Packers GM Brian Gutekunst sees depth in draft at key positions
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers have 11 picks in the 2022 NFL draft, including four in the first two rounds. With that amount of capital and the strengths of this draft lying more in the middle rounds, the temptation to trade is prevalent Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday.
“Having more picks in the top three rounds than we have had in a while, there’s temptation on both sides to move around,” Gutekunst said in his annual pre-draft news conference. “We’ll see what’s available. A lot of it will be how the draft falls … having a feeling of where the board is strong is important.”
One area in which this draft is particularly deep is at wide receiver. The Packers signed a veteran pass catcher recently, 28-year old Sammy Watkins. Gutekunst said Watkins “has got some juice left in him.” Still, the chances of the Packers drafting a receiver (even if not in the first round) are high.
When that player comes to Green Bay, it will be into a unit that does not boast a clear WR1. With Davante Adams having been traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, a rookie receiver will have chances few have had in years.
“We’ve got a good quarterback so that certainly helps,” said Gutekunst of folding in a young receiver. “There’ll be more opportunities for that player.”
As far as that quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has not been present at voluntary workouts. Gutekunst feels comfortable with their communication heading into the draft, however, something that had been an issue in year’s past, festering to the point of Rodgers' discomfort with the team taking center stage at the 2021 NFL draft.
Gutekunst and Rodgers healed the relationship this past season and that has helped set the Packers up for the draft, Gutekunst said.
“I’m in pretty constant communication with Aaron," he said. "This is his down time so I know he enjoys that. The specifics we talked about, I won’t get into that, but it’s carried over from what we talked about (last year).”
With the draft now just days away, Gutekunst and Packers coaches and scouts have started to narrow down their draft board. “I would say we’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks thinning it out,” Gutekunst said.
But it has taken time because the board held more names than any year in recent memory. This was due to college players being offered an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19 truncating the 2020 season. Some prospects are nearing their mid-20’s.
“It’s something we haven’t seen a lot of you over the past (few years),” Gutekunst said. “The age factor is part of the equation as we look at it and kind of judging the merits of what they did in the past.”
No matter who the Packers take this weekend, the new players will be joining a roster that still holds many of the pieces of the reining NFC North champions.
“Every draft is important to your football team. This is the lifeblood of how you build your football team,” Gutekunst said. “But I’m excited about the team we have coming back.”
The NFL draft begins Thursday at 7 p.m. Central.