NFC North Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

NFC North preview

The NFC North has been dominated by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for a while now. With big time players moving in-division, the NFC North could be close this year. Here’s a look at what each team did this offseason, and how I believe they will finish in this NFC North preview.

NFC North Preview

4. Chicago Bears

Key losses – RB Damien Williams, WR Jakeem Grant, P Pat O’Donnell, QB Nick Foles, WR Allen Robinson, DE Bilal Nichols, OG Alex Bars, QB Andy Dalton, OG James Daniels, CB Artie Burns, DE Akiem Hicks, OT Jason Peters, DE Khalil Mack

Key additions – HC Matt Eberflus, DT Justin Jones, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, C Lucas Patrick, WR Byron Pringle, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Riley Reiff, OLB Nicolas Morrow, TE Ryan Griffin, WR N’Keal Harry, CB Kyler Gordon, S Jaquan Brisker, WR Velus Jones Jr.

Re-signed – S DeAndre Houston-Carson (1-year)

Extensions – LS Patrick Scales (1-year, $1.2 million)

After going 6-11 in the regular season, the Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy after four seasons. Matt Eberflus takes over after spending last season in Indianapolis as defensive coordinator. The rookie head coach will try to turn the franchise around with Justin Fields going into his second NFL season.

Fields came in looking like a rookie last season, and it didn’t help that Nagy was calling the plays, as they finished 24th in total offense. They ranked even worse in points, as they were 27th in the NFL. They didn’t do much in the offseason to fill those holes, either.

We’ll have to see if Justin Fields makes the leap in with a new coach, but the offensive line won’t help. They rank in the bottom five of the league in the NFL, and could be dead last. However, David Montgomery is back with Khalil Herbert in the backfield — but I don’t expect much from them.

The last part of the offense is the receiving corps, and it is easily the worst in the NFL. Darnell Mooney is still there and still has potential, but isn’t close to a #1 wideout. Behind him they have Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr. Those three have combined for 37 receptions in a combined six seasons. They can still prove to be weapons on an NFL offense, but I don’t expect it.

With Khalil Mack gone, that leaves Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith as the leaders of this defense. Quinn leads a defensive line that is one of the worst in the league, and will most likely fall lower than their ranking of 23rd against the run last season. Smith will help that cause and newly acquired Nicholas Morrow will fill in nicely next to him. It’s an, at-best, average linebacker group in the NFL.

The final part of this team is the secondary. You’re probably thinking there has to be one good part of this team. Well… there’s not. The secondary is very young with two rookies starting. One of those players is Kyler Gordon, who will be opposite of Jaylon Johnson at cornerback. They can eventually both grow to be a great duo, but are too inexperienced and young right now. Jaquan Brisker is the other rookie starting at safety alongside Eddie Jackson, who is the oldest in the secondary.

Prediction

I expect another long season for Bears fans with a new regime. I have them going 3-14, and 1-5 against the NFC North. With Nagy now gone, they will be looking to rebuild the right way.

3. Detroit Lions

Key losses – OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, DE Trey Flowers, DT Nick Williams

Key additions – WR DJ Chark, CB Mike Hughes, LB Chris Board, ILB Jarrad Davis, OT Kendall Lamm, S Deshon Elliott, RB Justin Jackson, DE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams, DE Josh Paschal, S Kerby Joseph

Re-signed – FB Jason Cabinda (2-years), K Riley Patterson (1-year), LB Alex Anzalone (1-year), S Tracy Walker (3-years), C Evan Brown (1-year), OLB Charles Harris (2-years), WR Kalif Raymond (1-year)

The first season since 2008 without Matthew Stafford went about as you’d expect for the Detroit Lions. They finished 3-13-1, earning the first overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. They ended up drafting twice in the top ten and are looking to start moving in the right direction this year in head coach Dan Campbell’s second season.

They’re tied to Jared Goff for a little bit longer, after ranking 22nd in total offense last season. D’Andre Swift looked solid in his second season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and will look to improve with a top five offensive line. It’s an offensive line that includes three first round picks that Detroit nailed.

Tight end features T.J. Hockenson, who hasn’t lived up to the hype yet, but has still been a quality starter. Amon-Ra St. Brown shined towards the end of last season, and now has some quality counterparts. DJ Chark comes over from Jacksonville and will help open up the field along with rookie Jameson Williams. However, Williams is still recovering from a torn ACL, but should be ready a few weeks into the season.

