How much do the Green Bay Packers value each position in the draft?
It’s always fun to project different players onto different teams in the draft whether it’s because they’re a good scheme fit, they fill a big hole on the roster, or there’s a fun story line tied to the player and the franchise.
However it’s important to remember that the importance a franchise places on a position can be used to determine their actions on draft day. In this exercise, I’m analyzing what positions the Green Bay Packers value the most in the draft.
The most accurate way of finding an answer is by using a draft value chart, which is exactly what PFF’s Brad Spielberger has done. Simply put, the table below shows the percentage of draft capital spent on each position. It is scaled so that the higher the pick, the more weight it carries.
Using Brad’s data, I was able to make a graph which compares the Packers to the NFL average at each position since 2016:
Note: Spielberger determines each player’s position by what they were called out as on draft night. Rashan Gary is commonly viewed as an edge defender but was announced as a linebacker on draft night, hence the disparity between the two positions. If we were to eradicate that, the positions become a little more balanced.
This is one position where the draft value chart cannot tell the story. It’s easy to explain why. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers never needed to address QB at a premium pick. Of course, the did so anyway. Jordan Love is the first QB the Packers have taken within the first four rounds of the draft since Rodgers himself in 2005.
But as we know, the QB position will always be priority #1 in Green Bay. The Jordan Love pick cemented that. The Packers have had 30 straight years of elite QB play, and I’m sure they don’t plan on bringing that to an end anytime soon.
The overall outlook on the running back position has been evolving league-wide over the last few seasons. To think that Saquon Barkley was picked second overall just two years ago feels crazy. I cannot imagine even a generational RB garnering a top-five pick anytime soon.
For the Packers, I think it’s fair to say they value the RB position a little more than the rest of the league. Drafting AJ Dillon at the end of the second round was a little bit out of left field, and we may see the position addressed again this year following Jamaal Williams’ departure.
The fact that the Packers have never drafted a receiver in the first round for Aaron Rodgers has been force fed to us by national media for years now. Overall, this is the second largest disparity between the Packers and the rest of the league as the Packers have chosen to grab their WRs in the later rounds of the draft, or in 2020’s case, not at all.
The Packers have only drafted two tight ends in the last five drafts. Both came in the third round, in each of the last two years. 2019’s pick, Jace Sternberger, has not looked very promising through his first two seasons out of Texas A&M. As for Josiah Deguara, we simply don’t know. He showed some promise early last season before tearing his ACL.
It should, of course, be noted that their best acquisition at the position of the last five years is undrafted free agent Robert Tonyan who is the clear TE1 coming off an extremely efficient 2020 season.
Traditionally, the Packers have preferred to target O-linemen with later draft picks, with hopes to coach them up into very good starters. They have done this many times in the past with David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, TJ Lang and Josh Sitton all selected in round three or later. In 2020, the Packers tripled up on big guys, with Jon Runyan Jr., Jake Hanson and Simon Stepaniak all on day three.
Green Bay has done a reasonably good job drafting on the interior since 2016. Kenny Clark at #27 was a home run. They’ve also got respectable production out of fourth- and fifth-round picks Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke. Despite lackluster run defense over the years, the interior has always been valued by Green Bay.
The largest disparity between Green Bay and the rest of the NFL is at edge rusher. While on average over 10 percent of draft capital is spent on the edge, Green Bay have devoted less than half of that since 2016. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned grey area where some edge defenders can be viewed as linebackers, in this case Rashan Gary.
Secondly, the Packers spent big money in 2019 free agency when they added the Preston and Za’Darius Smith. Now that they’ve decided to keep Preston around for 2021 and hope for a Rashan Gary breakout season, it’s unlikely that this will be a position of interest for the Packers in the upcoming draft.
The Packers have drafted one LB in each of the last five drafts, and have barely hit on a single one. The jury is still out on last year’s fifth-round selection Kamal Martin, but for Ty Summers, Oren Burks, Vince Biegel and Blake Martinez, it’s looking like none of them will be receiving a second contract with the Packers.
LB may be a priority once again this season following the release of Christian Kirksey, although the Packers will be hoping the duo of Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin can sustain reliable play going forward.
Linebacker and cornerback have felt like similar situations for the Packers over the years, and the graph reflects that. They’ve thrown plenty of darts at the board and so far only one of them, Jaire Alexander, has stuck. Kevin King has been pretty hit or miss overall but it’s unlikely that he’s the true long-term solution alongside Alexander.
I would expect the Packers to return to the CB well once more in this draft in an effort to finally put their issues at the position to bed.
For a little over a decade, safety has usually been one of the strong points on the Packers roster, and remains a position that the front office greatly values. Darnell Savage is the latest in a long line of safeties drafted in the first three rounds, and has formed one of the league’s strongest duos alongside Adrian Amos.
The selections of Savage, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall, and Josh Jones have proven the Packers value the position a little more than the rest of the league which is again proven by the chart.