GREEN BAY — Three wide receivers, a guard, a defensive lineman, a linebacker, a punter and a long snapper. That’s what Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft brought the Green Bay Packers. But the more notable aspect on Saturday is what rounds three through seven didn’t bring. There was very little help at tackle, not a single tight end and no accomplished edge rusher among the eight picks.
So, after appearing to help themselves significantly on the first two days with a pair of NFL-ready cornerbacks and an intriguing prospect at inside linebacker, the final day for new general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy seemed somewhat underwhelming on the surface.
“That’s not really what this day is about. This day is about getting better,” McCarthy said when questioned about not filling what perceived holes in his roster. “It’s not so much about the guys [already] here, it’s trying to add the best prospects to our football team.”
There’s no doubt that Gutekunst and his staff added talented players, at least based on what they accomplished in college. The three wide receivers they drafted — Missouri’s J’Mon Moore (fourth round), South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth round) and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth round) — were all productive guys with great size and speed.
Green Bay got a versatile offensive lineman in Washington State’s Cole Madison (fifth round), another big body for its defensive line in California’s James Looney (seventh round) and an athletic rusher in Southeast Missouri State’s Kendall Donnerson (seventh round).
Gutekunst also addressed the special teams by drafting Alabama punter JK Scott (fifth round) and Mississippi State long snapper Hunter Bradley (seventh round).
Despite all that, there seem to still be plenty of questions remaining. What do they do at right tackle if Bryan Bulaga isn’t healthy enough to start the year after coming off a torn ACL in November? They added Jimmy Graham in free agency and still have Lance Kendricks but behind them are only inexperienced undrafted free agents. And where was the help for a pass rush that produced 37 sacks last season, ranked in the bottom half of the NFL?
“Player acquisition is still going on as we speak,” McCarthy said, “and it will continue all the way up to training camp.”
Green Bay has operated, largely, as a take the best player available model dating back to the mid-1990s. It won’t always work out, but being diligent and keeping to your draft board will at least stop you from rash decisions. And that’s exactly what happened this weekend with Gutekunst. He trusted the work he and his staff put in and did not waver.
“[The draft] is one of the bigger opportunities to fill some of those needs, and I think we did a good job of it,” Gutekunst said. “[But] you’ve got to stay really, really disciplined to not get out of your comfort zone and go get a player that isn’t what you think he is because you feel you need to plug that hole.
“That’s where you can make mistakes, because those things can really come back to hurt you if you make the wrong decision.”
A punter? A long snapper? Really?
For the first time since 2003, when GM Mike Sherman used a third-round pick on Ohio State’s B.J. Sander, the Packers drafted a punter. Sander was a horrendous flop and ended up appearing in just 14 games in his career. That disaster didn’t scare Gutekunst, though, as he spent a fifth-round pick on Scott and followed that up by taking Bradley in the seventh round.
The team, at least special teams coach Ron Zook, was not satisfied with what rookie Justin Vogel gave them last season, while injuries and inconsistency hampered them at long snapper. Still, drafting a punter and a long snapper?
“We saw a lot of value,” Gutekunst said. “I think both players have performed extremely well at a high level in college football. We just thought it was an opportunity to provide a lot of competition in that area.”
Ted Thompson in the room
This weekend wasn’t just the first draft for Gutekunst. It was also the first draft since 2004 that wasn’t run by Ted Thompson. And yet, he still played a role in the draft room.
Sitting at the head table next to McCarthy and Gutekunst, Thompson, whose title is Senior Advisor to Football Operations, served as a sounding board, especially on Saturday.
“There were numerous conversations with him about players,” Gutekunst said of Thompson’s help. “I hope he sticks around for a long time.”
Bryan Bulaga making his way back
Former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga is in the process of working his way back from a torn ACL and there had been some speculation in recent months that he was in danger of being cut. But Gutekunst made it clear that the veteran right tackle is still very much in their plans this fall.
“Those are big injuries. He’s fought through those things before. We expect him to be able to do that again,” Gutekusnt said. “We expect him to be a part of our team.”
McCarthy and Gutekunst each said Bulaga is ahead of schedule in his return, though it seems unlikely that he’ll be full go by the time training camp rolls around.
“I’m kind of an old-school guy, don’t really dabble in the social media stuff. Don’t need to look at people’s food that they post.”
— Madison on why he doesn’t have a Twitter account.
“He needs to work on his introduction to the new players and his hand off [of the phone] to the head coach needs to be better, but we’ll get that right next year.”
— McCarthy joking about Gutekunst’s first year running the draft room.
“Coming from Houston to Missouri, I had to adjust to that cold weather quickly. I’ve seen some cold weather [and] I’ve seen some snow in my early time at Missouri. I’m pretty sure I can handle some snow here and there. That’s not problem with me.”
— Moore on the change in weather from his home in college to Green Bay.
“It’s obvious. The competition in the cornerback room and just the whole defensive back room it’s vastly improved of where it’s been the last two years. We definitely hit the target there.”
— McCarthy on what drafting first-round pick Jaire Alexander, second-round pick Josh Jackson and adding veteran Tramon Williams does for them in the secondary.
“Spotted cow. What else would there be?”
— Gutekunst on what kind of beer he has in the garage fridge he mentioned Friday night.
Reported undrafted free agents:
QB Tim Boyle | Eastern Kentucky (Tom Silverstein)
OT Alex Light | Richmond (Tom Silverstein)
WR Damon Gibson | Minnesota State-Morehead (Tom Silverstein)
DT Ofa Atu | Utah (Tom Silverstein)
OLB Naashon Hughes | Texas (Jeff Howe)
C Austin Davis | Duke (Tom Silverstein)
S Raven Greene | James Madison
TE Kevin Radar | Youngstown State (@DraftDiamonds)
OLB Marcus Porter | Fairmount State (Tom Silverstein)
EDGE C.J. Johnson | Texas Baptist (Aaron Wilson)
DL Tyler Lancaster | Northwestern
G Jacob Alsadek | Arizona (Tom Silverstein)
CB Chris Seisay | Oregon (@DraftDiamonds)