The Green Bay Packers were so close to making the playoffs last season, but ultimately came up short following their 20-16 loss against the Detroit Lions. Now, they turn their focus to the NFL Draft.
All eyes turn to the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27th. The Packers currently own the 15th overall pick in the first round. They have plenty of options in this year’s draft, but also have plenty of holes needed to fill if they expect to compete for the playoffs next season.
Without further ado, let’s dive in to look at five players the Packers could target with their top selection in this year’s NFL draft.
5 Options for the Packers With the 15th Pick in the 2023 NFL Draft
1. Michael Mayer – TE – Notre Dame
Michael Mayer is my favourite of all the options on this list, and is exactly what the Packers need for next season and should target him in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tight end is a desperate need for the Packers going into next season. Currently, the only tight end on their roster who is under contract for next season is Josiah Deguara who has just 39 career receptions. Both Robert Tonyan and Mercedes Lewis’s will be free agents this offseason, and there’s a high chance they could be moving on from the Packers.
Mayer could be that perfect plug-and-play starter for the Packers with his mix of reliable blocking and natural pass-catching abilities. At 6’5, 251 pounds Mayer is a mismatch all over the field, but excels working over the middle of the field.
Over the last two seasons at Notre Dame, Mayer has totaled 138 receptions for 1,649 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2021, his 71 receptions were the most for any tight end in the FBS, and in 2022 his 67 receptions was good enough for second in the FBS. Additionally, this past season Mayer had a 91.6 receiving grade from PFF and a ridiculous 29.9% target share.
2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba – WR – Ohio State
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the best slot receiver in this class, and would be a perfect fit in the Packers offence. The Packers are seriously lacking a consistent first down option to compliment what Christian Watson already brings in the vertical passing game. Additionally, the Packers simply need more bodies in the receiver room with Lazard likely departing in the offseason, and Randall Cobb getting older and less reliable.
In JSN’s sophomore season at Ohio State he had 95 receptions for 1606 yards and 9 touchdowns, while playing with both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Yes you heard that right, he outproduced two of the best young WRs in the NFL including the current offensive rookie of the year, at just 19 years old.
In that sophomore season, JSN played 88.6% of his snaps from the slot, which is also where I see him fitting into the Packers offence. JSN was a dominant slot receiver in college who possesses all the traits to be elite in the NFL.
He is a refined route-runner who showed serious YAC ability with 19 broken tackles in 2021, and flashed elite ball skills boasting a 90% contested catch rate. If the Packers were able to draft Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the 15th pick they could pair him up with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to create one of the best young wide receiver trios in the league.
3. Brian Branch – CB/S – Alabama
The former Alabama standout, Branch, is one of the most versatile players in the draft. Last season at Alabama, he played the star position which is kind of a combination of a safety and corner that lines up all over the field. He has the ability to play on the boundary as a corner, play inside as a nickel or safety, and can even play deep as a safety too.
Branch is an instinctual defender who possesses elite short-area quickness, acceleration and a very high-motor. He is also just one of those players that always seems to be around the football making plays. This past season at Alabama he totalled 90 tackles, 14 TFL’s, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
The one thing that stands out about Branch is that he’s one of the most sure tacklers in this class. In fact his 14 TFL’s last season led all defensive backs in College Football and is the most for an Alabama DB in the Nick Saban era.
Defensive back may not be one of the biggest needs for the Packers this offseason, but Branch is a hyper-versatile DB who can not only play in whatever position is necessary but can excel.
4. Broderick Jones – OT – Georgia
Broderick Jones is one of my favourite players in this entire draft class. He was a first year starter at LT this season for Georgia, and according to PFF, through 439 pass-blocking snaps, Jones has given up zero sacks and just nine pressures.
I believe there are three offensive lineman who have the talent and potential to warrant top 15 selections. However, the other two, Paris Johnson Jr and Peter Skronski will most likely be off the board by the time the Packers are on the clock with the 15th pick. Therefore, I think Jones would be the ideal option for them.
If that sounds like I’m downplaying Jones, I am absolutely not, I think he has the highest potential of any offensive tackle in this draft. At 6’4, 315 pounds Jones is an excellent athlete and has the feet and movement skills of an All-Pro NFL left tackle.
With David Bakhtiari getting older, Jones would be the perfect option to replace him as the Packers starting left tackle for the foreseeable future.
5. Lukas Van Ness – DL – Iowa
Lukas Van Ness has been one of the biggest risers throughout this draft process. He was once just the 1,063 recruit in the country, but has since become a dominant force in the Iowa defensive line room. Despite being head and shoulders above everyone else in that Iowa D-line room, he did not start a game last season for the Hawkeyes. That being said, he still led the team in both sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (10.5).
Van Ness stands at 6″5, 275 pounds and has over 34″ arms. He has played both off the edge and on the inside of the Iowa defensive line, and projects as a versatile chess piece in the NFL.
The former Hawkeye possesses elite size and length while also having the power, leverage, speed and explosiveness required to line up all over the defensive line, all the way from a 5-tech to a stand-up rusher.
Last season the Packers tallied just 34 sacks which was 28th worst in the NFL. Van Ness could provide both an immediate spark to that defensive line room, while also having the potential to develop into an All-Pro caliber player.