Packers draft blueprint led to a historically significant 2023 rookie class

Green Bay Packers
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For a franchise that has historically prioritized building through the draft, it's imperative for the Green Bay Packers to hit on a couple of players in a majority of draft classes.

But turning draft picks into great players is a tall task for any team across the NFL, and rarely do teams consecutively stack up great classes. For Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst, no class in his tenure has been more critical to get right than in 2023.

His first couple of drafts were less than well received by a fanbase hoping he'd go all in on the final years of a Super Bowl window with Aaron Rodgers. That doesn't negate that he's made some big hits.

Fast forward to today, the blueprint for the Packers' future is playing out in front of our eyes. Thanks to decisions in previous seasons, this year's rookie class is primed to leave one of the longest-lasting marks on the franchise.

2018-2019: Laying The Foundation

The 2018 and 2019 drafts were significant in their own sense, and it's certainly the case that not enough was done to propel Aaron Rodgers to another Super Bowl in the form of first-round offensive weapons.

Both drafts were ultimately duds salvaged by three players who are tops at their position and have earned mega-extensions in Green Bay: Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, and Elgton Jenkins. Darnell Savage also had a great start to his career before sputtering in Joe Barry's defense.

However, Gutekunst was clearly following the Packers' historical playbook with first-round draft picks. Before 2020, 12 of the last 15 first-round picks for the Packers were defense. Only Aaron Rodgers and two offensive tackles were the exception.

The Packers are dedicated to building their defense with cream-of-the-crop talent and have afforded the means to do so thanks to being impeccable with drafting skill-position players and offensive linemen in every other round.

With minimal top young talent on the defense when Gutekunst took over, it's understandable that a priority was to add players who would become staples of the unit for years to come.

But like when Thompson took over in 2005 and used his very first draft pick on Aaron Rodgers, Gutekunst wasted little time to lock up "his guy."