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Pre-draft picture: Linebacker could be key draft target for Packers

Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie form clear 1-2 pairing right now

LB Quay Walker
LB Quay Walker

"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. The series continues with the linebackers.

GREEN BAY – With the Packers' new base 4-3 defensive alignment requiring three off-ball linebackers, the position is squarely on the radar for a key draft addition, and perhaps multiple selections.

The Packers' top two current options are obvious – Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie.

Walker (6-4, 241) has led the team in tackles each of his first two seasons in the league since arriving as a first-round pick from Georgia in 2022. He joined Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk as the only Packers defenders since the 1970 league merger to top 100 tackles his first two years, according to Stathead.

Last season, Walker's strides were evident. He nearly matched his rookie total of 119 tackles (with 118) despite playing three fewer games. He increased his tackles for loss from five to seven, his sacks from 1½ to 2½, and turned in a pick-six. Most important, he eliminated the on-field discipline issues that led to two unsportsmanlike conduct ejections as a rookie, putting those lessons to good use.

New defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley's scheme is viewed as one that could unlock more playmaking potential from a dynamic athlete like Walker, creating a genuine curiosity as to just how he might be utilized.

Meanwhile McDuffie, a sixth-round draft pick in 2021, has progressed from primarily a special-teams contributor his first two seasons to a potentially prominent defensive role. Due to injuries to Walker and the since-released De'Vondre Campbell, McDuffie started eight games last season (plus one more in the playoffs) and acquitted himself well.

He racked up 82 tackles with five TFLs and will be given an opportunity to become a full-time starter in 2024, though any high draft pick brought in would make for keen competition there.

After Walker and McDuffie, eighth-year veteran Eric Wilson (6-1, 230) is currently next in the pecking order after re-signing as a free agent. Over his two years in Green Bay, Wilson has been a leading tackler on special teams, with 24 total, but has played sparingly on defense.

So the third linebacker spot in base is wide open, where an early draft pick could fit in right away, or compete with McDuffie for the second spot in sub-packages.

Multiple additions at off-ball linebacker would fortify the depth of the group, which also includes returnee Kristian Welch (6-3, 240), a Wisconsin native who came to the Packers last season after three years with the Ravens. Upon rising from the practice squad to the active roster, Welch became a special-teams regular and recorded six coverage tackles.

One developmental prospect is Christian Young (6-1, 221), undrafted a year ago out of Arizona and released by the Seahawks at the end of training camp. He spent roughly six weeks at midseason on Green Bay's practice squad and was signed to a reserve/future contract in January.

Pre-Draft Roster Series:

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