GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers want one of the top three defensive backs -- and there’s a good chance they do -- it might necessitate a bold move from general manager Brian Gutekunst in his first draft.
That’s because cornerback Denzel Ward of Ohio State, versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama and Florida State safety Derwin James all could be gone before the first 13 picks come off the board in Thursday’s first round.
So the question that stares Gutekunst in the face, as he runs through final preparations this week, is this: How high would he have to trade up to get one of the three?
“That’s a good question,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.
Kiper broke down where Gutekunst, who currently holds the 14th pick, might have to move to get each one.
“If you want to go up and get Fitzpatrick and you feel he’s a cornerback, not a safety, you probably have to get to nine or 10,” Kiper said. “If you talk about James, everybody seems to think he’ll go 7 to Tampa Bay. Denzel Ward, probably up to that 6-7 range because he’s the best corner in the draft.”
To move up four spots, Gutekunst would have to give up his third-round pick -- No. 76 overall -- according to most draft trade-value charts. The Raiders currently own the 10th overall pick. If Gutekunst wanted try to get up to No. 6, where the Colts currently stand, it would take at least his second-round pick -- No. 45 overall. The Broncos hold the fifth pick, a selection that GM John Elway said is available at the right price. That price could be the Packers’ second- and third-round picks, according to the trade chart.
Gutekunst has a wealth of draft picks. In fact, no one has more selections than the 12 in his possession.
His predecessor, Ted Thompson, traded his first-round pick only twice -- and both times it was to move down. However, he traded to get into the first round a second time in 2009, when he had the ninth pick (nose tackle B.J. Raji) and then jumped up to No. 26 to grab Clay Matthews. That cost him a second-round pick (No. 41 overall) and two third-rounders (Nos. 73 and 83), although he also received a fifth in the deal.
Gutekunst was sitting in the room on that day, when Thompson knew he needed to get new defensive coordinator Dom Capers two building blocks as he installed a 3-4 scheme. Gutekunst could view this draft similarly, given that coach Mike McCarthy fired Capers in January and hired Mike Pettine to run his defense.
One of Gutekunst's first major moves after he took over was to trade cornerback Damarious Randall, a first-round pick in 2015, to the Browns. Although he signed two veteran corners, Davon House and Tramon Williams, the secondary is far from settled.
However, Gutekunst also might be content to stay at 14 and risk losing out on the top three defensive backs to take a pass-rusher. In a draft short on ready-made edge players who can get after the quarterback, the best options need to be considered at their spot. Bradley Chubb, a likely top-five pick, could be the only true pass-rusher taken in the first 13 picks, leaving Gutekunst with the option to pick UT-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport or Boston College’s Harold Landry.
“I would think it’d be down to Alexander or Jackson if they didn’t get one of the top three [defensive backs],” Kiper said. “If they want the next-best corner, it would be one of those guys. And I would think Alexander and Jackson would be the two in the mix at that point.”