Packers 2021 Draft: Predicting future needs to address this year
The draft is unpredictable and teams always need to be ready for any situation. A surprise player falling or prospects they were sure would be available actually going much earlier. Teams also need to balance whether to address a need, go for the “best player available”, or look ahead to the future.
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has often been aggressive at areas of need such as cornerback in 2018, as well as edge rusher and safety in 2019.
Last year, it can be argued he put more focus on the longer-term future.
Jordan Love was drafted with succeeding Aaron Rodgers in mind. AJ Dillon was picked with the Packers’ top two running backs only having a year left on their contracts.
The Packers will attempt to fix their biggest needs in this week’s draft, but they should also have an eye on the future. Here, I’ve predicted positions that could be big needs for the Packers in 2022, so it would make sense to address them in this year’s draft.
1. Wide receiver
Chris Blair — that’s the only wide receiver currently under contract for the Packers in 2022.
Think receiver is a need now? Next year could be worse.
Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Allen Lazard, and Devin Funchess are all free agents in 2022. We should expect a few back, especially Adams. But it could be difficult to re-sign everybody.
Drafting a wide receiver or two this year makes a ton of sense. Not only would it help the offense this year, but gives the Packers a head start on what could be a bigger need in 2022.
The situation is similar at cornerback.
The Packers brought back Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan this offseason but both are set to hit free agency again in 2022, along with Josh Jackson, Kabion Ento, and KeiVarae Russell.
Jaire Alexander is technically a free agent, but the Packers will likely exercise his fifth-year option this offseason which would keep him under contract for 2022.
Cornerback will remain a need next year unless Green Bay adds talent at the position now. Similar to wide receiver, drafting a cornerback can help in the short term and longer ahead.
3. Tight end
Even after drafting a tight end in the third round two years in a row, it could be a position of need again in 2022.
Robert Tonyan broke out last year with 11 receiving touchdowns but will become a free agent next offseason. While Marcedes Lewis is under contract next year, he’ll turn 38 before the start of the 2022 season and the Packers could more than half his cap hit by moving on.
If Josiah Deguara and Jace Sternberger both play well this season, it could change things. But without being able to look into a crystal ball, tight end is a position to watch closely.