Predictions: Which players will Packers pick in first round?
Our Packers reporters predict which players the Packers will draft Thursday with their scheduled picks at No. 12 and No. 30 in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft:
I’m going to go with Michigan ILB Devin Bush for the No. 12 pick with the knowledge that a lot of things would have to fall into place for him to fall to the Packers: two quarterbacks, three offensive linemen and at least one tight end would have to be taken in front of them. If something like that doesn’t happen, the Packers will take T.J. Hockenson or trade down, but for the record I’m going with the supremely athletic Bush. At No. 30, it will be an offensive lineman (if one isn’t picked at 12) and I’m going with Washington’s Kaleb McGary. He could be a Day 1 starter at right tackle.
Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan: It’s no sure thing Bush is still on the board at No. 12, and if OLB Montez Sweat is available too, then it all comes down to the Packers’ medical grade on Sweat’s enlarged heart/arrhythmia issue. The best available tackle (Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams, Jawaan Taylor) is very much in play, also. But the guess here is that GM Brian Gutekunst drafts the cover linebacker this defense has been lacking for years.
Darnell Savage, S, Maryland: Almost any position could be in play here, but the Packers need a starting free safety who can cover, and Savage was the fastest (4.36 40) of the cover safeties at the combine. Safeties Juan Thornhill of Virginia and Chancey Gardner-Johnson of Florida are possibilities here or at the Packers’ second-round pick (No. 44) as well.
Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama: Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson seems to be the best match of value and need, but it’s hard to see him slipping outside the top 10. The Packers could be enticed to pair an athletic, off-ball linebacker with Blake Martinez, but Devin White is a likely top-six pick, and Devin Bush might also be gone before No. 12. Likewise, don’t be surprised if the Packers take Ed Oliver, a potential top-10 defensive tackle, or an edge rusher. But this draft shapes up to be focused on offense, allowing new head coach Matt LaFleur to retool for his scheme. So then the choice might come down to these three: Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard and Iowa tight end Noah Fant. None are expected to be available when the Packers pick again at No. 30. Dillard is the draft’s best pass blocker, and would have to be intriguing for that reason, but profiles more as a left tackle than right. Fant doesn’t block at all, and it’s worth remembering LaFleur was adamant his tight ends needed that skill. So the guess here is Williams, a three-year starter at Alabama who scouts believe can play all five positions on the offensive line. It’s not a certainty Williams will be available at No. 12, but slightly undersized, with 33 5/8-inch arms, he would fit the mold of best player available and give the Packers options as to his positional fit.
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama: Almost any other year in recent memory, Smith would be the best tight end prospect. This year, he’s understandably been an afterthought behind Hockenson and Fant. Smith isn’t the same finished product as Hockenson, nor the same athletic marvel as Fant, but he has Pro Bowl potential. He has to continue developing at this level, especially as a blocker. But paired with the right quarterback – aka Aaron Rodgers – Smith could become a playmaker who teams nicely Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis. It would be an ideal situation for him to contribute early in a part-time role, learn from two of the better tight ends in the past decade, and be ready to take over in 2020.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: I’m presuming Arizona takes Kyler Murray No. 1 and assuming Oakland does something no one is thinking about, which means Brian Gutekunst has a couple of enticing defensive options at No. 12, and he elects to go with the 6-foot, 2-inch, 287-pound interior lineman to pair with Kenny Clark over the next half decade.
Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma: If the Packers keep this pick, Gutekunst will use it on a player who could anchor the right side should Bryan Bulaga depart after the 2019 season – largely because the 6-4, 329-pound Ford can use some time to develop his pass-blocking technique. Or, if the club determines Billy Turner can play tackle going forward, Ford could slide inside to guard.