Packers XLV

Packers Draft for Need and Add Some Speed

Posted May 2nd, 2017 @ 03:05pm

As you know, it's ridiculous to grade a team's draft class just hours after the final pick is made. That's why I've waited three whole days to weigh in. Let some time go by, let things marinate a bit. Gain a little perspective.

All kidding aside, I like what Ted Thompson and his staff accomplished. They ended up with two more picks than they started with and added ten guys in what was considered an unusually deep draft class. Leading up to the draft, we heard how deep it was for defensive backs and running backs--two obvious need spots for the Pack and the team used half of its picks on those two positions. Their biggest need was on the back end of the defense and it appears they have plugged the holes left by the departures of Sam Shields and Micah Hyde.

All right, let's start at the top. The trade out of 29 made a lot of sense, especially considering they apparently were not enamored with JJ Watt there, as has been reported. They were happy to move back to the top of round two, and reportedly went to sleep that night debating between running back Dalvin Cook and corner Kevin King.

If you listened to "In the Zone" Saturday morning, you know I had been drooling over the prospect of Cook joining the Pack's backfield. With that QB, that line and those receiving weapons, Cook could have made an explosive impact on the offense. With the amount of points this offense could put up, it may not matter how improved the defense is. Of course, Cook came with baggage: off field problems beginning six years ago, three shoulder surgeries and a propensity to fumble.

King, on the other hand, is a baggage-free traveler. He represents everything the Packers' secondary is lacking: size (6'3") and speed (4.41). Barring injury, he will be penciled in to a starting spot on the outside and if he looks up to the challenge during camp, will likely get tossed into the fire early, with matchups against the likes of Julio Jones, AJ Green and Dez in the first five weeks. Pre-draft, I was hoping the Pack might take his Huskie teammate, Sidney Jones at the bottom of the second--he went in the middle of that round. Jones may have more upside long-term, but his Achilles injury puts his rookie season in doubt and the Pack needs immediate help.

With their second pick in the round the Packers selected a guy none of us has ever heard of (except for Larry, of course, who's been trumpeting Jones for months--sorry, Larry, couldn't resist). At first blush, I scratched my head a bit. I knew there were no pass rushers left that warranted a pick there, but I thought they might be in love with a running back like Kamara or even another corner.

After watching highlights and listening to the talking heads, I understood the pick to be what it was: an immediate replacement for Micah Hyde and a possible successor to Morgan Burnett, who will be a free agent after this season.

King and Jones are here to take over for Shields and Hyde and give the Pack's secondary precisely what it lacked: much better size and speed to match up with today's NFL offenses. They will both be expected to step right in and make immediate contributions.

Selecting defensive tackle Montravious Adams was one of those cliche value picks, a guy with all of the measurable you're looking for at that spot. He's a guy who broke through this past season after two disappointing years. If the light bulb finally came on, he could be  just what the doctor ordered for a team that suddenly has some nice depth at an important position (though his comparisons to Jerel Worthy are a bit troublesome).

If Adams looks like the real deal, he'll have a shot to join Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark as mainstays on the line. Leroy Guion is running out of chances and the other guys are still finding their way (Lowry, Ringo and Price).

Saturday morning the Packers were on the clock again (kind of fun to be on the clock to open two days of the draft, wasn't it?) and running back or pass rusher seemed to be the choice. With all three picks on the defensive side so far, I thought they might grab the former Sooner bruiser Perine, though there were a number of pretty good running backs still on the board.

The Biegel pick had to have most of you loyal readers jumping for joy. I don't watch a lot of Badger games, so I wasn't that dialed in on what kind of talent he had. His abilities aside, it's awesome to see a Wisconsin Rapids kid who was named for Vince Lombardi, born into a family of diehard Packer fans join his favorite team. I'm guessing the Pro Shop will sell thousands of Biegel 45 jerseys--second only to #12.

Biegel will get the opportunity to leapfrog past Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell on the depth chart and if he's the real deal, might allow Dom Capers to move Clay Matthews all over the field. Once again, Thompson pretty much avoided the inside linebacker position in the draft, so Matthews could prove to very valuable there, when needed.

Six picks to go for Thompson and his staff and it was time to grab some offensive players. I would never have believed he would take all offensive guys the rest of the way, with five of them being skill position players. The talker, of course, was the fact that three running backs were picked--first time the team has done that since '74 (Barty Smith, Don Woods and Eric Torkelson). Did you know that in the 15th round of that draft the Pack picked a tackle from Pitt named Dave Wannstedt? He never saw the field.

By waiting so long to address the position, Thompson figured if he took three of them, there was a chance that two would show enough to better than what the team currently had behind Ty Montgomery. Monday's release of Don Jackson and Christine Michael let the rookies know that the opportunity is there for two of them to make the team. Let the competition begin. Jamaal Williams, from BYU, looks like the best bet to have a chance at significant carries, but Aaron Jones was also very productive at UTEP and projects as more of a third down guy, so he could get a chance to contribute right away. The seventh rounder, Devante Mays, is the longest shot, but will be motivated to beat one of the other guys out.

