A Most Important Combine for the Packers

Salary cap hole makes the coming draft, and therefore the combine, extra important.

It’s combine week, and it’s a very important one for the Green Bay Packers.  The team continues to maneuver its way under the 2022 salary cap, mostly by redoing existing contracts, which generally means pushing money into the next few years.  When they finally run out of wiggle room in 2023 or ‘24, there is likely to be a significant exodus of established players. 

 

Those players will have to be replaced, to a large extent, by the athletes selected in this year’s draft.  They will be in their second or third year by then, and will need to be ready to start and contribute.  The Packers probably won’t be able to use the free agent market to fill gaps because they won’t have enough cap space to sign anyone of quality.  So the evaluations and judgments they make at this combine will go a long way toward determining if Green Bay remains a viable contender through the middle of the decade. 

 

General Manager Brian Gutekunst seems to relish the challenge.  Regardless of all of his other responsibilities, he is, at heart, a scout.  “This is the part of the job I probably love the most” he told the beat writers last week.   “This last few weeks and heading into the combine is a favorite time of mine as we start to build the 2022 Packers.”   

 

Everyone knows who the top prospects will be.  The trick is to identify the day two and three guys who could develop into the backbone of your team.  Maybe even find a diamond in the rough.  A guy like David Bakhtiari, who was taken in the fourth round, number 109 overall, back in 2013.  All he did was become one of the best left tackles in the NFL.   Someone like Aaron Jones, a fifth round selection, number 182 overall, in 2017.  Now he’s a top ten running back and one of the most important players on the offense.   

 

But the Packers will need to comb the combine for more than stars.  They will need role players coming out of this draft.  Guys who will become solid, if not spectacular, performers. They need folks who can become another Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5th round), or Dean Lowry (4th round), or Jon Runyan (6th round), or Mason Crosby (6th round). 

 

How does this class shape up in terms of matching Green Bay’s needs? “It’s another good offensive line class, which is good” Gutekunst said.  “I think the offensive skill positions are deeper than they have been in the past.  The pass rush group is deeper than it has been in a while.”   

 

Offensive line does not appear to be an area of great need currently, but you never have enough competent tackles.  As far as offensive skill positions, receiver jumps out at you.  Again this year, there seems to be a plentiful supply of good receivers at the top.  But Green Bay’s aversion to first round receivers is well documented.  Many of the draft gurus are projecting the Packers to go defensive lineman with their 28th pick in the first round.   But the reality is, when you are picking that deeply on day one, you’re likely in a “best player available” mode.  Gutey says, this year, that’s not a bad thing. 

 

“Overall, I think it’s good.  It’s an interesting year because there are so many guys that opted back in to play in the college season last year so I think the numbers are up across the board, especially in the bottom half of the draft.  I think the numbers are much bigger than they have been in the past.” 

 

The Combine runs through March 7th in Indianapolis.  There has been a buzz amongst agents and players to boycott this year’s event because of Covid restrictions.  Scouts are hoping all issues can be resolved because this was supposed to be the year they could finally resume personal meetings with prospects, as opposed to the virtual variety.   

 

The NFL desperately wants to develop the combine into another major media spectacle, as they have successfully done with the draft. To accomplish that, they want to move it around the country, as they also do with the draft. Dallas and Los Angeles are among the media centers expected to bid on next year’s event. But, if anything, the combine seems to be losing traction, as players are increasingly content to skip it in favor of their own campus workouts, where they can perform with their own coaches and teammates, in facilities they are familiar with. 

 

So, while the future of the combine is uncertain, it will still be the center of the football universe this week. The Packers contingent will be right in the middle of it, and the notes they take over the next several days could map their future for years to come. 

 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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2 points

Comments (45)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

February 28, 2022 at 06:36 am

In a comment I posted a week or so ago, I suggested this draft and the next two or so that follow will determine what kind of team the Packers have in 2023 and beyond. One comforting thought is Gute has normally nailed his 1st round selections and has been good in the 2nd as well. BUT, if the Packers are going to compete after Rodgers, they MUST nail more than the 1st and 2nd round selections this year.

