In 2018, Brian Gutekunst took over his first draft as GM of the Packers.
After years of having a GM with a consistent, somewhat predictable, approach, we knew nothing about how Gutekunst would manage the draft.
We did know that the Packers had needs at all levels of the defense and the draft class was packed with defensive talent. Best of all, the Packers were picking at 14 – a good dozen or more spots higher than they had typically drafted over the last couple of decades. They could get a true difference-maker!
Guys like Bradley Chubb and Denzel Ward almost certainly weren’t going to make it to pick 14, but there were plenty of other talented defenders including Roquan Smith, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Vita Vea, Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, and, yes, Jaire Alexander.
The Bears took Smith at 8, Fitzpatrick went at 11 to the Dolphins, and Vita Vea went 12 to the Buccaneers.
That meant there were still a few talented defenders left for the Packers, but Derwin James stood out as the clear best among them. A defensive back with all the skills and size a team could want, plus the ability to play pretty much any spot in the defensive backfield.
When the Redskins took Da’Ron Payne at 13, I was certain of who the Packers would take. As soon as Washington’s pick was announced, I was pumped for the Packers to get a versatile blue chip in the form of Derwin James.
Then the announcement came in that the Packers had traded down.
I love trading down. I think it’s usually the smartest thing a team can do, but this was different. This was the first time in a long time that the Packers had a chance to pick in the top half of the draft.
And they moved down.
Then I sighed.
Then I saw why the Packers traded down.
The Saints had given them two 1st round picks – plus a 5th rounder!
I couldn’t believe it!
It wouldn’t matter what the Packers did with those picks. Obviously, it would have been a wasted golden opportunity, but Gutey’s first draft move as GM was a bold move.
And it was an absolute robbery!
The Saints took Marcus Davenport, followed by the Raiders selection of Kolton Miller. I thought maybe one of the top defensive prospects could fall all the way down to 27 where the Packers now picked.
Those hopes were quickly dashed when Tremaine Edmunds and Derwin James went with the next two picks.
Jaire Alexander was the only guy left on my list of top defenders when the 18th pick rolled around
The PFTW 2018 Draft Board listed Denzel Ward (who went #4 overall to the Browns and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie) and Jaire Alexander as the two cornerbacks with a 1st round grade.
Harold Landry was the only other defender we had with a 1st round grade, and he was definitely a tier below Alexander.
There was no way Jaire Alexander was gonna last another 9 picks.
Gutey felt the same way.
When the 18th pick came up, and I was scanning the list of third-tier defenders that I thought might still be an option by the time the Packers picked, the alert came in that the Packers had traded up!
They swapped their 6th round pick for Seattle’s 7th, threw in their 3rd rounder and moved up from 27 to 18!
The net result was the Packers moved their 3rd round pick to the 5th round, moved their 6th round pick to the 7th round, and got a future 1st round pick just for moving down four spots.
Best of all, the Packers took Jaire Alexander, who looked like the second best cornerback in the draft, but ended up being the best cornerback in the league!
It was one of the biggest draft heists I have ever seen.
Gutey has had some hits and some misses in the draft, but his first draft move as GM of the Packers was an absolute heist.
It was so great that I had to write an article about how I imagine things went down (pretty funny if I may say so myself).
Let’s hope Gutey can do something like this again this year.
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