Packers hit "jackpot"

Leading draft publication predicted top three picks had high value

Mike Clemens
May 20, 2019 - 1:18 pm

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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Green Bay, WI - How good are the players the Green Bay Packers selected in their first three picks in last month's NFL Draft?

According to one leading draft publication, GM Brian Gutenkunst was able to steal three good players in the first two rounds.

In over 30 years of covering the Packers, the last 15 full time, there are a few things I've learned when it comes to Green Bay's preparation for the draft. 

Around Thanksgiving weekend, the general manager and scouting staff evaluate the current team roster, and how the season has gone thus far. They begin to project what players will likely return to the team the following year, and which ones unfortunately will not. 

From those meetings a "needs" list is formulated for the scouting department to keep in mind as they review the college football regular season, and head into the upcoming bowl season. 

From there, while the NFL is into their playoffs, and then the Super Bowl, the scouts turn their attention to the Senior Bowl in Alabama, particularly following up on interviews with players, watching their work in drills that week. 

By the first week of February, the Packers have a pretty good idea of what college players they have any interest of adding their names to the draft board, and who they want to focus on during the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later that month. 

It's during that period funny, strange, weird things happen.

It's as if watching four years or more of tape of football games of the players goes out the window, replaced by a fascination with a player's 40 time, how many times they can bench press 225lbs., their vertical jump, their hand size and wing span, and their final score on the Wonderlic test. 

There's more media "noise" on who did what on their Pro Day in March on their own campus, running sprints, and doing hand stands, rather than how did they do in that game last October against Ohio State? Or Clemson?

Players begin to move up and down "mock" drafts based on the buzz from the Combine and Pro Days, often information (or mis-information) leaked by the NFL teams, drifting away from the facts of how a player actually performed in football games rather than track and field events.

Lindy's Sports Pro Football Draft is one of the very best annual publications of scouting information about the top 300+ football players likely to be drafted by NFL teams. 

And unlike other mock draft publications, Lindy's is more than willing to track their picks and recommendations for what players teams should pick heading into a draft. 

For example, in 2018, they absolutely said the best pick the Cleveland Browns could make was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. And that's who Browns GM John Dorsey selected. Despite a coaching change mid-season, Mayfield took a Browns team that was winless the year before (with Packers back-up Deshone Kizer at QB) to seven wins and 27 touchdown passes in his rookie year. 

They urged the New York Giants at #2 to take quarterback Sam Darnold instead of running back Saquon Barkley. Now Barkley is a terrific running back, but the Giants needed a quarterback to move on from the Eli Manning era. Darnold instead took over across town with the Jets. By Week 16, the rookie threw for 341 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Packers and took the game into overtime before losing to Aaron Rodgers and company 44-38 in a shootout. 

This year, Lindy's said sure, quarterback Kyler Murray, Oklahoma was a nice player, but should have gone as the 17th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins. Instead, the crazy Arizona Cardinals made him the #1 overall pick and traded their #1 pick from last year, Josh Rosen, to Miami. 

Lindy's said the best player in the draft was Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, followed by Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen. The 49ers took Bosa at #2. Allen fell to #7 and the Jaguars. 

Packers GM Brian Gutenkunst was adamant that his first two picks, Michigan's EDGE Rashan Gary, and Maryland's safety Darnell Savage Jr. were valued higher than where the Packers picked them, at #14 overall, and trading up to #21 overall, respectively. Gutenkunst said if he didn't trade  up with Seattle to get that pick at 21, Savage would have been gone. 

According to Lindy's, "Gutey" was right. 

Their respected draft guide had Rashan Gary going 6th overall to the New York Giants coming out of the senior bowl, before the NFL Combine. Instead, Green Bay got him at 14. 

And while few others had Maryland's Savage on their mock draft radar, Lindy's said Savage was by far the best safety in the draft class and said he would be gone by the 18th pick overall to the Minnesota Vikings, not #21 to Green Bay. 

What about the Packers 2nd round draft pick, center Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State?

Lindy's said Jenkins would be a second round pick, 41st overall to the offensive line starved Denver Broncos. Instead he was still on the board when Gutenkunst was able to select him three spots later, with the Packers #44th pick overall. Other mock drafts, again, didn't have Jenkins nearly that high. 

The draft process is all very subjective. Time will tell who made the right decisions. And correct predictions. 

It's just that I was impressed to see that after the hype of the draft season, after the dust had settled, a publication that I often refer too was so close to figuring out who in fact the best players were and their worth, and how closely they matched that of the Packers scouting staff. 

The next chapter begins today as the Packers begin a month of OTA's and finally a Mini Camp next month. We'll have reports every day from the Packers facilities on Sportsradio 105.7 FM The FAN, and here on www.1057fmthefan.com

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