As the 2021 NFL Draft draws ever closer, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst's club is sitting at No. 29 following back-to-back trips to the NFC Championship Game.
Having knocked on the door of a Super Bowl berth in two straight seasons, Gutekunst knows the Packers' window is open now to cash in on a talented roster. Thus, when asked Monday about consideration of moving up from the 29th spot in the first round, he admitted the temptation is there.
"It's always tempting for me," Gutekunst said. "I think when you're sitting at [No.] 29 and watching those kind of players come off the board that you've spent so much time studying and kind of thinking about how they could affect your football team, it's always tempting. You gotta be careful and you gotta be careful not to fall in love with any individual player. We'll look at each opportunity we have to move up. We've done that in the past, we've moved down in the past, as well. But, we'll look at each opportunity and, if it makes sense, we certainly won't be afraid to do that."
The Packers moved up just last season, trading up four spots to No. 26 to select quarterback Jordan Love as the hopeful heir apparent to star QB Aaron Rodgers. Among the reasons that pick was scrutinized was that Love didn't help the Packers win in the present -- he didn't even play in 2020. This time around it appears, Gutekunst has his eyes on the prize of winning now and getting a first-round difference maker is something he's at least pondering.
"We have a very good football team coming back. Which gives me a little more freedom, I think, as we attack the board to go with the best player. But I think at the same time, I think for me, the one thing, if we have a chance to move up to take a specific player that we feel is special, I think you have to always consider that. I think we have since I've been kinda, the last three years, I think we've done that and we'll always kinda do that. There's only so many game-changing-type players in this league. If you have the opportunity to acquire one, I think you have to consider it."
Here's what else we're monitoring Monday ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night:
- During their joint media availability, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said he "will always defer" to coach Kyle Shanahan regarding their draft plans, particularly the team's highly-debated decision surrounding the No. 3 overall pick.
- Among the teams testing the waters about a possible move into the top 10 are the New England Patriots. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday that teams who have received those calls believe the Patriots' target would be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, if he began to slip.
- Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert reiterated a stance Monday that he and Pittsburgh's front office would prefer a draft prospect who participated in the 2020 season rather than opting out. Said Colbert, "If a player played in 2020 and those players are of equal value, the one that didn't play and the one that played, we'll take the one that played because we don't know what the opt-outs will be like in their first season back in football." The Steelers GM added that he would "absolutely" consider taking a quarterback in the draft.
- Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson said he's looking to add plug-and-play prospects in the 2021 draft. "I think as soon as those guys can contribute, the sooner the better," he told reporters. "And we've had guys that maybe it's been injuries … but the quicker they can acclimate themselves to our program and the pro game, the better. And yeah, we want all these guys, whether it's the first-rounder, wherever they're drafted, the quicker they can contribute and help the football team, the better."
- The Atlanta Falcons' No. 4 selection could prove to be a pivotal pick not just for the NFC South franchise, but a few others. With the Jaguars, Jets and 49ers prognosticated to grab quarterbacks in the first three picks of the draft, should the Falcons not select a quarterback it would increase the likelihood of teams trading up inside the top 10 to pick a signal-caller. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the most likely contenders to move up to select a QB should the Falcons pass on one would be the New England Patriots, who have an eye on Ohio State's Justin Fields, the Washington Football Team and the Chicago Bears. With Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Brigham Young's Zach Wilson expected to be gone after the first two picks and the 49ers prognosticated to take Alabama's Mac Jones or North Dakota State's Trey Lance, potential trade suitors would be looking to trade up for whomever the Niners don't take and/or Fields.
- During his appearance on Path to the Draft, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger praised Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., saying he could see the standout selected in Round 1 on Thursday. "I think it's unanimous that we believe five quarterbacks are going to go in the first round. Well, I think you should have five cornerbacks go, as well," he said. "I mean, it's a cornerback-driven league as much as it's a quarterback-driven league. I think five could go and I think Asante Samuel is going to be one of those five. … Asante isn't one of those 6-foot-plus corners, but he does everything else well. And, unlike his dad, he tackles well."