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Packers Prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft: Defense

Welcome back to part two of our look ahead at the Packers 2024 NFL draft. If you missed the first part of this series looking at the offensive players, check it out here! Today, it’s time to look at the players on defense the Packers may look at in the 2024 NFL draft.

This list will include players eligible for the 2024 NFL draft that fit those typical Packers thresholds. With this season being such a mystery, the list will be longer than usual; although, like my previous part, I will not be including players like Jared Verse or Kool-Aid McKinstry, because I don’t see any possibility of Green Bay drafting them. The players are also in no particular order.

Defensive line:

Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the four defensive linemen the Packers have drafted recently, I don’t think they draft one early, but you never know.

  • Ruke Orhorhoro – Clemson
  • Keith Randolph Jr. – Illinois
  • Tyleik Williams – Ohio State
  • Leonard Taylor – Miami
  • DeWayne Carter – Duke
  • Brandon Dorlus – Oregon
  • Darrell Jackson Jr. – FSU
  • Kris Jenkins – Michigan
  • Ty Hamilton – Ohio State
  • Maason Smith – LSU
  • J.J. Pegues – Ole Miss
  • Justin Eboigbe – Alabama
  • Alfred Collins – Texas
  • Jordan Kelley – Oklahoma
  • Patrick Jenkins – Tulane
  • John Tuitupou – Hawaii

Edge Rusher:

Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

This is another position that the Packers have invested in heavily recently. I don’t see them drafting one early, but they might take one later for depth.

  • J.T. Tuimoloau – Ohio State
  • Laiatu Latu – UCLA
  • Bralen Trice – Washington
  • Jack Sawyer – Ohio State
  • Trajan Jeffcoat – Arkansas
  • Rondell Bothroyd – Oklahoma
  • Jordan Burch – Oregon
  • Zion Tupuola-Fetui – Washington
  • Deontae Craig – Iowa
  • Cedric Johnson – Ole Miss
  • Isaac Ukwu – Ole Miss
  • RJ Oben – Duke
  • Ashton Gillotte – Louisville
  • Dayon Hayes – Pittsburgh
  • Jack Sullivan – USC
  • Van Fillinger – Utah
  • Abi Nwabuoku-Okonj – James Madison

Linebackers:

Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Another position they have somewhat invested in lately. De’Vondre Campbell has a $14 million dollar cap hit in 2024 and he will be 31. They may still keep him, but I could see them moving on in 2025, which means they may be looking for his eventual successor.

  • Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State
  • Curtis Jacobs – Penn State
  • Jestin Jacobs – Oregon
  • Junior Colson – Michigan
  • Jamon Dumas-Johnson – Geogia
  • Jackson Sirmon – Cal
  • Edefuan Ulofoshio – Washington
  • Geoff Cantin-Arku – Memphis
  • Travion Brown – ASU
  • Dallas Gant – Toledo
  • Marlowe Wax Jr. – Syracuse
  • Steele Chambers – Ohio State
  • Ben Bywater – BYU
  • Jamoi Hodge – TCU
  • Jack Kiser – Notre Dame
  • Nikhai Hill-Green – Charlotte
  • Easton Gibbs – Wyoming

Cornerbacks:

Credit: David K Purdy/Getty Images

This group could be interesting, depending on what happens with Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas. Can Stokes get healthy and back to the way he played as a rookie? Do the Packers keep Douglas and his $11 million cap hit at 30 years old? Do they extend Keisean Nixon?

  • Fentrell Cypress II – Florida State
  • Shyheim Battle – NC State
  • T.J. Tampa – Iowa State
  • Cam Hart – Notre Dame
  • Duce Chestnut – LSU
  • Jahdae Barron – Texas
  • DJ James – Auburn
  • Jason Marshall Jr. – Florida
  • Denzel Burke – Ohio State
  • Trey Amos – Alabama
  • Deantre Prince – Ole Miss
  • AJ Woods – Pittsburgh
  • Max Melton – Rutgers
  • Decamerion Richardson – Mississippi State
  • Devin Kirkwood – UCLA
  • Alex Hogan – Houston
  • Quinyon Mitchell – Toledo
  • Marcus Banks – Mississippi State
  • Nicktroy Fortune – UTSA
  • Christian Roland-Wallace – USC
  • Storm Duck – Louisville
  • Noah Avinger – SDSU
  • Jakorey Hawkins – Wyoming
  • Micah Abraham – Marshall
  • Daquan Evans – USF

Safeties:

Credit: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

This is obviously a major position of need. The only safety under contract for 2024 is Anthony Johnson Jr. and he was just a 7th round pick. While he looks like he has some potential upside, they still need to fill out the rest of the group — and will probably be replacing Darnell Savage. They will need at least one starter, if not two.

  • Kamren Kinchens – Miami
  • Andrew Mukuba – Clemson
  • Calen Bullock – USC
  • LaMiles Brooks – Georgia Tech
  • Rod Moore – Michigan
  • Tyler Nubin – Minnisota
  • Caelen Carson – Wake Forest
  • Patrick McMorris – Cal
  • Beau Brade – Maryland
  • MJ Griffin – Louisville
  • Kitan Oladapo – Oregon State
  • Seyi Oladipo – Boise State
  • Bud Clark – TCU
  • Dez Malone – San Diego State
  • Morice Norris – Fresno State
  • R.J. Mickens – Clemson
  • Cooper DeJean – Iowa
  • Kenny Logan – Kansas
  • DeShawn Gaddie Jr. – Ole Miss
  • Evan Williams – Oregon
  • Tra Fluellen – Middle Tennessee State
  • Jack Howell – Colorado State
  • Ayden Hector – Colorado State

As always, you can always view my database if you want a deeper dive on these and other NFL draft prospects.

