Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst talks about ‘subterfuge’, potential draft trades, and safety preferences.

GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst wasted no time Monday morning setting the tone for his annual pre-2024 NFL draft news conference.

Responding to a routine question about his approach to the 30 pre-draft visits, Gutekunst promptly introduced the term “subterfuge.” Heading into his seventh draft as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Gutekunst, having smoothly navigated the transition from one star quarterback to another, is straightforward about his strategies. He relishes the strategic maneuvers and misdirection that characterize this time of year.

“Let’s make sure we emphasize that,” Gutekunst remarked.

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst enters the NFL draft holding 11 picks.

Gutekunst hasn’t had many opportunities to outmaneuver other teams, as the Packers typically draft towards the end of the first round each year. Nevertheless, he eagerly embraces any chance for strategic gamesmanship, which is a pervasive aspect of draft tactics across the NFL.

“When asked about his goals with subterfuge, Gutekunst responded, ‘Hopefully not deceiving ourselves.’ He emphasized the importance of keeping his intentions under wraps, especially during this crucial phase of the year.”

This serves as a timely reminder for anyone seeking insights into the Packers’ draft strategy just days before the opening round on Thursday night. Gutekunst isn’t here to provide assistance at this moment. It’s essential to interpret everything he says as part of a strategic smokescreen.

The Packers have finalized their draft board well in advance.

Gutekunst may not be divulging his specific targets for the upcoming week, but he expresses confidence in the thorough evaluation conducted by his scouting team. According to him, the Packers’ draft board was solidified over the past weekend.

Before stepping back until the first round commences, Gutekunst will convene with his scouts for one final meeting on Monday night. He doesn’t anticipate significant changes to the board at this stage.

Once the draft kicks off, Gutekunst notes that there are fewer debates regarding players. The bulk of deliberations occurred during the lead-up to finalizing the draft board. As selections unfold, Gutekunst and his team focus on observing trends and making informed choices when their turn arrives.

“It’s about monitoring the flow of the draft, both expected and unexpected developments, and being prepared to make decisions when our pick is due,” Gutekunst remarked. Despite the unpredictable nature of the draft, he finds the prospect of enhancing the team’s roster both challenging and exhilarating.

Even with a youthful roster, Gutekunst remains open to drafting another substantial group of players.

Having had the NFL’s youngest roster last season, Gutekunst enters the draft with 11 picks in hand. While accommodating 11 rookies onto the 53-man roster this coming fall might pose a challenge, Gutekunst maintains his preference for assembling another sizable draft class.

“Increasing our chances for success,” Gutekunst remarked, “is like having more opportunities at bat. There’s always room for more. I don’t subscribe to the notion of having a strong team and thinking some players may not make the cut. I’ve emphasized the importance of competition in every position group and its role in driving the team’s progress. That, to me, is the most effective way to propel the team forward.”

“For me,” he continued, “there’s never a surplus. You can never have too many resources to enhance each position group’s competitiveness.”

“We currently have 11 picks. Ideally, I’d like to see that number increase to 13, 14, or even more. I’m not one to shy away from that.”

The Packers selected wide receiver Jayden Reed with the 50th-overall pick in the last year's NFL draft. The Packers could have drafted Reed a few picks earlier, at No. 45 and then again at No. 48, but GM Brian Gutekunst traded back twice and acquired additional draft picks in the process.

Gutekunst’s confidence in executing draft-day trades stems from his meticulous approach in keeping numerous alternatives open.

A staple of Gutekunst’s draft record is his willingness to make trades, even if it means falling back in the order with the risk of losing a coveted prospect.

A year ago, Gutekunst drafted tight end Luke Musgrave with the 42nd-overall pick in the second round. Receiver Jayden Reed was available when the Packers were on the clock for their next pick at No. 45. Gutekunst traded the pick to Detroit for No. 48 and an additional fifth-round selection. When it was his turn at No. 48, Gutekunst traded back two more slots for an additional sixth-round pick from Tampa Bay.

