The Green Bay Packers stumbled for the first time under head coach Matt LaFleur, missing the playoffs for the first time after being the first team in NFL history to win 13 games in three seasons in a row. The team had a laundry list of injuries to a number of key players — then-back-to-back NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, linebacker Rashan Gary, All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, and cornerback Eric Stokes — that contributed to breaking its historic, three-year run in LaFleur’s first three seasons.
The Packers started 2022 well, winning three of their first four contests, but then they lost seven of the following eight games from Weeks 5-12, setting the tone for the down year it was. Green Bay had a brief glimmer of hope following a four-game winning streak against the Bears, Rams, Dolphins and Vikings, but the Detroit Lions dashed those dreams by handing their divisional rival a 20-16 loss at home in the regular season finale. It was a disheartening performance in which the Packers offense couldn’t get out of its own way as fumbles and interceptions derailed potential go-ahead drives.
With an 8-9 record, the Packers were an average team in the first year without first-team All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, scoring 21.8 points per game (14th in the league). That was expected as Rodgers attempted to gel with rookie wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, the team’s second- and fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The bigger disappointment was the defense, expected to be a top-five unit with all the first-round picks and money invested in that side of the ball. The unit allowed 21.8 points per game, ranking 17th in the NFL. The Packers own all of their own picks, excluding their sixth-rounder, and have a couple extra seventh-round selections, thanks to trades and compensatory picks. Here’s a look at how they should utilize those selections in the 2023 NFL Draft in order to get back on track.
WR Quentin Johnston
DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
S Jordan Battle
DT Kobie Turner
TE Davis Allen
DE Viliami Fehoko
San Jose State
QB Clayton Tune
TE Will Mallory
WR/KR Derius Davis
RB Mohamed Ibrahim
Round 1 (No. 15): WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Packers have the longest drought in the common draft era (since 1967) without selecting a running back, wide receiver or tight end in the first round. The last time the Packers selected an offensive playmaker in the first round was 20 drafts ago when they took wide receiver Javon Walker 20th overall in 2002. That drought ends in 2023.
TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound pass-catcher (measurements from TCU’s Pro Day) who is unanimously projected to come off the board in the first round, had a clear opinion on if he should be the first receiver selected following his Pro Day performance on March 30, simply replying, “Yes sir, for sure” when asked if he should be the WR1.
“I’m a 6-3, 6-4 receiver that is able to create real separation at the top of my routes in and out of my breaks and my yards after catch is top tier,” Johnston said. “I’ve set records in the Big 12 from my first year [his team-best 22.1 yards-per-catch average w as the highest by a true freshman in Big 12 history [minimum 20 receptions] and my second year combined. So, I feel like that’s really big. My elusiveness at the top of my route when I get the ball and you know, the deep ball is something I’m really good at as well.”
If a team takes Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba ahead of Johnston, the Packers should absolutely pounce on the opportunity to take the draft’s most athletically gifted pass-catcher and put him next to Christian Watson — a 6-4 rookie whose nine scrimmage touchdowns were tied for the fourth most in the entire NFL among all wide receivers — and Romeo Doubs, whom LaFleur compared to Davante Adams. That will have Jordan Love in a great position entering Year 1 as the Packers’ starting quarterback.
Round 2 (No. 45): DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah going to Green Bay in the second round fills short- and long-term needs. In the now, the Packers needed edge rushing depth behind Gary and Preston Smith. Later, the 2022 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year could be a valuable piece as Preston Smith’s eventual, long-term replacement. Anudike-Uzomah has the potential to become an excellent sack artist alongside Gary. He flashed the potential to be dominant in 2021, when he recorded a career-high four sacks against TCU’s Max Duggan, the 2022 Heisman Trophy runner-up.
Round 3 (No. 78): S Jordan Battle, Alabama
Adrian Amos, who was one of the best safeties in football in 2020, continued a downward trend in his play from decent to needing to be let go in 2022. Amos surrendered six touchdown passes in coverage for the second straight season after only allowing two in 2020. He allowed a 102.8 passer rating in coverage as the primary defender, the 17th highest in the NFL among defensive backs to play in at least 10 games. He’s still on the free agency market this offseason.
