and grab the second-best receiver in the draft. Waddle stands 5’10” but plays taller, possessing the ability to move to be a No. 1 receiver, slot or outside threat. Miami gets more help for second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
10. Dallas Cowboys select CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina: A rapid riser on draft boards since February, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn turns his NFL pedigree into a top 10 selection. Standing 6’1″ and showing superior athletic marks for a corner, Horn also has the ability to come down and help defend the run. Dallas fills a need after a disastrous 2020 on the defensive side of the ball.
11. New York Giants select OLB/EDGE Micah Parsons, Penn State: A rapid riser after his Pro Day performance, Micah Parsons will be one of the most sought-after defenders in the draft. I saw him work out as a high schooler, and even then, he showed every bit of the 4.39 speed of his Pro Day marks. He was beating four-star corners off the ball and running wide receiver routes – but his 6’3″, 245-pound frame fits better harassing opposing quarterbacks.
12. New England Patriots trade with Philadelphia, select QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State: Another trade! After signing Cam Newton to another one-year deal, the Patriots pull the trigger and trade up three spots for their quarterback of the future. Lance didn’t play in 2020, as FCS football sat out the fall season amid the pandemic, but scouts have been excited about his potential for more than a year.
13. Los Angeles Chargers select CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama: The Chargers fortified the offensive line through free agency, signing former Packers center Corey Linsley, among others. LA opts for the best available defender here, taking the second corner off the board in Alabama star Patrick Surtain II. A five-star prospect out of high school, the corner looks to follow in his father’s footsteps and put together an extended NFL career.
14. Minnesota Vikings select DE/EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan: The Vikings have seen a mass exodus of pass rushers the past calendar year, with Everson Griffin, Yannick Ngakoue and other defenders going elsewhere. After the defense took a major dip last season, Minnesota grabs an outside linebacker to play across from Danielle Hunter.
15. Philadelphia Eagles trade with New England, select WR Devonta Smith, Alabama: The Eagles have too many needs to solve with one pick, so the trade for New England gets some draft capital back in Philadelphia. The Eagles will look to surround quarterback Jalen Hurts with capable pass-catchers after a mash unit got them through the 2020 season. If the Heisman Trophy winner is still on the board, someone will surely grab him in the first round.
16. Arizona Cardinals select OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC: The Cardinals could go a number of ways with the 16th pick, but if Alijah Vera-Tucker is still on the board, it’d be hard for Arizona to pass up the West Coast product. One of the most versatile linemen in the draft, Vera-Tucker can play on the interior or slide out to tackle, and should help round the Cardinals into form and protect Kyler Murray.
17. Chicago Bears trade with Las Vegas, select OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech: With the top five quarterbacks off the board, the Bears’ best bets may be an offensive tackle or wide receiver. If Chicago goes with the more immediate need, it may need to trade up to get ahead of a run on offensive tackles in the late teens and early 20s. Darrisaw was a three-year starter at Virginia Tech and can be an immediate plug-and-play asset.
18. Miami Dolphins select DE/EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL): Needing a boost at a premium position, the Dolphins use their second pick of the first round to keep a pass rusher on South Beach. Miami Hurricanes edge rusher Jaelan Phillips has been projected to go as high as 10. The UCLA transfer was a consensus five-star out of high school and put together a strong performance for the much-improved Hurricanes in 2020, earning second-team All-American honors after racking up eight sacks and an interception.
19. Washington Football team selects OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan: With Washington’s defense playing as well as it did down the stretch last year, reinforcements will need to come on the offensive side of the ball. An obvious need is quarterback, but with the top five off the board and no clear sixth option, Washington has gunslinging veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and will succeed or fail by what they put around him. Some offensive line help would go a long way.
20. Las Vegas Raiders trade with Chicago, select OLB/EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia: Always flashy, Mark Davis, Jon Gruden and the Raiders trade out of the “offensive tackle barrage” and choose to take a star pass rusher from the SEC. Las Vegas will need pressure on the quarterback to contend in the AFC West, and the Raiders tend to fall in love with measurables. Ojulari has strong speed and can play off the ball.
