Recent history suggests 1 of these 7 NFL draft prospects will be Packers

By: Paul Bretl 4/19/2024

Two draft trends that have emerged under Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst, especially in recent years, are that a number of his selections have either played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, been on an official pre-draft visit, or both. 

The Senior Bowl is an invitation-only, All-Star college football event held each year in Mobile, Alabama. At the Senior Bowl, top draft prospects are able to showcase their talents against high-level competition during a week of practices followed by an All-Star game.

The event attracts GMs and scouts from across the NFL and has traditionally been for seniors or fourth-year juniors who have graduated, but in 2024 for the first time, underclassmen were eligible to participate if they received an invite.

When it comes to Gutekunst and the Packers, he has made 24 total selections in the last two draft classes, and a whopping 10 of them have been Senior Bowl participants. A few of these players include Devonte Wyatt, Christian Watson, Luke Musgrave, Karl Brooks, and Romeo Doubs.

“Certainly, for some of us, it’s the first time we get the chance to set our eyes on some of these players,” Gutekunst said of the Senior Bowl. “Seeing them physically move around and compete, it’s such a big deal to see the competition live. And to meet them, in the beginning phase of getting to know these guys as people, I think is just a huge part of our process. Then, having it in Mobile and the professional way that they roll that thing out for us, and make it so easy, it’s a very, very important part of our process.”

The official pre-draft visit is a staple of the pre-draft process and commonly referred to as ‘top-30 visits.’ Every team is able to have 30 official visits leading up to the draft, where the prospects travel to the team facility. For many teams, there isn’t a lot that can be gleaned from these visits. But for the Packers, they’ve proven to be quite telling. 

In the last two draft cycles, totaling 60 official pre-draft visits, 16 of those prospects have become Packers in some capacity, whether that meant being drafted or signed as an undrafted rookie.

So far, during this draft cycle, 24 of the Packers’ 30 official pre-draft visits have been reported. If we take that list of 24 players and cross-reference it with whether or not they also played in the Senior Bowl, that list of prospects is whittled down to just seven.

If I were to guess, for the reasons already laid out, I would say that there is a good chance one of these prospects ends up as a Green Bay Packer.

Michael Hall, IDL, Ohio State: Hall would provide the Packers with a strong pass-rush presence along the interior. Hall ranked second in 2023 among all interior defenders in pass-rush win rate, behind only Texas’ Byron Murphy. The Packers’ pass rush was extremely hot and cold last season.

Kitan Oladapo, S, Oregon State: An experienced, high-effort defender who is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Oladapo had the second-best PFF run defense grade among safeties last season and has been a sound tackler. His biggest impact early on will likely come on special teams.

Ty’Ron Hopper, LB, Missouri: A linebacker with good range who could be a backup at the Will behind Quay Walker–if that is where the Packers decide to put him. He has good range and is physical, but did deal with missed tackles at times.

Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma: Guyton is a bit bigger than the tackles we’ve seen the Packers draft in the past, but his athleticism could negate that potential concern. Guyton allowed no sacks and 12 pressures in 2023 playing right tackle. An athletic, high-upside tackle who is still just 21 years old would be a very Packers-esque first-round pick.

Austin Booker, Edge, Kansas: Booker has played just 505 college snaps, totaling 38 pressures and nine sacks in 2023. At just 240 pounds, this would very much be an outlier pick for the Packers, given that Gutekunst prefers bigger-bodied edge rushers. With that said, we’ve seen the Jets, 49ers, and Texans use lighter edge rushers, and those three teams will run a similar style of defense as the Packers under Jeff Hafley.

Marshawn Kneeland, Edge, Western Michigan: If Booker would be an outlier selection for the Packers, Kneeland is exactly what they look for in an edge rusher–a tremendous athlete with size and length. Kneeland was able to impact both the run and passing games in college. Edge depth is a sneaky need, and with four Day 2 picks, I would not be surprised to hear Kneeland’s name called when the Packers are picking.

Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky: Jordan Reid of ESPN recently wrote that the Packers are doing extensive research on the linebacker class, and Wallace is a name that keeps popping up in connection to them. Wallace is a very good athlete, found success at Kentucky as a blitzer, and has been a mostly reliable tackler. His game needs refinement, particularly in coverage, but right away, he should leave his mark on special teams.

As we all do our best during this time of the year to read the tea leaves to try to get any sort of insights into who the Packers might be interested in, it’s important to remember that nothing is definitive. There are far too many variables in play when it comes to the draft, most of which we don’t know about.

However, the recent connection between the Packers’ draft selections to the Senior Bowl and pre-draft visits isn’t nothing either.

“Get good players,” said Gutekunst of the draft and having 11 picks. “Obviously, that’s what we are here for. But it also gives us a little bit of flexibility, whether it’s moving around within the draft or if there’s players out there, veteran players, that are available that could be a possibility as well. You can never have enough, and you want them as high as they can be, but with certain things we’ve done in the past we’ve set ourselves to have some flexibility and ammunition going into this draft.”