We have a long offseason ahead of us, as teams haven’t even started to move on from cap casualties ahead of free agency, but now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2024 NFL Draft. Last week, we asked Green Bay Packers fans what the team’s biggest needs are going into the offseason. The runaways, by far, were the safety and off-ball linebacker positions, groups where the Packers might need multiple new bodies just to field a functional team next year.
Cornerback was one position that didn’t come up as a major need, either in our poll or in the responding comments from Acme Packing Company’s readership. Despite that, five of the nine major mock drafts that have dropped since the Super Bowl went final gave the Packers a cornerback, for one reason or another. Let’s dive into the results of these recent mocks and break down the line of thinking for these selections.
Jordan Morgan, OL, Arizona
Morgan was a surprise non-declaration from the 2023 draft class. In part due to his return to the Wildcats’ program, Arizona ended up going 10-3 last year — including an Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma. The offensive line is an interesting position for the Packers, as they have potential holes at left tackle and right guard, depending on how the team views the long-term viability of Rasheed Walker and Sean Rhyan, respectively, two young rookie contract blockers.
Then there’s the entire David Bakhtiari question, which seems to have no clear answer at this point. The team will simply need to decide on Bakhtiari’s health in early March, around when the new league year begins. Bakhtiari is coming off of a major surgery that, hopefully, will fix the swelling issue that has kept him sidelined since 2020.
Here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had to say about the Morgan selection:
The Packers could use help at tackle and guard. Morgan, who played left tackle at Arizona, might be better off moving inside in the NFL. Either way, this pick would check a box for a young Green Bay squad that’s in great position with 11 draft picks.
Kingsley Suamataia, OL, BYU
A couple of weeks ago, ESPN’s Mel Kiper selected Suamataia for the Packers in his first mock draft of the 2024 cycle. As we mentioned in our write-up, Suamataia is a hulking tackle prospect who has played both left and right tackle in the past. The former five-star recruit originally began his college career at Oregon, where he started at tackle as the successor to first-round Penei Sewell before transferring closer to home in 2022.
Below is what Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn, who scouts offensive linemen for the website, said about the Suamataia selection:
“The Packers are able to succeed offensively with a middle-of-the-pack offensive line due to a run-first, play-action based system,” Thorn said. “But if they want to increase their flexibility schematically and open things up a bit more in 2024, the left tackle position could be in need of an upgrade.
“What happens with Bakhtiari will determine the urgency of this specific need. But if the Packers don’t bring him back or he’s unable to get healthy enough to play, Suamataia gives the team a golden opportunity to add a tackle with long-time starting traits at the end of Round 1.”
Jackson Powers-Johnson, OL, Oregon
This is a bit of a wildcard selection. Powers-Johnson was a center for Oregon, but he does have the potential to play guard at the next level. The major question is whether or not the Packers would allow him to compete at the center spot, where starter Josh Myers returns. Myers is a player who doesn’t appear to be playing at a high level, but the coaching staff praises him at every opportunity they’re given.
Josh Myers has been underwhelming in Green Bay. Jackson Powers-Johnson showcased his strength, technique, toughness, and athletic ability at the Senior Bowl. He can play both center and guard.
Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
Out of all the cornerback prospects in the upcoming draft class, the one who makes the most sense for the Packers to draft high in April’s meeting is Iowa’s DeJean. Not only does he have experience at cornerback, but he also played the team’s “cash” position — which is a hybrid nickel spot that is a pseudo safety role. Because of that, it wouldn’t be difficult to project him as a post safety in Green Bay’s new middle of the field closed scheme, which would allow DeJean to play free safety. That would allow the team to look for a bigger, less athletic safety to roam around the line of scrimmage as a drop-down strong safety.
Below is what Pro Football Focus had to say about two-time First-Team All-Big Ten defensive back:
DeJean can be a starter at the NFL level at both cornerback and safety. For the Packers, I think he would start at a safety/slot spot with outside cornerback flexibility.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
I want to talk about all three of these cornerback prospects as a group because they’re fairly similar. Unlike DeJean, all of these players are expected to be outside cornerbacks at the next level. Sure, first-round cornerback Eric Stokes ended the season on the injured reserve, but it seems unlikely that Stokes’ hamstring issue will remain an issue entering the 2024 season. With Stokes, All-Pro Jaire Alexander and 2023 breakout rookie Carrington Valentine returning to the team next season, and the potential of Keisean Nixon re-signing with the team to play the slot in 2024, does the team really need to use a high draft pick on a cornerback? I’m not convinced.
Both McKinstry and Wiggins played for defensive powerhouses at the college level, but Mitchell is a player who went the tougher route to get where he is at. For perspective, only one Group of 5 prospect was drafted in the first 68 picks of last year’s draft — SMU’s Rashee Rice, the 55th pick who was taken by Kansas City. Mitchell is currently ranked 18th on the consensus draft board, and is expected to be one of the highest-drafted “mid-major” prospects selected in the NIL/transfer portal era.
Toledo plays in the MAC, which last year had their first player draft in the fourth round (Sidy Sow, New England Patriots). The Packers actually drafted the second MAC player off of the board in 2023, Bowling Green defensive lineman Karl Brooks, who played 380 snaps for Green Bay as a rookie.