NFL Draft: Packers Day 2 recap

GREEN BAY — Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft was more evidence that the Green Bay Packers are still very much in the building stages of putting together what they hope is a championship-level defense.

Armed originally with one pick in the second round on Friday, new general manager Brian Gutekunst went with Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, and then traded back into the third round to grab Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks.

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“It’s not about filling holes,” Gutekunst said of his defensive focus. “It’s about taking really good football players, which I think we did today.”

Doubling up at cornerback

No one expected Jackson to fall into the middle of the second round, so when he did, the Packers grabbed him. It meant, after grabbing Jaire Alexander in the first round on Thursday, they went back-to-back cornerbacks in the first two rounds for the second time in four years. Back in 2015, it was Damarious Randall in the first round and Quinten Rollins in the second. Having to pull the same maneuver so soon would seem to indicate what a failure the first try was.

“Those are two completely different situations,” said Gutekunst, who was the team’s director of college scouting at that point. “I wouldn’t really want to compare the two (years). I wouldn’t necessarily say [2015] was a disappointment, either. We still have one good player from that draft, and we expect big things from Quinten. The previous player that was here (Randall) is a talented player.

“Rosters evolve and this was a chance for us to kind of really beef up our secondary, and we think we did that.”

Gutekunst may not have wanted to compare the two years, but when he was asked whether they learned any lessons from 2015, his answer said plenty about what may have gone wrong, especially with the player — Randall — that is no longer around.

“The wiring of the football players we bring into this building is really important,” Gutekunst said. “I think the three guys we’ve had a chance to take so far fit what we’re looking for in how they approach the game and their mental makeup. I think those are important things.”

Also important? How good is the guy you drafted. And most think Jackson is pretty darn good. Wisconsin fans don’t need a reminder. He returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and in doing so accounted for the only points the Hawkeyes scored in a 38-14 blowout loss to the Badgers.

He’s not as fast as Alexander, but the Packers love his ability to play the ball in the air, saying he has a knack for coming down with it nearly every time. It’s what helped him lead the country in interceptions (8) in his lone year as a starter.

“Incredible,” college scout Alonzo Dotson said of Jackson’s skills. “Strong, smart, can jab people at the line of scrimmage with those long arms. Has an uncanny ability to get out those breaks and play down the field.”

Green Bay’s cornerback room is all of a sudden very full. With Alexander and Jackson, along with last year’s second-round pick Kevin King, the Packers have an exciting young group on the outside, which paired with veteran Tramon Williams, and perhaps another young guy like Lenzy Pipkins, give new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine a lot to work with.

Going back up

Gutekunst loved having the first pick of Day 3, but he apparently loved Oren Burks more. Because he used the pick, along with a sixth-round selection, to move into the third round and take the linebacker.

“I knew it would be a valuable pick and it was,” Gutekunst said. “As the board kind of thinned out in some spots, we felt really good about going up and getting Burks.”

Recruited as a linebacker, Burks played his first two years at safety for the Commodores, before moving to hybrid spot as a junior and then inside linebacker as a senior. It’s where he’ll play for the Packers, though his ability to move around should serve him well.

“What we liked was his quickness, his burst and his acceleration to the ball,” director of pro personnel John Wojciechowski said. “That’s the thing you’re looking for in this — athleticism. Then, the toughness, to be able to come down inside there.”

Wojciechowski continually came back to Burks’ athleticism. It’s actually impossible to ignore. He tested the best of any of the inside linebackers on the Packers’ draft board, running a 4.59-second 40-yard dash (7th best among LBs) and posting a vertical of 39 inches (2nd among LBs) at the NFL combine. But he did so at 233 pounds, which would seem to be a bit small for an every down inside linebacker. Don’t tell the Packers that, though.

“He is not small by any means for today’s inside linebackers,” Gutekunst said. “We think his best football is ahead of him. The athletic gifts he has, and his two years of experience as a linebacker, we think it’s all heading in the right direction.”

Where’s the edge rusher?

Many thought Green Bay could have gone with an edge rusher in the first round. The Packers didn’t. Same thing in the second and third round. Again, they didn’t. So why haven’t they? Well, it appears Gutekunst has a lot of confidence in some of the players on their roster already.

“We have some guys that probably weren’t able to show what they can do last year as much as we’d [have] liked [them] to,” Gutekunst said. “[utside linebacker] Reggie Gilbert had a really good end to the year. [Outside linebacker Vince] Biegel, I think, will have a good second-year jump.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that they are satisfied with what they have. It’s just that they haven’t made the moves…yet.

“I think they’re will be opportunities [Saturday], or even further down the line, for [adding guys],” he said.

What’s next?

Green Bay owns eight picks on Saturday, but by trading the first selection of the fourth round — pick No. 101 — to get Burks, the Packers aren’t scheduled to be on the clock until No. 133. But, like they did on Friday, having all that ammunition should allow them to move around.

“We’ll be on the phones, and if it makes sense, we have no problem pulling the trigger to do it,” Gutekunst said trading. “We have a lot of picks, so I’m sure we’ll field a lot of calls. And maybe be making those as well.

“I would expect to move at some point.”

And until then?

“I go home, get two beers out of my garage fridge, hope that the door is not locked and try to get a little sleep,” Gutekunst said with a laugh.

“Tomorrow is a big, big day.”

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