After months of preparation and speculation, the 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone. New general manager Brian Gutekunst dominated the first two rounds of the draft, as he made a pair of trades in the first round and then stood pat in the second and pulled the trigger on a prospect whom many projected the Packers to take at 14th overall prior to the NFL Combine. Gutekunst’s first trade (with New Orleans) saw the Packers move back from 14th to 27th, picking up the Saints 2019 first rounder among others in the process. Gutekunst then moved back up to 18th overall just minutes later, only sacrificing virtually a third round pick in the process and took a defensive back that very well could’ve been their original pick at 14 had they stood pat. With the 2018 NFL Draft now in the books, keep in mind that all these grades are actually “Incomplete” considering none of these players have never taken an NFL snap, and that actual grades could take 3-4 years to truly determine.

First Round, 18th Overall – CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville

The Green Bay Packers started out the 2018 NFL Draft with a selection that almost certainly wouldn’t have been made had Ted Thompson been general manager. Alexander. The 21-year old is just a hair under the Packers height thresholds at 5′ 10 1/4″ but plays much bigger and is exactly the type of playmaker Green Bay currently lacks in their secondary. Widely regarded as the second best cornerback in this class (behind Denzel Ward), the former Loiusville Cardinal is an athletic talent with a knack for making plays on the ball. Alexander should step right in in the slot on day one for the Packers and be a major contributor from the get-go. At 196 pounds, he is a bit on the smaller end, but he is a willing tackler and if he can add a little bit of weight he will be able to take on most NFL running backs in run support. Besides his height, the only other knock on Alexander is knee injury that he sustained in his final year of college football, but I suspect it must not be that big of an issue for the Packers to consider him in the first round. Grade: A

Second Round, 45th Overall – CB Josh Jackson, Iowa

By using their second pick of the draft on Josh Jackson, this represents the third time in four years that Green Bay has taken two defensive backs with their first two selections. However, the first two times around didn’t net two first-round talents at the cornerback position who aren’t projects but are ready to step in and start right away. Jackson is a bigger cornerback at 6′ than Alexander is, and projects as a future starter on the boundary opposite Kevin King. Jackson should be a perfect fit on the perimeter in Mike Pettine’s defense, and the pressure won’t be on him to make an impact early as the Packers have multiple options there in King, Tramon Williams, and even Davon House. However, Jackson has a much higher ceiling than the latter two and one look at his highlights from Iowa and you see a physical corner with great ball skills that plays faster than his sub-optimal 40-time from the Combine this spring (4.56 seconds(s)). Overall, this pick has the potential to be the biggest steal of the entire NFL draft. Grade: A

Third Round, 88th Overall – LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt

Green Bay packaged two day 3 selections to move up into the end of the third round and select the undersized but extremely athletic Oren Burks. Burks should fit right in on the Packers defense as an off-ball coverage linebacker in a similar role to Josh Jones. At only 233 pounds, Burks is a bit undersized to make an immediate impact in run support and therefore may be relegated to a third-down/passing-down role early on in his career as a Packer. A former college safety, the Vanderbilt product will have the ability to shore up the middle of the Packers defense that all to often was gashed by slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs often during 2017. As mentioned before, Burks’ major downside comes during run support, as he will likely get eaten up by lead blockers due to his size. Regardless, the Packers got a solid pick here as ultimately the Packers biggest need on defense isn’t necessarily one specific position but instead a trait: athleticism. While Burks is an extremely athletic prospect, Green Bay probably have had him at their original fourth round pick (101 overall) without trading up. Grade: B

4th Round, 133rd Overall – WR J’Mon Moore, Missouri

With their first pick on the third day of the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers finally found an offensive piece to help bolster their passing attack after releasing Jordy Nelson earlier in the offseason. Moore is an athletic, 6′ 3″ target for Aaron Rodgers that has the potential to be a solid #2 receiver opposite Davante Adams. While his 40-time (4.60s) left a little to be desired, he tested well athletically and like Jackson, plays faster on tape. He also proved to be a dynamic redzone weapon in his last two seasons with the Tigers, reeling in 18 touchdown receptions. With Geronimo Allison penciled as the starter on the boundary opposite Adams, Moore shouldn’t have to hard of a time getting playing time early on his rookie season. Moore is a physical receiver who should be able to beat most corners on deep jump balls but may not win with questionable hands coming into the NFL, and it also would’ve been great to see the Packers draft someone who offered more as a deep threat. Grade: B-

5th Round, 138th Overall – OL Cole Madison, Washington State

The Packers appear to be continuing their trend of drafting collegiate tackles and converting them into guards at the pro level by selecting Madison with their first fifth round selection in 2018. The former Washington State Cougar started at right tackle for the majority of his career with Washington State, but as TJ Lang and Josh Sitton did before him, the 6′ 5″ lineman appears set to slide into the middle of the offensive line and challenge Justin McCray and Lukas Patrick for the starting right guard spot. He could also be in play for the starting job at right tackle to start out the 2018 season with Bulaga likely starting the season on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list and Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy underwhelming over the first three seasons of their career. No matter where Madison ends up on the depth chart to start his career on the offensive line, he brings versatility and experience to the group, as well as ability to hold the edge well in pass protection with excellent footwork. The main knock on Madison is his relatively short arms, which may be a big reason for a move inside to guard. Grade: B+