It was a surprise to me that the Pack selected two wide receivers. It tells me that the three guys at the bottom of the depth chart: Janis, Allison and Davis will all have to prove they deserve a roster spot in 2017. Janis has earned his stripes on special teams, but as a fourth year guy, his time might be running out. Allison might face a suspension after a pot arrest and Davis needs to make a jump in year two.

Of the two new receivers, the 7th round pick, Malachi Dupre from LSU is the most intriguing. He was projected as a third or fourth rounder--he lacked production in college because LSU couldn't throw the ball, electing to hand off to Leonard Fournette most of the time. He's 6'2" with great hands and decent speed. With solid coaching and a real live QB throwing him the ball, he may project more upside than the three incumbents I mentioned earlier.

The Deangelo Yancey pick in the fifth round was, to me, the worst pick of the draft and I'm not just saying that because he went to Purdon't, I mean, Purdue. He was projected to be a seventh rounder or priority free agent, because he has a hard time getting open off press coverage and his hands are not great. He has size and decent speed and will get a shot on the outside, where the team needs some speed, but I would think Davis has a better shot than Yancey to stick.

I thought Thompson would pick two offensive linemen in this draft, but the draft eve signing of veteran guard Jahri Evans allowed him to get away with just one. South Florida's Kofi Amichia was a tackle in college, who will move inside and learn how to play guard. Watching Evans, a four-time all pro, should help him learn the ropes. He was a first team all-AAC pick at left tackle, so he's got some talent and could be in line to take over at right guard in 2018.

Following the draft, the Pack added 15 free agents and if history is our guide, several will have a good chance to make the team. Looking at the list, I give these guys the best shot: OLB Johnathan Calvin, Mississippi St, OL Geoff Gray, Manitoba, Adam Pankey, G, West Virginia and punter Justin Vogel, from Miami, who will challenge Jason Schum.

So overall, the Pack looks bigger and faster in the secondary, they have a familiar pass rusher who has a chance to take Julius Peppers' snaps and a handful of running backs to complement Montgomery. If King, Jones and Biegel can become playmakers on defense and one of the running backs pops, this draft will deserve the letter grade that most analysts have already assigned them, A-/B+.


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On the Pack's Schedule and the First Round

Posted April 25th, 2017 @ 04:04pm

With the draft fast approaching, I'd figured I'd stop by and provide my obligatory guess on what might go down in Round 1. But first, some thoughts on the Pack's 2017 schedule.

This one's a lot less than funky than last year's, with some quirks. The Packers will play at 3:25 three times in the first five weeks, and then not again all season. They don't have a noon start until week 6 at Minnesota. They close with four of six on the road and as usual, have five prime time games, three at home.

Let's break it down as things stand right now.

The schedule is toughest on paper early, with games against the three other prime NFC contenders in the first five weeks. If the Pack goes 1-2 against Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas, they'll likely take care of the Bears and Bengals at home. That puts them at 3-2 and probably trailing the Vikes early on, prompting plenty of chatter from our Purple-loving friends, most of whom will have no recollection of how last year went down.

The Pack will get some US Bank revenge in week 6 and will head home to take care of AP and the Saints as they head into the bye at 5-2.

The schedule softens a bit after the bye, with a Monday night home game against the Lions and a trip to our home away from home, Soldier Field. Then the Ravens come to town. The Pack will be strong favorites in all three games: 8-2. Then comes a Sunday night game at Pittsburgh and the Packers drop their third game of the season. 8-3 heading into December.

The Packers will likely be favored in all of the remaining games, but will drop one (maybe two) of them, probably in Carolina. They should handle Tampa Bay at home and Cleveland on the road. A loss in Carolina would drop them to 10-4, but the prime time home game against the Vikes will be a win. That brings us to the finale in Detroit. You never know what the motivations will be on this day, but I'll begrudgingly give it to the Lions. The Pack finishes at 11-5, good enough to win the North. Good enough for a top 2 seed? Let's hope so.

First Round Mock

1. Cleveland--Miles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M

2. San Francisco--Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

3. Chicago--Jamal Adams, S, LSU

4. Jacksonville--Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

5. Cleveland (trade)--Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC

6. N.Y. Jets--Deshawn Watson, QB, Clemson

7. San Diego--Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.

8. Carolina--Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR, Stanford

9. Cincinnati--Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

10. Buffalo--OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

11. New Orleans--Malik Hooker, S, Ohio St.

12. Tennessee (from Cleveland)--M. Williams, WR, Clemson

13. Arizona--Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

14. Philadelphia--Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

15. Indianapolis--Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

16. Baltimore--Corey Davis, RB, W. Michigan

17. Washington--Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

18. Tennessee--Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU

19. Tampa Bay--John Ross, WR, Washington

20. Denver--Ryan Ramczyk, T, Wisconsin

21. Detroit--Hassan Reddick, LB, Temple

22. Miami--Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

23. N.Y. Giants--Cam Robinson, T, Alabama

24. Oakland--David Njoku, TE, Miami

25. Houston--Kevin King, CB, Washington

26. Seattle--Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA

27. Kansas City--Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

28. Dallas--Charles Harris, LB, Missouri

29. Packers--T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin (Ooh, Dalvin Cook is still on the board, Should the Pack take him, despite the injury and off field concerns? The dude is electric).