The defense ranked 29th last year, but is getting a big boost from #1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. He joins a defensive line that has potential, but will still be a bottom-ten unit in the league. They won’t be getting a lot of help from linebackers Alex Anzalone and Chris Board, either. Both players have been unable to prove to be quality starters in this league.

The secondary will still rank towards the bottom of the league, but it will be interesting to see if cornerback Amani Oruwariye can build off a good 2021. Jeff Okudah is still coming back from an Achilles injury, so Mike Hughes will be opposite Oruwariye. The safety tandem of Tracy Walker and DeShone Elliott is average, so I wouldn’t expect too much from this defense.

Prediction

I like the direction Dan Campbell is taking this team, but they need to put some wins up this year. I believe they will, finishing the season 7-10, and 1-5 against the rest of the NFC North.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Key losses – S Xavier Woods, OLB Anthony Barr, OLB Nick Vigil, TE Tyler Conklin, C Mason Cole

Key additions – HC Kevin O’Connell, OLB Za’Darius Smith, DT Harrison Phillips, ILB Jordan Hicks, OG Chris Reed, OG Jesse Davis, TE Johnny Mundt, S Lewis Cine, CB Andrew Booth Jr., OG Ed Ingram, LB Brian Asamoah

Re-signed – CB Patrick Peterson (1-year)

Extensions – QB Kirk Cousins (1-year, $35 million)

The Vikings missed the playoffs for the second straight season, going 8-9 and finishing second in the NFC North. They fired Mike Zimmer and decided to bring in Kevin O’Connell, former Rams offensive coordinator. O’Connell will look to lead the Vikings to the playoffs, and hopefully farther.

Last year’s offense ranked 12th in the NFL, but could take a jump this year. O’Connell is bringing a Super Bowl-quality playbook to help quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins is also getting help from amazing offensive weapons. Dalvin Cook is back to take the load off of Cousins’ plate, looking for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season.

However, Cook is running behind a below-average offensive line. If Christian Darrisaw can improve off of a good 2021 as a rookie, this line can move to top 15 in the league. The receiving corps is loaded, with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen starring. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. is looking to make a jump and open up the field for Jefferson and Thielen. It should be a top-10 offense this year with O’Connell at the helm.

The defensive side of the ball struggled last season, finishing 30th in the NFL. They got some help up front with edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. It’s now a top-15 defensive line in the league. Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks help create a top ten linebacker corps in the league and will look to fill the lanes.

The secondary is slightly above average after adding two players in this year’s draft. Lewis Cline is one of them who could start along side Harrison Smith to create a nice safety tandem. The cornerbacks feature Patrick Peterson, who is aging, and Cameron Dantzler, who looks to shine this season. It is a much-improved secondary looking to be a top-15 group in the league.

Prediction

I believe the Vikings did well this offseason and will make it back to the playoffs this season. I have them finishing 10-7 after going 4-2 in the division. Expect a monster season from Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson.

1. Green Bay Packers

Key losses – C Lucas Patrick, P Corey Bojorquez, OT Billy Turner, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, OLB Za’Darius Smith, CB Chandon Sullivan, ILB Oren Burks, WR Davante Adams

Key additions – P Pat O’Donnell, DE Jarran Reed, WR Sammy Watkins, LB Quay Walker, DL Devonte Wyatt, WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs, OL Sean Rhyan

Re-signed – CB Rasul Douglas (3-years), Robert Tonyan Jr. (1-year), LB De’Vondre Campbell (5-years)

Extensions – CB Jaire Alexander (4-years, $84 million), QB Aaron Rodgers (3-years, $150 million), LB Preston Smith (4-years, $52 million)

The Packers ran away with the NFC North last year and earned the #1 seed in the NFC all-together. They finished 13-4, before losing in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers. They traded away superstar wideout Davante Adams, so we’ll see if quarterback Aaron Rodgers can win his third straight MVP without him.

The offense ranked tenth last year, and is now without its top target from a year ago. Rookie wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will have to step up to carry the load. Tight end Robert Tonyan is looking to shine again after a breakout season with 11 touchdowns, and could help Rodgers make the passing game top ten.

Rodgers will be protected by a top-tier offensive line. There is a minor worry at tackl,e with Elgton Jenkins still working back from an ACL tear. The running back room is phenomenal with AJ Dillon being the bruiser, and Aaron Jones being a quality dual-threat back. This offense will be scary as long as they have #12 under center.

