The 2022 NFL Draft will take place later this month and the Packers have four of the top 59 picks with two selections in each of the first two rounds. That gives GM Brian Gutekunst the ability to move up or down or to trade picks for players he wants. He could also hold on to the picks and build the team that way.

Here is a look at the Packers short-term and long-term needs at each position heading into the draft. Today’s article will examine the defense and special teams. Click here to see the needs for the offense.

Short-term needs are for the 2022 season whether they are for starters or for depth at a given position. Long-term needs are designed to add future starters, to add depth and to replace players who may be retiring, becoming free agents or released for cap reasons in the future.

Defensive Line:

Short Term Need: Moderate

The signing of Jarran Reed reduces the immediate need for help at this position. Kenny Clark is the stud of the group with Reed and Dean Lowry providing experience at the other two starting spots. Second-year man T.J. Slaton should be a bigger part of the rotation this season and Jack Heflin will have another chance to show what he can contribute.

Long Term Need: Moderately High

Reed and Lowry are not under contract beyond this season and the team is still not sure what they have in Slaton and if Heflin will contribute more. Using at least one day-three pick on a player here with the idea of getting him ready for more extensive work in 2023 would make sense for the Packers.

Edge Rusher:

Short Term Need: Moderate

The top two players at this position from last season are returning with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith ready to go. But the loss of Za’Darius Smith leaves the team thin here. Neither Jonathan Garvin nor Tipa Galeai have proven themselves to be ready for significant defensive contributions although either or both could take a step forward this season. More depth at this position is necessary and every NFL team wants more pass rushers.

Long Term Need: Moderately High

Both Preston Smith and Gary are under contract through the end of 2023 and it’s unlikely Preston Smith will be back after that as he will be on the wrong side of 30 by then. The Packers need to start thinking about a potential successor at the position.

Edge rusher is a premium position for the Packers and almost every NFL team. This year’s draft has good edge rushers available in the first two rounds so don’t be surprised to see Gutekunst use one of the team’s five picks on an edge rusher.

Inside Linebacker:

Short Term Need: Moderate

Both starters from last year should be back. The Packers have already re-signed De’Vondre Campbell while Krys Barnes is an exclusive rights free agent who is almost certainly going to return.

Backup help is needed, however, as Oren Burks signed with San Francisco and Ty Summers has yet to show he can be counted on to play significant snaps on defense.

Long Term Need: Moderately high

Campbell should be the starter inside for the next three seasons if he stays healthy. The Packers are less sure exactly what they have in Barnes but the other inside linebacker generally plays only 50 percent of snaps at most.

The Packers need to increase depth here and to select a player who can compete with Barnes. If Campbell misses significant time, the team would be in trouble. The Packers need to upgrade this position with a look towards depth in the short term and a potential starter in the long term. The Pack traditionally doesn’t emphasize this position so don’t look for a pick here until day three.


Short Term Need: Moderately low

With the re-signing of Rasul Douglas, the Packers top three corners are set with Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Douglas.

Shemar Jean-Charles may assume a bigger role on defense in his second year, but the Packers do still need a dime back as Kevin King is unsigned and unlikely to return while Chandon Sullivan has signed with Minnesota.

Long Term Need: Moderate

Douglas signed a three-year deal, Stokes is in year two of his rookie year deal so the Packers have him for two and if they choose to, three more seasons after 2022. The Packers do need to sign Alexander to a new deal as he is about to play on his fifth-year option this season. Contract talks are ongoing.

Cornerback is a premium position and NFL teams always want more of them. The need for a dime back and more depth at this position is obvious. Also, Douglas will be 28 before the start of the season and if his strong 2021 performance proves to be a one-time thing, a possible replacement will need to be developed.

Gutekunst will almost certainly draft a player or two here and the draft board will likely determine how high a pick it turns out to be.


Short Term Need: Moderately High

The Packers have two quality starters in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage but there is precious little depth behind them after the team opted not to give Henry Black a qualifying offer.

The Packers have Vernon Scott back but Scott he only played three games in 2021 and didn’t take a snap on defense.

Immediate depth should be added here in this year’s draft and the Packers will probably use a mid-round pick here and maybe a later round pick as well.

Long Term Need: Moderately High

Amos is under contract for 2022 and will be 29 later this month. His future in Green Bay beyond this season is uncertain. The Packers have a fifth-year option on Savage but haven’t decided whether to exercise it in part due to the former Maryland star’s inconsistency.

The Packers need to develop one and possibly two starters at this position for 2023 and they also need depth at safety.

Gutekunst could sign a free agent next season but that would be in addition to draft picks used here in 2022 and possibly also in 2023.

Special Teams:

Short Term Need: Moderately High

The Packers have needs here throughout the roster. We aren’t sure when primary kick returner Kylin Hill will be back from knee surgery while Amari Rodgers struggled as a punt and kick returner during his rookie season.

The Packers also need a long snapper as neither Hunter Bradley nor Steve Wirtel provided enough consistency at the position.

Oren Burks was a primary player on coverage and blocking teams and he isn’t back. New special teams coordinator in Steve Bisaccia will have influence over the roster and needs to improve this area which was a big reason the Packers lost to the 49ers in the playoffs.

The Packers have three kickers and a veteran punter on their roster and won’t use a draft choice at either position. Hopefully, many of this year’s draft choices will be able to contribute on special teams right away.

Long Term Need: N/A

It’s tough to determine long-term need at special teams as this is a position with a lot of turnover on a year-by-year basis.

Mason Crosby will be 38 by the start of the 2022 season so even if he wins the job in 2022, he could retire after the season if he feels it’s time to hang up his cleats. Even so, it’s doubtful the Packers would draft a kicker a year before Crosby’s retirement.

Needs on special teams are usually dealt with on a more immediate basis.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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