Great fits for Packers at top need positions in 2022 NFL draft


The Green Bay Packers are going into the 2022 NFL draft with 11 picks – or opportunities – to add talent and provide answers to roster needs. The highly anticipated event begins on Thursday night with the first round, starts up again Friday with the second and third rounds and finishes on Saturday with Rounds 3-7.

Here’s one great fit at each of the Packers’ need positions for each day of the 2022 NFL draft:

Wide receiver

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Day 1: Chris Olave, Ohio State/George Pickens, Georgia: Olave is the best route runner in the class, a terrific separator against man coverage and the most natural replacement for Davante Adams, giving him massive first-round appeal to the Packers. Pickens lost most of the last year to an ACL injury, but he looks like a prototypical “X” receiver at the next level, and he checks all the boxes for the Packers in the first round. In Green Bay, he could become a true No. 1 receiver. Getting either Olave or Pickens in the first round would be ideal; taking both would completely revamp and reload the receiver position in one night.

Day 2: Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: He’s far from a finished product, but his foundation as a receiver includes ideal size (6-3, 211), speed (4.41), leaping power (40.5″ vertical) and ball-tracking ability. Pierce could turn into a dangerous deep threat, and he’s not afraid to mix it up as a blocker. In the Marquez Valdes-Scantling role, Pierce may thrive. He’ll bring special teams value, too. Matt LaFleur is close with former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, so the Packers should have a full understanding of how Pierce would fit in Green Bay. It looks like an ideal match.

Day 3: Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame: He’s an elite athlete coming off a breakout redshirt junior season. There are some off-the-field red flags that will likely drop Austin to Day 3, but his traits and upside are what teams should gamble on during the middle rounds. His athleticism is rare, and with only 13 collegiate starts under his belt, his best football might be ahead of him. The Packers should supplement the receiver position with a high-potential Day 3 pick, and Austin might come with the biggest potential reward.

Offensive line

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Day 1: Tyler Smith, Tulsa: He needs time to develop and may eventually slide inside to guard, but his size, athleticism and experience at left tackle make him an attractive option, especially considering he only just turned 21 years old in April. Smith is powerful and plays like a bully on every snap. Giving him to Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus could provide an opportunity for Smith to maximize his potential and the Packers to find a long-time starter at right tackle or even guard.

Day 2: Abraham Lucas, Washington State/Zach Tom, Wake Forest: Lucas is coming from the Air Raid system, complicating the transition to a pro style offense, but he’s an easy mover with long arms and the athletic profile of a future starter at offensive tackle. He started 42 games and was a four-time all-conference selection for the Cougars. Tom checks all the athletic boxes for the Packers, and he played all over the offensive line. He could be an ideal developmental interior lineman on Day 2 or 3.

Day 3: Spencer Burford, UTSA/Cade Mays, Tennessee: Burford started 21 games at left tackle and 20 more at left guard, and he’s both young (21) and athletic. The Packers could see him as the ideal player to develop after losing Billy Turner. Mays also fits as a replacement; he started games at four of five positions along the offensive line and has the athleticism and physicality to help replace Lucas Patrick as a super-sub inside.

Edge rusher

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Day 1: George Karlavtis, Purdue: He dominated as an 18-year-old true freshman in the Big Ten and is now entering the NFL Draft as a well-rounded 21-year-old talent capable of landing in the first round. Karlavtis might lack ideal length and twitch, but he is a powerful edge rusher who can also move inside and disrupt from different alignments. The Packers need a replacement for Za’Darius Smith, and Karlavtis – given his age and playstyle – looks like the perfect option in the first round.

Day 2: Drake Jackson, USC: Jackson is the twitchy, bendy rusher with huge potential as a 21-year-old entering the draft. Like Karlavtis, he was highly productive as an 18-year-old true freshman, and his athletic profile – even at 273 pounds – suggests he could be a disruptive edge rusher in time at the next level. On Day 2, Jackson is well worth the gamble, especially for a team like the Packers in need of a developmental third option.

Day 3: Amare Barno, Virginia Tech: He’s a little light (246 pounds), but it’s hard to ignore his combination of athleticism (9.72 RAS) and production (21.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks in 18 starts). With the right development, Barno could be a valuable situational pass-rusher and full-time special teams weapon at the next level.

Safety

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Day 1: Dax Hill, Michigan: He might be more slot cornerback than full-time safety, but Hill’s versatility and ability to impact the game near the line of scrimmage is what gives him so much value and appeal to the Packers. Even as a rookie, he could play a bunch of snaps as the third safety or as a designated slot defender. Given his incredible combination of length, foot quickness and instincts, it wouldn’t be surprising if Hill quickly turns into one of the best slot defenders in the NFL. He’s comfortable playing deep too.

Day 2: Jaquan Brisker, Penn State: The Adrian Amos backup plan. Brisker is an excellent in-the-box defender who can play in two-deep looks or move down and make plays near the line of scrimmage. His athleticism, toughness and leadership qualities are all befitting of a starting NFL safety.

Day 3: JT Woods, Baylor: The Darnell Savage backup plan. He ran 4.36 in the 40-yard dash after intercepting nine passes over his final two seasons at Baylor. That kind of speed and playmaking ability is hard to find.

Tight end

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Day 1: N/A: There just isn’t a tight end worth taking in the first round.

Day 2: Greg Dulcich, UCLA/Jelani Woods, Virginia: Dulcich is an impressive receiving weapon who could help erase the taste of missing on Jace Sternberger and give the Packers a natural long-term replacement for Robert Tonyan, who re-signed to a one-year deal after an ACL injury. Woods is an elite athlete but profiles as a Marcedes Lewis type. He could be a valuable and more traditional inline tight end at the next level.

Day 3: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State/Chig Okonkwo, Maryland: Kolar tested well athletically after catching 23 touchdowns and earning all-conference honors in four straight seasons at Iowa State. He’s smart and super competitive and looks like a good bet to contribute in offenses using multiple tight ends like the Packers. If the Packers want a more versatile type, Okonkwo fits the mold as an H-back. He’s an explosive mover at 243 pounds with real potential as a pass-catcher at the next level.

Defensive line

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Day 1: Logan Hall, Houston/Travis Jones, UConn: Some consider Hall to be an edge rusher, but the truth is he can play all over the defensive front because of his rare combination of size (6-6, 283) and athleticism. Getting him in the first round could solve the Packers’ needs for both a penetrating defensive lineman and edge-rushing depth. Jones flashes real Kenny Clark-like potential as a disruptive nose tackle type.

Day 2: Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: There are some Muhammad Wilkerson vibes coming from Winfrey, who has 35″ arms and comfortably moves at 290 pounds. He consistently made disruptive plays for the Sooners. Getting him to play faster off the ball could turn him into a nightmare for blockers. Winfrey is only 21, lengthening his developmental pathway.

Day 3: Thomas Booker, Stanford/Curtis Brooks, Cincinnati: He showcased explosive movement ability at the combine after producing 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks over 27 starts. He played all over the defensive front at Stanford and has versatility as an asset entering the league. Brooks put himself squarely on the NFL radar by producing 7.5 sacks during a breakout season in 2021, and he tested well during the pre-draft process. His penetrating skills are well worth a look.

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