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Gutekunst Stakes His Reputation on Alexander

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Gutekunst Stakes His Reputation on Alexander

In many ways, I felt justified when the Green Bay Packers traded down in the first round on Thursday night.

I previously laid out why I wasn't crazy about either Tremaine Edmunds or Derwin James when the Packers were on the clock with the 14th pick. They're fine players and would certainly consider them later in the draft, just not at 14.

I felt good. The Packers just got an extra first round pick in 2019. That's a valuable commodity.

That feeling of justification lasted about a half hour or so until the Packers then traded back up into the first round and had to give up a third-round pick in the process, not to mention an extra sixth.

It's hard to describe, but losing that third-round pick stung a little bit. It's only a third-round draft pick after all. Certainly there are bigger issues in this world to be concerned about. Inherently, I know this.

As we all know by now, the Packers traded up to the 18th overall pick to select Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.

And it feels a little bit as if new Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst is staking his reputation on Alexander, an undersized cornerback with an injury history.

It pains me to describe Alexander that way—undersized and injured. Just writing those words makes it feel as if I have something personal against Alexander when I really don't. I know I should judge the young man on his own merits, which are numerous. The speed, the change-of-direction, the swagger, the special-teams value are all very, very nice assets.

And yet, I'd like to think I've learned from history. Something about being doomed to repeat it.

I can't help but think about the last two times the Packers spent first-round selections on cornerbacks this short. Terrell Buckley and Ahmad Carroll. I'm sure there are Packers fans that cringe at the mere mention of those names.

It just seems like there's something about Green Bay, the cold weather and the natural grass—dormant by January—that neutralizes the small but fast player and favors those that are a little bigger, a little longer.

Even more recently, the selection of Damarious Randall, who was only slightly taller, isn't exactly a ringing endorsement either.

Speaking of the opposite of ringing endorsements, I think Gutekunst might regret his comment in last night's press conference, referring to Alexander's stature, "He was kind of right on the Mendoza line."

It was an allusion to the team's threshold on height for defensive backs in the Ted Thompson era being 5' 10 1/2" or taller. The metaphor fell flat, comparing him to a baseball player that hits for a .200 average. Football-wise, that's not exactly what you hear about a first-round talent.

And yet, in my mind, I know it's unfair to compare Alexander to those aforementioned cornerbacks before he even plays a down.

I fully acknowledge there's a lot to like about last night's trade. In one pick, the Packers filled the most glaring hole on the roster—slot cornerback.

You think the pass rush was poor last season? At least the Packers have Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the roster, a pair of former first-rounders that combined for 14.5 sacks last season.

The candidates at slot cornerback include the recently-signed 35-year-old stopgap Tramon Williams and last year's undrafted Lenzy Pipkins. We all hope they can capably man the slot, but at this point, that's all it is. A hope.

Alexander's college tape shows he can be a versatile inside/outside cornerback, but you better believe he's kicking inside in nickel and dime situations, which is the norm in today's NFL.

At the very least, for the rest of the draft's six rounds, the Packers don't have to worry about who drops to them just to fill a need. There's something to be said about that.

And yet my misgivings come back to that third-round pick given away.

Part of it has to do with a belief the Packers could have gotten Alexander—or at least Mike Hughes, another short, fast cornerback with potential—with the 27th overall pick they originally got from the Saints. They didn't need to give up another valuable commodity, a Top 100 pick, to get one of them.

Sure, the Packers have the mid- to late-round ammunition to trade up in the draft, probably multiple times. But to trade up into the third round, the Packers are more than likely going to have to give up that extra-valuable first pick of Day 3. That 101st overall pick only has extra value when you're the one holding it.

We're probably looking at the Packers coming away with two picks on Day 2. Whereas, had they never given away that third-round pick, they'd probably come away from Friday with three selections. And for a team supposedly in win-now mode, that seems a whole lot more appealing to me.

There are parallels to be drawn from Gutekunst to former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.

Wolf spent his first selection as general manager of the Packers on Buckley, a bust of a pick. The G.M., of course, overcame that solitary selection to win Green Bay a Super Bowl and be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a blip on the radar.

Wolf, however, didn't give up valuable capital to trade up and grab Buckley. We've come full circle, the part where it seems Gutekunst's reputation is riding on Alexander.

If Alexander pans out, Gutekunst looks like a genius. If he doesn't, this one move might to be more difficult to overcome than it was for Wolf to overcome the selection of Buckley.

But who knows? Maybe Gutekunst trades that extra first-round pick next year into one of the first picks of the second round this year. All of a sudden, this year's draft class is looking a whole lot better.

