Packers 2023 NFL Draft Outlook: Which positions are of importance?

The 2023 Draft is months away, but teams are already looking at the draft board. Which positions are of the most importance?

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I know it’s probably too early for most Packers fans to be thinking draft, but let’s look into a Packers 2023 NFL Draft outlook. I am going to separate the positions into: yes, maybe, or no. Now obviously things can change depending on free agency, injuries, trades, etc…You can play with the Packers 2023 cap at Over The Cap to give you an idea of what they are looking at going into 2023 in regards to free agency and the cap.

If you want to look into specific players for the 2023 NFL draft you can read some of my other NFL draft articles. Now, let’s get to it!

Yes?

So these are positions that I am expecting Gutekunst and the Packers to target early in the 2023 NFL draft (fourth round or earlier) pretty much regardless of what happens or the outlook on the position come year’s end.

Edge rusher:

Outside of Preston Smith and Rashaan Gary, there is very little talent at this position. Smith will also be over 30 in 2023, and Gutey tends to let guys walk around that age. Kingsley Enagbare may eventually become a decent #3 type, but they still need more depth and someone to eventually replace Smith. Regardless of what happens, I expect them to draft at least one in the first four rounds, possibly two.

Safety:

This position is some what similar to edge. There is no depth behind Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. All the guys behind them are, at best, #4 type players. Tariq Carpenter is a linebacker playing safety, and a guy who should only be playing special teams anyway.

Also both Savage and Amos will be free agents next offseason — the age that Gutey lets guys walk unless they are All-Pro or Pro Bowl level players. It’s possible he bucks that trend, but with their cap issues they may only be able to re-sign one or the other. So, more than likely they are looking at having to replace one of their starters in 2023.

Wide Receiver:

You may be thinking “But Brian, they just drafted three receivers?”. Yes that is true, but don’t forget: Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins will be free agents, and Randall Cobb is essentially playing on a one-year deal. So, all three of them could be gone, and I expect at least two of them to be gone. Also, Samouri Toure was just a seventh round pick and the history shows most don’t make it. Essentially, there is a good chance he doesn’t make the roster in 2022.

You are left with Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Amari Rodgers who are locks for 2023. Yes, they could sign a veteran, but again their cap situation will not leave them with much money to sign one. I would think if they do it will be for around what Watkins signed for. Even still, they need more talent in depth.

I don’t expect them to draft three like they did this year, but would not be surprised if they drafted one on day two and another late on day three.

Defensive line:

There are a few free agents at this position that can really sap the depth. Both Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed will be free agents after the 2022 season, and Jack Heflin might not even make the roster in 2022. So the Packers would be left with Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, and maybe Jonathan Ford (who I do not see making the roster in ’22).

Now we are hoping Slaton develops, but we just don’t know. They still need depth. With just those three guys on the roster, they will need at least a fourth and fifth. Your fourth guy tends to see a decent amount of playing time in the rotation.

So they may not draft someone in the first or second round, but don’t be surprised if they draft one in the third or fourth.

Maybe?

The 2023 NFL Draft outlook for the Packers at these positions will depend heavily on what happens in 2022 with players in regards to their play, free agency, and or how they come back from injury.

Tight end:

This position really depends on a number of factors. How does Robert Tonyan come back from his ACL? Is he the player he was in 2020 or similar to the guy he was in 2021? Big dog is probably in his last season in Green Bay and probably the NFL. But does he still look like he can continue to play, or has Father Time finally come for him?

As for Josiah Deguara, does he finally get back to the player he flashed he could be as a rookie before tearing his ACL? Or is the player he was in 2021 the player he is now? Finally, there is Tyler Davis. Does he continue to build upon what he flashed in 2021? Or was he just a flash in the pan and a bottom of the roster type guy?

There are a lot of questions to be answered at this position in 2022. Once we have those answers, we will have a better idea of how big of a need the position will be in the draft. I still feel they end up drafting at least one tight end somewhere, but it could just be on day three.

Offensive Tackle:

A position that is somewhat similar to tight end. There are a number of questions that need to be answered. Mostly injury related. If everyone gets healthy and is back to their old selves then this becomes a non-need. David Bakhtiari needs to be healthy and show he can at least play at a close level to his pre-injury self and the same with Elgton Jenkins.

