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PACKERS | NFL DRAFT

Jim Polzin: Packers GM Brian Gutekunst should resist the temptation to make a bold move in first round

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Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, in the span of one answer during a pre-NFL draft news conference earlier this week, made a perfectly reasonable case for moving up in the first round and another for staying put.

The Packers have 11 picks heading into the three-day event that begins Thursday, including four of the first 59 selections. That’s plenty of ammunition for Gutekunst to make a run at one of the elite wide receivers in the draft.

But Gutekunst should resist the urge to part with any of those picks in the first two rounds because, while wide receiver is a glaring need, it’s not the only hole to fill as Green Bay tries to remain one of the elite teams in the NFC.

Make no mistake, Gutekunst needs to find a wide receiver (or two) after trading away star Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and also losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling to free agency. But it would require parting with a premier pick to move up far enough in the first round to grab one of the four elite receivers in this draft class: USC’s Drake London, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, Alabama’s Jameson Williams or Ohio State’s Chris Olave.

Instant-impact rookies at that spot such as JaMarr Chase and Jaylen Waddle in 2021, and Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb the previous season, make it tempting to consider a big move up to get Wilson, London or even Williams, who’s coming off an ACL injury. It’d certainly make Packers fans feel better about a wide receiving depth chart that currently has Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins and Amari Rodgers in the prime spots.

But it’d come at a cost.

While drafting a wide receiver among those four picks in the first two rounds is a must, Gutekunst should use the other three selections to get stronger at other positions.

In no particular order …

The Packers need another edge rusher. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are a solid 1-2 punch, but Smith isn’t getting any younger and a defense can never have enough players who can provide pressure from the outside.

They need a right tackle after releasing Billy Turner in a salary-cap move.

Finding a difference-maker at tight end, where Robert Tonyan is coming off injury, should also be a priority.

Even after the signing of Jarran Reed, finding another defensive lineman to provide quality depth on a front led by Kenny Clark would be smart.

Safety and inside linebacker are also areas that could be addressed if the right player falls to the Packers.

The Packers can’t plug all those gaps on Thursday and Friday, but it’d be prudent to take as many swing as possible in an attempt to find difference-makers rather than going for the home run ball by sacrificing picks to grab one of the top players in a wide receiver class in which there’s not a consensus best choice.

“I think you’ve got to be careful of falling in love with players,” Gutekunst said. “Because then you start chasing things and getting out of whack value-wise. So, you’d love for (the draft) to come to you, but at the same time, I think you have to be realistic about where you’re picking and where the strength of the draft is. And if it makes sense to move to a particular area to help your football team, I think you have to be willing to do that.”

Staying at No. 22 and No. 28 in the first round should leave the Packers with options among the Tier 2 group of receivers. Arkansas’ Treylon Burks may still be around when Green Bay’s first pick comes around. Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Georgia’s George Pickens and North Dakota State’s Christian Watson are potential candidates at the No. 28 spot.

“We’ll see what’s available,” Gutekunst said, “and I think a lot of it is just going to be how the draft falls.”

Indeed, if a player such as Olave drops into the late teens, Gutekunst would have a decision to make. Moving up in that scenario likely would require parting with a third-round pick and that’d be a sensible move to make.

But Gutekunst has strength in numbers heading into this draft and should do everything he can to come out of it with four of the top 60 players becoming Packers. Finding a wide receiver is imperative, but it’s far from the only order of business for Gutekunst and Co.

Contact Jim Polzin at jpolzin@madison.com.

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