Former first-round pick Darnell Savage also regressed to the point that he was benched and then inserted back into the lineup to play in a reduced role at the nickel. He lost his safety spot to Rudy Ford, a player the Jaguars kicked to the curb on roster cutdown day prior to the start of the 2022 season.
Jordan Battle provides the Packers versatility as he can move well in coverage in addition to being able to come up to the line of scrimmage to play the run. He’s also electric with the ball in his hands as three of his six interceptions during his Alabama career were returned for touchdowns.
Round 4 (No. 116): DT Kobie Turner, Wake Forest
Turner could fall to Round 4 since he measured at 6-foot-2, 288 pounds at Wake Forest’s Pro Day on March 29. However, he has a nice variety of pass-rushing moves in his toolbelt, plus he gets off the line of scrimmage about as well as any defensive tackle in this draft class.
Round 5 (No. 149): TE Davis Allen, Clemson
With starting tight end Robert Tonyan signing with the Chicago Bears and soon-to-be 39-year-old tight end Marcedes Lewis unlikely to return to Green Bay in 2023, tight end represents the most thin position on the Packers depth chart. Allen, standing at 6-6, 245 pounds, is a jump ball expert, routinely hauling in contested catches. He should be able to be schemed open in LaFleur’s offense.
Round 5 (No. 170): DE Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State
Fehoko, the 2022 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, will likely fall down to the fifth round because of his label of being a “tweener,” a little large to be a defensive end, but a little small to be a defensive tackle. He was also a redshirt senior, so age comes into the equation also. Fehoko’s 22 sacks across the last three seasons are tied for the seventh most in college football. A solid add for Joe Berry’s defense to have depth along the edge, something they lacked in 2022.
Round 7 (No. 232): QB Clayton Tune, Houston
The Packers need to add a quarterback to be Jordan Love’s backup as Danny Etling is the only other passer on the roster at the moment outside of the outgoing Aaron Rodgers. Tune is a solid quarterback with steady mechanics, an ability to quickly move through his route progressions, and he always keeps eyes up for maximum field vision when scrambling outside the pocket. He’s a developmental prospect, but Tune provides nice value in the draft’s final round.
Round 7 (No. 235): TE Will Mallory, Miami
As mentioned above, the Packers need bodies at tight end. Will Mallory is one of the more polished receivers at his position in his draft. The reason he could drop to the seventh round is that he isn’t super well equipped as a blocker with his 6-4, 239-pound frame. However, Mallory has nice acceleration when going through his routes. Most of his receptions came on rub routes and play-action concepts, something LaFleur’s offense has in bunches.
Round 7 (No. 242): WR/KR/PR Derius Davis, TCU
Derius Davis is speed. He tied NFC Pro Bowl returner KaVontae Turpin’s TCU school record for return touchdowns with six, five coming via punt returns and one on a kickoff return. His 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine solidified that speed as he’s a threat to score every time he touches the football. The Horned Frogs also utilized him on screens, reverses and other quick-hitting plays to get yards in bunches, something that could translate to the NFL. Green Bay re-signed 2022 All-Pro kick returner Keisean Nixon to a one-year, $4 million deal, but drafting Davis could extend both of their careers. Davis could return punts while Nixon sticks to kickoffs. Davis also showed enough as a receiver at TCU to merit a look as a slot receiver.
Round 7 (No. 256): RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
With Packers running back AJ Dillion entering a contract year in 2023 and Pro Bowl rusher Aaron Jones entering free agency in 2024, Green Bay would be smart to start developing young affordable talent in the backfield. Ibrahim was a strong runner as far as vision and timing go in Minnesota’s zone-running scheme, similar to what the Packers run. He also has a nose for the end zone as he scored 37 rushing touchdowns in his final 20 collegiate games. Getting a scheme fit at running back this late in the draft is a nice value for Green Bay.