The defense was phenomenal last season, as they ranked ninth in total defense. They lost Za’Darius Smith to the Vikings, but still bring in a great front seven. The defensive line ranks in my top five, while the linebacker unit is in the top ten. De’Vondre Campbell leads the linebackers, alongside rookie Quay Walker. The defensive line includes superstar Kenny Clark, who gets help from pass rusher Rashan Gary.

The secondary could be the biggest strength of this team. With superstar Jaire Alexander, they have lockdown ability along with a top-flight safety tandem in Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos. This defense should be elite this season, as they don’t have a major weakness.

Prediction

The Packers have the back-to-back MVP, so I don’t expect them to lose this division. I have them finishing 12-5, and 6-0 against the NFC North. Expect a superstar to emerge on that offense.

Final Packers Roster Prediction

Training camp and the preseason has made the final cut down as always very interesting for Packers fans. As constructed, the Packers roster heading into training camp doesn’t have as many questions as a lot of other teams did. Still, there are some interesting competitions going on. Some do not seem to have an obvious winner while others do. So lets get to it and go over my final Packers roster prediction.

I will also list my practice squad predictions and day one roster moves. For an idea of how my views of the Packers roster has changed, check out my previous Packers roster prediction piece. Of course, you can also find the Packers roster on their official site.

Packers Roster Prediction: Offense

Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Quarterback: (2)

Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

Does anything else need to be said here? This position has been set since before training camp.

Running back: (3)

Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Patrick Taylor

This one was a bit of a hard one. Both Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson were deserving of the 3rd spot. Coach LaFleur came out recently and said special teams and blocking would be a large determining factor in who ends up being the 3rd running back. Goodson obviously had the special teams snafu and got trucked in pass pro. So I gave it to Taylor who has contributed at both.

There is a chance Taylor gets cut on cut-down day and re-signed a day later. Goodson is a year away from being able to trust in pass pro. He needs a year in the weight room to put on some functional strength and bulk, being under 200 pounds right now. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are obvious and easy.

Wide Receiver: (6)

Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, Amari Rodgers, Christian Watson

The top six are set and have been set since before training camp. There have been a lot of Packers bloggers and fans talking about “The Packers have to keep Toure” or “Winfree will get claimed”.

What’s funny is Packers fans say this every year during training camp when some bottom of the roster receiver makes some plays in camp. Then of course the Player doesn’t get claimed and ends up on the practice squad. Even if Juwann Winfree gets picked up, are the Packers really missing out? He is a nice story, but he is a #4/#5 receiver at best.

I doubt Samori Toure gets picked up, because there is a reason he went in the 7th round. From a pure athletic standpoint he is average for an NFL receiver. He struggles with press, which he would see A LOT more of in a regular season game, and he is going to end up playing mostly in the slot. The Packers already have three guys who will play in the slot.

Tight End: (4)

Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis

Three of these guys were always locks to make the roster. Only questions were: Will Robert Tonyan start the year on the PUP list? Well that’s already been answered. Will Tyler Davis do enough to keep his spot? I would say barely, but his hold on a roster spot will be tenuous until he starts playing better. Would they keep five tight ends? None of the other tight ends stepped up enough to force their way on the roster.

Offensive Line: (9)

David Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, Zach Tom, Jake Hanson, Elgton Jenkins, Sean Rhyan

Whether to keep nine or 10 offensive linemen is a big question. A lot will depend on how the Packers feel about the availability of Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari at the beginning of the season.

If they feel neither will be ready, I could see them keeping a 10th. But it seems from practice reports Jenkins should be good to go. Maybe he misses Week 1, but beyond that it looks like he’ll be ready. I think if the Packers at least have Jenkins early, they will feel fine with nine until Bakhtiari is ready since he can play anywhere.

If they keep a 10th, it will be between Caleb Jones and Rasheed Walker. The rest of the line is pretty set.

Packers Roster Prediction: Defense

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Defensive Line: (5)

Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt

I know Jack Heflin has been the talk of Packers Twitter after the good game he had against KC. But I just don’t see them keeping six. They play a lot of two DL in their nickel packages, which take of 70% of the snaps on defense. So that 6th guy is probably essentially a game day inactive all season.

