NFL draft grades: Packers at the head of the class

Aaron Nagler
Packers News
View Comments
Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst (left), coach Mike McCarthy (middle) and president and CEO Mark Murphy look on inside the draft room on April 26, 2018 at Lambeau Field.

The NFL draft has come and gone and everyone got every guy they wanted, exactly where they wanted him. At least, that’s what one would think listening to general managers across the league as they tout their latest draft class.

We all know some time is needed to properly judge any draft class, but that doesn’t stop the Draft Industrial Complex from producing instant grades on the draft as soon as it’s completed. So we thought we’d take a spin around the web and see what people are saying about the job Brian Gutekunst did while at the helm of his first draft in charge of the Green Bay Packers.

We’ll start with NFL Media’s Chad Reuter, who gives the Packers a solid A:

From Reuter:

Even with talented safety Derwin James on the board, the Saints gave the Packers a deal too rich to give up. Getting a 2019 first-round pick was a steal. Alexander was the second-best corner in the draft on most team boards, despite being a shade over 5-foot-10. They did give up a third-round pick to move up but the net effect of the two trades is still a positive, and they met their biggest position need with a player who can be an above-average starter. The team continued to bolster its secondary with Jackson in the second round. The question is, should they have picked two corners right away, ignoring other needs? With aging free agent veteran Tramon Williams planned as a starter this year, it was probably a good move. Moving up for Burks cost them a fourth-rounder, but he adds athleticism, strength, versatility and intelligence. He'll be a good starter for them at a spot they desperately needed to upgrade. Green Bay went with Moore, Valdes-Scantling, and St. Brown at receiver to re-build that position. All of those guys could make a case for a roster spot. Madison could be a long-time starter at guard. Scott meets a big need for a team that's lacked an above-average punter for some time. The Packers' troubles with the kicking game forced them to pick a long snapper, and Bradley's a good one (though he has an injury history). Depth at offensive tackle and tight end must be addressed after the draft.

Over at Yahoo Sports, Frank Schwab gives the Packers an A-

From Schwab:

I like how the Packers played the first round, practically moving back four spots to take CB Jaire Alexander — a very good player who fills a big need — while picking up a 2019 first-rounder from the Saints. Doubling down on cornerback to take Josh Jackson in the second round was a strong move. The Packers had a pass-rush need, but the cornerback need was apparently more pressing. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, a 6-foot-5 speedster who had nine touchdowns with Notre Dame in 2016 before slumping last season, seems to be a nice fit in the sixth round. The Packers will be fine if one of the three receivers they took pan out. Taking a punter and long snapper seemed odd, but the Packers had a lot of picks.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus gushes over the Packers draft, giving them an “Elite” grade:

From Steve:

Green Bay is one team with a real case for ‘winning’ the 2018 NFL Draft. The Packers traded down in the first round to allow the Saints to jump up and select their man, and in doing so picked up a first round pick in 2019, but they then jumped back up themselves to select Jaire Alexander out of Louisville. If you even out the trades, you could make the case that the Packers drafted Alexander with the third-round pick it cost them to move up with the Seahawks. This is a team that desperately needed to improve their coverage, and Alexander is a game-changer at corner. A smaller, quick coverage man, Alexander allowed a passer rating of just 19.9 when targeted in an injury-shortened 2017 and was an even better player the season before when fully healthy. He was the No. 4 CB on PFF’s draft board, and even though players above him were still on the board when they selected him, that board is subject more to changes by scheme than at other position.

Pete Prisco gives the Packers a B+ for his grades over at CBS Sports:

From Pete:

They needed to get better at corner, and they did just that with their first two picks, trading down to add more picks in the process. They took Jaire Alexander in the first round, and he is a perfect man-cover player for new coordinator Mike Pettine. Second-round corner Josh Jackson was great value, but he isn't as good in press as Alexander. Third-round linebacker Oren Burks can run. Getting two receivers on the third day also made sense, but I don't like drafting a punter in the fifth round.

Ian Wharton was impressed by what Gutekunst did, giving him an A-

From Wharton:

Not only did the Green Bay Packers walk away with an impressive draft class, but they added a 2019 first-round pick when they traded down. They completed their overhaul of the cornerback position, with both Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson being important picks for their defense.

The unit was horrible in 2017 but that should be a position of strength in the next few years.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine also has the athletic Oren Burks to work with now, and he should be a considerable upgrade on Jake Ryan as a middle linebacker. Nabbing defensive tackle James Looney was also a good steal as a developmental piece.

