NFL Draft 2023: Packers discard first-round playmakers for 21st straight season; potential Day 2 targets

NFL Draft 2023: Packers discard first-round playmakers for 21st straight season;  potential Day 2 targets

In the most unimpressive sequence of events in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers chose not to strengthen their offensive ability position group in Round 1. They’ve never done it in Aaron Rodgers’ 15 years as a Packers starter, and they’re not. He did it for Jordan Love’s first year as a Packers quarterback.

For the 21st year in a row, the Packers did not pick a running back, wide receiver, or tight end, extending their longest steak of not picking a player with offensive ability (RB, WR, or TE) in Round 1 of the joint-draft era (since 1967) . Green Bay had their shot at Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the consensus Top wideout in the 2023 NFL Draft among many NFL teams. Green Bay also had a choice of a tight end in a deep class on the position. Instead, the Packers went on defense and selected Iowa Hawkeyes outside linebacker Lukas Van Vess for 13th overall after moving up two spots in the opening round Trading by Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets.

Longest drought without 1st round RB, WR or TE
Common draft era (since 1967)

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Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst likely made the choice for Van Ness after seeing what happened to the team’s pass rush after rising edge rusher Rashan Gary tore his ACL in Week 9 with the Detroit Lions. Green Bay had the 10th-best pressure rate in the NFL at 34.6% in 2022 — a strong year from a macro standpoint when it comes to disrupting opposing quarterbacks. However, that number is supported by the first nine weeks of the season, when the 39.8% rate was the second-best in the NFL. During that span, Gary dominated with 38 pressings, the fifth-most in the NFL, and six sacks. As weeks 10-17 rolled around – after 25-year-old Gary fell to the ground with a cruciate ligament rupture – they fell at the sixth-lowest rate in the league (29.7%).

Van Ness, who will turn 22 before the start of the 2023 NFL season, was a 2022 second-team All-Big Ten pick during that span. His 74 quarterback pressures since 2021 were the second-highest in the conference, just one behind Big Ten leader Nick Herbig of Wisconsin with 75. Van Ness also had a great NFL scouting combine, who clocked a 4.58 40-yard Dash ran at 6-5, 272 pounds with long length (34 inch arms). He can be a nice long-term addition to Gary for years to come.

Now the Packers continue on Friday when they will hit three picks: 42nd overall (round two, by Jets), 45th overall (round two) and 78th overall (round three). Cheeseheads everywhere are foaming at the mouth for more passing help, understandably. Here are some of the best possible options for Day 2:

One of the best remaining tight ends

With the loss of their two top tightends of recent seasons, Robert Tonyan (signed to a one-year, $2.7 million deal with the Chicago Bears) and Marcedes Lewis (38, turns 39 in May), Green Bay needs on this one Position youthful reinforcement. Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, a behemoth who measured 264 pounds at 6-7 while running a 4.64 40-yard dash with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 10’2-inch long jump, would be one tremendous addition as a blocker and Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Sam LaPorta, who stands at 6-3, 245 pounds with a 4.59 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical, is a strong route runner down the middle and solid in accumulating yards after the catch.

Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt

The Volunteers’ deep threat was the 2022 Biletnikoff Award winner (best WR in college football) and a unanimous All-American after finishing in the top five throughout college for yards (1,267, fifth place) and touchdowns ( 15, second place) ended up football. Seven of those touchdown catches were 30 yards or more, which is the most such touchdown catch in the country. His 63% catch rate on passes from 30 yards or more was the best in the country among the 85 players with double-digit goals of 30 yards or more. Hyatt would pose another quick deep threat in Green Bay alongside Christian Watson.

SMU WR Rashee Rice

Rice set the SMU record for a single season with 1,355 yards in 2022. That’s a big deal considering the Mustangs have been quietly an NFL wide receiver factory for the last 10 to 12 years, sending players like two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the prolific slot receiver Cole Beasley joined the league in the early 2010s. They’ve also brought new alums into the NFL such as current Denver Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton, current Baltimore Ravens wideout James Proche, current San Francisco 49ers passcatcher Danny Gray and current Tennessee Titans receiver Reggie Roberson.

His Test numbers were strong, compared positively to the San Francisco 49ers, who starting wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, according to CBS Sports NFL Draft Expert Chris Trapasso. Rice could be available in round 2 or possibly earlier in round 3.

We’ll see what Green Bay does from Friday as there will be some options when it’s back on the clock.

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