After a magical 13-3 season that saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers reclaim his MVP form, the Green Bay Packers fell just short of a return to the Super Bowl, losing to the eventual-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. That defeat, along with pressure applied by Rodgers during his post-game press conference, set the stage for one of the Packers’ most important offseasons of recent vintage.
While Rodgers understandably received the lion’s share of the credit for the Packers’ return as an offensive juggernaut, the unit made strides across the board. Star wide receiver Davante Adams delivered arguably the finest season of any wideout in the league, hauling in 115 passes for 1,374 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdown receptions while earning first-team All-Pro honors. Running back Aaron Jones reprised his strong 2019 campaign, earning the first Pro Bowl nod of his career. The offensive line gelled behind herculean efforts from David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, and Elgton Jenkins. Even head coach Matt LaFleur found his footing as the offensive play-caller.
Still, the Packers’ uneven defensive efforts proved to be their undoing. Injuries and regression hit the defensive front in a significant way, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s preference to live in dime and other smaller sub-packages created issues throughout the season. Even breakouts for cornerback Jaire Alexander and safety Darnell Savage could not prevent defensive collapses against the Indianapolis Colts and Buccaneers late in the season.
Green Bay Packers 2021 Draft Picks
Round 1: No. 29, CB Eric Stokes
Round 2: No. 62, C Josh Myers
Round 3: No. 85, WR Amari Rodgers
Round 4: No. 142. OG Royce Newman
Round 5: No. 173, DT Tedarrell Slaton; No. 178, CB Shemar Jean-Charles
Round 6: No. 214, OT Cole Van Lanen; No. 220, LB Isiah McDuffie
Round 7: No. 256, RB Kylin Hill
Offense: Offensive line, wide receiver
While the Packers fielded one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines in 2020, the unit will look considerably different at the start of next season. All-Pro center Corey Linsley left for a massive multiyear deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, a move which will force either Jenkins or Lucas Patrick to take over at the pivot. Additionally, Bakhtiari suffered a torn ACL in December, making a return for Week 1 difficult. If Bakhtiari begins the season on the sidelines, Billy Turner or Jenkins will have to start at left tackle, further straining the unit’s depth.
Because the Packers have multiple linemen capable of playing at tackle or along the interior, the team could address the O-line with a pick at one of multiple spots and shuffle the rest of the personnel accordingly. Landing an offensive tackle prospect such as Teven Jenkins or Jalen Mayfield would allow Jenkins to remain inside, while an interior lineman such as Alijah Vera-Tucker or Creed Humphrey would have the opposite effect.
Last offseason, the Packers’ apparent lack of wide receivers behind Adams left many scratching their heads when the team opted against drafting one in a loaded rookie class. The receiver depth proved better than expected, but the offense could still benefit from another pass catcher capable of breaking down defenses. Green Bay hasn’t drafted a wideout in the first round in nearly two decades, but the front office has found plenty of gems on Day 2. Perhaps a size-speed demon like Terrace Marshall Jr. or a refined pass catcher like Rashod Bateman could make sense in the second round.
Defense: Defensive line, cornerback
Even though the Packers found a way to retain all their key starters and contributors along the defensive front this offseason, they need to find more help in the trenches. Kenny Clark anchors the group, but he received little help from Dean Lowry or the team’s other regularly used defensive linemen. While the 2021 rookie class lacks depth at those positions, a prospect like Christian Barmore could intrigue general manager Brian Gutekunst near the end of the first round.
But more than adding capable bodies to the defensive line, the Packers need to identify a long-term solution at corner opposite Alexander. Kevin King signed a de facto one-year deal to return for 2021, but his inability to stay healthy or provide consistent pass coverage has rendered him a short-term option while the team finds someone better. Even if the Packers miss out on the draft’s premier corner prospects, players like Greg Newsome II and Asante Samuel Jr. could fall in their range.
Dream first pick
The Packers have bigger needs than receiver, but adding Bateman to an already explosive offense could unlock the true potential of LaFleur’s offense. The Minnesota product offers a fine combination of size and speed and possesses an advanced understanding of how to shake defenders and make plays after the catch. Bateman would either punish opposing defenses for overcommitting to Adams or make life easier for his All-Pro teammate.