Here's to hoping Alexander is everything Gutekunst and the Packers hope he is.

The fan in me can't help but root for Alexander, Gutekunst and team as a whole. Any second guesses will vanish with a Super Bowl. Go Pack Go!

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (59) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ross Uglem's picture

Mike Hughes isn't fast.

LambeauPlain's picture

Small CB with an injury history is what went through my mind last night when the Packers traded up...right after Derwin James was drafted.

I was convinced the BG was going to get the DB he wanted but lost him. Maybe he tried to trade up a few rounds before 18 but found no takers.

After seeing James fall 7 rounds after I expected to be gone by 10...only to lose him and take Alexander was a huge letdown.

I hope the little guy can stay on the field. He’s not a willing tackler as it is and he’s gonna take some blows if he plays slot!

Ross Uglem's picture

what the actual hell are you watching when you watch Alexander

Finwiz's picture

Well you can complain about Alexander being a "little guy" and all, but Rollins isn't exactly a big guy either.

They didn't want a safety, no matter how he was rated, they didn't want that position and obviously didn't feel they needed it. Once you make that assumption, everything becomes clear.

I'd bet a lot of money, (if it could be confirmed) they tried to trade up to get Ward, but didn't want to pay the price, or didn't have a willing partner.

Bearmeat's Phantom Downvoter's picture

It was either Ward, Chubb or Fitzpatrick, that's for sure.

stockholder's picture

Vita Vea!

dblbogey's picture

Ward went #4. It would have taken at least their 1st, 2nd and 3rd picks to move up to get Ward. You would bet a lot of money that they tried to trade up to #4?

Finwiz's picture

Right....I left out the part of my comment that should have said, "IF Ward fell to the 7-10 range", and I think they were expecting that, then they may have traded up to get him. Speculation of course, but several other well known sports pundits have postulated the same scenario. Clearly they valued DB's above all else in this draft, from the perspective of need, and rated talent.

WinUSA's picture

Skinny, injury prone, passed on James? I am hoping the magic is in day two because day one was a "poof" as far as I saw it. Let's hope that First Round pick next year is used to get a stud in the 2nd round this year! Go PacK

dblbogey's picture

Missed no games in 2015 or 2016. Hyperextended a knee in 2017 and missed some time. I love all the people declaring he is thus "injury prone".

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"It just seems like there's something about Green Bay, the cold weather and the natural grass—dormant by January—that neutralizes the small but fast player and favors those that are a little bigger, a little longer."

This is a great way to put it. Looking at Jaire's tape I can see why anyone would love him. Even though he's really electric in punt returns, I hope he doesn't do it much. The Packers are going to need to keep this guy healthy.

Matt Wayne's picture

This kid is going to be a rock star. He is a Bonfield cover corner AND he is a play maker! Our defense was soft last year and his attitude will be a breath of fresh air into Mo, Blake, Mike D, and Kenny C. The kid is special. We have 11 more picks, it’s crazy to think we will use them all. We had the capital to move around and Gutekunst handled the first round like a boss! We have no reason to be down on the kid. And saying Gutekunst reputation is on the line with one pick is crazy! He might not have been the guy you wanted but don’t say crazy things like that. Talk about being salty. We got a top shut down corner who is an elite talent, and an extra first round pick next year. What a first round! GO PACK GO!!!!

Jonathan Spader's picture

Matt it's called a 1st impression. Reread the article. The author hopes we have an elite corner to play the slot a spot that was a big ? after trading Randall. He's hoping this works out for the best but disappointed with the way the pick was acquired on top of the pick itself. It's giving up the 3rd round pick for a CB who could have easily slid to #27.

Spock's picture

Johnathan Spader, "Matt it's called a 1st impression. Reread the article."
Johnathan, with all due respect, the TITLE of the article is something you might want to reread! To say that Gute is "staking his reputation" on the first pick is hyperbole that is almost laughable. Gute is almost certainly "staking his reputation" on the whole draft, not his first pick. I wholehearted support Matt's comment on the author in regard to that.

dblbogey's picture

Could have easily slipped to 27? So glad you aren't in the Packers personnel department.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Great job on contributing to the conversation as usual dblbogey. Do us all a favor and for once try something called an original thought. Troll.

CJ Bauckham's picture

I've decided that if I would have been happy with Ward (which I'd told myself I would be), I don't see how I can be unhappy with Alexander. He's the same speed, a shade under the same height, and ten pds heavier

And if I would have been happy with a player who tore up his knee like James (who I admittedly wanted), how can I be unhappy with a guy who only sprained his. And then ran a 4.3.