What I'm hoping for this year is that Gute channels his Ted Thompson upbringing, and NAILS the next great 2nd round WR in Packers history. If the Packers select him in the 1st at 28, I'm okay with that too, but the Packers MUST restock the WR Corps, no matter what Adams, Lazard, MVS, and ESB do. But please Gute, make sure at least 2 if not all 3 you select FLY and has good hands. I miss those 25 yard in routes where Jordy would catch it and run to the endzone. Adams hasn't ran away from anyone and MVS is still to inconsistent. I MISS having that Jordy Nelson type player in this offense.

At the end of the day I just want solid picks who can hopefully contribute early. I'm just starting to do my draft homework, so I can provide my draft crushes yet, but trust me, I'll have em.

Real quick...I wonder what some of you think about Christian Watson from North Dakota State? I started hearing more and more about him after the Senior Bowl I think it was. It's rumored the Bears love him (is that good or bad) but maybe in the 3rd?

8 points
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dobber's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:23 am

As the Packers push more and more cash into 2023 and beyond (and knowing they're going to have a sliver of cap room in 2022), the draft is vitally important. The mantra of "getting 3 guys who eventually become quality starters" out of a draft as a measure of success might need to go to higher numbers, and the imperative for some of those guys to be "plug-and-play" looms larger.

8 points
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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:45 am

Watson is at #73, on most updated draft boards. HE will be in the @# 50, if he hits on his forty. Scouts Loved him at the senior bowl.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:20 am

Watson would be a great day two pick...there is a chance he might slip to early 4th round given the crowded WR group where Gutey could trade his two 4th rounders to get to the top end of the 4th.

He's a bit raw and far from a polished route runner and had trouble with drops his first few years but only had two last year...all coachable. His size and speed are not able to be coached and here he is elite. Plus, he is a prolific KO returner and could contribute there while he learns the NFL route tree. Kind of reminds me of an ESB coming out...but Watson showed real growth over his college career...albeit in a lesser league.

The kid that jumps out to me for a possible late 1st rounder is Traylon Burks, Arkansas. But he is athletic freak and will test off the charts and may push him way up in the 1st round.

0 points
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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:40 am

It's draft time. I'll pick my favorites. And see them play in the playoffs. And Gutey will pick his, and they'll warm the benches. Sorry, but nobody can predict what he'll do. Tell him, and he does the opposite. It's better late than ever with him. And the way he trades and dumps picks. You'll scratch your head. This is the perfect draft to trade down. Will he. No. I Get he's picking later. So like the packers team. It's one and Done guys. Welcome to the status Que. It's easier to spend money, then hit a homerun.

-9 points
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jurp's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:27 am

"It's draft time. I'll pick my favorites. And see them play in the playoffs. And Gutey will pick his, and they'll warm the benches."

I think you can really help the Packers by getting a job as a scout, so that you can have more input into their drafting. I'm sure that once you point out your many successes the team will quickly elevate you to Assistant GM. In a couple of years, after Gutekunst has wrecked the team due to his totally incompetent drafting, Murphy's replacement will promote you to GM, where you can amaze the League with your drafting acumen.

You remind me of John Thorpe, in 'Northanger Abbey'.

2 points
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dobber's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:39 am

He'll be disappointed when he sees he doesn't get to pick 15 guys per round.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:46 am

In a couple of years, after Gutekunst has wrecked the team due to his totally incompetent drafting. At least your seeing it. ****Traylon Burks WR @28 - He's currently the (cover - player) for preordering the Cheesehead draft guide. ****. But if Green is there Gutey will run to the podium.

-3 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

February 28, 2022 at 10:18 am

Who is this Green you speak of? Kenyon won't be there at 28.

0 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

February 28, 2022 at 01:55 pm

Rashaan Gary - better than most edge rushers on his draft classes
Eric Stokes - promising and reliable defender even as a rookie
A.J. Dillon - a beast to bring down and starting to make a name for himself
Jaire Alexander - a budding star who plays at an all-pro level
Elgton Jenkins - a budding star who plays at an all-pro level
Josh Myers - one of the best rookie linemen in his rookie season
Darnell Savage - been more than solid though 2021 was a down year

Many, many GMs cannot boast of the many hits in early rounds. The biggest issue with Gutey's drafting is how to pay guys that are performing so highly. I think he's done an amazing job for how low in the round he's had to choose.

Have there been duds? Absolutely, but have you researched other team's drafts to compare? A lot of teams have a lot more duds than GB.

