As the 2022 NFL draft approaches, the Green Bay Packers find themselves in retool mode after handing Aaron Rodgers a colossal contract extension and trading away All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams. The good part of that equation is locking up Rodgers for the next few years and acquiring extra first and second-round draft picks. The bad part is losing an All-World receiver and Rodgers’ favorite target over the past few years.
Luckily for the Packers, they now possess 11 picks in this year’s draft following the Adams trade to Las Vegas. They’ve got two picks in the first, second and fourth rounds. Green Bay owns seven picks in the first four rounds alone. So, filling some of their holes shouldn’t be too big a task for a team known for building through the draft. The Packers don’t necessarily attract a ton of big-name free agents like the LA Rams.
But the specific duty of replacing Adams won’t be easily accomplished. There isn’t a receiver in this draft class that’s ready to come in and take on Adams’ role immediately for Green Bay. Nor do they have anyone already on the roster that feels ready to step into that role. We’ve heard of many teams going to a running-back-by-committee type of ground game in recent years. The Packers will need to operate a wide-receiver-by-committee offense to fill in the gap left by Adams, since Rodgers didn’t seem to trust most other targets when Adams was there.
Anyone expecting Green Bay to select a receiver early in this draft is probably in for a rude awakening. The last time the Packers took a receiver in either the first or second round was in 2014, when they selected Adams 53rd overall. Holding the 22nd and 28th overall picks this year, you’d assume Green Bay would be able to find a suitable player to come in and catch balls from Rodgers. Hell, they could even package those picks to trade up if they hoped to acquire one of the top wide receivers of this class.
This year’s group of receivers isn’t as good as some in recent drafts but still solid overall. Many mock drafts don’t have a receiver taken until the lower end of the top 10. One Packers mock draft has the team taking WR Chris Olave from Ohio State with the 22nd overall pick. I think that’s wishful thinking. Green Bay goes defense in the first-round damn near every time.
Since 2012, the Packers have selected an offensive player one time in the first round. That was Jordan Love in 2020. In 2019, they had two first-round picks (like this year) and took a safety and a linebacker. So, while Olave would likely be a great addition, the odds of Green Bay going that route so early in the draft are low.
Should the Packers decide to break away from their organizational norm, Drake London of USC could be another receiver left on the board at No. 22. At 6'4", London is big, has a wide catch radius, and could develop into an excellent target for Rodgers on those 50/50 balls downfield. Jahan Dotson from Penn State is another guy that could step in right away and make an impact for Green Bay. Dotson doesn’t possess the size of London or Olave, but he does have the speed. He ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. If you can’t be big, be quick and shifty. Trylon Burks from Arkansas is another big body, strong receiver the Packers might be interested in if they decide to go WR in round one.
If Green Bay decides to play it safe and stick with defense as usual in round one, they’ve got some pretty good options there. A pass rusher off the edge is one area of need for the Packers heading into this draft. Green Bay ranked in the middle of the pack with 39 sacks in 2021. Not horrible, but not great either. The Packers ranked 24th in the NFL last year, allowing opponents to convert over 41 percent of third-down attempts. Luckily, they had a good secondary last season which helped cover up some deficiencies up front.
Some of the more highly touted edge rushers like Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Jermaine Johnson II will be gone by pick No. 22. Unless Green Bay plans on jumping up into the top 10, landing any of these players is a pipe dream. But a player like George Karlaftis of Purdue could be available for the Packers at 22 or even 28. Karlaftis led the Boilermakers in tackles for loss last season with 11.5. He was also named first-team all-conference in 2021.
Another potential first-round option at edge rusher for the Packers could be Boye Mafe from Minnesota. Mafe ran 4.53 in the 40, which is fast for a defensive lineman. Mafe was third-team all-conference last year and led the Gophers with 10 tackles for loss while also producing seven sacks.
The offensive line is another area of need for Green Bay, and there’s a good chance that if they go offense in the first round, it could be on that o-line. The Packers will be in the market for a tackle somewhere in this draft, and one of the top at the position this year is Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. Some mocks have him going in the top 20, so there is some chance he’ll be around at 22 for Green Bay. Cross took home first-team all-conference honors last season and could develop into an outstanding pass blocker for Mr. Rodgers.
Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa is another talented offensive lineman that could still be waiting to hear his name called toward the end of the first round. Penning should be able to come in and contribute immediately upon entering the league.
Whichever way the cheeseheads decide to go, they’ve got plenty of draft capital in their arsenal this year. They can obviously use all their picks as they are or package a couple and do some moving around. Green Bay should be able to come away with at least a couple of long-term starters at more than one position with 11 picks this year.