The Green Bay Packers were the talk of the town last NFL Draft after failing to get Aaron Rodgers any wide receiver help and instead, drafted his future replacement in Jordan Love. But Rodgers has put up an MVP-caliber season and does not appear to be going anymore anytime soon.
The Packers currently sit at 9-3 and first place in NFC North. In the drivers seat of the division, Green Bay should once again be making a deep run in the playoffs. But it’s never too early to consider the offseason and the needs they have in the draft.
Wide receiver once again should be a top priority for GM Brian Gutekunst. The linebacker position, especially on the inside, is a concern this year as well as defensive front, as the run defense hasn’t been as dominant as years past. Depending on some decisions in free agency on the offensive line, it could be a concern as well.
With that in mind, here are four potential targets for the Packers in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Nick Bolton, Linebacker, Missouri
Linebacker is one of the larger needs for the Packers, specifically inside linebacker. After losing tackle-machine Blake Martinez in free agency, the Packers tried to fill that void with veteran Christian Kirksey and rookie Kamal Martin, but both have dealt with injuries and have missed time. There is a clear lack of depth at that position and that should be addressed in the NFL Draft.
Bolton is a smaller linebacker, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism and energy. He’s a spark plug in the middle of the field, and has been a leader for the Missouri defense. He racked up 100 total tackles last season and has 80 so far this year.
While his strength may come against the ground game, he’s proved to be reliable in pass coverage as well. With the interior linebacker position seemingly to be a carousel for the Packers the last few season, Bolton could provide stability in the middle of the field.
Terrace Marshall, Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU
One year removed from passing on not just first-round talent wide receivers, but any wide receivers, the Packers’ need at receiver remains the same. Davante Adams continues to be elite, but it’s been more of mixing in tight ends than other receivers outside of Adams for Aaron Rodgers. And with Allen Lazard becoming a free agent this offseason, the Packers once again need to address the receiver role.
While top-end talent like Rondale Moore, Ja’Marr Chase, and the Alabama duo of DeVonta Smith and Jalen Waddle most likely won’t be available late in the first round, Chase’s teammate Terrace Marshall, Jr. should be at the top of the list for the Packers at receiver.
Expected to LSU’s WR2 before Chase opted out of the season, Marshall Jr. was having an exceptional season with 48 receptions for 731 yards and 10 TDs before following suit and opting out of the rest of the season. Marshall Jr. certainly took advantage of his opportunity as WR1 and with that, rose his draft stock. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but has been stuck behind better talent like Chase and Justin Jefferson while with the Tigers. He could provide Rodgers with a WR2 option Packers fans have been waiting for.
Carlos Basham Jr., Defensive Line, Wake Forest
The rushing defense for the Packers has been fairly average this season, ranking right in the middle of the NFL, giving up an average of 114.6 rushing yards per game. Both edge rush and defense line should be addressed in the draft.
Carlos Basham Jr. is a bit of a freakish build. His large arms allow him to be a pain when it comes to guarding, as well as getting them up in passing lines. He also recorded 11 sacks last season and has five so far this year. Wake Forest uses him very similarly to how Green Bay uses Za’Darius Smith, which could cause Green Bay to look elsewhere. But if he is the best D-Lineman available, he should be considered.
He most likely would have to gain weight and play along the line, with the brothers Smith as edge rushers already established for the Pack. But he’s versatile and athletic enough that he could put Green Bay’s defensive front over the edge and form a front seven that no offense will want to deal with.
Eric Stokes, Cornerback, Georgia
There’s no doubt about it – Jaire Alexander is the real deal. He’s becoming one of the best corners in the league. But on the other side of the field comes a major question mark.
Kevin King will be a free agent this offseason and the Packers could be without a bonafide cornerback to pair with Alexander. Josh Jackson hasn’t been bad when King has been out this year, but is he the answer? It’s an important position that Gutekunst should address.
While there is a plethora of solid options at cornerback in the draft, one that stands out is Eric Stokes. He’s a strong man-to-man corner who has proven to be solid for Georgia’s defense. He took over as a starter last season and was a key reason why Georgia had one of the best defenses in college football.
He certainly would need to gain weight, as he is listed as 185 pounds and that won’t cut it on the outside in the NFL. While there certainly are more talented corners in this NFL Draft, they won’t be there for Green Bay and Stokes is as good of a second-tier cornerback as you will find, especially where he won’t be forced into pairing against a team’s top wide receiver.