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Packers-Prospects-Pale Ales Mailbag

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Welcome to the weekly PPP mailbag here at Game On Wisconsin. Each week I’ll answer your questions regarding the Green Packers, Prospects, and Pale Ales.

Welcome one and all to the Packers-Prospects-Pale Ales mailbag. For those of you that follow me on Twitter (I’m sorry if you do) know that I love the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers, and beer.

Those are the three topics I’ll be discussing in this weekly PPP mailbag. With that, let’s crack a beer and get to those questions.

 

The 2021 NFL Draft has no shortage of athletic offensive tackles. Brian Gutekunst is going to want to get one of the top guys as the Packers look to improve the depth at the second most important position in football.

Liam Eichenberg could be the pick at 29. The Notre Dame offensive tackle is one of the most battled-tested offensive tackles in this class. He was a 38-game starter for one of the best offensive lines in college football.

Eichenberg is a plug-and-play starter at left or right tackle. Eichenberg is rock solid. According to Pro Football Focus, Eichenberg hasn’t given up a sack over the last two seasons. That’s 951 pass protection reps without yielding a sack.

If David Bakhtiari misses any team this season Eichenberg could start at left tackle. If Bakhtiari is ready from day one, Eichenberg could play right tackle and Billy Turner could play right guard.

“The biggest selling point for me is consistency,” Eichenberg said during Notre Dame’s pro day. “I’m a guy you can plug in and play right now. I don’t need a lot of development…I think I can come in and play right away.”

If the Packers took Eichenberg they’d be getting a plug-and-play offensive tackle that could play right tackle for the next decade. It wouldn’t be the sexiest pick, but it would ensure that the Great Wall of Lambeau remains a strength.

 

There are going to be plenty of wide receivers that Gutekunst could target on day two of the draft. If I have to narrow it down to one I’ll go with Dyami Brown.

The UNC wide receiver finished this past season with 55 receptions for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns. At UNC’s pro day, Brown ran a 4.44 40-yard dash. He had a vertical of 35.5 and a broad jump of 10-8.

Brown was a big-play threat at UNC, averaging 20.1 yards per reception over the past two seasons. He had five receptions of 50-plus yards in 2020. Brown has good ball-tracking skills and plays the ball at its highest point.

Outside of Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Brown may have the best release packages in this draft class. He’s so sudden off the line of scrimmage.

Brown has got some of the best releases of any receiver in this draft class. And he better with how often North Carolina’s offense asked him to get vertical. His career average depth of target in three seasons for the Tar Heels was a ridiculous 17.1 yards downfield. For comparison, Rashod Bateman’s is the second-highest of any receiver in this top 10 at only 13.7 yards.

Brown was a vertical threat for the Tar Heels. A part of his game that is going to “pop” at the next level is his ability after the catch.

Brown is a physical runner with breakaway speed that makes him dangerous after the catch. He’s simply able to hit another gear with the ball in his hands. His ability to pluck the ball from his frame and turn upfield without throttling down makes one believe that he could turn into a YAC machine on Sundays.

Gutekunst would be wise to add at least one wide receiver in this class to plan for the future. With Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in place, Brown could play sparingly as a rookie and look to break out during his second season.

A recipe that’s worked well with former second-round wide receivers for the Packers, like Greg Jennings. Brown reminds me a bit of Jennings, with their size and athletic profile. If Brown can develop into the player that Jennings was during his time with Green Bay, I think the Packers would be quite satisfied with that selection.

Since I’m going to be realistic I’ll cross off guys like Greg Newsome II, Teven Jenkins, and Rashod Bateman off the list in the first round.

I’d love to have Eric Stokes on the Packers at 29, but for the point of this exercise, I’ll take Liam Eichenberg at 29. We discussed Eichenberg earlier and I think he would strengthen the offensive line, a group that was a strong point for a team that went 13-3 last season and reached the NFC Championship Game.

If Bakhtiari misses time to start the season, the Packers could roll out a starting offensive line of Eichenberg-Elgton Jenkins-Lucas Patrick-Jon Runyan-Turner. When Bakhtiari returns they could roll with a starting group of Bakhtiari-Jenkins-Patrick or Runyan-Turner-Eichenberg.

Eichenberg won’t be a pick that will have fans running to the Packers Pro Shop to buy his jersey, but there is value in drafting a guy that could be the starting right tackle for the next 10-plus years.