Plus, we get a first rounder. How can I be unhappy?

Turophile's picture

After losing Randall the Packers needed a slot corner badly - and got perhaps the best guy in the draft for that spot. You know the Packers will be in the nickel much of the game, due to the prevalence of 3WR sets, so Alexander will see a ton of playing time.

The only thing I take issue with is the headline, tying Gute's 'reputation' to one pick. I know it is journalistic licence to say these things, but it isn't true. It's the body of work across the whole draft, and indeed multiple drafts, that will determine Gute's reputation.

lebowski's picture

Maybe they feel they already have a 'Derwin James' in Josh Jones, and are comfortable with HaHa and Brice as the other safeties on the roster. I'm just surprised that this team continues to devalue the linebacker position by ignoring it until later rounds. There are so many good corners left on the board, to the point where they could easily take another in round two as best player available. But big, fast, pass rushing linebackers? Nah, we don't need 'em.

Matt Wayne's picture

I really hope we move up to get Landry tonight. Maybe move into the 3rd and target a WR or if a Top talent TE is there I wouldn’t be make at taking one then. But I agree we NEED a edge rusher today!

Chuck Farley's picture

We have no third gave it away

kevgk's picture

Chubb was out of reach, Davenport is a development project, Landry didn't make it in the first round for reasons profession draft mockers didn't see. Frankly Pettines system isn't for explosive pass rushers. People get so hung up on these edge rushers but I didn't see a fit and the Packers didn't either.

Finwiz's picture

"Landry didn't make it in the first round for reasons profession draft mockers didn't see"

And several unprofessional 'mockers' on CHTV, didn't see either.
Here they had him going at FOURTEEN, with twisted logic that, 'we already have House and Williams, so we won't take a corner', and the guy didn't even go in the first round.

So predictable. He's a project, with a very narrow skill set.

John Kirk's picture

I'm not a mock drafter but I strongly wrote Landry up high in Round 1was crazy. What the draftniks failed to do is weight his senior season properly which was my basis for saying it was crazy to take him. His junior season was blown way out of proportion leading to very wrong and misguided conclusions. Same applies to Josh Jackson. Draftniks watched tape of him covering pedestrian Big 10 WRs and fell in love with a mirage. No projection was done there. I think Jackson was the more egregious error in assessment.

Packers have a chance to get Sutton tonight. Big target. Great YAC. Built for the cold. He's a short route superstar. Can take a pass at the line and take it to the house.

Patriots took my RB. Sony was my 2nd favorite player in this draft. Miller and Sutton are last WRs, I covet. Hubbard from OSU just feels like a Packers pick. No shock seeing an OL, either.

lebowski's picture

TJ Watt fell into our laps last year and Tremaine Edmund this year and we passed on both.

John Kirk's picture

Packers have been Cleveland Browning it in Round 1 for years. Vonnie Holiday over Moss, Bulaga over Dez, Mandarich over Barry Sanders.

Derwin seemed like a wacko to me and Edmunds seemed stone stupid. I'm betting personality fit is why both were bypassed. I believe Pettine wants men not weirdos and idiots.

dblbogey's picture

I agree with your 2nd paragraph, but you are complaining about picks going back to 29 years ago? Personally I have no problem with Bulaga over Dez. You don't like weirdos and idiots but you like Dez?

Ryan Graham's picture

Lebowski, your dudeness...I agree with you that they just dont value inside backers. That said, right now I dont think they need to. I think they are quite comfortable with Blake Martinez stepping into a leadership role on D and I can see Josh Jones playing next to him quite a bit in various packages...Clay mostly playing outside, but coming inside on occasion.

If that is the case, they will no doubt need more depth for pass rush (if that is what you were originally referring to) as they already need help at the position - you can certainly chalk Perry and Clay for a combined 6-7 missed games, history has told us unfortunately. Putting Landry aside, there are still guys out there that can come in and play 2 downs at a time. Names like Dorance Armstrong, Josh Sweat, Uchenna Nwosu come to mind.

Like it or not, as long as Clay and Perry are on roster they will get the bulk of the snaps obviously, they weren't paid to sit. For those who believe that edge rusher was a "no brainer" for the first round, BG is telling us now that they aren't looking to replace either one...they are looking to spell them from extensive snap counts.

dobber's picture

"BG is telling us now that they aren't looking to replace either one...they are looking to spell them from extensive snap counts."

Very possibly true. They're both on the roster in 2018 and the Packers would likely get more production out of them than any draft picks they would bring in. An athletic EDGE player gets them more flexibility in how they deploy CMIII, too. But it doesn't preclude them from needing to find a replacement for CMIII in 2019. Does this tip their hand that they might be planning to find a bigger fish in FA next spring?

