Packers add kicker, defensive linemen, quarterback and wide receivers in Day 3 picks in the 2023 NFL draft
GREEN BAY − Colby Wooden was hard not to notice in the middle of Auburn's defensive line last season. He wore the number 25 on his back, a number more befitting a running back, not a 285-pound defensive tackle.
What attracted the Green Bay Packers to Wooden is he moved a little like a running back, too. Wooden's burst along the interior defensive line led to 14 sacks the past three seasons. He showed his pass rush is ready for the NFL last season, finishing his senior year with six sacks along with 11.5 tackles for loss.
The Packers opened their long, final day of the NFL draft Saturday − a day they entered with nine draft picks − taking Wooden with the 116th overall selection. They hope Wooden brings depth to a defensive line that lost veterans Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry in free agency this spring.
At 6-foot-4, Wooden weighed 273 pounds at the NFL scouting combine. He said Saturday his weight is currently 283 pounds. He expects to add more with the Packers projecting him as an NFL defensive tackle.
"I'm going to have to bulk up a little bit more to play on the inside and be better against the run," Wooden said.
Patrick Moore, the Packers assistant director of college scouting, said there are no reservations on whether he's big enough for the NFL trenches.
Wooden said he wants to work on his pad level in the NFL, part of sharpening his toolbox as an interior lineman. The technique is teachable. What's not is Wooden's explosiveness. Wooden ran a 4.79 in the 40 at the NFL scouting combine, which included a 1.68 split in the first 10 yards, gives him intriguing upside.
"He's an inside, pass-rush threat for sure," Moore said.
Fifth round, pick No. 149: Sean Clifford, quarterback, Penn State
Brian Gutekunst made clear entering this NFL draft he wanted more quarterbacks. It didn't take him long on the draft's third and final day to get one.
The Green Bay Packers selected Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford with the 149th overall pick in the fifth round. As a fifth-year senior last season, Clifford completed 226 of 351 passes for 2,822 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Clifford capped his four-year career as a starter as Rose Bowl Offensive MVP last season, completing 16-of-21 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Utah.
Clifford, who had a pre-draft visit with the Packers, will give the Packers a backup option along with Danny Etling, the only other quarterback on the Packers roster behind Jordan Love. He was the 11th quarterback selected in this draft, tied with the 1995 draft for most ever. The run on quarterbacks might have prompted Gutekunst to use his fifth-round pick. Many projected him to be an undrafted free agent entering this weekend.
"We got him at a good spot where we valued him," Packers director-football operations Milt Hendrickson said.
At 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, Clifford ran a 4.57 40 before the draft. His arm was not rated highly, but Clifford’s mobility and intangibles were coveted. He was a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award last season.
Hendrickson said Clifford's personality was a significant draw for the Packers' locker room. It should help as he transitions into a role behind a first-time starter.
"I've got a lot of appreciation for Jordan Love," Clifford said. "He's a great quarterback, one that I've watched for awhile. I'm just looking forward to contributing as much as possible, push the room."
Fifth round, pick No. 159: Dontayvion Wicks, receiver, Virginia
After drafting a potential backup for Love, Gutekunst went back to supplying his new starting quarterback with weapons.
The Packers selected Virginia receiver Dontayvion Wicks with the 159th overall pick in the fifth round. Wicks is the second receiver Gutekunst has added in this draft, following second-round receiver Jayden Reed of Michigan State. With second-round tight end Luke Musgrave and third-round tight end Tucker Kraft, the Packers have added four new offensive skill players through the first five rounds.
At 6-1, 206 pounds, Wicks has the size Gutekunst covets at receiver. His 4.62 40 was a knock entering the draft, as well as drops. He had 39-inch vertical leap, suggesting explosive athletic potential. Wicks had a breakout redshirt sophomore season in 2021 with 57 catches, 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns, but followed with just 30 catches, 430 yards and two touchdowns last season. His sophomore season set a school record for receiving yards, breaking the mark set by longtime Detroit Lions receiver Herman Moore.
Wicks missed two games with a bone bruise last season, his first with a new coaching staff. He had a Lisfranc injury in his foot in 2020.
Sixth round, pick No. 179: Karl Brooks, defensive tackle, Bowling Green
It's clear the Packers recognized their need to add depth along their defensive line.
Gutekunst used a second late-round pick on a defensive lineman when he drafted Bowling Green tackle Karl Brooks with the 179th overall pick in the sixth round. At 6-3, 303 pounds, Brooks has good size on the interior. He ran a 5.08 40 at his pro day before the draft, and he used his quickness to dominate the Mid-American Conference.
Brooks had 17.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in his final two college seasons. A team captain last season, he was first-team All-Mid-American Conference selection with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss last season. Hendrickson said evaluating a defensive lineman on the lower level of college football was no different than last year when the Packers scouted North Dakota State receiver Christian Watson and Nevada receiver Romeo Doubs.