The offense wasn't neglected, as Green Bay added two explosive receivers in J'Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown. The latter fell inexplicably and could be one of the biggest steals of the draft. It would've been wise for the Packers to add another offensive tackle to bring along while they could afford to stash one.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper only handed out four A’s and the Packers received one of them with an A-

From Kiper:

The Packers think they're ready to compete for a Super Bowl in 2018 if Aaron Rodgers stays on the field and if they can defend the pass. That was a major weakness last season — the Green Bay secondary couldn't stop wide receivers. It gave up an NFL-high 21 touchdown passes to receivers. So new GM Brian Gutekunst went out and got two corners with his first two picks to address that problem, and I like both players. Jaire Alexander (pick 18) is an elite athlete and playmaker. Josh Jackson (45) led the FBS with eight interceptions in 2017. He's a ball hawk, and I was really surprised that the Packers were able to get him when they did. Possible steal. They're going to create turnovers. Kevin King had an injury-plagued rookie season and started only five games, but he's a good player, too. That's a talented cornerback group. I also liked third-round pick Oren Burks, who probably will play inside linebacker. He was versatile and consistent at Vanderbilt.

The best move the Packers made this weekend, though, was adding an extra 2019 first-round pick. New Orleans traded up from No. 27 to No. 14 to take Marcus Davenport, and Green Bay moved out of Round 1 (and then later moved back in by dealing third- and sixth-round picks to Seattle). That's a huge chip to have next year, when the pass-rushing prospects should be better than they were in this class.

Elsewhere, J'Mon Moore (133) offers some receiving depth, and Cole Madison(138) reminds me a lot of what David Bakhtiari was coming out of college. That worked out just fine. JK Scott (172) was my third-ranked punter. Equanimeous St. Brown (207) is worth a late Day 3 pick as a talented but inconsistent wide receiver. The reason this class gets an "A" is the 2019 first-rounder it added from New Orleans. Now, that could end up being a very late Day 1 pick. I don't care. I really like what Gutekunst did in his first draft.

Dan Kadar of SB Nation was probably the most lukewarm on what the Packers did this past weekend, giving them a B-

From Kadar:

New Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst wasn’t shy in his first draft. He moved from the 14th to 18th pick while adding a first-round pick in the 2019 draft. Then at No. 18 he took Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander, a player they probably would have picked 14th. The Packers doubled up on cornerbacks by taking Iowa’s Josh Jackson in the second round. It was a surprise in that Green Bay had some other needs, but you can’t fault the value.

In the third round, the Packers added a versatile and athletic linebacker in Oren Burks. He has to become more disciplined against the run, but his athleticism can’t be coached. Not many people expected Burks to go that high, though.

Green Bay brought in three wide receivers in J’Mon Moore in the fourth round, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth round and Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round. That’s a lot of draft capital on one position.

Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling gives the Packers a solid B:

From Easterling:

If you love multiple picks at the same position, this is probably your favorite class. Green Bay started off strong with two of the three best corners in this year’s class, then took three receivers on Day 3, with tons of size and speed. There was great value (Josh Jackson, Equanimeous St. Brown), and they snagged one of the most underrated linebackers in the draft (Oren Burks). On the dark side, they waited too long to find an edge rusher, as well as depth for in the trenches on both sides of the ball. But when the question marks are in the later rounds and you hit big on the early picks, the grade stays high.

Finally, Rotoworld's Evan Silva also hands Gutekunst a B: 

From Silva:

The Packers acquired the Saints’ 2019 first-round pick in Thursday night’s trade down from No. 14 to 27, where Green Bay still landed my No. 2-rated cover corner in the draft behind only Denzel Ward. Jackson at 45 was not overkill; the Packers were immensely cornerback needy, and Jackson was a legitimate round-one talent. Trading up for Burks shows new GM Brian Gutekunst has a handle on where the league is headed; Burks is a high-level athlete with a safety background and ideal sub-package linebacker traits. Moore is raw with rumored off-field concerns, but he was one of the most dynamic wideouts in this class. On tape, I thought his ball skills were much better than Valdes-Scantling or St. Brown’s. Madison did not dominate in the Pac 12 and is a below-average athlete. Scott and Bradley offer cheap special teams help. Looney and Donnerson are longer shots with athletic upside. 

View Comments