Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst talks NFL Draft, QB visits, Cole Madison and more

No, Brian Gutekunst did not tip his hand about where the Green Bay Packers might go at pick No. 12 and No. 30 in the NFL Draft when he spoke with reporters Monday afternoon. But the club’s general manager did offer a few nuggets of note in advance of Thursday’s first round.

The board is set

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Every team has their draft board and the Packers are no different. After months and months of work, Gutekunst said it’s pretty locked in.

“You do get this point where it’s a little dangerous to react too much (to what’s going on elsewhere),” Gutekunst said. “We feel really good about the work we’ve done. We closed it up (Monday morning) after a couple last minute things. I wouldn’t imagine there will be a whole lot of tweaks between now and Thursday.”

The dangers Gutekunst referenced come in the form of all the misinformation that certain parties try to spin in the lead up to the draft, whether it’s coming from teams, agents of potential draftees or otherwise.

“If you’ve really put the work in, you can sniff out the stuff that’s false information and the stuff that might have some legs to it,” Gutekunst said. “I think you address each thing as it comes, but like most people say, 90-percent of it is false information at this time.”

Calls have come in

Green Bay has an opportunity to take two players in the first round for the first time since 2009, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. Trades, like the one last year with the New Orleans Saints that netted them the 30th overall pick this year, happen all the time and the Packers phone has been busy of late.

“Certainly over the last week and this week, those calls start to happen,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve taken a number of calls on the twelfth pick so far this week.”

So, about having a QB in for a visit…

Missouri’s Drew Lock came in a for a pre-draft visit recently, one of 30 the team can have from non-local players. That move, bringing in a quarterback that many expect to go in the first round, raised some eyebrows. Were the Packers already thinking about a succession plan for Aaron Rodgers, the guy they just signed last offseason to the richest contract – at the time – of any player in league history?

“I think the whole succession plan is a little bit over-hyped,” Gutekunst said. “We value that position extremely highly. Every year we spend a lot of time on the quarterbacks and trying to figure out what kind of players those guys are going to be in the NFL. It’s really, really important to us, because if you don’t have one, it’s really tough to win in this league.

“For us, each and every year, (we’re) trying to decide which are the guys that could potentially be starters in this league and be difference-maker-type players. If you have the opportunities to take them sometime in the draft, and that’s the best thing for your team, I don’t think you can hesitate with that.”

Rodgers is 35 years old, the same age his predecessor Brett Favre was when the Packers shocked many and picked Rodgers in the first round in 2005. But Favre was constantly debating whether to retire and it was unclear how long he wanted to play. Rodgers has said he wants to play until at least 40, though nothing is guaranteed.

“Again, we’re lucky to have the best player in the NFL playing that position right now, but at the same time, your needs can change just like that,” Gutekunst said. “I think (the Lock visit) was just doing due diligence. There are always questions, specifically with those guys, maybe that are a little more thorough, more in-depth that you’ve got to get to the bottom of. We were trying to do that.”

Cole Madison back with the team

In his first draft as GM, Gutekunst took Washington State’s Cole Madison in the fifth round. The guard was expected to come in and provide some depth in his first year. But after a strong offseason, he stepped away from football last summer as he dealt with the effects of the tragic death of his friend and teammate Tyler Hilinski. But Madison was back in the building when the Packers opened up offseason workouts earlier in April.

“That was a really, really pleasant surprise,” Gutekunst said. “He was very appreciative about the way we handled things last year. We’re excited to see what he can do for us.”

Despite the year off, Gutekunst liked where Madison was physically.

“He came back in great shape. There are no limitations on him from that sense,” Gutekunst said. “He looks like the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder we drafted. Like I said, very optimistic to see him progress this year.”

Kenny Clark’s future

First-round picks all sign four-year contracts with a team option for a fifth year. Green Bay’s pick in the 2016 draft, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, has been great but the Packers have yet to pick up his option.

“I would certainly expect that would happen here (soon),” Gutekunst said. “We haven’t done it yet, but he’s obviously a dominant player for us in the defensive front. I think the best is yet to come.”

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