Even if someone gets hurt you, might see them go into a game with only four active DL, especially against teams that pass a lot. Or, they could just bring up someone from the practice squad for a game or two. They also will want to get Wyatt snaps; being a 1st round pick and all. I don’t see anyone claiming Heflin either.

Edge Defenders: (5)

Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare, Kobe Jones, Jonathan Garvin

This position was interesting. You have four guys fighting it out for two spots. They all bring their own different skills sets. Keeping each has different advantages and disadvantages. Kobe Jones and Jonathan Garvin are the two who have shown the most upside, and been the most consistent throughout camp. Jones has those long 34 1/2″ arms. Garvin still flashes upside with his elite explosiveness and length.

They could keep Tipa Galeai for his special teams play, but he’s not a player you really want seeing many snaps from scrimmage. He is 25 going on 26, and hasn’t shown much growth. Galeai came in at 229 and looks like he might weight 235 now. He is probably maxed out.

La’Darius Hamilton has shown flashes, but for the most part looks like he is the player he is going to be. This is another position though that may see someone cut and re-signed a day later.

Linebackers: (4)

De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie

This group was an easy one. De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker are your starters, with Krys Barnes and Isaiah McDuffie as your 3a and 3b. From preseason play, it looks like both will play plenty of special teams. I think Barnes will see most of the #3 reps, especially in shorter yardage situations.

Cornerbacks: (6)

Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon, Shermar Jean-Charles, Kiondre Thomas

At the start of camp the top three were set, but after that was a lot of unknown. Throughout camp Keisean Nixon showed up — once he was healthy. Shermar Jean-Charles showed some improvement from year 1, and Kiondre Thomas stepped up of the remaining corners.

Nixon should see some time in the slot, dime back, and of course on special teams. Jean-Charles looks like a solid #4/#5 CB and special teamer. Thomas stepped up the most from scrimmage of him, Kabion Ento, and Rico Gafford. He, of course, will also play special teams when activated. Interestingly he is probably the third-fastest of the six corners, behind Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes, of course.

Safeties: (4/5)

Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Shawn Davis, Micah Abernathy, (Dallin Leavitt)

After the starters this position was a big question mark. Who would be the #3 and #4? Would they keep five? Through training camp and last minute pick ups, I feel those questions have been answered.

Shawn Davis showed some flashes in mini camp and continued to play well in training camp and preseason. I’d say he is locked in as the #3 safety. He was battling Vernon Scott, until Scott was injured and waived. That left the #4 spot wide open. Tariq Carpenter was injured most of camp, and when he did play he got burned in coverage.

Innis Gaines and De’Vante Cross didn’t do anything, and Dallin Leavitt was injured early on. That leaves Micah Abernathy, who looked explosive, aggressive, and physical. All great fits for special teams and a guy who could play some snaps if there was was an injury. He also tested out as an elite athlete when he came out with a 9.09 RAS score.

Dallin Leavitt will be on the initial 53, but will go to the IR the next day and may be brought back later in the season.

Specialists: (3)

Mason Crosby, Pat O’Donnell, Jack Coco

This is a pretty easy group to pick out. Mason Crosby says he will be ready. Pat O’Donnell has had some boomers, but also out kicked his coverage a couple times. Jack Coco is the only question.

Coco hasn’t been bad per se, but he hasn’t been great either. He is definitely better than Steven Wirtel. There is a chance that another long snapper gets cut that Green Bay likes better, but for now I think Coco stays.

Practice Squad: (16)

Danny Etling, Tyler Goodson, BJ Baylor, Caleb Jones, Rasheed Walker, Sal Cannella, Samori Toure, Juwann Winfree, Jack Heflin, Chris Slayton, Jonathan Ford, Ellis Brooks, Kabion Ento, Tariq Carpenter, Ramiz Ahmed, and a free agent

Offense

Danny Etling is the #3/emergency QB. Goodson and BJ Baylor get a year to develop and could get activated with Aaron Jones’ injury history. Same thing with Caleb Jones and Walker. Jones needs to continue to work on his body and Walker on his technique.

Sal Cannella showed some flashes as a move TE. He could be worth a year to develop. Toure gets time to develop and hopefully come in next year to replace Randal Cobb. Winfree would be the first guy up in case of an injury. Heflin would be the first guy to be called up if there was an injury as well. He has looked a little quicker this pre-season. If he continues to work, he could be a rotational guy next year.

