What Packers have, what they need heading toward NFL draft

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers made this drastic of a change on defense, when they moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2009 after hiring Dom Capers as coordinator, they supplemented it with two first-round picks in nose tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

This year's change back to a 4-3 with the hiring of Jeff Hafley as defensive coordinator must also come with the same kind of commitment, albeit at different positions that are vital to the new scheme.

General manager Brian Gutekunst took the first step when he signed former Giants safety Xavier McKinney in free agency, giving him a $23 million signing bonus as part of a four-year, $67 million contract.

This after Hafley, in his introductory news conference, extolled the importance of the safety in his scheme.

There's at least one more area where Hafley needs reinforcements: inside linebacker. Not only are the Packers short there because they released veteran De'Vondre Campbell at the start of free agency, but also because they'll have a third off-the-ball linebacker on the field when they employ their base 4-3.

That's almost certain to be a priority early in the draft, where Gutekunst has 11 picks in all -- including five in the first three rounds. But it's not the only spot of need.

Here's a look at the Packers have and what they need at every position:


What they have: Their long-term starter. Jordan Love proved worthy last season and almost certainly will sign a long-term extension this offseason. Sean Clifford looks like a capable backup who could potentially be attractive to another team via trade before too long.

What they need: They haven't kept a third quarterback on the active roster in years; Alex McGough was the No. 3 last season but was on the practice squad. However, Gutekunst said he wants to draft and develop quarterbacks. "I'd like to get back to that because I just think having young, talented quarterbacks on your roster that the coaches can develop, I just think is really healthy and important for a franchise," Gutekunst said.

Running back

What they have: A new RB1 in Josh Jacobs (who replaces Aaron Jones) and the same RB2, for now, in AJ Dillon. The Packers gave Jacobs a $12 million signing bonus as part of a four-year, $48 million deal, but it's really more of a year-by-year contract given the financial structure. Dillon is back on a one-year prove-it contract. Emanuel Wilson, Ellis Merriweather and fullback Henry Pearson are also on the offseason roster.

What they need: If the Packers had brought back Aaron Jones and not signed Jacobs, then it would be a priority to draft Jones' eventual replacement. But they got younger at the position from the 29-year-old Jones to the 26-year-old Jacobs, so any immediate addition here would be more for depth.

Wide receiver

What they have: An overflow of young talent. Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson are under contract for two more years. Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks are locked up for three more. Even if none is a clear-cut WR1 yet, the Packers are flush with receivers, especially considering Bo Melton and Malik Heath -- who both flashed last season -- are likely the fifth and sixth receivers, respectively.

What they need: Nothing. How many teams can say that about any position, let alone one as important as this? After taking six receivers in the previous two drafts combined, Gutekunst can use his picks elsewhere this year.

Tight end

What they have: Two young potential stars in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft, who showed last season as rookies that they're the Packers' future at this position. They combined for 65 catches, 757 yards and three touchdowns. A third rookie last season, Ben Sims, returns. So does Tyler Davis, but he is coming off a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason.

What they need: A versatile blocker who can do some of the things Josiah Deguara did out of the backfield and in motion. To date, Deguara remains on the free agent market. Pearson, a fullback who played sparingly last season, could fill that role.

Offensive line

What they have: Two Pro Bowl/All-Pro types in left guard Elgton Jenkins and right tackle Zach Tom; a center in Josh Myers, who's entering the final year of his rookie contract; a left tackle in Rasheed Walker, who got his first action last season after David Bakhtiari's season-ending injury; and a likely new starting right guard in Sean Rhyan, who platooned with Jon Runyan late in the season.

What they need: A franchise left tackle, now that Bakhtiari's time is done. Perhaps it's Walker, a seventh-round pick in 2022 who started all but two games last season. But it doesn't sound like Gutekunst is convinced Walker is the long-term answer. "I want competition at all five spots," Gutekunst said recently. "But Rasheed [is] another guy that the improvement in the work that he put in, it's exactly what we want, and expect him to continue to get better." The Packers haven't used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman since 2011 (Derek Sherrod), but that streak could end this year.

Defensive tackle

What they have: An established veteran in Kenny Clark, a player on the rise in Devonte Wyatt, a reliable run-stopper in T.J. Slaton and a pair of second-year players who showed promise last season as rookies in Karl Brooks and Colby Wooden.

What they need: While the depth chart looks full, don't be surprised if Gutekunst adds to this position high in the draft. Clark, while still playing at his best, turns 29 in October and is entering his ninth season.


What they have: A reliable veteran in Preston Smith, who took a $2.4 million pay cut to come back; a rising star in Rashan Gary, who signed a four-year, $96 million extension last season; and their 2023 first-round pick, Lukas Van Ness. Kingsley Enagbare had some production before he tore his right ACL in the playoff game against the Cowboys and might not be ready for the start of the season. They're high on Brenton Cox Jr., who made the team as an undrafted rookie last season.

What they need: This entire position group was acquired to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, so it's possible Gutekunst will need to add some 4-3 specific defensive ends. Also, this could be Smith's last season in Green Bay. He will turn 32 in November.


What they have: Four potential starters in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Carrington Valentine and Keisean Nixon plus a reliable backup in Corey Ballentine. Alexander had his issues last season and was suspended for one game because of conduct detrimental to the team, but the two sides seem to have emerged in a better place. Injuries have limited Stokes to just 12 games the past two seasons combined. Valentine showed promise last season as a rookie. Nixon re-signed this offseason and likely will be the nickel again.

What they need: It's not out of the realm of possibility that Gutekunst could use a high draft pick at this position, especially if he's not sold that Stokes can stay healthy and that Valentine is a surefire starter.


What they have: Their highest-priced signing in McKinney. That's it in terms of proven starters. Anthony Johnson Jr. got some experience (303 snaps) as a rookie last season.

What they need: Another starter. The Packers elected to let Jonathan Owens and Darnell Savage leave in free agency, while Rudy Ford remains unsigned. This spot is in play early -- and perhaps often -- in the draft with Gutekunst potentially drafting multiple safeties.


What they have: A kicker in Anders Carlson who struggled through his rookie campaign and missed more kicks (13) than anyone in the league last season; a punter in Daniel Whelan who showed promise in his first year on the job; and a long-snapper in Matt Orzech who was inconsistent.

What they need: Competition for Carlson. They signed Jack Podlesny off the street in January, but he has never kicked in an NFL game. Gutekunst made the bold move to draft a kicker when he picked Carlson in the sixth round last year. Would he double down and draft another kicker or try to find a veteran if Podlesny can't compete?