What To Do With The Packers Defense?

Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry has struggled with the defense this season
Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

What should be done with the Packers defense? This has been a much-discussed topic among Packers fans this season. The defense was showing some signs of improvement last season, even though the rankings didn’t show it. Preston Smith, Rashawn Gary, Kenny Clark, DeVondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, Dean Lowry, and Eric Stokes all had big seasons in 2021. The defense also came to play against the 49ers in the playoffs. There were a lot of reason for optimism entering the offseason.

Once in the offseason the Packers re-signed Campbell and Douglas. They also signed Jarran Reed and Keisean Nixon as free agents and drafted Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt in the first round. Jaire Alexander was expected to be healthy for 2022. The Packers defense looked stacked from the outside.

During offseason work and training camp the defense looked ahead of the offense, outside of a few practices here and there. The excitement was building.

An Up-and-Down Start for the Packers Defense

Justin Jefferson tore through the Packers secondary. Most felt it was first game jitters — a lot of the regulars hadn’t played much in the pre-season and they stunk the first game of the 2021 season also, and we know how that season went. So, no one was too worried. Game two came and they trounced the Bears 27-10 and all was right with the world. Then there was the close win over the Bucs. Expected with Tom Brady at the helm, and this probably going to be a more defensive team.

Week four was the start of questions. It was an overtime win over a very mediocre Patriots team that had no passing game, and was starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback. He was lost early in the game and they had to go to a rookie. They still rushed for 167 yards and 5.1 yards a carry.

Then came the Giants game

A team that was a bit of a surprise early in the season, but Daniel Jones was playing injured and they were another team that lacked much of a passing game. The defense gave up 27 points and the Packers couldn’t keep up. The Giants had 125 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

This set off an unprecedented event in the Matt LaFleur area; five losses in a row. He had never even lost two in a row, let alone five. The offense was part of the issue, but so was the defense. They ended the streak by beating the Cowboys, but of course followed that up with two losses in a row, effectively ending their season.

So what do the Green Bay Packers do on defense?

The rest of the season still has to be played out. Many things could happen, but certain things need to happen, some should happen, and some should still be played out.

What needs to happen?
  1. Joe Barry and the entire defensive coaching staff needs to be fired. Barry is what he was in Washington and Detroit. Montgomery has not developed any of the defensive linemen. Rebrovich hasn’t seemed to have much of an impact. Gray/Downard need to go because the communication in the secondary has been terrible. Olivadotti helped turn Campbell into a good player and has gotten some stuff out of Quay, but hasn’t done much else. They need a clean sweep.
  2. They need to stop bringing in these retread defensive coordinators. Bring in someone young. Someone willing to be aggressive. Which is easier said than done, of course.
  3. The Packers need to marry the scheme to the players. Barry’s system seemed to be a square peg in a round hole situation with a number of the players.
  4. They need to move on from older veterans who are past their prime. Preston Smith, Dean Lowry, and Adrian Amos are all past their primes or have had slippage in play and are not worth bringing back.
  5. The Packers need to find some way to offload Savage, even if it means trading him for a 6th round pick and having to take a bit of a hit on the cap and paying a chunk of his salary (thanks for the idea Ken Ingalls). He has been bad the last two seasons and probably needs a change of scenery. Even if they just get a 6th.
  6. They also need to figure out what they are going to do at corner? They have two guys in Douglas and Stokes who are pure outside corners. They also have the highest paid corner in the league with Alexander, who of the three is best fit in the slot, but he doesn’t seem interested in playing there full-time. Someone needs to go or change position.
  7. Cut Jonathan Garvin. He is not very good. It’s time to move on.
  8. Light a fire under Alexander. He is not playing like pre-injury Jaire. He is “making business decisions”
Cornerback Jaire Alexander, the star of the Packers defense
Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images
What should happen?

These are things that should happen, but if they don’t it’s not a big deal.

  1. The Packers should let Jarran Reed walk. He has helped the team most definitely, but has he done enough to be re-signed? No. Is he young with some upside to him? No. Should the younger guys get more snaps? Yes.
  2. Krys Barnes is the only restricted free agent the Packers should bring back on defense. While McDuffie started some games in Barnes and Campbell’s absence, Barnes is the superior player and allows McDuffie to focus on special teams.
  3. Of the unrestricted free agents on defense, two should definitely be re-signed with deserved pay bumps: Keisean Nixon and Rudy Ford. Both are indispensable on special teams and both are solid depth pieces on defense who can contribute from scrimmage. Nixon should be the kick returner.
  4. The Packers should bring in, either through free agency or the NFL draft, an edge rusher who can actually drop in coverage a little. This has been a problem with the defense for awhile. Teams know going in they aren’t dropping, so they can’t zone blitz.
  5. Draft an edge rusher fairly high. Preston Smith is gone, and Gary might start the season on the PUP.
What still needs to be played out?
  1. Justin Hollins play. He has played one game so far and gotten a sack, but it’s still too early to say. My bet is they re-sign him and bring him to camp, though.
  2. Should they re-sign Dallin Leavitt? He is a pure special teamer. The Packers already have Carpenter, SJC, McDuffie, Nixon, Ford, and Barnes who are all core special teamers. Do they need another one?
  3. Can Jonathan Ford help Kenny Clark? He is a big nose tackle. Get him out there and give him a chance.

Final conclusion on the Packers Defense:

I have my doubts that Gutekunst and LaFleur will do everything here, but if the important things are done, like dumping the staff and getting rid of dead weight, this could go a long way towards remaking the defense. The talent is there; it just needs to be harnessed correctly.

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