Defense

Chris Slayton showed some flashes as a play-maker and could make the rotation next season. Jonathan Ford is overkill right now with the Packers already having three guys who can play nose tackle on the roster and Ford being a “nose-tackle-only” type player. He also needs to continue to work on his fitness and his anchor. For a NT, his anchor is not that good.

Ellis Brooks is young and still has some potential. Summers and Wilborn are 26 and 25 respectively, and we kind of know what they are at this point. Just because he knows the defense, I think they keep Kabion Ento, but I would not be surprised if they brought someone in from the outside.

Carpenter gets to change meeting rooms (linebacker) and told to put on 5 to 10 pounds. Ramiz Ahmed is kept incase Crosby’s age starts to show or he’s not ready by week one. I also see them bringing in at least one outside player — They usually bring in at least one. Probably a safety, cornerback, or interior offensive lineman.

There is my final prediction for the Packers roster. I hope you enjoyed reading the 100th Packers roster prediction article out there. Let me know what you guys think!

49ers Preseason Preview: Five Things To Watch vs. the Packers

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The San Francisco 49ers kick off their preseason Friday against the Green Bay Packers. After 12 days of training camp, the players are still fighting for roster spots, more play time, and want to show the league what they’re made of. With that in mind, here are five players/position groups to keep an eye on Friday night.

1. Trey Lance

All eyes will be on Lance for this first preseason game. Kyle Shanahan said that some starters will play Friday, including Lance. The former third overall pick had an up-and-down camp, showing flashes of greatness throughout. This will be the first test in the Trey Lance era. Was benching Lance the correct move last season? How much has Lance improved since his week 17 start in 2021? While we might not see much of Lance during the game, fans should be focused on the few series he does play.

2. Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, and Jordan Mason

Running backs Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell, and Ty Davis-Price are locks to make the roster this season. These three running backs – Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, and Jordan Mason – still has something to prove. Historically, the 49ers have kept four running backs come cut day, meaning that at least one of these players won’t be a 49er come August 30.

I expect all three of these players to get snaps on Friday. Hasty and Wilson have much-needed veteran presence in this young core. While those two appear to be the favorites to make the roster, don’t count out Jordan Mason. The undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech has shined throughout training camp, and has made a strong case to be RB4. This will be Mason’s biggest test yet, and everyone can see what he’s truly made of tonight.

3. Kick Returners

Special teams was a massive problem last season for the 49ers. New special teams coordinator Brian Schneider has a lot of work to do to improve from the 49ers’ abysmal 2021 squad.

Kick returner was a key issue last season, and the 49ers signed multiple guys this offseason to fight for that role. Players who have returned kicks in training camp include: Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Aiyuk, Danny Gray, Malik Turner, Marcus Johnson, and KeeSean Johnson. Both Johnsons returned kicks on Wednesday. Those players may not all get reps, but the ones who do will have to make the most of it. Ray-Ray McCloud is listed at the top of the depth chart, but I’d expect others to compete for his spot.

4. The Center Battle

Daniel Brunskill and Jake Brendel have been fighting all camp long to be the starting center. Throughout camp, Brunskill would be on the first team one day, then Brendel would take those reps the next day (FWIW, Brunskill took the first team reps on Wednesday). Kyle Shanahan stated that he wants to see how both play in game, so expect to see both players get plenty of snaps.

Center is the most crucial position on the offensive line in Shanahan’s offense. With Pro Bowler Alex Mack recently retiring, starting center will be Shanahan’s biggest decision to make come week 1.

5. Nickelback

This viewing guide is a bit offense-heavy, so let’s throw some defense in! The 49ers lost K’Waun Williams this past offseason. They utilized Williams a lot, and they’ll needs to fill his role at nickelback. Veteran Darqueze Dennard took reps towards the beginning of camp, but Samuel Womack got the nod for that role on Wednesday and took advantage of it.

Additionally, towards the beginning of camp, Dontae Johnson took snaps at nickelback. I’d expect all three players to play in the 49ers’ first preseason game. The battle at the position should continue throughout the preseason, but Friday’s game should give people a good sense of how the battle is going thus far.

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.

Green Bay Packers: First 53 Man Roster Prediction

Credit: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

My first 53 man roster predication of the year. This is post mini-camp, pre training camp. Something fans seem to forget when putting together a 53 man roster is that it NFL teams do not just pick the 53 best players. Since 1/4 of the players on a roster are going to be role players. They will need guys to play special teams, guys who can back up at multiple positions, and a balanced roster. So with my prediction I try to follow those rules. You can find the current roster here.

