While the first round of the NFL draft gets most of the hype and attention, and the second day picks are highly sought after, late round picks and undrafted free agents can play a huge role in a team’s success.
The Packers in particular are known for getting great value out of their late round picks and undrafted players. Sam Shields went undrafted out of Miami and is now one of the better young cornerbacks in the league, Frank Zombo was a key contributor during the Packers Super Bowl run, and most recently, Jarrett Boykin has emerged as a solid number three receiver for the Packers.
Even with 4 premium picks in the upcoming draft, and a fairly deep roster, I would still expect some late round picks and undrafted free agents to make an impact on the Packers’ roster this season.
Here are 8 late round prospects to keep an eye on as the draft approaches.
Jerry “Boo Boo” Gates – Bowling Green, S, 5’11”, 203
A 3 year starter, Gates has 7 career interceptions to go along with 5 forced fumbles. He is also a dangerous return man, and has returned both punts and kickoffs for touchdowns.
Gates should probably be getting more attention than he leading up to the draft and currently projects as a 7th round pick, or a priority free agent, but with his play making ability on defense and special teams prowess, I think Gates has an excellent chance to make an impact on an NFL roster.
Brock Jensen – North Dakota State, QB, 6’3”, 223
Jensen started 53 games over his college career,threw for 8,598 yards to go along with 72 touchdowns, and reportedly already has a visit lined up with the Packers.
Depending on what happens with Matt Flynn, the Packers may look to find a backup quarterback earlier in the draft. But if Flynn is re-signed and the packers are looking for someone to stash on the practice squad and develop, the Waupaca, Wisconsin native would make an ideal candidate.
Chaz Sutton – OLB, South Carolina,6’3”, 245
Sutton doesn’t get nearly the attention fellow Gamecock defensive linemen, Jadeveon Clowney or Kelcy Quarles get, but at their recent pro-day, Sutton’s performance got some scouts to take notice. Sutton reportedly looked good in linebacker drills, put up 27 reps on the bench press, and ran a 4.7 40.
The biggest knock on Sutton is that despite teams game planning around Clowney, he still never put up great numbers. But with his physical gifts, Sutton might be worth developing in to an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Jordan Najvar – TE, Baylor, 6’6”, 256
There’s a lot to like about Jordan Najvar as a NFL prospect. He has prototypical size for a tight end, good hands, and he is a capable blocker. But there are also reasons he will likely be a late round pick or possible free agent. Najvar ran the slowest 40 time of any of the tight ends at the combine, and he had minimal production at Baylor, with only 35 receptions over 3 years.
Najvar won’t make anyone forget about Jermichael Finley, but he could develop in to a good in-line blocking tight end, and a decent red zone weapon.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif –OL, McGill, 6’5”, 298
Duvernay-Tardif has been getting a lot of attention lately in draft circles. The Canadian prospect was invited to the East-West Shrine game, and was one of Pig Skin Paul’s standouts from the game. His recent pre-draft workout was attended by 9 NFL teams, including the Packers.
Duvernay-Tardif has the size, athleticism, and temperament NFL teams look for in an offensive lineman, but because of his inexperience, the Packers, or any team that drafts him, will probably need to wait a year or so before he is able to contribute.
Isaiah Burse- WR, Fresno State, 5’10”, 188
Think of Burse as a poor man’s Randall Cobb. Similar in size, and like Cobb, Burse does not possess great straight line speed, but he is very quick and elusive, and is also not afraid to catch passes over the middle of the field.
Burse’s biggest selling point for the Packers would be his kick and punt return ability. As a senior, Burse returned 2 punts for touchdowns, and during his sophomore year he set a NCAA record for kick return yards in a season with 1,606.
Wesley Johnson – OL, Vanderbilt, 6’5”, 297
The Packers like their offensive lineman versatile, and they don’t get much more versatile than Wesley Johnson. Johnson started 50 straight games at Vanderbilt and played left guard, center, and both tackle spots.
While primarily a tackle in college, most draft prognosticators think a permanent move to center would be best for Johnson, but his ability to play anywhere on the offensive line could make him very appealing to the Packers.
Beau Allen – DT, Wisconsin, 6’3”, 329
One of the more notable Combine snubs, Allen may appeal to teams running both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, both of which he has experience in. Allen has been incredibly durable over his college career, playing in 54 games, and not missing a single one.
Allen may not have the upside of Notre Dame’s Louis Nix, but his scheme versatility, durability, and ability to eat up space along the defensive line make him an intriguing late round prospect.——————