Four draft-week takeaways from Packers GM Brian Gutekunst
GREEN BAY – The first item on Monday morning’s docket as Brian Gutekunst commenced his first draft week as Green Bay Packers general manager was something he called “logistical” meetings.
They were simple by design, an NFL draft dress rehearsal to eliminate any confusion for the real thing later this week. This will be the first time Gutekunst operates the Packers' draft, and the new GM spent his morning making sure all contingencies were covered.
“Danny Mock,” Gutekunst said of his college scouting coordinator, “is getting the battery-operated lights on in case the power goes out.”
That’s where the Packers are in their pre-draft process. It takes a long time for personnel departments to prepare for a draft, so long Gutekunst said groundwork for 2019 will start sometime next week. Three days before Thursday’s first round, the heavy lifting was finished. Scouting evaluations were thoroughly inspected, draft boards filled out.
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Now, Gutekunst said, the hardest part might be avoiding the temptation to overprepare.
“You definitely fight it,” he said. “Because the tendency is to want to overcook it. I’ve been doing this for a while now. I like to think that I know where the spots are where you can overcook it. We try to avoid those.
“At the same time, there’s still information coming in. This week’s the worst because the majority of it is false, but there’s still information coming in. Our guys are chasing things down, and we’ll chase some things down just to throw other people off. Other teams are doing the same thing.”
Yes, the days leading into a draft are all about the art of deception. That Gutekunst admitted to the Packers’ own attempts at deception was one of the more honest revelations that can be expected this time of year.
It is with that understanding that we take four things learned at Gutekunst’s draft-week gathering with reporters Monday morning. Here are the highlights of what was discussed:
» What will Ted Thompson’s role be on draft night?
Gutekunst said he has sought “sound advice” from several general managers who could be considered mentors, including Cleveland’s John Dorsey, Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie and Seattle’s John Schneider.
“One of the things that’s kind of a common theme,” Gutekunst said, “is keep your head clear. There’s a lot of voices in the room, and do what you think’s best for the Green Bay Packers. That’s been kind of the common theme.”
Ron Wolf’s scouting tree is a tight-knit community in the NFL, but Gutekunst’s closest adviser is his predecessor, Ted Thompson. Gutekunst called Thompson “one of the best talent evaluators that have ever done this,” and thus he remains a valued resource.
Thompson will be in the draft room this week, Gutekunst said. He expects his predecessor to share advice, but more importantly, he believes Thompson knows when not to.
“He's the only one in the room that has the experience of having to hear all those voices,” Gutekunst said. “So I think his timing will probably be better than most. But yeah, he'll be one of the guys that I'll certainly, probably, I'll come to him more than he'll come to me.”
» Do Packers value pass rushers or corners more?
Take your pick when the Packers are on the clock at No. 14: pass rusher or cornerback. They are the two most important positions on defense, and perhaps the two weakest on the Packers' roster.
The Packers’ bottom line in this draft should be improving their pass defense. To do that, does Gutekunst believe pass rushers or cornerbacks are more important?
“Big guys are harder to find than small guys at every level of football,” Gutekunst said.
Take that for whatever it’s worth. Remember, this is the season for deception. The Packers still could take a defensive back with their first pick, but Gutekunst is aware his defense needs more big, athletic rushers off the edge.
“There’s teams that have dominant pass rushes and been so-so on the back end and been fine,” Gutekunst said. “There’s teams that have been really, really good on the back end and so-so pass rush and been fine. And then, vice-versa. There’s teams that have been really good up front and their back end wasn’t good enough and it cost them.”
» How do the Packers prioritize talent against need?
Something to consider for later this week: The Packers will be drafting to fill needs on their roster.
In reality, that makes them no different than any other team. But not every GM admits their picks are based on need as much as talent.
“We try to build the board value-based,” Gutekunst said. “At the same time, I’ve always thought subconsciously — because we build it for our own team, not the league — that those things kind of naturally come into play and the board gets filled with those things in mind. Everybody wants to say best player available, but at the same time I think when things become equal, when you have the equal values on different players, certainly need factors in.”
» How does picking atop the fourth round influence Gutekunst’s draft process?
Part of the trade sending cornerback Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer was a flip of the teams’ fourth- and fifth-round picks.
By virtue of their winless 2017 season, the Browns initially were given the first pick in every round. So now the Packers assume the top pick in the fourth and fifth, which means they’ll open proceedings on Day 3. The Packers also opened Day 3 last spring.
Gutekunst stopped short of proclaiming the Packers “open for business” in the fourth round, something Dorsey has done repeatedly with Cleveland’s top overall pick Thursday, but acknowledged opening the fourth round presents options.
“I've always felt when you have the first pick of the day,” Gutekunst said, “that you get more phone calls, you get more opportunity to move. That's just kind of the way it's always played out. We had it last year, so we just recently went through it, and I felt that was a valuable thing. I think any time you can move up in the draft, specifically the way we're sitting right now with the way the numbers are, I feel really good about doing that now.”