5th Round, 172nd Overall – P JK Scott, Alabama

This is the first real head-scratcher of the Packers draft. It’s a general rule of thumb that punters shouldn’t be drafted, and one would think this idea would be amplified by the fact undrafted free agent Justin Vogel had quite a solid rookie season in 2017. Regardless, Scott is well-known for having a booming leg and solid hang time, and he showed great athleticism in the draft with a 4.83s 40-time. Scott also has kickoff experience in college, something that the Packers might’ve brought into consideration as placekicker and kickoff specialist Mason Crosby turns 34 this fall. While a fifth round pick seems kind of rich for a punter, especially a team with a young option in Vogel on the roster, if Scott becomes the Packers punter and a perennial Pro Bowler for the next decade or so it would be hard to argue for a better use of a late round draft pick. Grade: C-

5th Round, 174th Overall – WR Marques Valdes-Scantling, South Florida

Just one round after grabbing wide receiver J’Mon Moore, the Packers finally found a potentially deep threat in Marques Valdes-Scantling. The 6′ 3″ South Florida product posted a blistering 4.37s 40-time, and at 206 pounds he is large enough to endure hits over the middle of the field. Valdes-Scantling had a productive career in college as a field stretching target, seeing more than 25% of his receptions go for over 25 yards, according to NFL.com. Unlike Moore however, Valdes-Scantling will probably not be much of a factor his rookie season, as he needs work on his route running as well as catching the ball with hands. Nevertheless, Green Bay snagging a large, athletically tantalizing WR project to work with Aaron Rodgers is a definite win. Grade: A-

6th Round, 207th Overall – Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

Just four seasons after the Packers selected three wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft, Brian Gutekunst did it again this season, with all three wideouts coming on Day 3. St. Brown is the last of these wideouts, but perhaps he might have the highest ceiling of the trio. The 6′ 5″ former Notre Dame receiver showed good speed with a 4.48s 40-time, especially considering his size. St. Brown plays even faster than that on tape, and shows a real willingness to work over the middle of the field. For Packers fans familiar with last season’s undrafted sensation Michael Clark, compare St. Brown to a much more experienced and quicker Michael Clark. Originally projected as a potential top-100 pick, St. Brown was a definite steal to be had all the way in the 6th round. Grade: A

7th Round, 232nd Overall – DL James Looney, California

With Mohammad Wilkerson only on a one-year deal, and Montravious Adams’ future in Green Bay possibly in question with a wasted rookie campaign, the Packers decided to take a chance on an athletic (see a trend yet?) defensive lineman who specializes as a pass rusher. At only 6′ 3″ and 287 pounds, Looney will definitely have a Dean Lowry-type of role as a situational pass rusher and would play the elephant position (think Julius Peppers) had Dom Capers still been the defensive coordinator heading into 2018. As a seventh rounder, Looney does not have high expectations, and his roster spot is far from guaranteed, but the arguably the Packers two biggest needs at the moment are pass rush and athleticism on defense, both things that Looney could very well provide. Grade: B

7th Round, 239th Overall – LS Hunter Bradley, Mississippi State

With this pick, it appears that longtime long snapper Brett Goode’s days in Green Bay have come to an end. This pick comes as no surprise as the Packers have been trying to get younger and more athletic at the position seemingly ever since Goode tore his ACL late in the 2015 season. Bradley was not invited to the combine, and combined with the fact that he is a long snapper there is very little information to find about his ability. However, he did run a 4.83s 40-time at his Pro Day at Mississippi State, showing some speed and athleticism. Also, I was not able to find any instances where he botched a snap in college, a must after suffering through the long snapping carousel the Packers had at the beginning of the 2017 season. Seeing as seventh round picks hold almost no significance, if Bradley can latch onto the roster and lock down the long snapping job for years to come, this pick has to be considered a good one. Grade: B+

7th Round, 248th Overall – LB Kendall Donnerson, Southeast Missouri State

With their final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Packers finally selected an edge rusher, a position many projected the Packers to select early and often over the course of these three days. Donnerson certainly continued Green Bay’s athleticism trend in this draft with a 4.44s 40-time at his Pro Day and had he been invited to the Combine, he certainly would’ve posted elite numbers. At 6′ 2″, 248 pounds, the former Redhawk is a bit undersized as an edge rusher but it’s hard to pass up such a tantalizing prospect at a position of need with a late round pick. Donnerson was an proved his playmaking ability in his senior season, posting six sacks, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and an interception. Grade: B+

Overall Way-too-Early Draft Grade: A-

Overall, I thought that this draft was a complete steal and the Packers look like a definite winner on paper among all 32 NFL teams. Green Bay locked down two future starters at the cornerback position, added a versatile offensive lineman for the weak side of their line, and found 3 large, athletic targets for Aaron Rodgers. Add in the 2019 first rounder for New Orleans and the large and the shear amount of athletes in this class and Packers Nation should have much to look forward to regarding the 2018 rookies. My only bone to pick with this draft is the lack of edge rushers who can make an immediate impact taken, and that the Packers spent a relatively high draft pick on a punter when they already had a young option with potential on the roster.

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