QB(2):

Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

I would love for them to keep Kurt Benkert. I feel he has #2 quarterback potential, but it just doesn’t make sense in this day and age. I’m pretty sure they would love to have him back on the practice squad.

RB(3):

Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Patrick Taylor

The top two are super easy. Jones and Dillon will see the lions share of snaps/carries. The battle will be for the #3/#4 back. With Kylin Hill coming of the ACL tear he will end up starting the season on the PUP and I feel Taylor offers the best of both worlds for the #3 spot. He can do a bit of everything and he still has some upside. Goodson and Baylor should have shots at being on the practice squad.

WR(6):

Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers

A lot of people want to keep Samori Toure and I get it, but right now I don’t see a spot on the roster for him. He struggles with press coverage and he is more of a slot receiver. The Packers already have two slot receivers. LaFleur rarely uses four receiver sets. Also with the lack of experience at wide receiver on the roster its expected they will lean on their running game and use their backs in the passing game. Toure can play special teams but so can Doubs, Lazard and Watson. So I see Toure spending a season on the practice squad getting stronger.

TE(4):

Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Dominique Daffney

This group was another easy group to figure out. Lewis is your blocker, Deguara is your hback, Davis is kind of the do it all guy, and Daffney is the hback/full back type guy. Robert Tonyan starts the year on the PUP. Out of the other two tight ends on the roster I think Wolf probably has the best shot at being back on the practice squad.

OL(10)

David Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, Sean Rhyan, Cole Van Lanen, Zach Tom, Jake Hanson, Rasheed Walker

The only debate with this group was whether to keep 9 or 10. Hanson and Van Lanen were the border line guys. With Jenkins likely starting the season on the PUP I think they go with 10 and probably Van Lanen gets cut. Every offensive lineman on this roster has positional versatility outside of Bakhtiari, Nijman and Walker. Walker could learn guard though.

Offense(25)

DL(5):

Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, Jarran Reed

A number of people want to keep 6 and I get it, but there is no need. The Packers rarely run a three DL front. I don’t see the reason for keeping Jonathan Ford. He is a pure nose tackle and the Packers already have three guys on the roster capable of playing that position. He would just be a waste of a roster spot. They should easily be able to place him on the practice squad. Wyatt and Clark are the pass rushers. Reed and Lowry are kind of the do it all guys and Slaton is the developmental guy that can play some NT and provide a little pass rush.

Edge(5):

Rashawn Gary, Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare, Randy Ramsey, Jonathan Garvin

Gary, Smith, and Enagbare are all locks to make the roster. After them it comes down to what type of edge rushers do the Packers want as their #4/#5 guys. Historically it seems they like to keep at least one for special teams duties. That is why I kept Ramsey and Garvin because of the guys left he probably has the most potential.

LB(5):

De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie, Ellis Brooks

Campbell and Walker will be the starters. Barnes is still good enough to see some time though. He has also shown he can play special teams and could see an increase in snaps there with a reduction of snaps from scrimmage. McDuffie is there purely for special teams. Brooks is a down the road developmental guy. He started just two years at Penn State, but also played a lot of special teams his first two years so he can contribute there while developing.

DB(10):

Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon, Shemar Jean-Charles, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott, Tariq Carpenter, Raleigh Texada

I feel the top five corners are pretty much locked in at this point. Obviously Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas are your top thee. Nixon and Jean-Charles are both solid special teams players who look to be better slot corners than outside corners and the Packers lack a true slot in the top three guys. Nixon is the better corner at this point though and will see a decent amount of time in the slot with Jaire, Savage and Douglas also seeing time there. Texada is the young guy with upside who can pitch in on special teams

At safety, of course Amos and Savage are your starters. It seems Barry doesn’t use a lot of “big Nickel” or 3rd safety packages. Scott is probably the best safety on the roster when you look at the rest. He also has experience on special teams. Carpenter is a safety/linebacker hybrid who will probably see some time at both, but will spend most of his rookie season on special teams.

Defense: 24

ST(3):

Mason Crosby, Pat O’Donnell, Jack Coco

Crosby and O’Donnell are locks for obvious reasons. I went with Coco because Wirtel was terrible last year and I think they try to make a clean sweep outside of Crosby. There is the possibility that the long snapper isn’t even on the roster at this point.