ESPN: Top DB in Draft Class Not out of the Packers' Reach

-- There's no way to predict how the board will fall Thursday night when the Green Bay Packers are on the clock with the 14th overall selection. That's why their best alternative may be to move up in the first round as opposed to being a sitting duck.

According to ESPN's Rob Demovsky, Packers G.M. Brian Gutekunst would have to give up the team's third-round pick (76th overall) just to move up to No. 10 where they would swap spots with the Oakland Raiders. The motive behind doing so would be to land one of the top defensive backs in the draft.

Whether it be Ohio State's Denzel Ward, Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick or Florida State's Derwin James, the Packers need another big playmaker on the back-end of their secondary -- or even on their perimeter to pair with last year's 33rd overall pick in Kevin King -- and one of those three players should provide just the right type of support.

"If you want to go up and get Fitzpatrick and you feel he's a cornerback, not a safety, you probably have to get to nine or 10," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, via Demovsky.

"If you talk about James, everybody seems to think he'll go 7 to Tampa Bay. Denzel Ward probably up to that 6-7 range, because he's the best corner in the draft."

If the Packers wanted to trade up to the No. 6 slot where the Indianapolis Colts currently wait, they'd have to trade their second-round selection (45th overall). That'd give Green Bay its best look at every top defensive prospect set to go within the top-10, sans North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb, who is a consensus top-five pick.

The Packers have the assets to move all around the board with 12 picks in their pocket -- the most in the league. Whether they choose to do so in round one or in the mid-to-late rounds remains to be seen.

They could also stand pat with their 14th selection, grab one of the edge rushers that's been heavily mocked to them -- whether it's Boston College's Harold Landry or University of Texas at San Antonio's Marcus Davenport -- and find a way to trade into the bottom of the first round for a cornerback. 

Other intriguing cornerback prospects that should be on the board by then are Josh Jackson from Iowa, Mike Hughes from UCF, Jaire Alexander from Louisville and Isaiah Oliver from Colorado.

The talent plucking won't be slim for Gutekunst and co. to choose from if that's the route they choose.

Gutekunst's predecessor, Ted Thompson, only traded in the first round of a draft twice during his 13-year run as the Packers' G.M., and both times were to move down.

He did, however, trade back into the first round in 2009 to take linebacker Clay Matthews at 26th overall to pair him with nose tackle B.J. Raji, who Thompson selected 17 picks earlier.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (29)

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LambeauPlain's picture

April 23, 2018 at 02:01 pm

If Gute could get Fitzpatrick with a trade up with his buddy McKenzie to exchange his 1st with his 3rd for their 1st...do it...if Ward, Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, Smith or James are on the board....my premise is Nelson and Chubb are off the board.

He could easily trade back into the 3rd with a combination of his 5 picks in the 4th and 5th rounds.

He would have a chance to get a day one snap eater in the 1st, a very good player and contributor at 2, and a quality/value pick in the 3rd.

This is going to be fascinating to watch what the new GM does in his first draft, armed with a bevy of picks.

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Malcolm Wright III's picture

April 23, 2018 at 03:03 pm

Need a pass rush first look what being happening all those years without another consistent pass rusher

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HankScorpio's picture

April 23, 2018 at 06:04 pm

Thinking you need anything "first" is a good way to miss a major opportunity that might present itself. I hope Gute and the entire draft team does not have that mindset.

For example, the Packers have de-valued ILB because they did not have any that are of much value. Add in Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds and that changes. I'd hate to pass on either of them (if available) just because they don't play one of the "need" positions everyone has been discussing. Either one could change the complexion of everything.

The biggest 'need' any team has is star players. If one is available, you take him. Doesn't matter where he plays. That stuff sorts itself easily enough.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 23, 2018 at 08:44 pm

Hank, the Packers devalued ILB under Capers because of the NFL rules boosting the passing game. Same reason FB is a position close to being extinct in today's NFL. Same reason why so many teams need WR and DB or TE is now a big slot position. I hate what Goodell and the owners have done to game for bigger ratings. Agree with you about Gute and the front office, with the high number of draft choices in higher positions than the Packers have had for years, that gives the Packers some room to trade. Should be interesting.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 23, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Those rules that boost the passing game make ILBs that can function in the pass game rare--rare as solid gold. And just as valuable to a defense.

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Tundraboy's picture

April 24, 2018 at 12:07 am

God I love this post. If I could give a thousand thumbs up I would. What's more that is exactly the mindset I hope BG and the rest take with them Thursday.

