Red flags and alerts concerning character issues are at an all time high in the NFL. Simple lapses in judgment are costing current and future NFL players millions of dollars. Future NFL players must undergo the scrutiny of intense background checks from NFL teams with general mangers making the final decisions on these players. Green Bay specifically has made it known that “high character” is of the utmost importance to the new regime consisting of general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur.
High character players should be the highest priority. Gutekunst has made it clear that he won’t stand for disrespect or locker room disruptors. When Gutekunst took over last winter, one of his first moves as general manager was shipping out vocal defensive back Damarious Randall. Randall had been critical of then head coach Mike McCarthy and Gutekunst didn’t hesitate to ship him out of town.
Fast forward to the middle of the 2018 season. Former first round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix began voicing his displeasure after his poor play. He was quickly sent to Washington for a 4th round draft pick. The next victim was Ty Montgomery after he began complaining openly about his playing time and utilization; shortly after he was packing his bags and en route to Baltimore for pennies.
Gutekunst has made it abundantly clear that he will not settle for players don’t live by a “team first” mentality. He will, however, give guys second chances. When Muhammad Wilkerson was disappointingly released by the New York Jets last year, Gutekunst welcomed him with open arms.
Now we’re into the 2019 offseason and Gutekunst has a fantastic opportunity to upgrade his roster both via free agency and through the draft. There are a handful of options that the Packers could look to in free agency, but the real opportunity lies within the draft.
The Packers have 4 picks in the top 100 during this years draft. They will be faced with the opportunity to select one or two incredibly talented players who have legitimate red flags. Defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons of Mississippi State and wide receiver Preston Williams of Colorado State will have teams frantically uncovering facts and getting to the core of these two young gentleman.
Gutekunst will surely do his homework and Packers fans shouldn’t be surprised if one of those two names is wearing green and gold in September. The Packers have long lived by a “best player available” philosophy and there is a good chance either one of these players would fit that bill when the Packers are on the clock at 12, 30, 44, or 76. In his short stint as general manager, it has also become clear that Gutekunst prefers athletic specimens. Both players fit that description as well.
Simmons will also have his current ACL injury looming over his draft stock. A top 5 talent according to some, Simmons will very possibly no longer be a day one selection. At either 44 or 76, Simmons would be an incredible value if the Packers clear out his character issues and his ACL injury rehab is going well. Simmons would be a bit more of a luxury than an actual need and that hasn’t stopped Green Bay before.
Wide receiver, on the other hand, could be deemed an actual need. Preston Williams is as talented as any other receiver in this class. But, he also has much more concerns about his character than Simmons does. But, the Packers have an inside track to who Preston Williams actually is.
This past offseason, the Packers hired Alvis Whitted as their wide receivers coach. And just where did Alvis Whitted coach last season? That’s right, Colorado State. There is absolutely nobody that would have a better sense of Williams’ character issues and how severe they are than Whitted would.
NFL teams love to copy other NFL teams. Right now, the model to copy is the Los Angeles Rams and their aggressive approach to roster building. Gutekunst has continually stated that he won’t hesitate to use various avenues to upgrade his roster. And he has also had more of a penchant to pull the trigger on “risky moves” than his predecessor, Ted Thompson, ever did.
There isn’t a better time for Gutekunst to be aggressive. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger. The team has bountiful draft capital and the most amount of cap space that they’ve had in years. The fanbase is hungry and as always, expects the team to win a lot of football games. Gutekunst has the ammunition to make not just one, but multiple splashes this offseason should he choose to do so. With that being said, he can afford to take a risk on an incredibly talented player (or two) to give his team an edge en route to a Super Bowl championship in the near future.