25 Packers prospects to watch on Day 2 of NFL Draft

By: Paul Bretl 4/26/24

Major opportunity awaits the Green Bay Packers on Day 2 of the NFL Draft with four picks between the second and third rounds, where immediate impact help cannot only be found, but that’s often the expectation.

“I think we’re all eager to get back and see how this thing falls and see how we can help our football team,” said Brian Gutekunst after the first round. “The board has held up pretty well, so we feel good about going into tomorrow. Tomorrow’s a big day for our organization. 

“I’ve talked about how important the draft is. To have four picks tomorrow in the second and third round, we have a nice opportunity to help our football team, so yeah, I think we’re all really eager to get after it tomorrow.”

Just last year, Day 2 of the draft played a major role in the success of the Packers in 2023. In addition to selecting Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed, and Tucker Kraft, Gutekunst would also trade down twice before selecting Reed, accumulating two picks in the process that turned into Karl Brooks and Dontayvion Wicks.

Equipped with four picks and Gutekunst’s belief that the draft board has held up well, the Packers have what every team wants in the draft–options and flexibility.

During Monday’s pre-draft press conference, Gutekunst discussed several of the lessons that he had learned from former GM Ted Thompson, one of which included the importance of being patient, not forcing anything, and letting the board do the dictating.

Right now, the Packers are in a position where all options are really on the table. They could be aggressive and try to move up for the right player. They could also stay put or even trade down and gain more draft capital, something that Gutekunst has said he’s not opposed to at all.

“I think we’ll explore some opportunities,” said Gutekunst on Thursday night. “Again, having that many picks in these next two rounds allows us to be a little bit flexible. We talked a little bit about it tonight. We’ll re-assess in the morning, just try to get a little bit of an idea of how we think it might fall. 

“Again, it’s pretty unpredictable, but I think there’s opportunities. One of the intriguing things about some of the offers tonight was moving back and gaining some picks, as you guys know, I like to do. So that could be an option, too, so we’ll see.”

After addressing the offensive line in the first round, positions of need on Day 2 include linebacker, cornerback, safety, and running back, as well as continuing to add to the offensive line, where depth is still needed. 

With those four picks, Gutekunst also has the ability to address lesser perceived needs, such as edge rusher and the interior defensive line, knowing that he has several at-bats on Friday.

Taking into account the Packers’ positions of need along with what players they may target more than others, here is a rundown of the top available prospects heading into Day 2.

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa: As versatile as a defender as you will see. DeJean can play on the boundary, in the slot, and at safety. He was a reliable tackler at Iowa and had very good ball production.

Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama: McKinstry is at his best in zone coverage and is strictly an outside cornerback. The Packers already have a few options on the roster for that role, but McKinstry would elevate the competition and provide some added longer-term stability at a position that does have some unknowns.

Max Melton, CB, Rutgers: An excellent athlete with very good length. Melton can play both from the slot, where he could challenge Kiesean Nixon for playing time or on the boundary. 

Andru Phillips, CB, Kentucky: Phillips will primarily be a nickel corner in the NFL but could be called upon to play outside if needed. Phillips meets the typical thresholds that the Packers look for in a cornerback. 

Renardo Green, CB, Florida State: I think Green is an excellent fit for the Packers–although he is slightly undersized. Green has experience playing on the boundary and in the slot, and is well versed in press man coverage.

Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M: The combination of Cooper and Quay Walker would form a dynamic duo. Cooper is at his best near the line of scrimmage as a run defender, where he can shoot gaps or patrol sideline-to-sideline. He’s also been effective as a blitzer. 

Junior Colson, LB, Michigan: Colson is the best pure Mike linebacker in this class. Having him in the middle of the defense would free the Packers up to move Walker around elsewhere. With that said, Gutekunst has stressed the importance of versatility, and Colson likely just fills that one role.

Payton Wilson, LB, NC State: Wilson has had some injuries but is a terrific athlete and is at his best when in coverage. 

Cedric Gray, LB, UNC: Gray is a former wide receiver and another linebacker who is best suited to play in coverage. That ability would give him an immediate role on this team as a third-down defender. 

Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky: More of a developmental prospect, taking Wallace, who is a very good athlete and reliable tackler, would be taking a swing on his upside, knowing that he might not have a major impact right away.

Javon Bullard, S, Georgia: Bullard would provide that interchangeability at the position that Gutekunst has referenced a few times, with his ability to play deep and his experience in the slot. Coming from Georgia, Bullard brings plenty of big-game experience.

Cole Bishop, S, Utah: A tremendous athlete who is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage, but has the range to handle middle of the field duties as well. 

Jaden Hicks, S, Washington State: Hicks played all over the Washington State defensive backfield. He is a very willing tackler and run defender but can handle his own as free safety as well. From a skill-set standpoint, he would be a great running mate for Xavier McKinney.

Jonathan Brooks, RB, Texas: If Brooks hadn’t sustained an ACL injury last season, there would be little doubt that he would be the top running back off the board.

Trey Benson, RB, Florida State: Benson has good size at 216 pounds but brings plenty of burst with a RAS of 9.77, along with averaging 6.1 yards per rush last season. In 2023, he took on a larger role in the passing game as well.

Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee: Wright averaged a whopping 7.4 yards per carry in 2023, which included him ranking eighth among all backs in average yards after contact. However, Wright did have only 34 career targets in the passing game, with 25 of them coming this past year.

Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky: The Packers had Davis in for an official pre-draft visit. He’s not the elite athlete that some of these other backs are, but he’s a very well-rounded player, able to impact the game as a ball carrier, pass-catcher, and in pass protection.

Dominick Puni, OL, Kansas: As we saw when the Packers took Jordan Morgan, versatility is key, and Puni brings that, playing 849 career snaps at left guard and another 728 at left tackle.

Brandon Coleman, OL, TCU: Like Puni, Coleman is a terrific athlete and has experience playing both inside and out. 

Cooper Beebe, OL, Kansas State: Sticking with the versatility theme, Beebe played right tackle for Kansas State in 2020, left tackle in 2021, and left guard the last two years. 

Christian Haynes, IOL, UCONN: Haynes doesn’t have the same versatility as the players mentioned–he’s a guard. But he is a mauler in the run game, a presence that the Packers could benefit from.

Marshawn Kneeland, Edge, Western Michigan: If somewhere there is a dictionary definition of what the Packers look for in an edge rusher, there’s a picture of Marshawn Kneeland. Excellent size and athleticism and played both the run and the pass well in college.

Johnny Newton, IDL, Illinois: Probably not a position we see the Packers add to, but passing on Newton would be tough. He’s an All-American who made an impact as both a pass rusher and run defender.

Maason Smith, IDL, LSU: Another prospect that the Packers had in for a pre-draft visit, Smith has experience moving around the LSU defensive front, making his biggest impact as a pass rusher.

Michael Hall, IDL, Ohio State: The Packers would also host Hall on a pre-draft visit. The production didn’t always show up on the stat sheet, but he was disruptive, ranking second among all interior linemen in pass rush win rate in 2023.