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LambeauPlain's picture

April 24, 2018 at 07:49 am

Spot on, Hank.

This isn’t Capers D anymore. What we saw as “needs” last year may be less a weakness with Pettine’s new defensive strategy, tatics and teaching.

What Pettine has said he “needs” are talented, versatile, accountable football players who have been productive in college and leaders on their respective teams.

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Cubbygold's picture

April 23, 2018 at 04:42 pm

Fascinating for sure. It would be so cool if there was a 'hard knocks' type of insight show around the draft. Film of the team building their draft board and hearing the rationale, interviewing and working out prospects, then the war room before and during the draft.

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Cubbygold's picture

April 23, 2018 at 04:47 pm

...and CLE will still use their full 15 minutes, like they're still deciding. Maybe the phone rings with an absurd trade offer from a desperate team, I guess I would wait it out too...

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kevgk's picture

April 23, 2018 at 02:24 pm

I wouldnt like to see a 1st round pass rusher, because they would need to trade up to get a good CB from the second round, and they would lose that 2rd round deep threat WR, which they cant find in the 3rd round. I would like to see a WR and CB for picks 1 and 2 in any order. Pass rush will be fine with the current rotation and a 3rd round pick. Pettines system needs safeties, dline, and corners in that order, not edge rushers.

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Cubbygold's picture

April 23, 2018 at 04:44 pm

so does the team need a CB or S more? If the need is safeties, then dline, then corner...why would they need to draft a CB in the first two rounds?

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kevgk's picture

April 23, 2018 at 06:04 pm

depends on the player. Minkah can be a CB in most packages and fills depth for both. Derwin James could do what Earl Thomas did to seattle: play him deep all by himself and you can keep your SS deeper in the box without sacrificing deep coverage, almost like having an extra linebacker. He would also help moving CBs in different formations while keeping the coverage intact with his tremendous range, bolstering both man and zone coverage. If they are gone, CB becomes the biggest need.

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LambeauPlain's picture

April 24, 2018 at 08:00 am

The Pack “needs” really good players first. Get the “right” people on the bus then get them in the “right” seats.

Both Fitzpatrick and James can play FS, SS, Slot, in the box in hybrid role...both could play boundry corner in a pinch with Fitzpatrick better at it now since he played it some in college.

Both Edmunds and Smith could play ILB or OLB. Both can rush the QB from any LB spot...both would make Martinez better and add juice to the pass rush.

And if Nelson drops to the Pack, I’d draft him too...he’s been that dominant in college in run blocking and pass pro. Help keep Aaron upright and add horsepower to the run game to make the young backs better.

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Lare's picture

April 23, 2018 at 02:26 pm

I thought this comment in Peter King's Draft column today was interesting:

"Several team officials told me in the past few days that they value Day 2 picks (rounds two and three) so highly that they’d be willing to take slightly less in compensation to move down. “This is not your typical draft,” said one veteran club official Sunday. “The second, third and even fourth rounds are gold. You can take less than the trade-value chart says and still make a very good trade if you get multiple picks in those rounds.”

The odds are good that even at 14 the Packers will get a starter and an impact player. And if the above is true, then it probably wouldn't pay to give up any 2nd or 3rd or 4th round picks to move up unless they're really convinced that player is special.

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Cubbygold's picture

April 23, 2018 at 04:50 pm

TT's master plan is coming full circle. He knew for years that the '18 draft was going to be epic, and perfectly navigated the team towards a mountain of draft picks this year.

Ok, maybe not. But if that's how it plays out, that first pick in the fourth round is going to valuable.

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porupack's picture

April 23, 2018 at 05:06 pm

Totally agree. Don't trade up in first round: too costly. Better to get the second best CB in first round if Ward is gone.

Then, try to move 3rd rounder into second round for two 2nd rnd picks for WR and OLB, or WR and OL in whatever order of best value.

Or move late 4th rounder into 3rd (for two 3rd rounders) for best value in OL and WR.

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Hagster's picture

April 23, 2018 at 02:36 pm

I’m very excited to see how Gute handles his first draft. I would be ecstatic if any of the following defensive guys drop to 14: Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, Smith, James, or Ward. Unfortunately I don’t think any of them do, so that means we’d have to trade up. If we can get any with our 1st and 3rd I’m all in. If it takes something like our 1st and 2nd then I second guess (too many holes on this roster). If none of those guys are there at 14, then as much as I hate the idea I really think trading back to the 18-22ish area might be the wisest saying any guy you take at 14 (Landry, Davenport, Jackson, Hughes, Vea, or maybe even a Ridley or Sutton) will still be there 5 or so picks later. This is going to be fun!

