Packers’ 2014 Draft Class Paying Early Dividends

As I sat in the Lambeau Field bleachers and watched the Panthers game, I couldn’t help but to think of how well the 2014 draft class is panning out.  Now there are certainly disappointments.  It’s possible (maybe even likely) that Khyri Thornton Carl Bradford and Demetri Goodson can’t play.  Jared Abbrederis was lost for the season with an ACL injury.  Other than that though, things look great.

I know that kind of sounds like “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln how was the play?” but it isn’t.  It’s possible that one of those 3 defenders will turn into a decent rotational piece.  Josh Boyd looked just as lost as Thornton early on in his career and he’s a perfectly capable fill-in on the defensive line.  Obviously if you take a defensive linemen in the top 100 you’d prefer he not be a fill-in but it happens.  Goodson was always going to be a project and Bradford is going through a position change a la Jamari Lattimore.

This much I do know.  The Packers have found 3 rock solid starters, possibly a 4th starter and another player that will contribute in a positive way.  I don’t care how many draft picks you have, if you come away with a haul like that it was a success.  The fact that Green Bay didn’t have drafts with that success rate in 2011 and 2012 largely attributes to the lack of playoff success after the 15-1 season.

A lot of people will tell you (and I agree) that you need to wait 2 and probably 3 seasons to truly evaluate a draft class.  As far as I’m concerned that only applies to being patient with guys that haven’t contributed yet.  I’m watching Davante Adams play.  I’m watching HaHa Clinton-Dix play.  I’m watching Corey Linsley play.  They are high quality football players.  Right now.

HaHa Clinton-Dix is going to be a star.  I may have a reputation of optimism but this is real.  He’s better right now than Darren Sharper and Nick Collins were at this point in their careers.  I’m not saying that HHCD is going to be as good as Nick Collins, few were or will be.  But he’s always in the right place making sound tackles right now.  He’s one of the better players on the defense and he hasn’t even started making plays yet.  We said this offseason that the defense would be greatly improved if the safeties were just in the right positions at the right time and they are.  Specifically he is in the right position.

Corey Linsley is going to be the Packers starting center until his rookie contract expires.  I’m not sure what will happen after that considering the fate that befell Scott Wells but Linsley is the real deal.  He’s strong as an ox and so far he’s graded out as PFF’s 10th ranked center.  He’s also PFf’s 5th ranked run blocker.  His ability to step in and take control of the offensive line will allow JC Tretter to be what his NFL destiny always should have been, a super utility man.  From what I’ve seen and from what I know of his measurables Tretter has the upside to be a rich man’s Don Barclay with the ability to back up LG, C, RG and RT.

Davante Adams is open.  Like a lot.  Trust me, I understand that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are excellent receivers.  Aaron Rodgers has put together an 18 to 1 (!!!!!!) TD ratio throwing the ball on a very regular basis to those two.  This doesn’t mean that Adams isn’t open.  He’s open all the time.  Not only that but he’s awesome when he gets the ball in his hands.  Half of his yards this season are YAC, which is a staple of the Green Bay offense.  There will come a time this season when the offense needs to turn to him and he will deliver.  As far as the long term outlook I believe he’s going to be delivering at a high level until the end of no. 12’s career.

As far as the “maybe”s that would be Richard Rodgers and Jeff Janis.  Janis is raw, but is the most athletically talented wide receiver the Packers have and honestly have had in a very long time.  his ability to at least not look lost makes me think that after a year or two the team could really have something.  Rodgers needs to improve his blocking to allow the coaching staff to trust having him on the field, but he has the potential to be a solid receiving TE.  He will probably never be a star, but he’s already far ahead of anything another highly drafted tight end DJ Williams accomplished in Green Bay.

Like I said, this draft was not perfect.  It’s possible Jared Abbrederis is never the same and never becomes a useful player.  It’s possible that Goodson, Bradford and Thornton all wash out of the league.  But if what I’m seeing is real, and I think it is, Ted nailed this one.

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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