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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Packers draft targets: Get Aaron Rodgers some help

After last year’s baffling draft decisions, especially on the first two days, the Green Bay Packers will once again look to shore up their weaknesses and gear up for another ride with Aaron Rodgers. It’s not that drafting a third string quarterback (Jordan Love) and a third string running back (AJ Dillon) with their first two picks hurt the Packers title chances last year, it’s that they didn’t contribute to them at all. 

For the Packers, whose roster-building philosophy is traditionally “draft-and-develop”, it’s an issue when your top picks fail to strengthen your starting lineup. The Packers have plenty of draft capital at their disposal, like they do seemingly every year. With their 10 picks – including five in the top 150 – Green Bay needs to get Aaron Rodgers some support before he’s not there to support at all. With some pretty clear needs and an increasingly disgruntled quarterback, this draft is more crucial than ever for the Packers as they try not to let their Super Bowl window close.

Rashod Bateman — WR, Minnesota 

Star wideout Davante Adams is in desperate need of a sidekick. In last year’s draft, the Packers were seemingly destined to take a receiver before they made the dumbfounding decision to trade up for quarterback Jordan Love. In doing this, they passed on a multitude of receivers who look like future stars, most notably the Steelers’ Chase Claypool and the Bengals’ Tee Higgins.

Rashod Bateman makes perfect sense with the Packers’ first round choice. At Minnesota, Bateman was always open and he fought for every yard after the catch. He also boasts extremely reliable hands, and Aaron Rodgers would instantly fall in love with his playmaking ability. He can line up anywhere on the field, but he’s especially dangerous in the slot where his quick release allows him to beat corners easily and get into open space. 

Bateman lined up on the same side of the field as Davante Adams is a scary thought, as it would be almost impossible to double Adams. The two would make each other better by diverting attention and keeping defenses guessing, which is an even scarier thought. Green Bay will likely have a couple options of first-round caliber receivers, but Bateman is the one to keep an eye on.

Caleb Farley — CB, Virginia Tech

When Buccaneers wide receiver Scottie Miller torched Packers corner Kevin King for a touchdown right before halftime of the NFC championship game, Green Bay’s need for a reliable secondary was more clear than ever. The Packers ended up losing 31-26, with that touchdown being the difference in a game that would have sent them to the Super Bowl.

There’s no guarantee that Farley will be on the board when the Packers pick at #29, but if he is they should give him serious consideration. Once Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are drafted, Farley is likely the third most talented corner available, narrowly beating out Northwestern's Greg Newsome II.  However, Farley’s lingering back injury is causing him to slide in the draft conversation, and Green Bay would be wise to capitalize. Farley opted out of the 2020 season, another factor which could cause him to fall into the Packers’ lap. He has all the physical tools and technique to be a lockdown corner opposite the great Jaire Alexander.

Zaven Collins — LB, Tulsa

Another likely first round choice, Zaven Collins is another way the Packers could bolster their defense with an instant, plug-and-play starter. Overall, Green Bay is solid in the front seven thanks to their pass rushers, but their current starting inside linebacker tandem of Ty Summers and Krys Barnes isn’t going to cut it. Collins has the talent to win a starting job before the season and his versatility would be a great asset to a leaky Packers defense.

Zaven Collins is a prime new-wave NFL defender because of his freakish blend of size and speed. He excels in coverage, which is a highly coveted trait in linebackers for modern defensive coordinators. His ability to lock up running backs and tight ends at the college level allowed coaches to keep him on the field for all three downs, and it separates him from similarly ranked inside linebackers like Missouri’s Nick Bolton. 

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All in all, Zaven Collins is the whole package and would be a welcome addition to any defense.  An early run on offense could keep him available just long enough for the Packers to snatch him.

Dazz Newsome — WR, North Carolina

North Carolina’s offense was quietly stacked last year, and now their playmakers are reaping the benefits. With two Tar Heel running backs and wideout Dyami Brown likely to be picked before Newsome, he could be an excellent day two or three sleeper.  If the Packers again decide to forgo their glaring need at receiver with their first few selections, Newsome could be on their radar in the later rounds.

Overshadowed by the stunning amount of offensive talent in Chapel Hill the past couple of years, Dazz Newsome may not be the most productive or flashy receiver. That doesn’t mean he’s not capable of being a dynamic playmaker at the next level. His concentration when the ball is in the air is unreal, and his highlight tape includes some absolutely ridiculous circus catches to back it up.  

He plays with a true visible joy for the game, laying his body on the line and never leaving anything on the field. He also showed distinct improvement from his time starting as a true freshman, an encouraging sign for pro evaluators. Newsome won’t be a hyped selection but he has sneaky potential.

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