Mojo's picture

I was hoping for Edmunds at 14.

Think he would have kicked ass. And to Lebowski's point on the CB group, this was one of the
deeper pools in the draft. We could have had quality in the second. And a stud LB.

Sigh.

Chuck Farley's picture

I agree but let's talk facts. Fact, Ted Thompson drafted poorly. Fact our so so tbs we let go are playing elsewhere and doing fine. We just keep spending capital on the same positions over and over again. Every years holes all over the place to fill.

dobber's picture

I'm still scratching my head over what the Saints paid for Davenport. They win on the deal if he's a perennial all-pro, but is he likely to be that in 2018? I think they're going to be the hands-down winners for poorest draft move of 2018.

"Frankly Pettines system isn't for explosive pass rushers. "

That's not to say it couldn't benefit from them.

Ryan Graham's picture

That is a good point. Just my personal thought, and I could be wrong as so many of us are, I thought they would have gone edge rusher last night if they wanted to take a younger option to replace. Something like a farm selling deal for Bradley Chubb at four, which I'm glad they didn't. But you definitely bring a good point with free agency next year or even June 1st cuts if someone becomes available. Might be a bit pricey, but Khalil Mack hasn't recieved his extension...Shaq Barrett is another guy who could be available, otherwise I'm not sure I see too many other great fits. Yet, that's a long ways away from now though.

dobber's picture

If BG had dealt away a 2019 first rounder and pick #14--or their first second and third--to move up to #4 to pick someone like Denzel Ward, a play where they dealt away significant capital on that single player, then I would say he's pinned his reputation on a player. I don't think that's true in this case.

I don't think his moves were so drastic that it changes the fact that his 2018 draft needs to be evaluated in whole and not on the basis of one player. And it might be that the evaluation won't be done until after the 2019 draft.

4thand1's picture

It was really good move considering Alexander was high on their board and got another 1st round pick. Could end being a great move.

JonnieB12's picture

Does anyone think they didn't have to move up as far to get Alexander? I am very happy with the trade down picking up the 2019 first rounder. They really didn't need another safety, especially when you have a guy with such similar traits already on the team in josh Jones. But It sucks having to give up that third rounder especially if they could have got Alexander at 27. I'm not sure if they could have but no CB's were taken from 18 to 27 (Not to say someone wouldn't if the Packers didn't take Alexander ) so it makes you wonder.

Mojo's picture

I am curious about one thing. Did Gute have the trade back-up to 18 set-up prior to the NO trade?

According to him he had James, Edmunds and Alexander graded out all about the same. Unless he had ten more with similar grades he would have taken a big gamble on possibly missing out on one of his preferred players unless he had a willing trade partner already lined up. And if he had 13 players all grading out the same then he's a poor evaluator.

dobber's picture

"And if he had 13 players all grading out the same then he's a poor evaluator."

That, or the talent distribution was just plain flat.

...or the Packers just had that many needs.

flackcatcher's picture

" ...or the Packers just had that many needs." Yes, and what the Packers think are their needs is what we don't know. Day two and three will tell the tale.

marpag1's picture

I read somewhere - sorry, can't remember where - that Gute said....

1) no, they didn't have the trade back up set beforehand
2) it was nevertheless always the intention to trade back up, and
3) they felt very confident that they would be able to do it.

Of course, GMs always say "We got our man...."

scullyitsme's picture

This whole article sounded a lot like my daughter when she was 2. Ya but, ya but, ya but. With a little eeyore mixed in. Ya but I know we got a first round pick, ya but, I know he’s one of the best corners, ya but I know he fills a need. But I didn’t get what I wanted! Whah!

marpag1's picture

I just find it very bizarre how many people obsess about "giving up the third round draft pick" - oh, the horror! - while at the same time almost entirely ignoring the obvious fact that the Packers also GAINED A FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK!

Geez, talk about a negative bias and seeing the glass half empty. It's like someone wringing their hands and crying because they made $1 million dollars, but ..... DAMMIT, DAMMIT, DAMMIT.... I had to invest $10,000 to do it."

Weird.

JohnnyLogan's picture

It's not weird because you present it improperly. We basically traded Edmunds and a 3rd for Alexander and next years 1st. Now judging that trade the question remains which pairing has the bigger upside. I think Edmunds and this year's 3rd (with a CB taken in the 2nd) is better than Alexander and waiting for next years 1st (which is likely a low 1st and helps less this year when we desperately need to fill holes).

marpag1's picture

Actually, no, what you said is precisely how I understand it. If you truly have two players rated equally - as Gutekunst says he did - then the equal values on both sides of the equation (the players) cancel each other out.

