Since we have hit the one month mark before the 2016 NFL Draft, it is time to take a look at the options the Green Bay Packers will have. I will not pretend to be foolish enough to predict what Ted Thompson will do over the course of 7 rounds and 9 draft picks, but will take a look at the type of player that would fill out the Packers roster at each pick. I will be doing this again as we get closer to the draft, and again after the draft, so everyone can analyze just how right or wrong I am.
1st Round – Pick # 27 – DT Kenny Clark, UCLA
It is becoming more and more obvious that the Packers will need to address defensive line early in the draft with the loss of BJ Raji. Clark seems to be a really good value at 27. With defensive line such a deep position it allows a player like Clark to slide down the board. Clark understands leverage well as a former wrestler, and possess a great combination of strength and quickness. I love Linebacker Darron Lee from Ohio State, but I just couldn’t see a path to him sliding to the Packers. He possesses the kind of elite athleticism and coverage ability Packers fans covet, but I have a feeling he will be the Ryan Shazier of this draft and shoot up just out of Green Bay’s reach.
2nd Round – Pick #57 – LB Su’a Cravens, USC
I see Cravens as the equivalent to Deone Buchanon with the Cardinals. He has the coverage skills of a Safety (which he played in college), but is going to be the Dime Linebacker for the Packers. Cravens will be on the field in the situations where Joe Thomas was last season. He will cover Tight Ends and Runnings Backs out of the backfield. TE Austin Hooper of Stanford could be an option, but I think Jared Cook can serve as a band-aid at TE for a year or two. Baylor DE Shawn Oakmon is a high risk, high reward player who could also go in this range.
3rd Round – Pick #88 – RB Kenyan Drake of Alabama
This was a tough pick for me. On one hand, the Packers are expecting a slimmed down Eddie Lacy for next season, have resigned James Starks, and have a young project in John Crockett. On the other hand, I love everything about Kenyan Drake. He’s explosive, plays like a receiver in the passing game, and doesn’t have the same wear on his body that many other college running backs do. I think this is a luxury pick the Packers can afford to make because they addressed TE in free agency.
4th Round – Pick #125 – LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
I have no idea where to expect Smith to get drafted. He had the potential to be the top pick overall. Now he won’t even be able to play in 2016. If he lasts until the 4th Round, I think it would be the perfect spot to take him. With some patience Smith could be a major contributor in 2017, or he could turn into the next Marcus Lattimore and never play a snap. With two comp picks in the 4th round, I would be willing to gamble with this pick.
4th Round – Pick #131 – OT Joe Haeg, North Dakota St.
The Packers starting offensive line was really good last season when healthy. They stymied the fearsome pass rush of the Cardinals in the playoffs. However, they weren’t healthy very often. Green Bay’s depth on the inside of the line is good enough, but at Tackle it has been putrid. Don Barclay needs to be replaced, and Haeg gives you a player who can step in and be the backup right away. The Packers don’t mind small school offensive lineman, and Haeg has the potential to be a starter at the Right or Left Tackle if he’s given some time to develop.
4th Round – Pick #137 – ILB Antonio Morrison, Florida
Morrison is the type of gamble the Packers don’t take very often. He has had off the field issues in college and is coming off an injury. However, he provides the type of talent that would have to be intriguing for a team that has struggled at Inside Linebacker. Morrison is undersized but can really fly to the ball and make things happen when he gets there. Loading up with Morrison and Cravens gives GB some options for next season, and with Jaylon Smith added to the mix in 2017, this draft could turn a position of weakness into a position of strength.
5th Round – Pick #163 – NT Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
Ridgeway can be a guy who will contribute in the middle of the defense right away. He can be a pocket pusher in running situations, which Dom Capers will need to help replace BJ Raji.
6th Round – Pick #200 – DE Matt Ioannidis, Temple
Ionnidis is a player who provides a lot of position versatility and plays with a mean streak. He doesn’t offer a ton of quickness in the pass rush game, but he would be another important part of the Defensive Line rotation on early downs.
7th Round – Pick #248 – P Riley Dixon, Syracuse
Tim Masthay needs to be replaced. I’m not usually a fan of drafting a Punter, but Dixon is really special and I’d rather not fight for his services with other teams. He has great hang time, has dealt with the elements in college, and even has some skills on Punt fakes.
There are a few players I’m really intrigued by that probably won’t get drafted:
QB Jake Rudock, Michigan
Rudock has the skills you want in a developmental Practice Squad player. Under McCarthy’s tutelage he could be the next Scott Tolzien.
WR Byron Marshall, Oregon
Like many Oregon WRs has the skills of a Running Back. The Packers love WRs who can make plays after the catch, and Marshall could take a year to develop as a route runner.
FS Michael Caputo, Wisconsin
Just a hard-nosed, smart player who is always around the football. I think he would be great on Special Teams. It would be difficult to make the team at Safety, but could also be a really good Practice Squad player who would make the other players better during the week.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig