Packers take new, top-heavy approach to pre-draft visits

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No one knows how Brian Gutekunst will handle his first draft as the Green Bay Packers general manager, but he has approached the pre-draft process much different than his predecessor.

Former Packers GM Ted Thompson often used the bulk of his 30 allotted pre-draft visits on potential late-round picks or undrafted free agents. Gutekunst, who worked under Thompson during his entire tenure as GM, has brought in at least eight players who should be drafted within the first three rounds, including several potential first-round picks.

The latest news of such a visit came Monday, when a source told ESPN the Packers had UCLA tackle Kolton Miller in for a top-30 visit. Mel Kiper Jr. had Kolton at No. 15 -- one pick after the Packers -- to the Arizona Cardinals in his latest mock draft. Todd McShay had Miller a second-round pick (No. 48 overall) three spots after the Packers' pick in that round.

According to other media reports, the Packers' pre-draft visit list has included several other potential first-round picks:

  • S Derwin James, Florida State

  • LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

  • DT Vita Vea, Washington

  • CB Mike Hughes, UCF

  • CB Donte Jackson, LSU

James and Edmunds both could be off the board before No. 14. There's a better chance that James would be there for Gutekunst, but it's possible he could pass on the safety in favor of a pass-rusher.

Edmunds is a potential top-10 pick who might be a no-brainer selection if he were available at 14 considering the Packers' need for playmakers on defense. The speedy linebacker is viewed as a three-down player who can stop the run and provide pass rush.

Vea looks like a mid-first-round pick and even though the Packers added depth on the defensive line when they signed Muhammad Wilkerson, Vea could be a long-term partner for Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels.

Hughes and Jackson both are borderline first-round picks who might be considered reaches at No. 14.

It's possible Gutekunst's decision to bring in more top picks is a reflection of where the Packers are picking in the first round than a broader philosophical change. Under Thompson, the Packers had not picked in the top half of the round since 2009, when they took nose tackle B.J. Raji at No. 9. To be sure, Gutekunst also has used some of his visits on potential mid-round picks -- such as Washington WR Dante Pettis -- and also on late-round/free-agent prospects. He's also brought in several players from Wisconsin, who wouldn't count against the 30-visit limit because they're considered local prospects.

Here's the list of all the Packers' known pre-draft visits so far, according to ESPN and media reports:

  • T Dejon Allen, Hawaii

  • QB Tim Boyle, Eastern Kentucku

  • LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt

  • LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

  • S Dane Cruikshank, Arizona

  • LB Kendall Donnerson, Southeast Missouri State

  • LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

  • C/G Nico Falah, USC

  • CB Mike Ford, Southeast Missouri State

  • CB Mike Hughes, UCF

  • CB Donte Jackson, LSU

  • S Natrell Jamerson, Wisconsin

  • S Derwin James, Florida State

  • WR Keith Kirkwood, Temple

  • OLB Mike Love, South Florida

  • T Kolton Miller, UCLA

  • WR J'Mon Moore, Missouri

  • WR Dante Pettis, Washington

  • FB Austin Ramesh, Wisconsin

  • DT Jullian Taylor, Temple

  • DT Vita Vea, Washington

  • WR Justin Watson, Penn

  • TE Deon Yelder, Western Kentucky