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Ustabeayooper's picture

April 23, 2018 at 07:36 pm

The most interesting pick in this draft for the pack is the 1st pick in the 4th round. Teams will have the entire night to look at their draft boards and will see players that they have graded highly sitting there. The pack will have multiple offers . The same situation with the 5th round pick. The third day is going to make or break this draft.

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Cubbygold's picture

April 24, 2018 at 07:28 am

Hopefully it plays out where GB thinks they have the ability to trade out of that 4th round pick, down 10 spots or so, and still get the guy theyve got their eye on, but pick up an additional 5th rounder

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 24, 2018 at 02:03 am

Divorcing my analysis from talent (after all, at this point there is no way of knowing which player we're trading up to #10 for), there are financial reasons to eschew the top 10 and settle for trading up to #11. The fifth year option for top 10 picks is nearly worthless for anything other than QBs, truly elite WRs, LTs, pass rushing OLBs and actual Revis-like shut down CBs.

The fifth year option for top ten picks is the transition tag for that position. Here are the 2018 numbers:
QB $20.9M; DE $14.2M; WR $13.92M; CB $12.97M; LB $12.8M; OL $12.5M; DT $11.4M; RB $9.6M; S $9.5M;
TE $8.4M; ST $4.5M.

Example: had HHCD been a top 10 pick, his 5th year option would be $9.536M. Since he went later, his cap is $5.96M. I doubt we'd pay him $9.5M: GB would have signed him long term for less, or kept Burnett and cut HHCD. For the fifth year option to be the bargain it should be, HHCD would have to look like Earl Thomas.

This is one of the arguments going around in various cities against taking Barkley, Nelson, ILBs and safeties in the top 10. I think talent should be the most important factor, but financial considerations can be part of the equations in close calls.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 25, 2018 at 07:52 am

Hard to quantify but there are some numbers. Pick #33 has a projected first year cap hit of $1.37M and a 4 year value of $7.57M. Pick #32 has a 1st yr cap hit projection of $1.73M and a 4 yr value of $9.54M. [There is a noticeable drop from #32 to #33 in the progression of the slotting.]

The biggest thing always is the player drafted has to be at least pretty darn good in order to make the 5th year option a bargain. For other than QBs, stud OLBs and WRs, the fifth year option is not much use if the player is drafted in the top 10 other than as a negotiating tool for a long term contract. Projected #s for 2019 5th yr option (2018 Top 10 #s in parenthesis):

QB: $14.11M ($20.9M0; LB: $9.23M($12.8M); WR: $9.39M ($13.92M); OL: $9.6M ($12.5M); CB: $9.07M ($12.97M); DE: $9.04M ($14.2M); DI: $7.15M ($11.4M); TE: $5.4M ($8.4M); S: $6.27M ($9.5M); RB: $5.6M ($9.6M).

If we're drafting a QB, pass rushing OLB, WR, it might be worth something to get into the first. Otherwise, not that much since you're probably in the same tier of talent at #28 and at #33. But that's just my opinion and I am open to arguments that differ.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 26, 2018 at 04:22 am

Jonathan, I ran across these articles on this subject. Author is Rich Hill (Pat's Pulpit). He did a bunch of research on draft trade charts vs. how teams OUGHT to value different draft slots. He concluded that in fact (not ought), "Teams have to pay a premium to trade back into the first round worth roughly the same as a fifth or sixth round pick." Interesting.

Here are some interesting links.

https://www.patspulpit.com/2018/4/21/17256758/2018-nfl-draft-value-chart...

http://www.footballperspective.com/draft-value-chart/

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 26, 2018 at 05:25 am

Jonathan, I see my reply lacked clarity. I don't think the 5th year option is worth much for top ten picks. The difference in the 5th year option price isn't that different than the cost to sign long term. As you noted, a team that isn't sure about a player can use it to watch him for an extra season. Remember TT didn't give Perry the 5th year option, he signed him for less, but he didn't lose him, which was the risk. But not exercising the 5th year option could have backfired equally as likely, imo.

The 5th year option has pretty good value for picks #11 to #32. Just looking at GB, I wouldn't have used it on Lang, probably not Sitton, no on Bulaga, Bakh would have been a bargain. If Davante had been the 32nd Pick, $9.39M would have been a large bargain plus we'd get to see whether he can get through a year taking hits w/o getting a concussion. We'd have saved a ton of money had Cobb been on a 5th yr option in 2015 - it would have ended all discussion about him being a #1 type WR. So, pretty much just QBs, WRs, CBs, LTs for the big financial savings (picks 11-32), and intangibles for watching an extra year, or as negotiating tool on long term extensions. We used it on HHCD, but he probably isn't worth more than the $5.97M he is getting. The whole value is intangible: we get to see him for another year.