If two players, Alexander and Edmunds, are both valued at "10" ... then a D1 with a 10 (Alexander) is better than a D3 with a 10 (Edmunds).

Of course, you are allowed to disagree with Gute and say that Edmunds is a much better prospect than Alexander, as in fact I think you do. I can't argue with personal opinions. If people want to say that Edmunds was a better prospect, fine. But in my opinion what I'm actually hearing is a lot of people bemoaning the loss of a D3 while ignoring the acquisition of a D1.

worztik's picture

And I asked before... how have our 3rd round picks turned out the last couple years... actually, did we even have any??? Get a grip people...

carlos's picture

Why wouldn’t you root for him. I don’t like the glass is half empty attitude. Geez, one day and the sky is falling. How in the world can little guys be affected by cold weather more than a guy 2 inches taller. I live in the cold north in the “real” frozen tundra. I know a ton of really tough “small” guys who you’d be smart not to mess with. Good job Gute. At first I also was upset, but by the end of the night was quite pleased. Looking forward to day two. Go Pack. Go Gute.

Packman60's picture

Too much is being made of the injuries he sustained in college. He broke his hand and had a bone bruise on his knee. Painful and limiting in the short term, but neither injury is going to impact his future like an ACL / MCL tear. The kid has great measurables and his tape from 2016 when he was completely healthy was extremely good. If you read scouts comments on McGinn' s website they are overwhelmingly positive and his projection was generally thought to be between 11-20.

Lphill's picture

I guess Alexander was the target or else one of the top choices, Mayock and Kiper both had him going to the Packers plus Mike Mayock said Alexander was the best corner in the draft , also the other corners chosen first round were also mentioned as undersized .so after reading some scouting reports and checking out some highlights I feel better about the pick.

flackcatcher's picture

I like the pick. Good smart player with real athletic gifts and a wide wing span, makes him a 6'1 on the field. Giving up a 2 rounder was the right call if the Packers believe (as it seems they do) that this is a deep draft. Will the Packers trade to move back into the second, maybe. But they may like the depth of talent in this draft that they do not have to make a move. More importantly, Gute's first move was as smart as a top level GM should be. I think we fans can rest easy now. The Packers got a winner in GM (No matter how we got there).

HankScorpio's picture

Alexander might be a complete and utter disaster. He might be a star. Either way, Gute's reputation is going to turn on far more than this one move in the same way that Ron Wolf's reputation was not staked to Terrell Buckley. Hell, Alexander may not even be what defines the 2018 Packer draft class.

Why do people make things so much more dramatic than they actually are? Most things are mere pieces in a larger puzzle. Why are they so often made into the entire puzzle?

TommyG's picture

We needed a corner and got a corner. Now let’s move on to some of the other holes.

hodge555's picture

Well we've now doubled up and picked Josh Jackson the.

carlos's picture

An improved secondary for sure.

HankScorpio's picture

I'll say.

Competition is a good thing. And there is now going to be a pretty healthy competition for snaps at CB between 3 talented younger guys and a couple of vets, with a few longshots in the mix.

carlos's picture

Alexander and Jackson became friends throughout the draft process and Jackson loves to study film. I get a good feeling with these guys,working hard together, with some guidance from Tramon.

Chuck Farley's picture

In case you not watching all the best of what's left of the draft is going off the board. The dance ends tonight. By tomorrow anyone gutt gets is a real challenge, no play maker no big talent just fill in guys. As ofNow Miami has the best th, best tight end and a superb lb. We got one very iffy cb, smallish and one guy who is slowish. Not quality by any stretch, so the team has no improved a pick yet.

Bear's picture

Staking his reputation on Alexander. Brian you have to be kidding, it’s his first draft. He will have many more to build a reputation!

tincada's picture

Here's to hoping Alexander is everything Gutekunst and the Packers hope he is. You mean Terrible Ted who obviously was in charge of this draft and as usual bottom feeding fishing trip on 14 UDFAs.

Chuck Farley's picture

I think Gutt stuck his neck out on the whole season by taking a one pick for next year when the needs were this year, a lot of needs and it could have started with a TOP guy at the 12 to 14 position.

He better hope his one and two picks dont look developmental as in, they need three years. This team doesnt have three years.

Not to mention your relying on a 34 year old and a 32 year old, oft injured guys as your pass rush for a long long season.

There just seems to be a lot of hope and prayer attitude in this Org. Woulda coulda shoulda's

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