Blowing things up and starting over is something that almost never happens in Green Bay. But that's more or less what the Green Bay Packers did this offseason.
The Packers dumped their general manager, their defensive coordinator and revamped their coaching staff in a seismic shift usually reserved for other franchises. Although Mike McCarthy didn't get fired, the Packers coach has already said that he's almost going to pretend like he did, because he's going to start everything over from scratch.
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"This offseason resembles a Year 1 offseason," McCarthy said on April 4, via ESPN.com. "Obviously the defense is going through that because they're building a brand-new playbook, new coaching staff, new philosophy. There is some carryover from our old defense. But offensively, when you have the same offensive system for 12 years, you're playing late into the playoffs, you usually turn the page and evaluate and just try to evolve off what you did last year. We've taken a totally different approach. We've gone back to Page 1 in the playbook."
It's also Year 1 for new general manager Brian Gutekunst, who's taking over for Ted Thompson. In his first offseason on the job, Gutekunst has already made several splash signings, including Mo Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham.
As Gutekunst gets ready to head into his first draft with the Packers, he'll be looking to fill some very obvious needs. Although the Packers could use a pass-rusher, the most pressing need is probably in the secondary.
If you haven't been keeping track of the Packers offseason, they basically gave a pink slip to half the defensive backs on their roster: They traded Damarious Randall to the Browns, they let Morgan Burnett walk in free agency (Steelers), and they've left cornerback Davon House hanging in free agent purgatory.
Although the Packers brought back Tramon Williams, who played in Green Bay from 2007 to 2014, a 35-year-old corner doesn't exactly instill confidence that the team's secondary problems are fixed. Oh, let's not forget the fact that they offered a $56 million contract to a cornerback they didn't end up getting (Kyle Fuller). Basically, I think what I'm trying to say here is that the Packers biggest need heading into the draft is at defensive back.
The good news for the Packers is that the 2018 draft is absolutely loaded with strong players in the secondary, which means there's a good chance that one of the top corners or safeties could fall into Green Bay's lap.
Of course, if the Packers really like someone, they could always trade up, which wouldn't be that crazy, because if one team could potentially throw a giant wrench into the draft, it's Green Bay. As of April 10, the Packers have more picks in the draft than any other team this year, which instantly gives them the ability to move up, if that's what they want to do.
With that in mind, let's look at the seven players who would make the most sense for the Packers. Also, since Green Bay is loaded with extra picks this year, we'll look at two potential trades that could make sense for the Packers.
1. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
After whiffing on Fuller, the Packers should almost certainly be looking to draft a corner in the first-round, which makes Ward the perfect option. Although there's no guarantee that Ward will be available when the Packers select at 14th overall, it feels like Ward would be an easy choice if he were to fall that far. One thing we do know is that the Packers are definitely interested in the former Ohio State star.
Ward, who was named All-Big Ten First Team last season, tallied 37 tackles, and racked up an impressive 15 pass break-ups in 2017. If Ward is gone, Josh Jackson would also make a good pick. The best part of all the cornerback depth is that the Packers should be able to walk away from the draft with a new starter at the position.
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
If the Packers can't land Ward because he's already been selected, then Fitzpatrick would be the perfect consolation prize. The biggest upside of Fitzpatrick is that he has the ability to play anywhere on the field, which is exactly what you need when you're a team lacking depth in the secondary, like the Packers. Fitzpatrick has the ability to play in safety, slot corner or on the outside, if that's where the Packers need him. One person who also thinks this pick would be a good idea is CBSSports.com senior NFL writer, Pete Prisco, who has Fitzpatrick going to the Packers in his latest mock draft.
3. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
The good news for the Packers is that if all the top defensive backs on their board are taken by the time the draft gets to the 14th pick, then grabbing a pass-rusher would be a strong Plan B. In Davenport, all the Packers would be getting is one of the most athletic pass-rushers in the draft. Although Bradley Chubb has garnered most of the headlines this draft season, don't sleep on Davenport, who topped all pure defensive lineman with a 4.58 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. A big guy running that fast is the type of thing that can give a quarterback nightmares.
4. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Packers war room could turn into an actual tug-of-war if Roquan Smith falls to 14. The Packers definitely need some secondary help, but it's possible they could take Smith instead, if he's still available. The 2017 Butkus Award winner, who was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, racked up 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for UGA last season. If the Packers land Smith, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could anchor his defense around a linebacker who's just as good against the pass as he is against the run.
5. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
If the Packers decide that having Aaron Rodgers win a shootout every week is their best shot at success in 2018, then taking Ridley would make plenty of sense. For one, the speedster can play both outside and in the slot, which means the Packers could put him where ever he fits the best. The addition of Ridley, who has the ability to go deep and open up the middle of the field, could also mean big things for Jimmy Graham. If the Packers take Ridley, Rodgers would have so many weapons, he probably wouldn't even know what to do with himself. Just kidding, Aaron Rodgers always knows what to do.
Two potential trades
6. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State (Trade up)
The Packers absolutely need to grab a pass-rusher in this draft and no one would check that box better than Bradley Chubb, who's not just the best pass-rusher in this class, but he's the best player available out of everyone this year, according to our draft guru Chris Trapasso. Although this pick sounds like a pipe dream, we tried to base it at least somewhat in reality. For Chubb to land in Green Bay, a few things are going to have to happen. First, he's going to have to drop in the draft, which is completely possible. As a matter of fact, in one mock draft put together by Pro Football Focus, Chubb falls all the way to the 10th spot. If that happens, the Packers could realistically pull the trigger on a trade. The key here is that the Packers have more draft picks this year than any other team (12), which means they have a lot of ammo to move up. Although Gutekunst likely won't want to spend it all on one trade, moving up four spots is something the team could potentially pull off.
7. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP (Trade down)
If the first 13 picks of the draft turn into a total nightmare, leaving the Packers with no one they love at No. 14, then trading down wouldn't be the worst idea. UTEP guard Will Hernandez probably isn't worth a top-20 pick, but if the Packers can trade down to the bottom fourth of the first round (24 thru 32), grabbing Hernandez would make plenty of sense. For one, the Packers are likely going to be making Aaron Rodgers the highest paid quarterback in NFL history at some point this offseason, so it only makes sense to get some insurance (AKA Hernandez) to protect that kind of investment. Also, Packers running back Aaron Jones would be pretty pumped to see this pick happen.
Hernandez blocked for Jones when the two were teammates at UTEP.
Packers draft note: Although it's highly unlikely the Packers would draft a quarterback in the first round, there is precedent. Back in 2005, the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. At the time, Brett Favre was only 35, which is notable right now, because Rodgers will be 35 before the end of the 2018 season.