Packers will prioritize versatility as they address key needs in NFL Draft

By: Paul Bretl 4/22/24

The Green Bay Packers will approach this week’s NFL draft with versatility in mind as they look to address their remaining positional needs, hopefully, finding some immediate contributors while also building out their long-term depth.

This, of course, isn’t anything new in regards to how the Packers operate under GM Brian Gutekunst. On a few different occasions this offseason, Gutekunst has reiterated the importance of having players who can fill multiple roles, and as the Packers address their remaining positional needs, versatility is a key trait that will be prioritized.

“I know this time of the year everybody’s talking about schemes and different kinds of things like that,” said Gutekunst when speaking to reporters on Monday. “To me, we’re looking for well-rounded guys that can fit any scheme, that can play multiple positions. An NFL season is a brutal one, and it’s a long on and I think that the more you can do as injuries hit, the more you can cover up for those things the better.”

While many are focused on who will fill the Will, Mike, and Sam roles at linebacker in Jeff Hafley’s 4-3 defensive scheme, Gutekunst is looking to find a player who has the ability to wear multiple hats. 

What Gutekunst doesn’t want to do is pigeonhole a player into one specific role. Injuries can happen, which can lead to a change in responsibilities, while Quay Walker’s skill set allows the Packers to move him around. But in order to move Walker around, Hafley will need linebackers next to him who can do the same.

At safety, Gutekunst again used the word “interchangeable” when describing the type of player he wants next to Xavier McKinney. Similarly to Walker, if we are going to see McKinney lined up in different spots depending on the gameplan, then his counterpart has to be able to do the same. Not to mention that having two safeties and a nickel cornerback who can be moved around will allow Hafley to disguise coverages and keep offenses guessing.

“For me,” said Gutekunst, “those guys I’d love to be interchangeable. I’d like them to be able to do everything. I think that’s really tough on an offense when those guys can move down inside, they can play the post, they can go in the nickel and cover. I think when you have two guys that can do everything, it’ll allow Jeff to be much more, you know, efficient so to speak.”

Along the offfensive line, another big need for the Packers, Gutekunst will continue to stress versatility, which not only includes tackles being able to play both the left and right sides of the line, but ideally, prospects who can play both inside and out as well.

As we’ve heard Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur say countless times, when it comes to the construction of the offensive line, it’s about putting the best five on the field. And in order to do that, positional flexibility is required. 

“Bigger, faster, stronger is always something that’s enticing to us,” said Gutekunst of the offensive line. “The ability to play the game – we do some things different in our run game I think may be a little different than some teams. There’s some schematics in there that maybe certain guys fit maybe more than others. 

“But at the same time, we do everything. I think one of the things we’ve done pretty good with, with our offensive line in the past, is versatile enough that guys can play inside, play outside. They’re not just one-position players. I think we’ll try to continue that as we go forward.”

While Gutekunst has gone into more detail about the importance of versatility at some of the bigger positions of need that the Packers have, this is an organizational philosophy that applies to really all position groups and will dictate, to a degree, how the Packers build out their big board.

At edge rusher, can they play standing up and with their hands in the dirt? Do they have experience lining up as a 3-tech? How do they hold up against the run?

At running back, can the prospect impact both the running and passing games? How do they hold up in pass protection? Do they have experience playing out of the slot? 

At cornerback, can that player handle both zone and press-man responsibilities? Could that prospect take snaps at the nickel if needed? 

You get the idea. Versatility is often king. The more a player can do, the greater impact they can have, and the more options that provides the offensive and defensive coaches, not only in what they ask that one player to do, but in the gameplan they construct each week. 

“I think really through this past weekend we kind of got to a point where we feel really good about where it’s at,” said Gutekunst of the Packers’ draft board. “We’ll probably have one more meeting this evening and lock it up really ’til Thursday. There’s work to be done between now and then, and things to do as far as guys changing on the board I wouldn’t expect that.”