Three months after the Packers hired Brian Gutekunst as their new GM, he may have already earned a raise. Green Bay came into the NFL draft needing a top cornerback. Now it has two. And another first-round pick.
After the Packers selected Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander with the 18th overall pick on Thursday, the team used the 45th overall pick to select Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson on Friday. Alexander was limited by foot and hand injuries in the 2017 season, but he runs a 4.38 40-yard dash, and has excellent press technique to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and plays the ball well.
Meanwhile, Jackson is the best corner in the draft at playing passes in the air. He had eight interceptions last season — including three against Ohio State that sealed an Iowa upset — and was considered by many to be a first-round prospect. He had only one standout year in college, which may be why he fell to the middle of the second round, but Jackson’s drop is Green Bay’s gain, because it’s rare that he drops anything.
Purely landing Jackson and Alexander in the draft would have been a big statement by Gutekunst, who replaced longtime GM Ted Thompson earlier this year. It’s a helluva haul considering the Packers traded down from their original spot at no. 14 overall by swapping first-round picks with the Saints in exchange for New Orleans’s fifth-rounder and 2019 first-rounder (the Saints used the no. 14 pick on UT–San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport). Then Gutekunst sent a third-round pick to the Seahawks to move back up to no. 18 to nab Alexander, meaning the Packers landed two of the top cornerbacks in the draft and picked up a future first-round pick.
This draft maneuvering comes just one month after Gutekunst broke from Thompson’s longtime aversion to splashy free-agency deals and signed tight end Jimmy Graham. With Aaron Rodgers back and Graham in green and yellow, the biggest question for Green Bay this season was defense. Getting two young corners to play alongside Haha Clinton-Dix means the Packers suddenly have one of the youngest and most talented secondaries in the league, plus extra draft capital to boot.