Hot Takes, Predictions for Packers Rookies After 2022 NFL Draft

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2022

Hot Takes, Predictions for Packers Rookies After 2022 NFL Draft

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    If there's one thing that has become certain in the Brian Gutekunst era, it's that the Green Bay Packers are going to be unpredictable when it comes to the NFL draft. 

    With many expecting they would pick a wide receiver in this year's first round, they threw a curveball. The selection of an off-ball linebacker with their first pick was a surprising one. Taking a 24-year-old defensive tackle with their next wasn't expected, either. 

    The Green Bay general manager is unafraid of going against conventional wisdom, though results have been a mixed bag. After all, his infamous 2020 draft brought about the drama with Aaron Rodgers but also included the selections of A.J. Dillon and Jon Runyan, both of which have worked out. 

    So, the question now becomes what can we expect from this year's class. Here are some bold predictions for how a few of them will work out. 

Quay Walker Will Be a Rookie of the Year Candidate

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    According to NFL Mock Draft Database, Quay Walker was only in 9.6 percent of first-round mock drafts. That's relatively in line with his position on the final big board from the B/R Scouting Department where he was the 49th-ranked prospect. 

    None of that means he isn't going to produce in Year 1, though. 

    As demonstrated by De'Vondre Campbell's first year in Green Bay last season, the Packers' defense is a good one for linebackers. Walker is going to have an opportunity to start alongside Campbell from Day 1 in a defense where he is going to be surrounded by talent. 

    Success as a rookie isn't just on the player, though, and context matters. The Packers are going to be able to trust Walker in coverage. According to PFF, the 21-year-old did not allow a single touchdown on 548 career coverage snaps. 

    Last year, Micah Parsons was the unanimous rookie of the year, but both Jeremy Chinn and Patrick Queen received votes in 2020. Walker could have that kind of season based on his athleticism, coverage and opportunity in Green Bay. 

Christian Watson Will Be a Top Three Rookie Wide Receiver

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Packers sat and watched six receivers get drafted in the first round when they had the ammunition to potentially trade up. While that might have been frustrating for fans and Aaron Rodgers, good things come to those who wait. 

    Christian Watson has questions. There's not much of a route tree when you watch his film, and he's struggled with drops throughout his time at North Dakota State. 

    But context matters once again. The No. 34 overall pick is going to be getting passes from the reigning MVP at quarterback and there isn't much competition for targets. With the loss of Davante Adams, the Packers have lost 169 targets. 

    That's a huge void in a passing attack that has been one of the NFL's best. Watson might not be a complete receiver at this point, but at the very least he has the ability to fill the Marquez Valdes-Scantling role. 

    Last time the Kansas City-bound man played a full season (2020), he got 63 targets but only caught 33 of them for 690 yards and six touchdowns. 

    Watson has a chance to be more efficient with those opportunities and put up big numbers in his rookie campaign. 

Zach Tom Will Be a Starter by Season's End

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    The path for a Day 3 pick to make the roster can be a difficult one. 

    Every fanbase wants to talk itself into its team's fourth-round pick being an instant contributor, but it usually takes a bit longer to have much of an impact. 

    In the case of Zach Tom, though, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's a starter by the end of the season. 

    The Packers have a talented offensive line, and they finished 14th in PFF's final offensive line rankings last season despite dealing with a myriad of injuries

    Tom's athleticism and versatility makes him a candidate to play just about anywhere. As B/R draft scout Brandon Thorn noted in his scouting report, he made 23 starts at left tackle at Wake Forest but also made 14 at center. 

    According to PFF, the 23-year-old only gave up four sacks in his career, with none coming when he played center. His relative athletic score and build are nearly identical to Rashawn Slater. 

    Don't be shocked if he sees the field before third-round pick Sean Rhyan.