The perfect draft is an elusive thing. You have to be on the clock when the guy you want is still available, so much of nailing the draft depends on being lucky enough for the right players to fall into your lap.
But having a perfect strategy for attacking the draft is not nearly as luck-dependent. Identifying not just immediate needs, but the things that will likely become needs one or two years down the line is something every single team in the league can do before the draft even starts. Identifying not just specific players who can fill those needs, but ways they can be addressed in each round — including trade-ups, trade-downs, and trade-outs — is something every single team in the league should be doing.
All of this, naturally, brings us to the Perfect Draft series we’re running here at CBSSports.com throughout this week. For each of the NFL‘s 32 teams, we’ll be identifying the proper plan of attack for the 2020 NFL Draft, walking you through each of the steps they need to take to come away with an all-too-rare A-plus grade at the end of the weekend.
Below, we’ll dig into the Green Bay Packers, who have some work to do after a relatively quiet free-agency period compared to the two previous offseasons.
1. Find a complement to Davante Adams
Aaron Rodgers is still a good quarterback. He’s just no longer the all-world type of quarterback who can overcome any and all shortcomings of his surrounding cast. He needs at least a little bit of help from his friends.
Last year, Rodgers barely got any. Outside of Davante Adams, he simply did not have any reliable perimeter targets to whom he could throw the ball. Adams missed four games and played injured in several others, and yet he still led the team in targets by so much that he nearly doubled the next-closest player. Green Bay’s No. 2, 3, and 4 wide receivers just barely combined for more targets than Adams. In other words, the Packers need to find themselves a wideout in this year’s draft.
Good news for them: it’s the best wide receiver class in years. Even though Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs are unlikely to be available when they come on the board late in the first round, they should be able to find a starting-caliber wideout (or better) with any of their first three picks. Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Laviska Shenault, Tee Higgins, Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, K.J. Hamler, Michael Pittman, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Bryan Edwards, Van Jefferson, Tyler Johnson, Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay, Lynn Bowden … take your pick. At least one of these guys should be a Packer by the end of Day 2.
2. Find players who can help stop the run
Did you watch the Packers’ playoff loss to the 49ers? Did you see what Raheem Mostert did to them? Unfortunately, while that was a super-charged version of it, that run-defense performance was not too far out of the ordinary for Green Bay, which finished last season ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA.
Finding some players who can help stop the run, whether along the defensive line or at linebacker, has to be an area of improvement for this defense. The Packers let Blake Martinez leave in free agency and should look to the draft to find a replacement. If they decide to go for a linebacker in the first round, they’re in the range where Kenneth Murray and/or Patrick Queen could be available, but there are some solid run-stopping options later in the draft as well.
3. Add offensive line depth
Green Bay let Bryan Bulaga leave in free agency but did a nice job to replace him with Ricky Wagner. Wagner will turn 31 early this season, though, and shouldn’t necessarily be considered a long-term answer at right tackle. Elgton Jenkins did a solid job when called upon at guard last season but the Packers might want to add another body there so they are not left counting on Billy Turner as anything more than a fill-in starter. And Corey Linsley is a good center, but the Packers can’t pay everyone and his contract is up at the end of the year. Finding somebody at any offensive line spot would be a good idea.
4. Upgrade at slot corner
Green Bay invested a lot of money and draft capital in the secondary over the past several seasons, yet still wound up counting on Tramon Williams to man the slot more often than not last season. He did an alright job, for the most part, but he’s 37 years old now. “Tramon Williams will handle it” is not a serious plan at slot corner.
Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are outside corners who aren’t likely to bump down into the slot all that often. Players like Chandon Sullivan or Josh Jackson could pick up some of the slack, but they’re not really slot guys. So, Green Bay would do well to find somebody who can handle that role. The cornerback depth in this class is strong, but finding someone to play in the slot is a different task than just finding a corner.
5. If you can find an heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, do it
A long time ago, the Packers had Brett Favre entrenched as their starter, but still drafted a quarterback in the first round. Don’t put it past them to do the same thing again sometime soon. It wouldn’t be the worst idea.