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Packers GM Brian Gutekunst got the 'answers' needed from NFL's mock draft

Green Bay’s draft decision-maker is all set up and ready to go

GM Brian Gutekunst
GM Brian Gutekunst

GREEN BAY – The trial run was a success as far as General Manager Brian Gutekunst is concerned.

Set up with all the technology he needs in his home, the Packers GM participated in the NFL's virtual mock draft on Monday, testing how all the communication amongst teams and with the league will work once the real draft begins on Thursday night.

Saying it went "pretty smooth," Gutekunst finished the mock exercise confident the operation on his end will be fine.

"We got a lot of answers," Gutekunst said in a pre-draft conference call with the media. "That was the big thing, getting through this and finding out the answers how we really want to do this."

Gutekunst didn't divulge too many specifics, but he indicated he'll have multiple communication channels open during the draft – a key one with his top personnel executives, whom he leans on during final discussions, another with the medical staff for their evaluations (most of which were conducted on prospects at the scouting combine), and another with scouts who will be working the phones and seeking or fielding trade offers.

While he doesn't have any major concerns with the process, he said he will miss the camaraderie and energy that is normally a part of the draft, with everyone in the same room together for the three days that the other 362 during the year have led up to.

"We'll approach it like we always have," Gutekunst said. "For me, personally, not being in the draft room with our guys together, it's disappointing. We work really well together. It's an exciting time, a lot of juice.

"Not having those guys around, it won't be the same. But at the same time we'll be very well-prepared to attack this thing and accomplish what we need to accomplish."

The Packers enter the 2020 draft with 10 selections – one in each of the first five rounds, beginning with No. 30 overall, plus five picks in the last two rounds. The first round will be conducted Thursday night, the second and third rounds on Friday night, and the final four rounds on Saturday.

In his first two drafts as GM, Gutekunst entered with the No. 14 and 12 overall picks, respectively, and he turned his 2018 first-rounder from No. 14 to 18 with a couple of trades. He also traded up with an additional first-round pick last year to select at No. 21.

This time he'll be waiting much longer due to the Packers reaching the NFC title game last season, but he wasn't giving any clues as to what he plans to do with that 30th overall selection.

"That's a long wait, and a lot of really good players will come off the board," he said. "We'll be prepared to move up if we need to be and we'll be prepared to move back if that's what's best for us.

"I think we'll be able to be as aggressive as we need to be. I like to move around. I think it's a very good draft. I'd like to move around and get to the areas of the draft I think are strong."

Having entered the offseason publicly saying he planned to add at receiver, and prepared to lose right tackle Bryan Bulaga and linebacker Blake Martinez in free agency, Gutekunst isn't entering the draft with any position as a glaring hole.

He signed right tackle Rick Wagner, linebacker Christian Kirksey and receiver Devin Funchess in free agency, giving him maximum flexibility to take the best player available – or target certain players and make the trades needed to acquire them, as he suggested.

What he likes most about his three free-agent signings is their experience, a combined 19 years in the league. They've "been there, done that," which provides some comfort with so much uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the offseason and how much any team will be able to prepare its rookies to play right away.

The positions addressed in free agency are still on the draft radar, too, and when it comes to specific traits – such as a pure slot receiver, or whether a tackle plays the right or left side – Gutekunst stressed it boils down to drafting players with wide-ranging skills for their position.

"You just need good ball players, and they've got to be able to do a number of things," he said. "If you're a one-trick pony, and you only really have one trait, I think it's tough in the National Football League."

All the coronavirus-related limitations during the pre-draft process have left the Packers, and all teams, with less information than usual. Gaps in testing measurables and in-person interviews have been compensated for by extra film study, which Gutekunst calls the "most important" part anyway.

The work is done, except for maybe confirming an internal protocol or two in tech-related communication when the draft kicks off. Even with the changed circumstances, Gutekunst feels as ready as he always is.

"I'd love a bunch more picks. You can never have enough," he said. "But yeah, I think we're going to be able to help our football team this year and in the future with what we have right now.

"Whether we come out of this with 10 picks, or more or less … it'll be interesting to see how it falls, if there are some players who unexpectedly come close to where we're going to be."

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