As Pro Days begin to wind down in college football programs and public workouts for NFL prospects wind down, draft committees for NFL teams are also nearing completion. The same can be said for NFL writers, and on this beautiful Tuesday, this writer ran a fictional 7-round draft using The Draft Network’s predictive Big Board.
If the 2022 NFL Draft went like this, one would expect Green Bay Packers fans to be angry Thursday night for not getting a wide receiver with one of their first two picks. Instead I went on defense, for reasons I’ll explain shortly, instead I ended up with three wide receivers, one each in rounds two, four and seven. With this approach , the Packers could still be wise to look to acquire a veteran receiver, although there are few roster spots available at that position in this case.
Still, I feel good about this sim that meets most of the Packers’ main needs. I found what I feel is excellent depth at multiple levels of defense, players with inside-out Pro Bowl caliber at wide receiver and tight end on day two of the draft, and athletes from elite who could contribute to the special teams later in the third day. .
Round 1, Pick 22: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
As counseling began to enter his late teens, Karlaftis remained available, and I found myself holding my breath, hoping he would hit 22. He did, so I caught him even with wide receivers Chris Olave and Treylon Burks on the board. . The ultra-talented Karlaftis would be a terrific EDGE third player behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, providing the Packers with an exceptional engine and a great athlete to spin and add to the pass rush on third downs.
Plus, Karlaftis turns 21 next week, and the Packers love signing young players with their first-round picks. If it drops to 22, that seems like an extremely strong possibility.
I just needed to hold my breath and hope that one of the two remaining receivers on my board would drop to 28.
Round 1, Pick 28: S/CB Daxton Hill, Michigan
My bet didn’t pay off, at least on the sidelines. Three straight receivers have gone off the board in the three picks just short of 28 — Penn State’s Jahan Dotson at Buffalo at 25, Olave at Tennessee at 26 and Burks at Tampa Bay at 27. That left me to either reach for NDSU’s Christian Watson or find a player who I think is a plug-and-play slot corner and spin safety in Hill.
Hill lit up the Combine in Indianapolis, posting stunning times of 6.57 seconds in the 3-cone, a 40 of 4.38 seconds and a first 10 of 1.47 seconds. His 2021 season was spent almost exclusively in a slot corner after working primarily as a security for his first two seasons. Like Karlaftis, he’ll be 21 on draft day, and he should be able to come back as the Packers’ penny on day one while rotating with other nickel-and-dime corners.
Round 2, Pick 53: WR George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Finally, we have a wide in the second round. Watson was off at 53, as I expected, but Pickens is shaping up to be a great deep ball receiver with length (6-foot-3 1/4) and toughness. Cuts to Pickens’ toughness and aggressiveness as a blocker are worth watching multiple times, so let’s watch him open up for a deep shot instead:
Pickens has long speed and his ability to get the better of defense at his height is impressive. He’s able to create separation and get behind the DB here, then adapt to spread out and do a hard hold. It’s a big game waiting to happen.
— Andrew off season (@Patriots_Andrew) March 22, 2022
A better throw makes it an easy touchdown. Pickens’ 4.47 speed is fast enough to pose a deep threat (see Nelson, Jordy and a 4.51) and Matt LaFleur will love his willingness to get dirty in the running game.
Round 2, Pick 59: DL Travis Jones, UConn
The Packers just signed Jarran Reed to a one-year deal to complement Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry on the defensive line, but the team needs long-term answers. Both Reed and Lowry will be free agents next year, and Jones comes in as a player who could contribute across the baseline while also providing an inside passing rush on passes.
Jones is shaping up to be a nose tackle, perhaps a bit of a luxury with the Packers having Clark and last year’s 5th round pick TJ Slaton on the roster. But Jones is a ridiculous athlete, testing even better than Clark in 2016 while standing about an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier. If the Packers want to keep giving Clark more 3-technique snaps (or if they want to give him a bit more breathing room from his nearly 80% snap rate going forward), Jones is a pick. ideal for turning and possibly projecting as an input.
Round 3, Pick 92: TE Jelani Woods, Virginia
A long-range answer as a tight end in line is a great use of a third-round pick. I’ll just leave that here to talk about the receiving ability of the 6-foot-7 Woods, who scored a perfect 10 in his RAS this spring:
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if mankind trained an angry moose to catch a soccer ball, I give you Virginia TE Jelani Woods. pic.twitter.com/HPHpdW2RPT
—Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) March 10, 2022
Woods was traded from Oklahoma State to Virginia for the 2021 season because he was used almost exclusively as a tackle. He responded with 598 yards and eight touchdowns and now projects himself as one of the highest ceiling players at his position in this class. Give him a year to learn from Marcedes Lewis and the Packers could have a clone of Lewis on their hands – except the one running a 4.61 40.
Round 4, Pick 132: WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada
At the start of day three, I double deep threats to the wide receiver. Doubs didn’t work at the Combine, but his numbers speak for themselves: two consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and at least nine touchdowns, plus an average of 17.3 yards as a junior in 2020.
According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Doubs has “the speed to split deep but (is) a linear road runner who will have a hard time escaping the NFL press.” Combined with Pickens, however, who looks set to separate better, Doubs could well benefit from unique coverage, where he could use that straight-line speed in much the same way as Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Plus, he has experience on comebacks and special teams, and he would immediately contribute as a shooter.
Round 4, Pick 140: OL Cade Mays, Tennessee
Mays began his career in Georgia before moving to SEC East in Tennessee. A left tackle there, Mays hits all of the Packers’ size and agility thresholds, and could find himself as a candidate to play tackle or guard at the NFL level. In fact, much of his sports testing looks a lot like a certain left tackle on the Packers roster who currently wears number 69.
Round 5, Pick 171: P Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Sorry, Pat O’Donnell. If the Punt God is there in the fifth round, I take it, regardless of the guaranteed money in O’Donnell’s contract. Araiza told Combine reporters he would love the chance to punt in cold weather, and his 51.2 yard average (and Ray Guy award) in 2021 makes him an easy call for me. My only concern is his ability to save kicks, which the Packers say was a factor in giving up Corey Bojorquez in favor of O’Donnell; that’s because Araiza has also been the Aztecs’ goal-kicker for the past three years.
Round 7, Pick 228: WR Kevin Austin, Jr., Notre Dame
Round 7, Pick 249: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
I group the two seventh rounds together. Late in the draft, the Packers love to take flyers on crazy athletes. Both of these players fit that bill, with RAS values of 9.93 (Austin) and a perfect 10 (McCollum). McCollum, who is tall enough at 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds to play corner or safety, was the only player to run faster than Daxton Hill in the 3-taper at the Combine (6.48) and he added a 4.33 40 to boot. Austin is one of APC’s favorite late-round receivers, having rushed 4.43 from 1.48 on 10 yards in Indy and going green at all levels in all of his tests.
Austin’s questions largely stem from injuries and a suspension at Notre Dame, while McCollum’s will focus on how competitive he is at the FCS level. But both of these players should be able to participate on special teams as they develop as potential contributors on offense.