The Green Bay Packers are back in the draft order close, but not quite on the 32nd-overall pick where they’d like to be. Last year, they used their late draft positioning to plan for the future. With the future secured, they’ll likely use this draft to round out the gaps on the roster and get over the Super Bowl hump in the waning years of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career.
So, I attacked pro-ready players at key positions, reaching for a player or two to fit Green Bay’s athletic thresholds and timeline. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers use some of their later picks to move up for their prospective players, but as the board fell to me, I just made late selections to fill out the depth chart.
Round 1 (No. 29 overall): Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
The first pick Brian Gutekunst ever made as the Packers’ general manager was an undersized, quick as lightning, uber-aggressive corner out of the ACC. That was Jaire Alexander, the 18th overall pick who made his first All-Pro team this past season. His arrow is on the rise as one of the top CB1s in the league; but in the playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Tom Brady avoided him to pick on the other corner: Kevin King.
Unlike Alexander, King was a prototypical height/weight/speed draft pick—a project player who simply hasn’t panned out. In Asante Samuel Jr., the Packers decide to attack the mold that was successful with Alexander: a quick-footed and aggressive corner well suited for the zone defense that Mike Pettine mains. Green Bay will suffer on one-on-one matchups for size with Alexander and Samuel as its starters, but both have quality ball skills to play aggressively through the catch point.
Round 2 (No. 61 overall): Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
The Packers’ big-money free agent on defense this season was linebacker Christian Kirksey, who promptly lost the starting job to seventh-round rookie Krys Barnes. Green Bay has not invested in the linebacker position since Pettine took over, but suffer for its run defense when he inevitably goes to light packages to stay strong against the pass.
Jabril Cox is one of the best natural zone defenders in the 2021 class, and with his length and quickness considered, has a high ceiling as a man cover player as well. Pettine should feel comfortable putting him on the field instead of one of his box safeties, staying strong against the pass, but improving his run defense in the box.
Round 3 (No. 93 overall): Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
One year after a draft class that was decidedly anti-Rodgers, the Packers go with defensive picks in the first two rounds; this after Rodgers stirred up some uncertainty with his postgame comments after the NFC Championship Game loss. The Packers should throw him a bone just as much as they should improve their wide receiver room anyway.
Dyami Brown is a great fit and a challenger to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He fits the Packers’ height/weight/speed prototypes, is a dangerous downfield receiver, and brings better play strength and blocking than Valdes-Scantling does—that’s important in this Packers offense. While Brown doesn’t have a diverse route tree, he is pro-ready in a vertical third, so he makes an immediate impact.
Round 4 (No. 134 overall): Aaron Banks, IOL, Notre Dame
On a talented Notre Dame offensive line, Aaron Banks is perhaps the best true run blocker. At left guard, Banks combined with first-round tackle prospect Liam Eichenberg and devastated opposing defensive lines on a diverse Irish rushing attack. With Banks’ tackle-like size, power, and workable movement skills, he’s a great candidate to fill the Packers’ sixth offensive line spot. He can probably fill a swing tackle role at his size but will primarily challenge for a starting guard spot, especially if the Packers have to reshuffle the line if (and when) Corey Linsley leaves in free agency.
Round 4 (No. 141 overall): Ar’Darius Washington, S, TCU
Beyond the weaknesses of King, the Buccaneers also liked the matchup they had with the Packers’ third corner, Chandon Sullivan. Sullivan plays out of position in the slot and would be better suited to back up the outside positions. A true slot defender is needed, and Ar’Darius Washington can fill that role. As a safety for TCU, he largely played in zones, but he’s sticky in man coverage when asked to play it and has tremendous run support for a player at his size.
Round 5 (No. 173 overall): Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
If the Packers lose Aaron Jones in free agency—something I expect to happen, given the selection of A.J. Dillon in last year’s draft—then they’ll roll with Dillon as their primary back. But their backup, Jamaal Williams, is also a rising free agent. After enjoying the benefits of a three-headed monster in the backfield, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Green Bay add to the group. Khalil Herbert, a Kansas transfer, exploded this season with Virginia Tech. He brings excellent contact balance, which seems to be the trait the Packers like in their backs.
Round 5 (No. 179 overall): Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA
Back-to-back running backs? Not really. Demetric Felton is more of a Swiss Army piece than he is a true running back. The role that Tyler Ervin filled for this offense—and later Tavon Austin, after Ervin’s injury—is an important one, and Felton would be excellent on schemed touches with jet sweeps and easy rollouts. He’ll take over returner duties as well.
Round 6 (No. 211 overall): Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina
The Packers are just attacking depth at a premium position here. The Smith Brothers, Preston and Za'Darius, are around to stay, and Rashan Gary has been solid in Year 2 as he continues to grow. Tarron Jackson has the size, length, and bend to win from the wide alignments that Green Bay utilizes under Pettine and can probably kick down inside a subpackage rusher as well.
Round 6 (No. 219 overall): Dan Moore Jr., OT, Texas A&M
I sort of addressed tackle depth when I added Banks, who I think has the size to play tackle in a pinch, but let’s make sure we actually bring in a true college tackle. Dan Moore Jr. wasn’t the best player on a great Texas A&M offensive line, but he is a multi-year blindside protector with clear NFL size and power. You can do worse in a backup than a big player with a ton of reps.
Round 7 (No. 255 overall): Damar Hamlin, S, Pitt
Damar Hamlin’s a good depth player to have around. He’s tough, a quality tackler, can play special teams, and can backup multiple safety spots—especially for a team like the Packers, who use three safeties in their base defense, safety depth and versatility are important. Hamlin, a multi-year starter at Pitt, can fill those shoes early.