I am assuming we have pick #33. We like a player, but expect him to fall to #33. We don't have to trade up to #31 to get him. Trading up is for the sole purpose of securing the 5th year option. Mr. Hill sounds about right to me when he suggests a fifth or a sixth for to move up into the first (which includes getting the prospect a team covets), so a late 6th for the sole purpose of securing the 5th round option?

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croatpackfan's picture

April 24, 2018 at 02:21 am

I made the list. List of the nick names who constanly requesting trade up in the last 2 weeks.

Why I did that? To be able to tell those peopple to shut up when that scenario fail. If that scenario happens.

Because I respect history. And from the history I learned that the most vocal and frequent spitters are those fans who were insisting on what happened, and what fail...

I would never ever give any of first 2 days draft picks for player... Again, history told us that the 2 best QBs today are not get by trading up, but by patience and believing in your process...

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Turophile's picture

April 24, 2018 at 03:45 am

You can add my name to another list, the "trade down so you can trade up later" list.

I want to see the Packers trade down 4-6 spots in round one. Why ? So they have more ammo to trade up in rounds two or three. A higher 2nd rounder gives a shot at a good CB (Oliver, Alexander, Davis, Jackson, Hughes).

A higher 3rd rounder gives a shot at a bigger choice between good WRs that have slipped to round three, because there are so many of similar talent in the 2-3 range.

Packers can give up any combination of the comp 4th, 5ths and 6th picks to sweeten that move up in rounds 2 and 3, and still have picks left in every round. Of course an EXTRA pick in (for example) the top third of round three, is as good as moving up somewhere in day two.

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 24, 2018 at 06:31 am

If you believe that there is an elite talent sitting within reach, and he plays a position of need, you go up and get him. I don't know if I go and get Fitzpatrick, because I think the Packers drafted that player in the second round last year. But if the world goes QB crazy and Ward or Chubb slip, I'm going up, period.

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LambeauPlain's picture

April 24, 2018 at 08:24 am

I just have a sense if Gute doesn’t move up a few spots to go get his top pick but stays put and sees most of his highest rated players are off the board, he’ll trade down.

Then use those picks to move up in the second, 3rd rounds and/or get additional 2nd or 3rd rounders.

There is good quality and value for CB, S, LB, OL and WR to be found on day 2.

Then go after value/depth on day 3.

But I would not mind a trade up to #10 with Gute’s friend McKenzie.

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Finwiz's picture

April 24, 2018 at 09:13 am

This is from Denzel Wards scouting report. Plus he's only 5' 10" - I wouldn't be moving up very far to get this guy if he fell. Maybe a couple of positions, and that's all. Copied from NFL.com (For those among us that have no comprehension for the obvious)

>Weaknesses
Frame is somewhat slight and he feels small in coverage at times
Lacks play strength to jam and disrupt
Appears to avoid route contact so he doesn't upset coverage balance
Physical receivers can body him around at the top of the route
Needs to turn and find football sooner with back to the ball
Always around the throw, but lack of size and length shows up with "just misses" in pass defense
Several pass breakups came on throws with poor placement
Coverage benefitted from deep, talented rush unit up front
Has issues disengaging from big blocking receivers
Big backs drag him for a ride in run support<

As For James and Fitzpatrick, yes they're nice players, but to me they are safeties all day.
I like them a lot, but I don't see the ball skills that tell me they can be CB's.
We don't need any more projects that we convert to different positions in the pro's.
At best I see these guys as upgraded versions of Michah Hyde.
You need players that won't be coming off the field at pick NO. 1.

As for Jackson from Iowa, he's moving DOWN in the draft per the latest analysis I've seen.
I highly doubt you can take him at 14, but if he's there in round two, then you consider it.
Maybe even move up in Round 2 to get him.

I would give A LOT to move up and draft Chubb, and he would be the only one I'd do that for.
It would be like Christmas day if somehow that happened, but I don't expect they will pay the price.

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WKUPackFan's picture

April 24, 2018 at 09:01 am

Nice job of cutting and pasting Ward's (you left out the apostrophe) partial scouting report. No one would have been able to find that without your valuable assistance. Is that ground flight training school offering classes in football player evaluation in addition to a meteorology degree?

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