Packers GM Brian Gutekunst indicated he will be seeking the best player available in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft rather than focusing on focusing on a particular position.
“I always like to attack this thing as best player available and not focus on too many needs,” Gutekunst told the media at his pre-draft news conference. “I do like our flexibility to be able to move around and not feel pigeonholed to have to take a certain position or a certain player.”
The Packers enter the draft with two picks in the first round, the 12th overall which is Green Bay’s own pick and the 30th selection which the Pack acquired in a draft day trade last year with the New Orleans Saints. Gutekunst admitted that having two picks on the first day of the draft “may create some more trade scenarios.”
The Packers had some glaring needs at the end of the season, but Gutekunst used free agency to fill some of those major holes, adding edge rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. As a result, the Packers have don’t have an area they must address in the first round although there are several areas that do need some attention in the long term.
“Where the team sits today, we’re not super-concerned we absolutely have to do this or absolutely have to do that,” Gutekunst said. “We can sit back, see where the draft board is strong, try to get there, and take the best players available.”
While Gutekunst has only been the Packers GM for one season, he has shown a willingness to make trades to get the players he wants. Last year, the Packers traded back and added an extra pick in this year’s draft in a trade with the Saints, then traded back up to select Jaire Alexander. Depending on how the first round plays out, the Packers could try to land a top five player in the first round or trade down from 12 or 30 and add more picks to improve the team’s depth.
“When you do this for as long as a lot of us have, this is what you work all year for,” Gutekunst said. “We’re all real excited. We’re at the point now we’re ready for Thursday to get here and just get through the weekend and see what we can do to help our team. History here has shown there’s always chances to get difference-makers throughout the draft. I think it’s our job every time we pick to see who that is.”
The Packers do have some areas that still need to be addressed even if the need is not immediate. The offensive line lacks depth and with Bryan Bulaga’s contract up after 2019, his possible successor could be added in this year’s draft.
Green Bay also has a long-term need at tight end. Jimmy Graham is unlikely to be back in 2020 unless he has a stellar bounce back season this fall and backup Marcedes Lewis is 34. A tight end for the future is also something the Packers should be seeking in the early rounds of this year’s draft.
Safety also remains a concern. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes to use multiple safeties in many of his formations so depth here should be a priority. Amos will be one starter with Josh Jones the present favorite to start at the other safety position. Additional reinforcements at this position are necessary in the draft. There is decent talent at the safety position in this year’s draft but few players who most scouts would rate as a good value with the 12th overall pick.
Even after adding Preston and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, Gutekunst may look to add an edge rusher early in the draft, especially if he sees a blue-chip, difference-maker drop in the early part of the first round.
Inside linebacker is another spot the Pack may try to reinforce in the earlier rounds of the draft with unproven talent presently surrounding Blake Martinez at the position.
When Thursday does arrive, the Packers will be looking to add the best player available. But Gutekunst also knows the draft doesn’t end after Round 1.
“There’s always a chance to get difference makers throughout the draft,” Gutekunst said. “I think back to earlier in my career when we drafted guys like Donald Driver and (Mark) Tauscher in the seventh round. Those guys were absolute difference makers for our team. It’s our job every time we draft to see who that is.”