GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The 2022 NFL draft has concluded.
Round 1, No. 22 overall: Quay Walker, ILB, Georgia
My take: As improved as the Packers defense was last season, they still had a glaring weakness: They allowed the third-most yards per rush last season (4.7). Walker could help. This also represents a continuing shift in philosophy when it comes to the middle of the defense. For years, the Packers tried to get by with mid-round draft picks and moderately priced free agents at inside linebacker. But last year, they brought in De'Vondre Campbell (and then gave him a five-year, $50 million contract to keep him this offseason) and now they’ve gone with a first-round inside linebacker for the first time since A.J. Hawk in 2005. For a good portion of last season, the Packers’ second inside linebacker was Krys Barnes, a former undrafted free agent.
Gutey loves D: This was Brian Gutekunst’s sixth first-round pick since he became general manager in 2018, and the fifth on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve all fared pretty well -- from cornerback Jaire Alexander in 2018 to outside linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage in 2019 and cornerback Eric Stokes last season. If you’re good at evaluating defense, then why not play to your strengths?
Walker over Johnson: One of the biggest surprises of the day was that Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II was available. Projected by some to be a top-10 pick, he was still there when the Packers picked Walker at 22. Johnson played well for a subpar team, but Walker was part of a dominating defense at Georgia, so perhaps that helped tip the scale his way.
Round 1, No. 28 overall: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
My take: Anytime you can get one of the best players at his position this late in the first round, it’s a bonus. Wyatt was ranked as the No. 2 defensive tackle in Mel Kiper Jr.’s position rankings, trailing only his Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, who went No. 13 to the Eagles. Overall, Kiper had Wyatt ranked as his 30th overall prospect. This is an experienced player, not a one-year wonder. He started 24 games over the past two seasons on the way to becoming a second-team All-American selection last season. The only knock might be his age. He’s 24-years-old and already has a lot of snaps in him. He played four years at Georgia after a stint in junior college. By comparison, when the Packers drafted Kenny Clark in 2016, he didn’t turn 21 until a couple months into his rookie season.
No reaching for a WR: Say this much about Gutekunst, he won’t reach. Aaron Rodgers, in an appearance on The Pat McAfee show during the draft, let it slip that the Packers had first-round grades for only six receivers. All six were gone before the Packers picked.
Round 2, No. 34 overall: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
My take: This should get the fans off Gutekunst’s back. Now all Watson has to do is live up to what Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams did for the Packers. Watson follows them as second-round receivers who became major contributors, and in the cases of Nelson and Adams, All-Pros. At 34, it’s the highest pick the Packers have used on a receiver since Javon Walker, the last first-round receiver they've taken (No 20 overall in 2002). But it’s still not a first-round pick, so if Watson doesn't turn into a major contributor, then the criticism that the Packers didn’t go up and get one of the top-six receivers will return. His shaky hands and problems with drops are concerning, but the Packers loved his size and speed.
Round 3, No. 92 overall: Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
My take: For years, almost every offensive lineman the Packers drafted was a college tackle regardless of where they planned to play them in the NFL. Two of their former Pro Bowl guards, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, were college tackles. They once turned a college tackle into a starting center in Evan Dietrich-Smith. This looks like another example of that. The 6-4, 321-pound Ryan started all 12 of UCLA’s games last season at left tackle and has 31 college starts at that spot, but his relatively short arms (32 3/8 inches) suggest he’ll be better suited for guard at this level. This also might free up Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins to move full time to tackle, where the Packers have an open starting spot on the right side after releasing Billy Turner this offseason. Jenkins performed well in place of injured left tackle David Bakhtiari last season before Jenkins tore his ACL in November, and the Packers like what Jon Runyan Jr. did at Jenkins’ old left guard spot. This is the seventh offensive lineman Gutekunst has drafted in the last three years, but he’s the second-highest pick behind center Josh Myers (second round last year).
