Packers' NFL draft picks suggest more change is on the way
By STEVE MEGARGEE
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers might not be the only longtime Packer heading out of Green Bay.
The Packers drafted Auburn kicker Anders Carlson in the sixth round on Saturday. That move could lead to the exit of free agent Mason Crosby, who has a franchise-record 1,918 career points over 17 seasons.
"I’ve praised Mason up here a bunch and what he’s done for our organization, and we’re never going to close the door on that,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said.
Green Bay took Carlson with the 207th overall pick, which the Packers acquired in the trade that sent Rodgers to the New York Jets. This marks the first time the Packers have drafted a kicker since using a sixth-round pick on Crosby in 2007.
“I obviously want to acknowledge the legacy he created and, like I said, the legend that he is there,” Carlson said. “But for me, I’m truly just focused on what I’m doing, the teammate I can be for the guys up there, and just putting my best foot forward every day.”
Carlson made 71.8% of his field-goal attempts at Auburn. He was 34 of 34 from inside 30 yards but only 45 of 76 (59.2%) from at least 30 yards.
Green Bay’s selection of Carlson exemplified the new era the Packers are entering after an 8-9 season that ended a string of three straight NFC North titles.
The days of Rodgers-to-Davante Adams are long gone. The Rodgers-to-Allen Lazard connection has moved to New York. New starting quarterback Jordan Love will be throwing primarily to rookies and second-year pros.
Green Bay drafted three receivers (Michigan State’s Jayden Reed in the second round, Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks in the fifth and Charlotte’s Grant DuBose in the seventh) and two tight ends (Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave in the second and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft in the third). The Packers also drafted three wideouts in 2022: Christian Watson in the second, Romeo Doubs in the fourth and Samori Toure in the seventh.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how much we can really put on these guys’ plates because typically I would say the more veteran you are, the more volume you can carry in your offense,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
The Packers also boosted their front seven on defense by selecting Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness in the first round, Auburn defensive lineman Colby Wooden in the fourth and Bowling Green defensive lineman Karl Brooks in the sixth.
Green Bay’s other picks were Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford in the fifth round and Kentucky cornerback Carrington Valentine, Central Michigan running back Lew Nichols and Iowa State safety Anthony Johnson Jr. in the seventh.
THE OLD ROOKIE
The 24-year-old Clifford is 3 1/2 months older than Love, who was drafted three years ago.
Green Bay’s only quarterbacks are Love, Clifford and Danny Etling, who has never appeared in an NFL game.
“I like that room right now and all those guys need reps, so I think we’ll probably see how these guys do before we think about bringing in a veteran right away,” Gutekunst said.
Carlson is the younger brother of Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson. Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia worked with Daniel during his stint as Las Vegas’ special teams coordinator and interim coach.
That played a role in the Packers’ decision.
“He was a kicker that Rich has extensive experience with,” Gutekunst said.
The Packers took two players who put up huge numbers at Mid-American Conference schools.
Brooks had 30 1/2 tackles for loss and 17 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons. He finished his Bowling Green career with 27 1/2 sacks.
Nichols had an FBS-leading 1,848 yards rushing in 2021. He ran for 601 yards last season while dealing with a toe injury.
SEEKING SAFETY HELP
Safety was considered one of Green Bay’s bigger needs heading into the draft. The Packers didn’t take one until the seventh-round selection of Johnson, who played cornerback his first four years at Iowa State before moving to safety last season.
Gutekunst hasn't ruled out re-signing free agent Adrian Amos, who has started 66 games for the Packers over the last four seasons.
“Obviously Adrian’s done such a nice job for us over the last four years,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve been in communication with him along the way, so we’ll see where that goes.”
NO OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
The Packers didn’t draft any offensive linemen for the first time since 2015.
Green Bay's roster includes 13 offensive linemen. LaFleur calls it “as deep an offensive line as I can ever remember being around.”
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Updated April 29, 2023