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Tom Oates: Predicting how NFL draft's first round could play out
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Tom Oates: Predicting how NFL draft's first round could play out

It's a good thing Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst broke with tradition and signed some big-ticket free agents in March.

Even with outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and guard Billy Turner on board, however, the Packers have an exhaustive list of needs heading into the NFL draft, which starts Thursday night.

Here's my list of the most important ones, in no particular order, as Gutekunst attempts to restock the roster for first-year coach Matt LaFleur:

• A blocker who can start at right guard and eventually slide out to right tackle.

• A tight end who can function equally well as a receiver and blocker.

• A wide receiver who can be a versatile playmaker out of the slot.

• A running back who fits LaFleur's outside-zone running scheme.

• A defensive end with the ability to disrupt offenses.

• A speed rusher to complement the Smiths on the edge.

• A three-down inside linebacker with playmaking ability.

• A safety who can cover ground in the deep middle.

Whew, that's a load. And despite having two first-round picks and 10 overall, Gutekunst won't be able to scratch every one of those itches. Still, he has an opportunity for a franchise-changing draft in the next three days.

Here is one guess — minus any trades — at how the first round will play out:

Tom Oates has been part of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department since 1980 and became its editorial voice in 1996, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.

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