Packers Draft Prospects: Post Combine Edition

Derwin James, S. Florida State

With the Combine wrapping up on Monday, the Packers finally got to see the best prospects the college ranks have to offer. And with all that testing and interviewing, we have a clearer picture of who is the best, and who isn’t. That being said, let’s take a look at another batch of prospects.

Quarterback – Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
6’5″ 235 lbs. Senior
Notable: 4553 Passing Yards (2017), 2nd Team All Big-12
Projected Round: 2-3

Once seen as a fringe first round pick, Rudolph has shown that he has the skill to be a capable starter in the NFL, but he isn’t near a sure thing. With fringe arm strength to make all the NFL throws in a typical offense, Rudolph has to rely on his accuracy and ball placement more than the other top prospects. But luckily for him, that accuracy is top-notch. He may be the most accurate quarterback in the draft. Extremely intelligent and willing to do the little things to improve, Rudolph is a great developmental guy to take in Round 2 or 3 for a team looking for a future starter.

Running Back – Mark Walton, Miami (FL)
5’10” 202 lbs. Junior
Notable: 7.6 YPC in 2017, 1117 Yards in 2016 as Soph., Missed final 9 games in 2017 with Ankle Injury
Projected Round: 4

Walton was one of the more promising running backs in college football coming into the 2017 season, especially in the open field. When he can get to the second level, he can make tacklers look downright foolish with his change of direction ability. But he is undersized for a feature back and is coming off a serious ankle injury that required surgery. His best scenario early on is to become a third down back and use his excellent receiving skills out of the backfield to make an impact. His comparison from the NFL website is James White, which would be the perfect model for Walton.

Wide Receiver – Jordan Lasley, UCLA
6’1″ 203 lbs. Junior
Notable: 69 Catches, 1264 Yards, 9 TD in 2017. School Record for Rec. Yards per Game
Projected Round: 2-3

Lasley is an extremely talented receiver coming out of the Pac-12 and sharing a huddle with Josh Rosen. Productive, especially in 2017, when he compiled his numbers in 9 games. Ran well at the Combine and has home run potential as an outside receiver. Athleticism is elite for this class, but he has significant risk. One of the more drop-prone prospects this year, Lasley also was suspended multiple times the past couple years, including 3 games in 2017. If he can overcome his immaturity and drops, Lasley has high-level starter upside, but that’s a big “if.”

Tight End – Ian Thomas, Indiana
6’4″ 259 lbs. Senior
Notable: Honorable Mention All Big Ten, 11 1/2 inch hands, 36 inch vertical, 4.74 40 Time
Projected Round: 2-3

Thomas is an interesting prospect. He ticks off all the boxes when it comes to athleticism and measurables, but he doesn’t have a ton of tape, not becoming a starter until this past year. Very strong and improved greatly as a blocker over the course of last season. Natural seam stretching tight end with solid hands, Thomas has shown the drive and desire to win contested balls and break tackles with force. High character, described as “humble and focused” from his coaches and teammates. Biggest issues are his route running and the lack of experience. He is extremely raw but with his upside he could be a steal in a couple years.

Offensive Tackle – Desmond Harrison, West Georgia
6’6″ 292 lbs. Senior
Notable: 1st Team All-American (Division II), Character Concerns
Projected Round: 3-4

Harrison has the talent to be a long-time starter in the NFL if he can get his head on straight. He has elite quickness and is remarkably smooth with his lateral movement, especially his kickslide in pass protection. He also shows that mean streak that can teams want in a tackle. He doesn’t stop until the whistle does. But there’s a reason he was at West Georgia after spending time at Texas. Suspended for essentially the entire 2014 season, he spent two years out of football before playing at West Georgia. The talent is there, but he won’t get many chances to prove it with his track record.

Interior Offensive Line – Scott Quessenberry, UCLA
6’4″ 310 lbs Senior
Notable: 43 Career Starts, Experience at both Guard and Center
Projected Round: 6-7

Quessenberry is a prototypical road grading guard or center, using his frame to drive off the snap to open holes for running backs. When he gets his hands on you, you’re not going very far, his grip is that strong. Handles bull-rushes well, showing ability to adjust his hands over the course of the play. Smart and instinctive when reading a defense, makes sound line calls. But while he gets a good initial push, he struggles to build off it and struggles with longer defensive linemen. Average athleticism will likely keep him from being a starter early on, but he is a developmental backup with potential to become a starter with the right coaching.

Defensive Line – Taven Bryan, Florida
6’4″ 291 lbs. Junior
Notable: 40 Tackles, 4 Sacks in 2017. 4.98 40 Time, 119″ Broad Jump, 30 Bench Reps
Projected Round: 1-2

Bryan is a rare athlete at his position, with elite quickness and explosion. Took some time to crack the lineup for the Gators, but as a junior he was dominant, holding the point as an end and as a tackle. Incredible raw power shows up on tape, and his bull rush can routinely disrupt the pocket. The biggest knock on Bryan is his instincts, which are seen as lacking so far. He has improved his anticipation and awareness every year but isn’t an every down lineman just yet. But his upside is tremendous, drawing comparisons to players like Fletcher Cox and Cameron Jordan.

