No grading the Green Bay Packers’ draft here. It’s a waste of time.
The problem is coming up with decent criteria.
If you want to know whether they drafted good NFL players, sorry, but no one can help you there. Not any team, nor the most educated observer. It takes two to three years to find out.
Scouting experts have opinions on the value of where players were drafted. But if you’ve ever talked with multiple scouts about a college player, you know opinions often vary widely even among experts. A value pick in one scout’s eyes is a bad one in another’s.
PODCAST: Analyzing the Packers' draft picks
And any of us can see whether Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst addressed roster holes with his selections. But since we don’t know if the players are going to pan out, we really don’t know if he solved any problems at all. So what good is it to grade on needs drafted?
The best we can do is make observations and guesses. Here's a quick take on each of Gutekunst’s 11 selections from last weekend:
1st round (No. 18 overall): Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
This pick felt like the anti-Damarious Randall. While both players are talented, Alexander is more so with a better 40 (4.38 seconds to 4.46), three-cone drill (6.71 seconds to 6.83) and short shuttle (3.98 seconds to 4.07). And more to the point, they appear to be quite different temperamentally. Though Randall displayed the cocky demeanor you like to see in a cornerback, it turned out he wasn’t as confident as he appeared, was prone to pouting that turned off his coaches and teammates and routinely took himself out of games because of injuries. The Packers went out of their way to describe Alexander as a player they want not just on the field, but also in the locker room. They made of point praising his intangibles (competitiveness, toughness and leadership) as much as his physical talent. The only thing he doesn’t have, and why he was available at No. 18, is decent height (5-10¼). “He was voted team captain (at Louisville),” said Jon-Eric Sullivan, the Packers’ director of college scouting. “His teammates like him. He was a leader there. Everybody there speaks highly of him.”
Aaron Nagler listens and responds to voicemails from Packers fans with their thoughts on the 2018 draft. Aaron Nagler, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
2nd round (No. 45): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
A cornerback with good size (6-0⅜, 196) and great ball skills. The hardest thing to figure out is his speed. I tried to get to the bottom of it Monday. Players run two 40s at the scouting combine, and each run is officially clocked by two handheld timers and one electronic. His first 40 was 4.48 seconds electronically and averaged 4.54 seconds handheld. His second was 4.59 seconds both electronically and average handheld. The NFL usually uses the fastest electronic time as the official time on its website. But it lists Jackson’s as 4.56 seconds, not 4.48. I asked a scout for an NFC team about the discrepancy, and he couldn’t explain it. Most teams also have their own handheld times, and his had Jackson at 4.51 at the combine and 4.57 at his pro day. A scout for another NFC team said he had Jackson’s pro day at 4.52 seconds. That’s a long way to go to say his speed is only marginally suspect for his position and size. His most attractive trait is playing the ball in the air. If he were a little faster, he’d have been a first-round pick. After the Packers selected him I texted a scout with another team, he responded, “Pretty good (pick) from where they were sitting.”
3rd round (No. 88): Oren Burks, ILB, Vanderbilt
With the way the NFL has evolved, teams need faster, lighter inside linebackers to match up in the passing game. That’s Burks (233 pounds). It takes a lot to justify taking those guys in the first round, because even the best coverage ‘backers in the NFL get picked on by the best quarterbacks. But the third round is more than palatable. Burks has pretty good length (6-3⅛, 33⅛-inch arms), which makes him harder to throw over and around in the middle of the field. His timed speed (4.59 seconds) suggests he can hang with running backs and tight ends in coverage. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a lot this year.
4th round (No. 133): J’Mon Moore, WR, Missouri
His timed speed at the combine was bad — his first 40 was 4.60 seconds electronic, his second was 4.70. But his quickness tests were excellent, especially for a tall receiver (6-2⅞). According to MockDraftable.com, his three-cone drill (6.56 seconds) was in the 96th percentile of all receivers at the combine dating back to 1999, and his short shuttle (4.04 seconds) was in the 88th percentile. That helps explain why the Packers think he plays fast regardless of what the stopwatch says.
5th round (No. 138): Cole Madison, G-T, Washington State
David Bakhtiari started as a rookie left tackle as a fourth-round pick in 2013, and Corey Linsley at center as a fifth-rounder in 2014. The Packers are no doubt hoping for the same from Madison at right guard this year. Their history with offensive linemen from the fourth round on suggests it’s not wishful thinking.
Aaron Nagler and Ryan Wood give their initial impressions of the work Brian Gutekunst did in his first draft and look at what still needs to be done. Aaron Nagler and Ryan Wood, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
5th round (No. 172): JK Scott, P, Alabama
A surprise pick because Justin Vogel wasn’t bad as a rookie, and the Packers had a lot of positional needs (outside rusher, right tackle, tight end) they hadn’t addressed. But the pick at least made more sense when Gutekunst described Scott as "rare,” which is a strong statement in scouting. “In this particular case we just had a player we thought was rare,” the GM said.
5th round (No. 174): Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, South Florida
His combination of height (6-4) and speed (4.37 40) is startling. That’s why his bad vertical (30½ inches) stands out. Hard to see how a player that tall and explosive jumped that poorly. But the Packers need a down-the-field threat, and he has traits to be that. Of course, there’s a lot more to playing receiver than running fast.
6th round (No. 207): Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
Has that interesting family background — his father (John) is a former Mr. Universe as a bodybuilder and has been training his three sons to be professional football players since their youth, and his mother (Miriam) is German and speaks to her sons only in that language. Another height (6-4¾) and speed (4.48 40) prospect. Will be interesting to see if his father’s weight- and speed-training methods clash with the Packers’. “We had no reservations about bringing Equanimeous St. Brown to our team,” Gutekunst said.
7th round (No. 232): James Looney, DL, California
Probably the easiest of the Packers’ picks to dismiss. Drafted in the last round, plays a position (interior defensive line) that isn’t a big need, and doesn’t have a distinguishing trait (6-2¾, 278, 8½ career sacks). But you never know about a guy until you see him in training camp.
7th round (No. 239): Hunter Bradley, LS, Mississippi State
I’d never draft a long-snapper — Bradley was the only one picked this year — though you have to wonder if finances played a role here. Brett Goode’s minimum salary would be $1.015 million, and even with the veteran minimum salary benefit, he’d cost $615,000 against the cap. Bradley will cost barely more than $480,000 this year. For a team that’s probably going to pay its quarterback $30 million-plus later this offseason, every little bit counts, and using a seventh-round pick assured the Packers of the rookie they wanted.
7th round (No. 248): Kendall Donnerson, OLB, Southeast Missouri
A developmental pure-speed prospect as an outside rusher, at 6-3 and 250 pounds reportedly ran 4.45 seconds and had a 40-inch vertical at his pro day. Those are outstanding numbers. But had only 12 career sacks at the FCS level of college football. The most you can say about him is that based on size and speed, he looks like a flier worth taking.