Draft recap, part two: The Packers address defensive and O-line needs with versatility and athleticism

By Jalen Maki

Last week, we took a look at a few notable storylines from this year’s NFL Draft. Now it’s time to get to the really important stuff: who the Green Bay Packers selected.

All-in-all, I can’t say any of the Packers’ picks were overly surprising. The Packers have historically prioritized versatility, they see competition as a key component in fielding the best team possible, and they generally gravitate towards Good Character Guys.

This year’s draft embodies those ways of thinking. Green Bay brought in several offensive linemen who can slot in at multiple spots, they doubled (and even tripled) up at a few positions, and five of their picks were team captains during their college careers.

Here’s a little more on the newest Green Bay Packers:

Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

Heading into the draft with 11 total selections, the Packers had the ammo to move up or down the board if they wanted to. But, general manager Gutekunst and company stood pat at pick 25 and took Arizona offensive tackle Jordan Morgan.

Morgan played nearly his entire career as a Wildcat at left tackle. Over his last three seasons at Arizona, Morgan allowed eight sacks, 10 hits, and 39 hurries. Morgan sought to enter last year’s draft, but he chose to return to Arizona for the 2023 season after tearing his right ACL in November 2022.

While the selection might’ve felt a tad underwhelming in the moment – I, like many other Packer fans, was hoping to hear Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean’s name called –  the pick makes sense for Green Bay. Quarterback Jordan Love is likely about to get Big-Time Paid with a contract extension (if he hasn’t already by the time you’re reading this), and the guy’s going to have to remain upright. Longtime left tackle David Bakhtiari is no longer in the building, and with six tackles coming off the board before Morgan, nabbing a potential day-one and long-term starter at the position when they had the chance was good business for the Packers. Green Bay is known for its flexibility up front (a recurring theme in this draft), and Gutekunst said he believes Morgan can line up in both tackle and guard positions. You could call it an “eat your vegetables” kind of pick, but if Morgan hits, the Packers will have yet another player in a long line of reliable Big Men.

Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M

The middle of the defense was among the Packers’ most glaring needs entering the draft, and Gutekunst took a step towards addressing it with the team’s second pick. In round two, at 45th overall, Green Bay selected Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, praised as one of the best at the position in this year’s class.

With De’Vondre Campbell signing in San Francisco this offseason, and with new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley transitioning from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3, the Packers needed another guy in its linebacker room. They now have a fantastic athlete in Cooper, who ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine – tied for the third-fastest time logged by a linebacker. In his final season as an Aggie, Cooper had 83 tackles (including 17 for loss), eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Pairing Cooper with the similarly speedy and athletic Quay Walker could give the Packers one of the most dynamic linebacker duos in the league.

Javon Bullard, S, Georgia

Speaking the middle of the defense, the Packers landed one of the draft’s top safeties in the second round.

Georgia’s Javon Bullard, taken by the Packers at 58th overall, is known for his competitive nature and eagerness to make tackles. Bullard was a versatile piece of Georgia’s defense, taking snaps at nickel corner on the 2022 National Championship team before shifting to safety last year. Over his final two seasons as a Bulldog, Bullard logged 102 tackles (including eight for loss), 3.5 sacks, and four interceptions.

Bullard and the newly-signed Xavier McKinney would give the Packers an aggressive and athletic one-two punch in the defensive backfield, but the job isn’t Bullard’s just yet – he could have some competition with another safety (or two) taken later in the draft.

Bullard is the latest Georgia defensive player to be drafted by the Packers. Over the last four years, Green Bay has brought in three other Bulldogs – Walker, cornerback Eric Stokes, and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt. Georgia’s consistently fielded top-tier defenses in recent years, so I won’t complain if there’s a pattern developing here.

MarShawn Lloyd, RB, USC

Joining safety as another (mostly) new-look position in Green Bay is running back. Aaron Jones left for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, about an hour after the Packers signed former Las Vegas Raider Josh Jacobs, and AJ Dillon is set to return to the team this season.

In the third round, with the 88th pick, Green Bay added the tough yet quick MarShawn Lloyd to their RB room.

Lloyd had the best season of his college career in 2023. In his lone year at USC, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry on his way to racking up 820 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He also averaged about four yards after contact and logged 13 receptions for 232 yards. Prior to that, Lloyd tallied 793 total yards, ten rushing touchdowns, and two touchdown catches at South Carolina from 2021 to 2022. Lloyd ended his college career with 2,000-plus total yards and 21 scores.

Head coach Matt LaFleur noted that Lloyd has “really good speed,” while Gutekunst pointed to Lloyd’s physical running style and tackle-breaking ability, saying the team thinks his best football is ahead of him.

And, Lloyd didn’t hesitate in making it known how he feels about what he can bring to the Packers.

“I’m the best running back in this draft, for sure, and I think Green Bay got the best running back in this draft,” he said.

I like the confidence!

Depth at linebacker, safety, and O-line

The Packers made several other selections in an effort to shore up the middle of the defense and the offensive line, while adding some depth.

Just a few picks after taking Lloyd, Green Bay selected Missouri linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper at 91st overall. Similar to Cooper, the athletic Hopper was touted for his speed heading into the draft, and bringing him in seems to signal there’ll be some competition at the position, which also includes Isaiah McDuffie.

After doubling down on the linebacker position, Gutekunst and company decided to follow suit in the fourth round, this time at safety. At 111th overall, the Packers took Oregon’s Evan Williams, who could go head-to-head with Bullard for the second starting safety spot alongside McKinney.

With the first of their two fifth-round picks, the Packers selected Duke offensive lineman Jacob Monk at 163. Monk, who slotted in at right tackle, right guard, and center over the course of his five years as a Blue Devil, is yet another O-lineman that provides interchangeability for the Packers.

Why not triple down at safety? At pick 169, Gutekunst chose Oregon State’s Kitan Oladapo. With Bullard, Williams, and Oladapo now on the roster, the Packers have almost completely revamped their safety room from last year. Darnell Savage, Jonathan Owens, and Rudy Ford are gone, and Anthony Johnson Jr., a 2023 seventh-round pick, is the only safety set to return.

Siri, what’s a synonym for “versatile”? The Packers continued their strategy of bringing in O-linemen they can shift around when they took Georgia State offensive tackle Travis Glover in the sixth round at 202nd overall. Glover logged snaps at right tackle, left tackle, and left guard in college.

The Packers had two picks in the seventh round. At 245th overall, they selected Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt. Earlier this year, Gutekunst said he’d like to see the team get back into drafting QBs, as they’d done in the past (see: Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, Mark Brunell, etc.), and Pratt will likely square off with Sean Clifford, the Penn State product the Packers took in the fifth round last year, for the backup role behind Jordan Love.

With their final pick at 255, Green Bay selected Penn State cornerback Kalen King. King had a stellar 2022 season before seeing a dip in production last year. With the pick, the Packers added some positional depth, but if King returns to his 2022 form, he could be among the biggest steals of the draft.Jalen’s columns, “The Free Play” and “Movies You Gotta See,” can be found online at www.medium.com/@jalenmaki.

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