The massive first-round mistake Packers must avoid in 2024 NFL Draft

Green Bay Packers
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No matter what Pat McAfee says, Brian Gutekunst deserves credit for transforming the Green Bay Packers' roster with consecutive home-run draft classes.

Part of Gutekunst's success has been acquiring draft capital to do it again this year. The Packers hold five picks on the opening two days.

Just how good is their draft situation? Tankathon has the Packers fifth in their NFL Draft power rankings, which is based on the value of each team's picks. The four teams above Green Bay own top-six selections.

If the Packers get this offseason right, they can position themselves as serious Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. They proved themselves by almost upsetting the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round. They can reach the next level in the months ahead.

However, the Packers must avoid making a huge mistake on the opening night.

Packers must avoid reaching for a safety in first round of 2024 NFL Draft

Safety sits atop the list of offseason needs for the Packers. Not only are Darnell Savage, Jonathan Owens, and Rudy Ford free agents, but new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley's system requires excellent safety play.

Through free agency and the draft, Green Bay will have opportunities to get the help it needs at the position. But Gutekunst shouldn't reach for a safety on the opening night.

The draft class has talent at the position, but it's not a deep class. There are no superstar prospects. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah didn't include a safety in his rankings of the top 50 prospects. Cornerbacks could come off the board early, but several national mock drafts feature zero safeties in the first round.

It could be tempting for the Packers to reach for Miami's Kamren Kinchens or Minnesota's Tyler Nubin at No. 25—both are excellent prospects who could significantly upgrade the defense. But Green Bay should avoid reaching for a player at a position of need.

A perfect scenario would see the Packers' top prospect on the board also fix one of their biggest needs. Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell and Iowa's Cooper DeJean are dream first-round targets. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Drafting for need over the "best player available" is a risky approach. The Packers have five top-100 picks; they don't have to panic at any area of need. Gutekunst prioritizes athleticism, production, and premium positions in the first round, and he should stick to that approach.

A player like Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton, Missouri edge rusher Darius Robinson, or Illinois defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton might not play at the Packers' biggest positions of need, but they could all help the team improve.

Gutekunst's track record suggests he won't reach. Wide receiver was a need in 2020, but after missing out on the top prospects, he preferred to draft none rather than reach for a player he didn't think would upgrade the room.

That's the approach to take. Draft the best player in the first round and prioritize positions of need elsewhere.

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