30. Pittsburgh--Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan

31. Atlanta--Forrest Lamp, G, W. Kentucky

32. New Orleans--Adoree Jackson, CB, Colorado

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Watt will Thompson do next week?

Posted April 18th, 2017 @ 02:04pm

We all love mock drafts. How many have you clicked on over the past few weeks? It’s okay. We all do it. Here I present my Packers mock draft, my seventh annual attempt. I’ve nailed exactly one pick in six years: Randall Cobb. So, bottom line, don’t expect the Pack to pick any of these guys. But if the draft were to fall like this, I’d be pretty pumped.

Round 1 (29): TJ Watt, OLB, Wisconsin Conventional wisdom says Ted Thompson will likely take either a pass rusher or a corner with his first pick. Will the pick land at 29, or will he trade out of the first round and drop six or seven spots and add a fourth round pick? Wherever he picks, my gut tells me he’ll be more enamored with what’s available at OLB than the remnants at corner. So unless a guy like Kevin King or Tre’Davious White is there at CB, I think Thompson goes for the pass rusher. I’ve got three guys checked: Charles Harris (Mizzou). Takkarest McKinley (UCLA) and TJ Watt (Badgers). I have a feeling the first two guys will be off the board, so Thompson takes JJ’s little brother, who is just scratching the surface at what he can be as a pass rusher. He’s a bit injury prone, but he seems to have a motor similar to his older brother and could step right in and allow a guy who many compare him to, Clay Matthews, to move inside from time to time. We’ve seen a number of mocks (including PFF’s Cris Collinsworth) with the Packers taking troubled RB Joe Mixon with their first pick. Can’t see it. Can’t see Thompson taking a running back in the first round for the first time and making it Mixon. There’s no doubting the talent, but the baggage should drop him to day two.

Round 2 (61): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington A consensus top 10 pick before blowing out his Achilles on his Pro Day, it’s hard to know when on day 2 he will be drafted. Since it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to play this season, he may be more appealing to teams that know they’re at least a year away from contention. But if he’s there at the bottom of the second round, I don’t see how the Packers can pass him up. He’s been compared to former teammate Marcus Peters and the Packers have nothing on the roster remotely close to that talent. With Davon House on a one year deal and Randall and Rollins entering prove-it years, the Pack may be starting from scratch at the position in 2018. Having a healthy Jones ready to step in? Sign me up.

Round 3: (93): Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington You can argue that running back is a bigger need, but the Pack knows they can find solid runners on the final day of the draft. The receiver position will get murkier after this season. Cobb’s cap number is getting uglier by the moment, Jordy Nelson is getting older and Davante Adams will be a free agent (not to mention Ty Montgomery switched to running back). Janis, Davis and Allison are all question marks over the long run. Kupp will present value that the Pack can’t pass up: an uber-productive receiver, who finished as the all-time Division 1 leader in catches, yards and TDs. His 40 time was disappointing, which is why he may still be on the board when the Pack is on the clock. Thompson loves him some day 2 receivers and his track record there is stellar.

Round 4 (134): Jordan Morgan, G, Kutztown State (Pa.) Thompson has never not drafted at least one offensive lineman in any given draft, and with the departure of Lang and Tretter, he may add two. Morgan was a four-year starter at LT for the Division 2 school and seems to have the body type and nastiness to move inside. He’ll have a chance to compete for Lang’s spot. No GM has a better day three and beyond track record on the offensive line than the silver haired fox.

Round 5 (174): James Conner, RB, Pitsburgh Thompson finally finds a running back, in the draft’s most courageous player, who has beaten Hopkins lymphoma to return to the field. He projects as a nice complement to Montgomery: more of a battering ram type, who can move the chains and at the goal line. Character and leadership are through the roof. If he’s gone, Pack may look to Clemson’s Wayne Gallman or Coastal Carolina’s De’Angelo Henderson, for a different kind of back.

Round 5 (184 Compensatory): Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois A former hurdler, Smoot put on weight and has turned into an interesting prospect who could be a fit in the Pack’s DL rotation. A year under the tutelage of Lovie Smith should have him more prepared than many for the transition to the pros.

Round 6 (214): Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan The tall (6’3”) speedy (4.43) corner tore his ACL early last season which cost him most of his senior year and his plea for a sixth year was denied. So he enters the draft with health concerns, but Thompson decides to double up on banged up corners. Clark has bulked up while rehabilitating and could be 100% by the time training camp opens. The more competition the better at the Pack’s most unproven position.

Round 7 (247): JJ Dielman, C, Utah Thompson could hold off and sign a couple of undrafted centers and add another LB here, but Dielman projects as a solid backup to Linsley, a current roster need. A former tackle who converted to center and saw his season ended early by injury, Dielman will serve as a capable replacement for Tretter.

All right, your turn. Who you got for the Pack's first pick or two? Vikings trolls: feel free to leave now and go back to thinking about the 47 players that will be picked before your team gets a chance to add someone.

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