GREEN BAY – Knowing he needs to hit it big with his first draft as Green Bay Packers general manager, Brian Gutekunst is gathering every bit of information he can on prospective picks.
Unlike his predecessor, Ted Thompson, Gutekunst isn’t reserving his allotted pre-draft visits for likely low-round selections and undrafted prospects. He is inviting college players who have a legitimate chance of being selected with the Packers’ 14th pick in the first round.
On Friday, Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, a 6-4, 347-pound behemoth who bench-pressed 225 pounds 41 times at the scouting combine in February, was at the Packers' facility meeting with coaches and personnel staff.
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An NFL source confirmed his visit, one of 30 the Packers are allowed under NFL rules (not counting those in which the player attended a nearby college or grew up within the Green Bay area).
In addition, a source said that Virginia Tech inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds visited on Thursday. Edmunds and Georgia's Roquan Smith are considered the two best inside backers in the draft and both would be a consideration for Gutekunst if available at No. 14.
NFL Network reported Florida State defensive back Derwin James, generally considered one of the top two or three at his position in this draft, visited the team earlier in the week.
Finally, cornerbacks Mike Hughes of Central Florida and LSU cornerback Donte Jackson were scheduled for visits, according to DraftAnalyst.com and NFLDraftInsider.com, respectively.
Hughes has a good chance of being selected in the first round and Jackson ran a stunning 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Both should go somewhere in the first two rounds.
Next week, the Journal Sentinel learned, Wisconsin Badgers prospects Jack Cichy and Austin Ramesh will travel to Lambeau Field for a visit.
Cichy, an inside linebacker, hasn’t played in a game since October 2016, missing all of ’17 with an ACL injury suffered in camp. He was the defensive MVP of the 2015 Holiday Bowl despite playing only about a half and then followed up with an impressive start to the ’16 season, only to tear a pectoral muscle that ended his year.
Despite missing Wisconsin’s final seven games, Cichy finished with 60 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 1½ sacks. He was on the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy watch lists heading into 2017.
Cichy, a Somerset native, could have played a sixth season at Wisconsin but decided to declare for the draft. He attended the scouting combine but was unable to run. At Wisconsin’s pro day March 14, he did not run the 40-yard dash, but posted 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, 6.88 seconds in the three-cone drill and 33½ inches in the vertical jump.
He measured 6-2 and 234 pounds.
Ramesh, a Land O’ Lakes native, played in 40 games with 18 starts for the Badgers, carrying 34 times for 147 yards and five touchdowns. He caught 13 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
At the pro day, Ramesh ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, had a vertical of 32 inches and benched 225 pounds 24 times.
Under Thompson, the Packers only brought in top picks when there was an injury question and even then, it was rare. Thompson did not want anyone to know what players he liked and used the 30 visits mostly to recruit players who would be undrafted free agents.
Gutekunst could be throwing out fake signals with the players he’s bringing in, trying to make teams think he’s interested in one player when he’s really not. But given the higher-rated players he is bringing in, he seems to be doing his homework to make sure he makes the right pick at No. 14.
Aaron Nagler of PackersNews.com contributed to this story.