If Yosh Nijman can show some progress in the preseason and early season, and Rasheed Walker shows he can play in the NFL then that will go a long way in solidifying the position. If, however, Bahktiari is a shadow of his old self or has trouble getting on the field, Nijman shows no growth. and Walker doesn’t look like he belongs this could become a big issue and the Packers will need to spend an early pick at the position (first two rounds probably).

Jenkins will also be a free agent after the season and could get a big pay day. If they don’t extend him he could get a big offer and walk.

Running back:

Another position with a lot of questions heading into 2023. Let’s start with Aaron Jones, whose cap number jumps to $20 million in 2023. There is no way Gutey is going to pay him that much. Does he take a pay cut, renegotiate his contract, or get cut outright?

If they cut him, they save $10 million on the cap. With his age and injury history, it seems like almost a certainty. If so, who is the 1B to AJ Dillion’s 1A? Does Kylin Hill show enough coming off his ACL tear to say that he can be that guy? Could Patrick Taylor or one of the undrafted rookies show something?

A lot will depend on the answers to those questions. Worst case scenario? They have to pretty much rebuild the position. Best case? They are set for the next few years and don’t need to draft the position, except maybe late day three.

Quarterback:

Everything, as always, depends on what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Do the Packers win the Super Bowl and he rides off in the sunset? Does he ask for a trade? Does Father Time hit him like a ton of bricks? Or do the Packers just decide to start the rebuild and trade him? He is impossible to cut due to the cap hit.

Then, of course, how does Jordan Love develop in the preseason? Does he even get in a regular season game?

The answers to these question will determine if they draft a QB. They could draft one in the first if everything goes south, or they could not draft one at all, or even somewhere in-between.

Special teams:

Kicker, punter, and long snapper could all be different in 2023. A lot again will depend on how they play. Mason Crosby is 38 and coming off a knee procedure. Father Time comes for everyone eventually.

Gabe Brkic has potential and may show something and the Packers keep him around to be his successor or he could fall on his face and the Packers end up having to draft a kicker in 2023. Same for Pat O’Donnell. He has been pretty average though his career and the Packers may look for an upgrade. As for long snapper, who knows?

No?

I add the question mark because you can never say 100% they won’t draft position X. You just don’t know what’s going go happen in season and how the draft ends up shaking out. Someone could drop to you that is too much of a good value so you draft them and figure it out later. But if everything goes more or less according to plan, I do not expect Gutey to draft any player from these positions early on (fourth round or earlier).

Linebacker:

Gutey just signed De’Vondre Campbell to a big contract extension, they just drafted Quay Walker at pick #22, and Krys Barnes is a very good #3. So Campbell isn’t going anywhere for at least a couple years. Walker will get at least three seasons to produce and Barnes is a restricted free agent next offseason. So the three of them should all be back in 2023. There would be no need to draft a linebacker any earlier than the sixth round.

Unless, again, someone falls to them and they take the value and figure it out later. They may try and take someone late day three to improve that fourth linebacker spot, but outside of something like that I don’t see them touching the position.

Interior Offensive line:

The Packers have recently stocked up on interior offensive linemen. In the last three years they have drafted eight players who are either interior offensive linemen or, at the very least, guys who can play inside. Simon Stepaniak is the only one of the eight who is not still with the team. A number of them have shown they can at least play at the NFL level.

With the cases of Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, and Royce Newman they have all shown they can all be starters. Jake Hanson has improved a lot since his rookie training camp and he has looked like an NFL player. Cole Van Lanen is still a wait and see, and of course so are Sean Rhyan and Zach Tom who have both seen time in practice on the interior.

It is a position that they have a lot of depth at, and I do not see any reason for them to draft one in 2023 outside of late day three.

Cornerback:

Brian Gutekunst has set Matt LaFleur up with probably the best top three corners group in the league. Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas have all played like #1 cornerbacks. The NFL has become a sub-package league, where teams are in nickel A LOT.

Joe Barry did not use dime personal very much last season. Maybe due to personnel, or due to just not liking to use it much. Either way with what Keisean Nixon showed in 2021 playing the slot for the Raiders, the Packers should be fine at dime back as well. With Shemar Jean-Charles as the #5/special teamer, Barry seems to be set at the position.

Of course I would not be surprised if they did draft one on day three to compete with SJC or Nixon, but I wouldn’t expect it any earlier than the fifth round.

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