Edge – Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
6’1″ 254 lbs. Junior
Notable: 22.5 TFL and 10.5 Sacks in 2017, 4.76 40 Time, Consensus All-American
Projected Round: 4-5

Mata’afa is a polarizing prospect. The definition of “tweener” in the 2018 Draft contains his picture. He played defensive end in college, but he likely too small to stick on the line in the NFL. However, he should be able to see the field early as a pass rusher. His quickness in the Pac-12 was often too much for offensive linemen, especially when he lined up as a defensive tackle. Non-stop motor shows up on tape and he is willing to mix it up with anyone and everyone. Almost all his listed strengths on NFL’s profile are about his motor and effort. But his lack of a true position at the next level hamper him. He could end up being a player like Shane Ray or end up like Carl Bradford.

Linebacker – Micah Kiser, Virginia
6’2″ 238 lbs. Senior
Notable: 1st Team All-ACC, 134 Tackles in 2017, 385 Career Tackles, William V. Campbell Trophy (Top Scholar-Athlete)
Projected Round: 6-7

The stats don’t lie for Kiser, as his tackling ability shows up during every game you watch. Even when focusing on other players, your eyes inevitably move to Kiser making another tackle. Instinctive and extremely intelligent, Kiser is rarely out of position and is willing to lay a big hit on a running back, especially if they cut back into his lane. Shows good play strength and understands leverage to get off blocks. But he could be limited by his fairly average athleticism and stiff hips to be a two-down run stopper and special teams dynamo.

Cornerback – Jaire Alexander, Louisville
5’11” 192 lbs. Junior
Notable: 4.38 40 Time, 2nd Team All-ACC in 2016
Projected Round: 2-3

Alexander is one of the more instinctive corners in the Draft and fits the mold of a playmaker no matter where he lines up. Arguably the most versatile corner, Alexander can line up outside or in the slot and succeed at both. Can absolutely fly and shows good awareness on deep balls. A pure cover corner, Alexander mirrors exceptionally well and showed strong footwork at the combine. However, he isn’t a great tackler and can at times get too handsy with receivers. Also suffered a string of injuries last season, which brings questions about his durability, especially with his thin frame. High level starter upside if he stays healthy.

Safety – Derwin James, Florida State
6’3″ 215 lbs. Sophomore
Notable: Elite Athleticism (4.47 40, 40″ vertical), 1st Team All-ACC
Projected Round: Top 20

James is quickly catching up to Minkah Fitzpatrick as the best defensive back in the Draft. With the ability to play corner and safety, he has shown the ability to be an instant game changer. A natural leader on and off the field, he shows great maturity and is a football junkie. With his 6’3″ frame and long arms to go along with his speed, he has the tools to be an outside corner but also the range of an elite safety. An excellent tackler in the open field, he has shown a nose for the football. Only weaknesses are his lack of experience and occasionally tackling flat footed. Compared favorably to Eric Berry.

Mock Draft #6 (March 5, 2018)
Matt Miller’s Big Board, User-Voted Team Needs, Difficult Algorithm
ROUND 1 (14) – Harold Landry, Edge. Boston College
-Showed dominant traits during Combine that match his 2016 tape. Instant impact starter.
ROUND 2 (45) – Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Boise State
-If he lasts this long, it’s a steal. Incredible agility and instincts. All-Pro potential
ROUND 3 (76) – Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State
-Quickly becoming my preferred tight end. Ability as a receiver up the seam is eye-popping.
ROUND 4 (114) – Troy Fumagalli, TE. Wisconsin
-Counters Gesicki beautifully. Not as athletic, but catches everything and is a good blocker.
ROUND 4 (133) – Dante Pettis, WR. Washington
-Best kick returner in the draft, and is extremely polished as a receiver.
ROUND 5 (150) – Justin Jones, DL. NC State
-Consistent performer on dominant defensive front. Does a little bit of everything but no dominant traits.
ROUND 5 (172) – Jack Cichy, LB. Wisconsin
-Injury concerns are very real, but when he played, he always made an impact.
ROUND 5 (174) – Shaquem Griffin, LB. Central Florida
-Combine star will at the very least be a phenomenal special teamer. Best story in the Draft.
ROUND 6 (186) –  Kylie Fitts, Edge. Utah
Natural pass rusher but durability concerns may limit him to only third downs.
ROUND 6 (207) – Bradley Bozeman, OL. Alabama
-Massively strong center with exceedingly average athleticism.
ROUND 7 (232) – Deadrin Senat, DL. South Florida
-Barrel-chested run stuffer who brings little pass rush. Basically Quinton Dial
ROUND 7 (239) – Brandon Facyson, CB. Virginia Tech
-Good length and press skills, but lack of deep speed hinders him.

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Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.

Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.

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