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5 things learned from Packers GM Brian Gutekunst as NFL Draft approaches

A potentially monumental three days await

General Manager Brian Gutekunst
General Manager Brian Gutekunst

GREEN BAY – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst spoke with the media for more than a half-hour Monday, with the 2024 NFL Draft beginning in three days.

Here are five things we learned:

  1. The Packers' draft board is pretty much set and ready to go.

As usual by this stage, the draft could start at any moment and Gutekunst & Co. would be ready. They've finalized the board over the past couple of weeks and not much, if anything, will change between now and Thursday night's first round.

"Through this past weekend we got to a point where we feel really good about where it's at," he said. "We'll probably have one more meeting this evening and lock it up really 'til Thursday. There's work to be done between now and then, and things to do, (but) as far as guys changing on the board, I wouldn't expect that."

  1. The roster numbers game is not top of mind.

The Packers currently have 72 players on their roster and own 11 picks heading into the draft, which will be followed by rookie free agency. They'll be closing in on the 90-man offseason roster limit quickly, but that won't impact how Gutekunst goes about conducting this draft.

No matter the current state of the roster – which can always change by releasing guys as rookies sign their contracts – Gutekunst believes more swings at the plate increases the chances of hits on good players.

"There's never enough," he said. "I don't ever subscribe to the thought process, 'Hey, we've got a pretty good team. These guys might not have a chance to make the team.'"

He doesn't subscribe to being just a player or two away from the Super Bowl, either, no matter how close a young Packers squad came to getting there a year ago.

Gutekunst has drafted 24 players over the past two years, with 22 of them on the current roster, and more than half having played significant roles early in their careers. He attributes much of their success to opportunity to play, but also to being pushed by their peers.

"I've talked a lot about competition in every (position) room, and how much it accelerates the growth of your football team," he said. "I think that's the best way for your team to move forward, so to me, there's never enough.

"We have 11 (picks) right now. I'd love to end up with 13, 14 or more. I would never shy away from that."

  1. Several trade scenarios will be discussed this week, and a certain mentality is required to move up or down.

With five picks in the first three rounds, Gutekunst has plenty of draft capital to move around the opening two nights as he sees fit, and there are reasons to go one direction or the other.

"To move up, it better be for the kind of player you don't feel you're going to have an opportunity to get in most years," he said.

Whereas to go back, he has to be prepared to lose out on a player he may like but be satisfied with drafting another player graded of similar quality. A seasoned drafter is always mindful of not falling in love with a player too much when trusting the board is more productive.

"You build the board and you go through this enough to where you have enough confidence in the board to follow it," Gutekunst said. "But we're all human and every scout in there has favorite players up there. At the same time, we're trying to do what's best for the organization, the team – not for us individually."

  1. The Packers are known for drafting players with high RAS (relative athletic score) numbers and strong character, but those can't override game film.

For Gutekunst, players with better RAS numbers may have "higher ceilings" and greater room to improve their games at the pro level, thanks to that overall athletic ability. Plus, good character always fits better in a locker room, so that matters, too.

But the foundation of any player's evaluation is their college film and how that projects to the pro game, which has to take precedence in the big picture when comparing players.

"Whenever there's discrepancies, whenever you're not sure, you go back to the tape," Gutekunst said. "That's going to be your best predictor of future success is what they've done on tape, and that's kind of what we live by.

"Again, it's all important, it all factors in, but at the end of the day, you've got to be able to play this game. Not play it at a high level in college, but be able translate to our league and play it at a high level here."

  1. Those three days later this week remain the three most important days of any offseason.

The competition at every position that Gutekunst strives for, because it helps young players grow and pushes all to excel, will be a lot stiffer by the end of this coming weekend. Heck, at kicker it's already on, with veteran Greg Joseph brought in to compete with Anders Carlson and Jack Podlesny.

Judging by the last two years, this next draft class also will be given opportunities to play if they're earned, with the idea they can get through some growing pains early and contribute down the line to what's expected to be a championship-contending club.

"The draft is the lifeblood of this organization," Gutekunst said. "It always kinda has been, right? So that's why we put so much time into it. That's why it's so important to us.

"The guys in that locker room are counting on us to bring in the right kind of guys to help them achieve their goals. The guys we bring in (are) going to play a huge impact in how our season goes this year, and (they) have to be prepared for that.

"They have to be able to fit in … and buy into the culture. That's one of the things I feel really good about right now is just not only the culture that we have, how strong it's become, but the willingness for all those guys to compete, and when new competition comes in, to embrace that."

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