"The tape still is the tape," Hendrickson said. "What he was able to display, even against the MAC − not to knock the MAC − there's something you turn on the tape and he's a man amongst boys."
Sixth round, pick No. 207: Anders Carlson, kicker, Auburn
Sixteen years after the Packers drafted Mason Crosby in the sixth round, they likely closed his time as their kicker with another sixth-round pick.
The Packers drafted Auburn kicker Andres Carlson with the 207th overall selection, a pick they received earlier this week in the Aaron Rodgers trade. The selection signals an end to Crosby's long, successful career as the Packers kicker, which included him becoming the all-time leading scorer in franchise history.
For a team on a rebuild, the veteran Crosby is a cost expense the Packers were unlikely to make. It's different investing in an experienced, big-game kicker when a team is expected to make a deep playoff run. The Packers hope Carlson can gain experience along with the rest of a young roster, especially on the offensive side.
"Never really crossed paths with him," Carlson said of Crosby, "but just know the legend that he is and the things he's done at Lambeau. Never really met him, but would love to.
"I want to acknowledge the legacy he created, the legend he is there, but for me I'm just focused on what I'm doing."
Anders Carlson is the younger brother of Daniel Carlson, a fifth-round pick in 2018 who now kicks for the Las Vegas Raiders. Rich Bisaccia, the Packers special teams coordinator, coached Daniel Carlson in the same role with the Raiders and likely knows Anders Carlson well. Anders Carlson said he was only at one Raiders practice during his brother's NFL career, but Daniel Carlson raves about the Packers special teams coordinator.
"Don't know him too well," Carlson said of Bisaccia, "but very excited about what I've heard about him."
Anders Carlson was 79 of 110 on field goals in his four-year career at Auburn. He made 173 of 176 extra points, including all 22 last season.
Anders Carlson tore his ACL in his non-kicking leg trying to recover an onside kick against Mississippi State in 2021. He returned last season to convert 12-of-17 field goals and all 22 extra points last season. Carlson handled kickoff duties throughout his career, recording 183 touchbacks in 314 attempts.
Kicking the past four years in Auburn, Carlson will experience a different environment now inside Lambeau Field. He grew up kicking in Colorado Springs, Colorado, so it won't be the first time Carlson has kicked in the cold.
"You can't think about the cold," Carlson said. "That is an awesome, new element for me."
Seventh round, pick 232: Carrington Valentine, cornerback, Kentucky
In an oddity for Packers drafts, it took seven rounds to select a defensive back.
The Packers ended that drought by selecting Kentucky cornerback Carrington Valentine with the 232nd overall pick in the seventh round. At 6-foot and 193 pounds, Valentine ran a 4.44 40 at his pro day. He did not run at the NFL scouting combine.
Valentine was the first of four seventh-round draft picks for the Packers. It's a good bet the Packers will be targeting players with special teams value in this window. Valentine's size and speed fit that mold.
Seventh round, pick 235: Lew Nichols III, running back, Central Michigan
Down their board of draft needs, the Packers had an option to add running back depth behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
They drafted Central Michigan running back Lew Nichols III with the 235th overall pick in the seventh round, plucking a potential third tailback option from coach Matt LaFleur's hometown. LaFleur, a Mount Pleasant, Michigan, native, started his coaching career for the Chippewas.
At 5-11, 222 pounds, Nichols ran a 4.50 40 before the draft. He had a breakout junior season in 2021 with 1,848 rushing yards on 341 carries, including 16 touchdowns. His production dipped to 601 yards on 177 carries and six touchdowns last season.
Nichols had 71 catches for 575 yards and three touchdowns in his college career.
Seventh round, pick 242: Anthony Johnson Jr., safety, Iowa State
It took seven rounds, but the Packers finally got a safety.
The Packers entered this draft with safety near the top of their positional needs. They drafted Anthony Johnson Jr. with the 242nd overall pick in the seventh round, their second defensive back in three picks.
Johnson Jr. likely won't fill their need for a starting safety, but he has intriguing athletic traits. At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Johnson ran a 4.54 40 at the NFL scouting combine. His size and speed could find a home on the Packers special teams. A former cornerback before transitioning to safety at Iowa State, Johnson also has versatility in the secondary, including the slot.
Seventh round, pick 256: Grant DuBose, receiver, Charlotte
It was unmistakably an offensive skill position draft for the Packers. Fittingly, then, Gutekunst closed his 13-pick class selecting a receiver.
The Packers drafted Charlotte receiver Grant DuBose with the 256th overall pick in the seventh round. DuBose has the size Gutekunst desires at the position, standing 6-2 and 201 pounds. He ran a subpar 4.57 40 at the NFL scouting combine, dropping his draft stock.
DuBose is a project at receiver after playing only two seasons of major college football. He produced at Charlotte, catching 126 passes for 1,684 yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons. Special teams will be his ticket to a roster spot.
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