21. Indianapolis Colts select CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern: A sleeper at the cornerback position, Newsome anchored one of the best pass defenses in the country at Northwestern. He had his best season in 2020, and, standing 6’1″, can defend any type of wide receiver at the next level. The Colts would like to add depth at defensive back.
22. Tennessee Titans select CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech: Another corner goes off the board in the AFC South, this time with one of the more polarizing prospects. Caleb Farley has drawn questions about his health with two back surgeries, but it’s hard to doubt his talent and athleticism. The Virginia Tech product stands 6’2″ and fills an immediate need for Tennessee’s defense.
23. New York Jets select OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State: If New York spends another premium pick on a quarterback (the assumption is it will), he will need protection. The Jets’ revolving door on the offensive line put Sam Darnold in compromising positions, and the team needs a premium prospect in the pipeline before filling other needs later in the draft.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers select RB Najee Harris, Alabama: The first running back goes off the board to Pittsburgh. Alabama’s bowling ball speedster was the No. 1 overall prospect in his high school class, and after developing in the Crimson Tide backfield, Harris has wowed front offices with his measurables and intangibles. Picking a running back here helps offset the loss of James Conner and bolster one of the NFL’s worst rushing offenses.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars select S Trevon Moehrig, TCU: Jacksonville could reach on a wide receiver for new quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but Moehrig has been consistently mocked to the Jaguars for quite some time. The top true safety on the board, Moehrig won the Jim Thorpe Award as the top safety in the country and finished with two interceptions and nine pass break-ups.
26. Cleveland Browns select LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky: One of the most talented rosters in the league needs to fill another
27. Baltimore Ravens select DE/EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State: The Ravens have options with plenty of capable pass rushers still on the board, but Jayson Oweh’s Pro Day may have improved his stock enough to jump into the first round. He didn’t record a sack last season in a disappointing season for the Nittany Lions, but his 4.36 40-yard dash along with his 6’5″, 257-pound frame has scouts interested in the Penn State product.
28. New Orleans Saints select WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: The Saints could go a number of different directions, but losing Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason along with Michael Thomas’ often questionable injury status could see New Orleans starting the second run on receivers. Rashod Bateman had a productive career with Minnesota despite a dip in 2020, and his strong hands could win him a lot of jump balls in the Superdome.
29. Green Bay Packers select LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame: There’s always one elite player that falls after projecting at multiple spots, and in this draft, the Green Bay Packers may be the beneficiaries of that drop. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah filled up his trophy case in college, earning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and garnering first-team All-America honors. He anchored the middle of an explosive Notre Dame defense, providing the play of the game with a fumble scoop and score in a home upset of No. 1 Clemson in 2020.
Standing 6’1″ but possessing elite speed, Owusu-Koramoah is seen as a bit of a tweener at the next level, which could cause him to drop into Green Bay’s lap. The Packers have been waiting for a sound coverage linebacker; after releasing Christian Kirksey in the offseason, Green Bay is left with just second-year player Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin with reliable experience at the inside position. Owusu-Koramoah might just be the explosive, versatile piece the Pack need to take the defense to another level.
30. Buffalo Bills select CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State: The Bills don’t have any glaring needs heading into the draft, but with questionable depth at the cornerback position, Buffalo may opt to select a different type of defensive back. Samuel is a smaller prospect with strong ball skills, and could compete to see time with starters Levi Wallace and Tre’Davious White.
31. Baltimore Ravens select WR Kadarius Toney: The Ravens traded offensive tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City for this pick, but the past week has shown indications Baltimore would prefer to fill that role with a veteran presence. Instead of taking one of the second-flight offensive tackles, the Ravens may opt for a skill position player to build around quarterback Lamar Jackson. Toney looks like a versatile option to diversify the Ravens’ wide receiver room.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M: The athletic quarterback is rising up draft boards as a raw prospect with high upside. Without any holes to fill, Tampa Bay could look to the future and take Tom Brady’s successor, giving him a couple of seasons to learn from a legend – much like the Packers did with Jordan Love a year ago.