With the 62nd pick, it’s Elijah Molden. Surprise, surprise. Molden is a day-one starter at nickel and the former Washington Huskies cornerback has the versatility to play safety as well.

Molden is the best slot cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has outstanding short-area quickness and has a high football IQ. He shows a great understanding of leverage and route recognition.

“Pattern recognition and instincts are my two greatest strengths,” Molden said. “All that stuff has to do with confidence and trust yourself and trust what you see on tape. You don’t ever want to be thinking out on the field or else your body will be stiff and you’ll be hesitant.”

The nickel position has turned into a starting position in today’s NFL. It’s also a position that’s of high importance at UW. Players like Taylor Rapp, Budda Baker, and Myles Bryant all manned the position prior to Molden. It’s a position that has helped Molden prepare to be a day-one starter when he gets to the next level.

Molden has all the tools to be a day-one starter in the slot. He has good short-area quickness. He has a high football IQ. He throws his body around in run support. He’s excellent in coverage. On top of all that he can help out on special teams (479 career snaps on special teams).

In the third round I’m taking South Dakota State University wide receiver, Cade Johnson. The former walk-on developed into a star for the Jackrabbits.

As a redshirt freshman for South Dakota State University, Johnson caught 23 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.

That season Johnson made his living on special teams, proving to be a dynamic return man for SDSU. He set the single-season program record for kick return yards (839). Johnson averaged 28 yards per kick return and finished the season with two kick return touchdowns.

Johnson enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018. Johnson caught 67 passes for 1,332 yards and set the single-season program record for receiving touchdowns (17). He continued to provide special teams value, averaging 27.2 yards on kick returns. As a redshirt junior in 2019, Johnson reeled in 72 receptions for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns.

Johnson would make a day-one impact as a return man for the Packers. He also could serve as a quality wide receiver four during his rookie season and look to break out in 2022.

The Packers have been knocking on the Super Bowl door the past two seasons. Under Matt LaFleur, the Packers have gone 28-8, with two NFC North crowns and two NFC Championship Game appearances.

With basically the same cast of characters returning (for the most part) this season, the Packers need to draft an impact player or two in the 2021 NFL Draft. These three players would all provide an immediate impact for a team that’s looking to get over the hump.

Elijah Molden and Cade Johnson are the top two, but since we’ve already discussed them in this mailbag I’ll give you a third one. Avery Williams, the cornerback out of Boise State.

There may not be a better special teams player in the upcoming draft than Boise State’s cornerback and special teams ace, Avery Williams.

Williams has been starting at cornerback for the Broncos since he was a redshirt freshman. The former walk-on started 44 games for the Broncos and was a team captain this past season.

In 2017, Williams averaged 24.7 yards per kick return. As a punt returner, Williams led the Mountain West by averaging 11.2 yards per punt return. He also returned two punts for touchdowns.

As a redshirt sophomore, Williams returned one kickoff for a touchdown. He blocked one field goal and averaged seven yards per punt return.

Williams earned Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year in 2019. Williams blocked two kicks and returned two punts for touchdowns. The former walk-on averaged 13.2 yards per punt return, which led the Mountain West.

This past season, Williams blocked two punts, one of which he recovered in the end zone. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 28 yards per return. As a punt returner, Williams returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 15.3 yards per return. To no surprise, he earned all-conference as a returner for the second straight year.

Williams is undersized (5-9), but he plays bigger than his frame. He’s tenacious at the catch point. He’d add quality depth to the cornerback position while boosting a special teams unit that desperately needs a shot in the arm.

The Packers need to improve on special teams. The best way to do that is to find guys in the draft that were special team standouts in college. Williams is a player that could step in from day one and become the best special teams player on the Packers.

Williams is going to be a steal for whatever team selects him on day three of the draft. I’d be completely content if the Packers took him with one of their fourth-round picks. That’s how good he is on special teams.

Hazy IPA. So damn good. I’ve yet to drink a Hazy IPA that I’d kick out of bed for eating crackers. Some of my favorite Hazy IPAs I’ve had:

  • Morning Haze IPA from Moose Lake Brewing
  • Outer My Space Hazy IPA from Backwoods Brewing
  • Party Foward Hazy IPA from Fair State Brewing

I could go on and on, but Hazy IPAs would be my beer of choice. That question also reminded me that I need to get better at logging the beer I drink in my beer journal. Yes, I have a beer journal. It was a wedding gift.

Thanks, everybody for the questions. We will do this again soon.

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