Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst believes he's ready for the unknown.
The NFL will conduct it's first "Virtual" draft this weekend with teams across the league sheltered at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gutekunst will orchestrate the Packer draft from the basement of his home, decked out with telephone and computer technology that will allow him to converse with other members of his personnel staff at their own remote locations and then relay draft picks to the league office. Compound that process by 31 other teams and it's a huge technological effort.
In a 35 minute pre-draft conference call with the media on Monday afternoon, Gutekunst said he thinks the three day draft will go without a hitch, even though his conference call got dropped for over a minute and the GM joked, "I hope that doesn't happen Thursday."
The league conducted a two round dry run Monday and there was an issue with Cincinnati trying to relay the first overall choice but the rest of the exercise went smoothly enough to give Gutekunst confidence the seven round event should be pretty much worry free:
(Audio: Brian Gutekunst)
Gutekunst is looking to bolster a roster hit hard by free agent departures, including three starters in Bryan Bulaga, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, Jimmy Graham in Chicago and Blake Martinez signing with the New York Giants.
The GM believes a couple of holes were patched up by adding linebacker Christian Kirksey, tackle Rick Wagner and receiver Devin Funchess in March.
He'll have 10 selections at his disposal including the 30th overall choice in round one, the reward for falling in last year's NFC Championship game to San Francisco.
Gutekunst will oversee his third draft as GM and in each of his first two years, he didn't take a player at the Pack's first round position, trading down in 2018 to select Jaire Alexander and last year, he took Rashan Gary at number 12 but then traded with Seattle to move up nine spots to take Darnell Savage in the first round. He said even with single picks in each of the first five rounds this year, and five picks in the final two rounds, more trading is certainly possible:
(Audio: Brian Gutekunst)
Those areas include wide receiver, still a need for the team, offensive tackle and even quarterback where as many as four could be taken in the opening round.
Gutekunst says he hasn't spoke directly about the subject of drafting a quarteback with Aaron Rodgers but said he's experienced in that regard, coming to Green Bay in 2005 despite having three time MVP Brett Favre on the roster.
The final pre-draft scouting was limited because of stay at home orders across the country. Teams could not send scouts to pro days and face to face meetings weren't allowed.
Gutekunst says while it's never easy to get rookies acclimated to the pro game in their first year, that process could become even more difficult if team orientation camps and organized team activities are postponed or cancelled which is very likely as the country continues to deal with COVID 19.
Gutekunst said he isn't aware of anyone in the Packer organization, coaches, players, staff or even office workers that have tested positive for the virus which is a blessing.
He'll have a couple more days to put the final touches on his draft board before embarking on the unknown virtual draft journey Thursday night.