Silverstein: Packers' second first-round pick crucial to Brian Gutekunst's second draft
INDIANAPOLIS – When Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst traded out of the 14th spot of the NFL draft last year and received a 2019 first-round pick as part of the compensation, he was at the mercy of the New Orleans Saints as to where that pick would wind up.
The Saints, who made the trade to move up and draft defensive end Marcus Davenport, wound up having a terrific season, falling one bad call short of making the Super Bowl.
As a result, the Packers will have pick No. 30 to go along with their No. 12 selection in the first round of the draft.
As critical as it is that Gutekunst find a starter with his top pick, what he does with the second pick could determine the quality of his second draft class. General managers at the NFL scouting combine last week praised the depth in this year’s draft, especially at defensive line and tight end.
“It’s defensive line, we all know that,” Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey said of the draft's strength. “But if you really look at different positions along the draft, there’s some really nice depth in Day 2 and early part of Day 3.
"Overall in this draft class, it’s pretty good.”
Gutekunst needs pass-rush help and he probably doesn’t care where he gets it even though he has two excellent defensive linemen in Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, a potential pass rusher in Montravius Adams and two solid run defenders in Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster.
When the 12th pick rolls around, some of the pass-rushing ends who might be available are Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Florida’s Jachai Polite and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat. All but Gary could fill the edge rusher position in coordinator Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defense.
There are also some quality defensive tackles, most of whom are run stoppers such as Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. The potential of having Daniels, Clark and one of those two on the field on early downs would make it hard to run on the Packers.
Those who should be out of reach for Gutekunst at pick No. 12 are Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen.
“Certainly the defensive front, it’s one of the better drafts for big people that I’ve seen in a long time,” Gutekunst said. “And the offensive line, as we got through draft meetings, it’s a little bit better than I thought.”
Holding the No. 30 pick could give Gutekunst an opportunity to move into the top five, which would afford him a chance to grab one of the top defensive talents.
But here’s the thing: Picking in to the top five doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a player better than at 6-10 or 10-15. It should, but it just doesn’t always turn out that way.
Using the data base on profootballreference.com, there have been seven top-five picks over the last 15 years who went on to be named first-team All-Pro multiple times. The list consists of Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Ndamukong Suh, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Thomas and Calvin Johnson.
(Being named to the Associated Press All-Pro team, which is voted on by writers and broadcasters in every NFL market, is generally a better measure of a player’s status than the Pro Bowl, which uses fan voting. Only one player in the NFL at each position makes the All-Pro team, unlike the Pro Bowl.)
Surprisingly, there have been nearly as many players who went on to be named to multiple All-Pro teams in picks 6-through-10 (six) and more in picks 11-15 (eight). It drops off considerably from there.
The point is the No. 12 pick Gutekunst holds is worth keeping and using the No. 30 pick to move up may not be the wisest idea. Same with moving back. It worked last year because he got a No. 1 out of it and was confident he could move up and get one of his desired players.
But he seems to be right on the edge of where the draft talent begins to dip. And if there’s an unexpected run on quarterbacks, that pick could yield him a top-level defensive player.
He seems to understand he needs to stay put.
“So, if we’re at 12 and I’ve got six guys that I value equally, and we can move back a few and feel like we can get the same kind of guy, we’ll consider that,” Gutekunst said last week. “If you ask me today, I don’t think that’s how it will fall. But you never really know.”
Here’s where the value of the No. 30 pick comes in.
Perhaps the best player on Gutekunst’s board when his pick comes at No. 12 will be Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson or Alabama tackle Jonah Williams or Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor. He can make that selection and still land a pretty good defensive lineman with his No. 30 selection.
Or, he can try to trade back and get extra picks to use in a draft whose strength matches Gutekunst’s needs.
He has 10 picks, including four in the top 75. He needs to make those count and if he winds up with even more picks during that span, all the better. When there’s depth in a draft, your goal should be to acquire more darts to throw at the board.
“I like them picks,” Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard said. “I think it just depends. On draft day, you formulate a plan of who you have targeted, where you can get them — do we have to move up or can we move back?
“I’ve always been under the premise, and how I was taught in this league, the more picks you have, the more chance you have to hit on players. We like having draft picks.”
Having the 30th pick is one way to attract offers. Often, there are teams trying to get into the first round to nab a specific player.
Over the past eight years, at least one team holding a pick from 29th to 32nd has traded out of the first round.
Sometimes it’s an offer you can’t refuse.
In 2011, New Orleans gave New England a second-round pick (No. 56) and a 2012 first-round pick for the 28th overall selection, which it used to select running back Mark Ingram.
In 2012, Baltimore received a second-round pick (No. 35) and fourth-round pick from Minnesota for its 29th selection, which it used to select safety Harrison Smith.
In that same year, Tampa Bay made a similar deal with Denver to move up to No. 31, so it could take running back Doug Martin.
Teams trading up to the end of the first round have had some success. Among those acquired recently through a trade up are New Orleans tackle Ryan Ramczyk, Cleveland tight end David Njoku (the Packers were involved and wound up selecting Kevin King and Vince Biegel with their Browns picks) and Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes.
That indicates there is usually starter talent late in the first round.
“Ted (Thompson) always used to say, there’s always a good player every time you pick in the draft, you just have to find him,” Gutekunst said. “So that’s kind of where we’re at now.”
He’s got everything he needs to make this a franchise-lifting draft. All that’s left is to get it right.