Gutekunst eventually drafted Reed with the 50th-overall pick. Reed became quarterback Jordan Love’s leading receiver as a rookie. Adding to a successful second day of the draft last year, Gutekunst was able to select tight end Tucker Kraft in the third round. Gutekunst said he was comfortable drafting Kraft with the 50th pick if Reed was off the board because the two players had similar value, enabling him to make two trade backs for additional picks.

“Whenever you trade back,” Gutekunst said, “you have to expect to lose the players that are on the board that you might be willing to pick at that spot. I think that’s part of it. I think that’s why we work so hard at getting the value right of the players on the board, is so you can read it. If you feel like it’s strong, and you can move back and still get someone you have the same kind of value on, you do. I think you have to be very careful of falling too in love with individual players. I think you have to be careful of that. I think you have to think of these things as not emotionally, but just, hey, we do a lot of work to get the value right. If the board is telling us we can move back, then we will.”

Gutekunst aims to maintain flexibility at the safety position as he seeks to find the right complement for free-agent acquisition Xavier McKinney.

One of the key priorities for the Packers this week is securing another starting safety to complement the recent acquisition of free agent Xavier McKinney. Gutekunst faces the challenge of navigating a perceived weaker safety class to uncover value.

McKinney is viewed as a traditional post safety in the defensive scheme implemented by new coordinator Jeff Hafley. However, Gutekunst emphasized the importance of maintaining flexibility in the secondary, a characteristic the Packers have valued in the past.

“I prefer versatility in those players,” Gutekunst remarked. “I want them to be capable of fulfilling various roles. It adds complexity to an offense when safeties can transition between positions, whether it’s dropping into coverage, playing deep, or moving into nickel situations. Having two players who can excel in multiple roles will enhance Jeff’s defensive efficiency.”

One of the pivotal questions surrounding potential first-round picks this week is whether Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean is better suited as a cornerback or safety. Gutekunst expressed that he has no specific preference regarding DeJean’s position.

“I believe he’s capable of excelling in either role,” Gutekunst commented. “He possesses remarkable versatility and athleticism. His knack for generating turnovers is particularly impressive, and he also demonstrates strong tackling abilities. He’s a well-rounded player who can thrive in various positions, and the decision will likely hinge on team needs.”

Andre Dillard and Greg Joseph bring added competition to the Packers’ roster.

The Packers made strategic moves to intensify competition within their roster by signing experienced tackle Andre Dillard and kicker Greg Joseph during the spring. These signings addressed positions where Gutekunst aimed to strengthen depth and versatility.

Regarding Dillard’s recent signing, Gutekunst expressed contentment with the early integration of the former first-round draft pick into the team’s offseason program. Dillard, who gained starting experience with the Tennessee Titans last season, brings valuable skills and depth to the offensive line. With recent departures affecting the team’s depth on the offensive line, Dillard’s arrival offers an opportunity to introduce another competitive player into the mix.

As for Joseph, he will vie with 2023 rookie Anders Carlson for the Packers’ kicker position this upcoming season.

“I believe Anders showed promise in his rookie season,” stated Gutekunst, “but we wanted to introduce competition. The kicker position is crucial for us to achieve our objectives moving forward, and we’ll ensure there’s competition throughout training camp.”

The Packers are enthusiastic about kicking off the 2024 season in Brazil, despite acknowledging the evident challenges.

Gutekunst said he’s looking forward to opening the second season with Love at quarterback at a neutral site, despite the long travel required to reach Brazil. He indicated a preference over playing the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly.

“I’m excited for it,” Gutekunst said. “I’ll say there’s going to be some challenges along the way. It’s going to be new, but obviously it’s an away game on a neutral field. I’m excited about that. I think our players are very excited for it. I think it’s going to be interesting, a Friday night (kickoff). I think it’ll give us a little more recovery before the next game. Hopefully that next game is a home game for our fans. We’re working through the scheduling and trying to figure out where the obstacles and the challenges are for it, but I know our players are excited. To me, it’s just another opportunity.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *