This spring was an interesting draft in regards to the way Ted Thompson selected players. Many believed he was going to choose the obvious pick–something like an inside linebacker or a cornerback in the first round. This led to a shocking revelation for fans when safety Damarious Randall was selected instead. The same reaction occurred the following round when safety Quinten Rollins was picked. At this point, many Packer fans were beginning to grow concerned about Thompson’s decisions until they were informed the draft picks would be moving to the cornerback position.
But what if Ted wasn’t done migrating picks to new positions once they arrived in Green Bay?
Packer fans say it all the time. “Ted gonna Ted”–a simple, yet very analytical, way to describe the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. Thompson is a master at the game of scouting. He plays it as if he’s a chess master. Always thinking five moves ahead, with checkmate just in sight. Checkmate being the Super Bowl.
While he made a splash with the picks of Randall and Rollins, people may failed to see the actual splash. Jake Ryan.
Ryan was drafted as an inside linebacker out of Michigan. Despite being selected as an inside linebacker, Ryan originally played outside linebacker for the first two years of his college career until he tore his ACL in 2013. When Ryan finally returned to the field, he was moved inside and made a successful transition in less than a year. Before moving to the inside, Scouts Inc. had him ranked as the fifth best outside linebacker coming into the 2015 draft.
It’s no secret that one of the Packers current outside linebackers, Julius Peppers, could be mulling over retirement at the end of this season. Peppers was quick to let fans know this past season, after the loss in the NFC championship game to the Seattle Seahawks, that he wasn’t quite done on the gridiron. He may do the same after this season. Unless if it’s a post-super bowl win announcement, chances are he’s hanging up the cleats.
Although not quite as old as Peppers, Nick Perry‘s role also could potentially be coming to a close with the Packers. We saw Perry escalate his production during the second half of last season. Beforehand, Perry struggled to live up to his draft grade for the first two and a half seasons of his career. The Packers chose not to pick up Perry’s fifth year option on his rookie contract, leading to a make-or-break year for the former first round pick.
It’s expected that the inside linebacker snaps will be dominated by mainly Clay Matthews, Sam Barrington, and Carl Bradford. If Ryan wants to see more playing time, it may have to come at outside linebacker. With Perry and/or Peppers possibly gone in just a year, Ryan may get all the chances he needs at outside linebacker.
The argument can’t be made that since Ryan is now on the team, Matthews can move back outside to his “true” pass rushing position. Matthews was highly regarded by scouts coming into the league as a guy who could play anywhere in the front seven, and make an immediate impact for teams. We like to think of Matthews natural spot as the outside, but it could be that Matthews was always meant to be the terrifying A-gap blitzer that he was last season. I’m not saying he was improperly used on the outside, but while that spot may look natural, the inside spot could be even more so.
While fans may believe that Ryan was selected to bolster the inside linebacker core for this season, Thompson may have selected Ryan for an outside role that might become available in around a year or two. We tend to believe since the Packers clearly needed an inside linebacker after releasing long time veterans, Brad Jones and A. J. Hawk, that Ryan was the answer. Thompson’s answer could end up being Barrington or Bradford, while Ryan was a ploy to calm fans nerves for an offseason and prepare for life without Peppers or Perry.
Kyle Engman is an analyst for Packers Talk Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @KyleEngmanNFL.