GREEN BAY – On Thursday night, the Packers’ defensive coaches had the smiles on their faces.
On Friday night, the grins shifted to the other guys.
“I think our offensive coaches are pretty happy with the things we did today,” General Manager Brian Gutekunst said shortly after adding two offensive players on the second night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The selections of offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins in the second round and tight end Jace Sternberger in the third likely made Matt LaFleur extra happy as well, but the new head coach and offensive play-caller does have to keep the bigger picture in mind, too.
Gutekunst has now split the Packers’ first four picks, two first-rounders on defense and the next two choices on offense.
On Day 1, the board was heavy with quality defensive players, and Gutekunst took advantage, choosing Michigan pass rusher Rashan Gary at No. 12 and Maryland safety Darnell Savage at No. 21.
On Day 2, he fielded some offers to trade back, presumably to try to recoup a fourth-round pick after dealing two from that round to get Savage a night ago. He had no regrets, saying he knew “for a fact” Savage would not have lasted until the Packers’ original 30th pick, so he made sure he got him.
But the compensation on the table didn’t excite him and moving back too far even less so. Sitting and picking was the order of this night.
“We really like their long-term potential,” Gutekunst said of his Friday selections. “I always feel the draft is a long-term investment, but these guys were taken high for a reason.
“Both Matt and I are very in line with our vision for what we want to do with this team.”
Jenkins, from Mississippi State, has played everywhere on the offensive line, and it was not difficult for Gutekunst to see the two-year starting center moving to guard and competing right away in the NFL.
If Jenkins’ versatility intrigued him, his brute strength piqued the interest at the No. 44 overall pick.
“He’s a grown man,” Gutekunst said of the 6-4, 310-pounder. “At the Senior Bowl, one thing you could really see was his ability to move big men. He’s got power, and that was kind of what sold me.
“He’s been a good player in the SEC for about three years now, and he’s really, really consistent.”
Sternberger, from Texas A&M, is more of a one-year wonder, having gone through Kansas and a junior college in Oklahoma before landing at College Station.
The numbers in 2018 – 48 catches for 832 yards, highlighted by a 17.3-yard average and 10 touchdowns – are impossible to ignore. But it’s the projection of what the 6-4, 251-pound All-American might be down the road that made him Gutekunst’s choice at No. 75.
“Jace kind of fits the tight end that can kind of be a matchup problem,” Gutekunst said. “He’s a tough cover down the field. He can stretch the seam.”
Sternberger will get a chance to absorb a lot of veteran knowledge from fellow tight ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis as he looks to develop into the Packers’ future at the position.
The other offensive skill spots of running back and wide receiver could be on Gutekunst’s radar with his upcoming four picks on Day 3. He’ll enter Saturday with one fifth-round choice, two sixth-rounders, and one seventh.
Defensive lineman, inside linebacker and cornerback are other possibilities, too, as are any of the positions already addressed.
With depth welcome anywhere, Gutekunst doesn’t want to feel limited as he wraps up his second draft as GM.
“I try to stay away from feeling like ‘I’ve gotta do this,’” he said.
“You have to be careful you’re not just trying to check boxes. You may end up missing on a player that could really help your team. What your needs are now, by the time you get to August and September they can change drastically.”
The picks he has could still change, too. He wasn’t going to rule out getting back into the fourth round somehow, if the right opportunity presents itself.
Take a look at photos of the Packers' second round selection, G Elgton Jenkins during his career at Mississippi State.