3 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

February 28, 2022 at 10:06 am

Maybe he could get a job on Sesame Street when Oscar retires.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:52 am

Too scary

0 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

February 28, 2022 at 01:45 pm

I'd love to hear your background in scouting football talent whether college or pro. I mean if you are that good, we should be seeing you hired on to a team soon. Not sure what the status que is, but being a top 4 team in the league isn' t bad. Gutey has kept the team much better stocked with talent than many GMs.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2022 at 02:22 pm

Joel Bushbaum regularly out-performed the NFL scouting departments with his draft evaluations.

1 points
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barutanseijin's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:38 pm

Wasn’t Jon Schneider just a football nerd who somehow got his foot in the door when Wolf was GM? He turned out to be pretty knowledgeable.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:29 pm

*

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:29 pm

?

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:30 pm

.

0 points
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dobber's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:32 pm

I'm actually going to defend stockholder. He's more knowledgable on college players than many of the rest of us who don't have the time to invest on any more than the surface level. I actually use his name-dropping to help build a list of players to watch, especially when we're a ways out from the draft, yet.

5 points
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splitpea1's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:53 pm

I believe he was right about Amari Rodgers.

4 points
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NickPerry's picture

March 01, 2022 at 05:18 am

I agree dobber...SH more than holds his own when it comes to knowledge about players in the draft. He's been coming here a long time and honestly has been right more than he's been wrong about a LOT of players.

Don't believe it? Start jotting down the names of players he talks about. Then watch where they get drafted and how they preform. I think you'll find he's pretty knowledgeable.

He just doesn't care much for Gute....LOL

2 points
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dobber's picture

March 01, 2022 at 07:52 am

"He just doesn't care much for Gute....LOL"

Understatement: a statement that represents something as smaller or less intense, or less important than it really is

1 points
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Esquetoi's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:42 am

I'd recommend tracking Pierce from u of Cincinnati.

6 points
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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:51 am

I love him. Scouts are raving about his low pad level. And is always double teamed. He gets sloppy when he gets tired. And thats why they have him lower. He won't be a bust. Gone by pick 50.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

February 28, 2022 at 10:19 am

I'm interested in seeing his 40 and hops this week. I like him at 92 if he's as fast as people think.

0 points
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MainePackFan's picture

February 28, 2022 at 06:08 pm

I Love Jordy II.

0 points
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MainePackFan's picture

February 28, 2022 at 06:13 pm

Love the kid from Idaho State too. Tanner Conner, day 3

1 points
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TheKanataThrilla's picture

March 01, 2022 at 07:46 am

The kid is an athletic freak as he is also a track star. He is one of my late round hopefuls.

He's old, but I also love Britain Covey from Utah. The guy is small and doesn't look like he should be able to play football, but is electric with the ball in his hands. Could certainly help our special teams.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2022 at 08:35 pm

Solid receiver. Knows his steps and great hands.

0 points
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jurp's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:13 am

A fun addition to this site would be a Draft Board where, each year, posters could enter their favorite draftees and the round they'd pick them in; after the draft, users would enter the round taken and team taken by. Not a mock draft because I think you could like several number 1s for example, but maybe limit the total picks to 12 or 15. This data could be entered directly into a small database (four fields). This data would be added to each year.

Once we have several years' worth of data, Mods could display it (a few simple queries could allow us to filter by username, player name, team and/or year, for example). We could then ALL see which users did the best at predicting a player's career and if any of them could beat any team's own GM. As if.

4 points
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Leatherhead's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:45 am

I’ve had a similar idea, Jurp. We could have 7-10 random draftees and posters would predict when these guys would be drafted. Whoever misses by the least in total wins.

0 points
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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:52 am

Many sites use to have a contest for prizes. But that is No longer the case.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 01, 2022 at 04:46 am

I have been thinking about new things CHTV might do for the draft and leading up to the draft.

Some of what you describe sounds like a grind give certain realities, but there may be ways to make it go, assuming readers don't crash the site. There are a lot of draftniks out there.

Anyway, your idea has been noted. No promises.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:47 am

The combine is the glitter on the real work of scouting. Hopefully the team remembers this unlike some. Football players over underwear athleticism.