What’s next: The Packers have six more picks on Saturday: two in the fourth round (Nos. 132 and 140 overall), one in the fifth (171) and three in the seventh (228, 249, 258). Without a pick in the sixth round, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gutekunst try to use a couple of the seventh-round picks to move up.
Round 4, No. 132 overall: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada
My take: The first time he touched the football as a college player was an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. This is a speed pick -- a need after losing deep-threat receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Chiefs in free agency. Although Doubs didn’t run the 40 at the combine or his pro day because of a knee injury, he’s known for his straight-ahead speed and acceleration. While the Packers have been questioned for not taking a receiver in the first round in recent years, this pick does something the Packers haven’t done in 16 years: take two receivers within the first four rounds of the same draft. The only previous time they did so in the common draft era was 2006 with Greg Jennings (second round) and Cory Rodgers (fourth). Rodgers was cut in training camp and never played in an NFL game.
Round 4, No. 140 overall: Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest
My take: Much like third-round pick Sean Rhyan, Tom has position versatility -- a hallmark of what the Packers want in offensive line picks. He started at center in 2019 but played left tackle in 2020 and 2021, and Packers co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan said they believe he can actually play all five line positions. Green Bay lost one of its most versatile offensive linemen, Lucas Patrick, who signed with the Bears in free agency and released veteran G/T Billy Turner this offseason. Patrick started games at both guard and center last season, while Turner had started at both tackle and guard. After drafting only a single offensive lineman in each of his first two drafts (2018 and 2019), Gutekunst has now taken eight of them in the last three drafts combined.
Round 5, No. 179 overall: Kingsley Enagbare, OLB, South Carolina
My take: The Packers have two stand-out players on the edge in Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, but the depth behind them is thin. They like Randy Ramsey, but he missed all of last year with an ankle injury, and they’ve mixed in the likes of Jonathan Garvin, Ladarius Hamilton, Tipa Galeai with minimal success. Enagbare, who is the highest-drafted player of any of the edge backups, generated pressure on 15.7 percent of opponents’ dropbacks in 2021 -- the ninth-highest rate in FBS and second in the SEC only to Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. His 40 time of 4.9 was tied for the second-slowest among edge rushers at the combine, but the Packers believe his strength is in his power moves.
Round 7, No. 228 overall: Tariq Carpenter, S/ILB, Georgia Tech
My take: He's large for a safety and probably will convert to inside linebacker in the NFL or play something of a hybrid position. That’s the perfect kind of body type to contend for a spot on special teams, where the Packers love linebackers and defensive backs. He has a wealth of college experience, appearing in 52 games over five seasons, including 41 career starts -- all at safety. So far, it’s an even split among offensive and defensive players in the Packers' first eight picks.
Round 7, No. 234 overall: Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami
My take: A massive interior linemen at 6-5 and 333 pounds, he's the second interior defensive lineman the Packers have taken after first-round pick Devonte Wyatt. He played five years at Miami, but wasn't overly productive from a statistical standpoint. He never had more than 19 tackles in any one season. He wasn't a full-time starter until his third season. He has five solid defensive tackles ahead of him on the depth chart: Wyatt, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed and T.J. Slaton.
Round 7, No. 249 overall: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
My take: Another offensive lineman and another one who played left tackle in college -- just how the Packers like them. He might have the best shot to actually stay at tackle in the NFL. He has the longest arms (at 33 5/8 inches) of the three linemen the Packers took in this draft. He’s also the tallest of the three at 6-5 1/2. It marks the third straight year the Packers have taken three offensive linemen. Considering they have two tackles -- David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins -- at various stages of ACL recoveries, these could be insurance picks.
Round 7, No. 258 overall: Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska
My take: Despite not taking a receiver in the first round for the 20th straight year, the Packers still ended up with three receivers among their 11 picks. It’s tied for the most receivers picked in one draft, and it’s the second time they’ve done so since 2018 (J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown -- none of whom are still with the team). Toure just turned 24 years old and began his college career way back in 2016. He has big-play ability, leading the Big Ten in yards per catch at 19.7.