5 Packers players who will shape their 2023 NFL Draft class

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers have decisions to make this offseason. These five players are going to shape how the 2023 NFL Draft goes.

We’ve reached yet another tumultuous offseason in Green Bay. The Packers have several decisions to make on free agents, along with the looming decision about running it back with Aaron Rodgers or letting Jordan Love take the reins.

Getting the Elgton Jenkins’ deal done was huge, but they have other free agents with which decisions must be made.

Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford were both big parts of the adjustments Joe Barry made down the stretch. Keisean Nixon was an All-Pro returner who should probably get priority.

Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb leaving would present depth issues at wide receiver (Lazard’s postgame interview made it seem like he is gone). Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis also have a chance to test the market.

Yosh Nijman played a bit inconsistent in 2022, but he’s pretty good if he’s the swing tackle long-term.

The big cap numbers in 2022 also present a challenge. David Bakhtiari carries a $28 million cap number in 2022. Kenny Clark’s is $23 million. Aaron Jones has two years left on his deal, and he’s carrying big numbers for a running back.

Which Packers will shape the 2023 NFL Draft?

A lot of what happens from now until March will shape what the Packers do in the 2023 NFL Draft.

So, which players should we key in on in terms of shaping what Green Bay ends up doing at the end of April? Let’s dive in.

1. Aaron Rodgers

The top one wasn’t going to be anyone else. Rodgers carries a big cap number in 2023 (a hair over $31 million), and the dead cap is very large if he retires or is cut. So, the idea of Rodgers returning for this season makes a lot of sense for the Packers, especially considering how the contract is structured.

From what we’ve gathered from his comments on the offseason, Rodgers wants a lot of guys back with him in 2023 if he does indeed return.

This includes Bakhtiari, Cobb, Tonyan, Lewis, and perhaps more. We know how highly he speaks of Jones. If Rodgers returns, the focus in the 2023 NFL Draft could yet again fall on defense, where safety, defensive line, and corner are prioritized.

If Rodgers returns and is traded elsewhere, the return, while not as massive as last year’s would have been, is sizeable enough to acquire talent for remaining holes on the roster and further strengthen other positions.

If Love is the guy, then offensive line could be looked at earlier. Getting a stud tight end should be a must, maybe even in the first round, where the Packers notoriously look at premium positions. Maybe this scenario is the way to a first-round receiver.

But, there’s one other thing to consider in the “trading Rodgers” scenario, one Packers fans will not favor: a quarterback competition. If Green Bay sticks at pick 15, and the right quarterback presents themselves, the opportunity might be too great to ignore. If someone like Anthony Richardson suits their fancy, don’t be surprised.

2. David Bakhtiari

Bakhtiari is the other very obvious one for Green Bay here, and an extremely important one, no matter who suits up under center in 2023.

He dealt with some injuries this season, but when Bakhtiari was on the field, he was as impressive as he’s been his whole career. His dominance as a pass protector, something crucial to allow quarterbacks some extra time for play extension, matters so much.

If they can’t find a way to restructure and Bakhtiari is cut, then it opens up Pandora’s box on the offensive line. Are you set with Zach Tom at left tackle and Yosh Nijman (assuming he’s back) on the right side? Even if you are, there isn’t much depth at all.

If Bakhtiari comes back, it eases a potential need in the short term, but 2024 could be another offseason to stress about offensive tackle. The Packers are often proactive in their search in the draft, and 2023 might not be different when it comes to tackle.

Three tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft are getting top-15 hype right now: Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, and Georgia’s Broderick Jones.

Skoronski is the most refined right now, but Johnson and Jones have the functional athleticism to thrive in zone and gap running schemes and room to grow as pass protectors. One of the three could start at right tackle in 2023 or be ready to roll come 2024.

3. Yosh Nijman

While not as important as Bakhtiari, Nijman is the clearly the third best (if not second best) tackle on the roster right now, and provides important depth.

His hand usage as a pass protector is getting better, but might not be enough to be the starter in 2023. His athleticism will be coveted in free agency if he doesn’t return, which again, could leave the Packers looking at one of the three prospects mentioned above.

4. Rudy Ford

Another gem of a find for Brian Gutekunst, Rudy Ford was initially signed to help out the special teams unit after its disaster in 2021. He contributed there early, but found his way into action at safety during the season.

The highlight of Ford’s year was his two interceptions in the Packers’ win over Dallas, and despite some inconsistencies, he’s growing in the Barry defense.

As mentioned above, both Ford and Amos might not return for 2023, which will leave a hole on the back end. Brian Branch is already getting tied to the Packers in mock drafts. He operates a lot in the STAR position and in the slot, but his instincts might translate to other positions on the back end.

5. Robert Tonyan/Marcedes Lewis

Tight end is the position that could have the most turnover this offseason. With Tonyan and Lewis potentially gone, it opens up a major hole. If both are back, Gutekunst and company might opt for the status quo. But if not, the room is shallow.

Josiah Deguara has been intriguing as a fullback/H-back type. He does offer plenty as a blocker to help out with the run game, but feels limited as a receiver at this point.

The 2023 NFL Draft presents one of the stronger tight end classes in quite some time. Michael Mayer is the clear-cut, refined TE1 that offers an extremely high floor in both phases, and has been a popular pick at 15 in mocks.

Darnell Washington is a younger Lewis. There will be plenty others to cover as we go through draft season, but two others to watch are Tucker Kraft and Dalton Kincaid.

BONUS: Aaron Jones

This might be a take in the minority, but the Packers need Jones, regardless of who quarterbacks the 2023 Packers. Hopefully, a restructure can get done to keep him, but if they cut Jones, the running back room needs an overhaul.

A.J. Dillon is fine, but more juice, better vision, and better pass catchers need to be on the list this offseason.

Defense has dominated the drafts of Packers past, but offense is going to be a big part of what Green Bay does when April rolls around.