As to what we want, I’d say that’s hard to know. Are we looking for players for now? With Rodgers it has to be readiness to contribute now in positions of need not future upside: high floor and need. Without him, it’s players to grow and potential upside is much more relevant: high potential and less need driven.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:50 am

Agree, the combine is where the athletic freaks test well and move up boards and guys who don't fall. After the Combine the draft prospect order gets shuffled by draft guru's enamored by the testing. Then fans get upset when their GMs pick guys on day one that gurus post-combine labeled a likely third rounder.

I recall Kenny Clark was labeled a day two pick, likely a 3rd rounder. I also recall the howls from the fans (me included) when TT took him in the first. Then I read about Kenny and it made me smile. Same thing with Jenks in the second.

One thing I am seeing from Gutey is he likes productive college careers, leaders, intelligent guys who are coachable, and love the game. He loves the RAS...but it seems he uses the above as much as RAS.

2 points
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dobber's picture

February 28, 2022 at 07:28 pm

Don't really care about draftniks' draft boards. They don't build rosters. They don't plan player succession. They don't look at player/scheme fit. They just sell a product--and only rarely if ever to NFL teams. GMs never tell you what their draft boards look like: theirs are the boards that matter, but they almost always piss off draftniks.

1 points
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NickPerry's picture

March 01, 2022 at 05:36 am

I'll tell you one thing I prefer about Gute over Ted Thompson... Ted LIVED in the Pac 10 or Pac 12 Conference, especially early in the draft.

Kevin King, Datone Jones, Damarious Randall, Nick Perry to name just a few. He also didn't seem to draft from the SEC nearly as much. Maybe this means absolutely nothing and is just a coincidence.

0 points
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dobber's picture

March 01, 2022 at 07:55 am

I think the scout he trusted most--either that, or he just had TT's ear disproportionately--was Sam Seale who coordinated their west coast scouting at the time. BG promoted him to national scout when he became GM.

I don't think it's a coincidence...

0 points
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Leatherhead's picture

February 28, 2022 at 09:58 am

Over the next couple of years, we’re going to say goodbye to several veterans, but if we do a good job in the next couple of drafts we’ll have replacements on the roster on rookie contracts.

We need guys who can stay healthy and develop and contribute over the next four years, including a couple of solid starters. I think the offense could use a TE who is part of the run and pass offense. A guy who can block like Lewis but also catch passes.

Defensively, both DL and OLB units could use a guy. I think there’s a good chance we’ll get a WR on Day 2 of the draft.

3 points
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PeteK's picture

February 28, 2022 at 10:32 am

The draft for me is normally a very exciting time of the year, but I'm having a bit of a difficult time this year until I know know how the Rodgers saga plays out. However, the offensive RT position presents some mysteries: will Turner be the next to restructure or cut, will Nijman play RT( need some time to adjust to the right by doing more right hand and leg curls) or be a backup, why didn't Nijman play in the playoff game.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:30 am

Nijman sitting on the bench for the playoff game is a mystery wrapped in a shroud surrounded by an enigma.

I never heard a good explanation from ML. Yosh played very well at LT while has Turner mostly floundered there. So ML and Stenavich move Turner to LT where he again underwhelmed and installed the slow, lumbering "Kelly the Giant" at RT where he struggled all game long as the Niner D line destroyed him.

6 points
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dobber's picture

March 01, 2022 at 08:03 am

"The draft for me is normally a very exciting time of the year, but I'm having a bit of a difficult time this year until I know know how the Rodgers saga plays out."

I get that, but the nice thing about draft prep is that it's window-shopping for players. The draft is going to happen regardless of the ARod saga, and while that mess will likely shift priorities in terms of how the draft proceeds, it's still fun to play around with possibilities.

0 points
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splitpea1's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:12 am

Uh oh, I hope Gute isn't drooling too much over the offensive line class. Please, we don't need to draft three of them this year again--one will do just fine! Depending on what happens with our free agents of course, I would think just about every other position group would be a higher priority.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:37 am

I would select an OL player every year during the first two days and this is a good draft for them. However, the drooling should be caused by a fine DL and Edge group. And there are some ILBs that are plug and play which would make sense if Campbell gets away.

Defense in Round 1! WR and OL on day 2 would be fine with me.

3 points
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splitpea1's picture

February 28, 2022 at 11:45 am

Okay, that's a nice compromise.

2 points
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