GREEN BAY – The Packers entered the 2021 NFL Draft without any real glaring holes in their starting lineup.
But they sure exited this draft with a ton of competition shaping up at various spots on the roster, which certainly doesn't rule out potential playing time for members of Gutekunst's nine-player class.
"We have a very good football team coming back," Gutekunst said at the conclusion of the three-day selection extravaganza. "Our football team is going to be a hard team to make.
"But we got some really good football players that are going to help us win. There's some really good people, too, that are going to continue to carry the culture that we have here."
Here's a position-by-position look at where these draft picks will fit in and compete.
Cornerback: First-round pick Eric Stokes from Georgia will be in the mix from the start with Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan to establish the pecking order behind top cover man Jaire Alexander. Who plays where – on the boundary or in the slot – will be a key storyline in training camp as new defensive coordinator Joe Barry installs his system.
Fifth-rounder Shemar Jean-Charles from Appalachian State joins a handful of others, all brought in within the last three years, to make the depth as competitive as possible at a position that never has enough quality players. Gutekunst said Jean-Charles was a "favorite" amongst the scouting staff and he kept getting "taps on the shoulder" when he was still available late in the fifth.
Receiver: Third-round selection Amari Rodgers from Clemson brings a varied skill set others in the group don't possess with his ability to line up outside or in the slot, run crisp routes or jet sweeps, and escape tackles or break them.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur has packages of offensive weapons on the field at any given time, so there'll be plenty of snaps to go around amongst Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, veteran newcomer Devin Funchess and Rodgers behind star Davante Adams.
But there's no denying Rodgers brings something different to the table.
"That is huge in this offense," LaFleur said. "When he gets the ball in his hands, he's pretty dynamic. I think you can use him a lot of different ways. He's just a complete football player."
Offensive line: Three draft picks this year – Ohio State's Josh Myers, Mississippi's Royce Newman and Wisconsin's Cole Van Lanen – join three draft picks from last year to figure out where these versatile guys line up best.
Guard Jon Runyan, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the leader in the bunch for a potential starting job this year, but Myers will get a shot at center to replace free agent Corey Linsley. The uncertainty at tackle with David Bakhtiari's pending return from injury also could open up playing time in the early portions of the year.
Defensive line: Kenny Clark is the leader, Dean Lowry is the established vet, and Kingsley Keke is projected as a rising contributor to the pass rush. But now fifth-round pick T.J. Slaton from Florida joins fourth-year pro Tyler Lancaster as a big-bodied run-plugger to provide more options, depending on the situation and perhaps how often Barry wants to play a five-man front.
"T.J.'s a monster, right," Gutekunst said of the 6-4, 330-pounder who has lost weight to be that size. "He's really tough to dig out of that inside there. He's one of those guys that can clog up the middle, eat up space and find the ball."
Inside linebacker: Two newcomers last year, undrafted Krys Barnes and fifth-round pick Kamal Martin, moved ahead of Ty Summers in 2020, and the trio now has another young prospect along in sixth-rounder Isaiah McDuffie from Boston College.
Gutekunst planned to address the position earlier in the draft, but his targets were gone when his picks arrived.
"Didn't happen to fall that way for us," he said. "I do like a lot of the young players we have in that room, and I'm expecting those guys to take big jumps. There'll be good competition in that room."
With only one pick left to make, Gutekunst said the crew in the draft room was "holding our breath there" hoping the explosive, productive Hill would remain available.
Looming over the weekend, of course, was the Aaron Rodgers news. But in addressing it for the first time, LaFleur echoed Gutekunst's faith and optimism that everything can get worked out and the Packers will have the team they planned on, plus these new additions and elevated roster competition, in 2021.
"I can't even take my brain to that spot right now," LaFleur said of Rodgers not being his quarterback. "I can't fathom (him) not being in Green Bay.
"When you have good people that communicate with one another that you can work through tough times, that's what I'm most hopeful about."
There's genuine hope for this draft class, too, and with players like Amari Rodgers being involved right away in the return game, plus McDuffie, Jean-Charles and Hill pegged to help potentially on special teams, the third phase also got a needed boost for new coordinator Maurice Drayton.
As with any draft, future projections and considerations are inherent in the process, so 2021 likely won't define any of these players' careers with the Packers. Roster turnover is a constant in the NFL, and every depth chart is guaranteed to look different a year from now.
Gutekunst likes this group's odds for "long-term success," but soon enough, performance will matter more than projection.
"No matter where you're drafted, everything's an unknown at this point," LaFleur said. "Everybody feels good about their draft class. The bottom line is guys have got to come in and they've got to prove it."