If Ted Thompson does indeed have the sizzle that he claimed to possess back in 2007, this April may be just the time to show it. Sure, the 2015 Packers struggled their way to a wild card berth but when examining their roster they’re not exactly full of holes that need to be filled at the top end of the 2016 NFL Draft. Instead, they share the rarified air with teams like the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks; perennial Super Bowl contenders that could stand to improve at many positions but also have the luxury of adding, well… luxuries.
Defensive line is an area lacking serious depth but that doesn’t mean the Packers as currently constructed aren’t good enough to win a title. Most sports books in Las Vegas have the Packers at 10/1 odds to win Super Bowl LI as of now, second behind only the Patriots at 6/1.
Outside of defensive linemen, the likely choice in the first round of a draft littered with promising prospects at that position, the Packers could stand to add a tight end with long-term potential. But the signing of Jared Cook was likely an indicator that they will roll on with Cook and 2014 third-round pick Richard Rodgers rather than invest an early draft choice in a tight end this summer.
Inside linebacker has been viewed as the most obvious need for almost three years now, but the value of that position in Dom Capers’ defense likely does not warrant an early selection and Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan may be manning the middle come September.
The fact of the matter is that nobody has any clue what Thompson will do because predicting who is on the board at number 27 is damn near impossible. So instead, we speculate.
With limited knowledge and the whole wide world of possibilities at our speculatory disposal, let’s keep our football brains stimulated and examine a couple of moves that are very hard to envision but would send some serious shockwaves through Wisconsin and give Thompson the type of sizzle that makes even the most ardent Thompson detractor say “damn, Ted. You’ve got flair!”
This all stemmed from a conversation with a friend about “GTFOH scenarios” for the Packers because at this point in the NFL offseason, that’s about all that is left to talk about.
So, imagine for a minute that with the 27th pick, the Green Bay Packers select…
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
The likelihood of Nkemdiche being on the board at 27 is high due to the red flags that surround him. His being available is about the only part of this that seems realistic.
Nkemdiche is a question mark that NFL teams often stay away from, and it isn’t only due to his running through double-paned glass and jumping off of a hotel balcony when presumably high on marijuana, likely the synthetic type that seems to result in some ridiculous hallucinations, injuring himself and earning him a suspension from the Sugar Bowl. Yeah. That.
Compounded with the stigma of marijuana that will inevitably follow him to whichever city he winds up playing in, Nkemdiche also sports a stat line from his three seasons at Ole Miss that isn’t overly impressive. Six sacks and 16 tackles for loss don’t exactly scream undeniable production that’s worth a risk in terms of “character’.
His combine wasn’t overly impressive either. So what, exactly, could lead anyone to believe that he would be a “Packers guy”? Nothing aside from him likely being on the board and being a player loaded with potential at the position the Packers are likely to address.
With B.J. Raji taking a hiatus from football, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion and Mike Pennell are the only players left on the Packers defensive line with any type of sample size of note. So adding a first round talent at that position group would make sense.
It being a player with marijuana possession, a literal and figurative self-inflicted wound and a family that NFL front office types have asked him to distance himself from is all but unfathomable. It just doesn’t seem like a Thompson move.
Shock value: 7/10
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press Gazette put it perfectly in his most recent piece: the WR position is a paradox for the Packers.
Davante Adams almost certainly has to show significant signs of improvement if the Packers are to entertain bringing him back on a second contract when his rookie deal expires. Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis are virtual unknowns and still have a lot to prove before they could be considered actual pieces for the future.
Therefore, as it stands, Aaron Rodgers has two legitimate targets in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, one of which is 30-years old and returning from ACL surgery and the other a slot receiver who failed to live up to the expectations that come with a $40 million contract extension.
A first round wide receiver would be the biggest investment Thompson has made at the position in the draft and would almost have to be someone they see as a great player in the immediate or near future.
Josh Doctson seems almost too sexy a pick from that regard. Doctson’s ball skills are undeniable and he basically puts on a clinic in terms of tracking the deep ball and going over defensive backs at the catch point.
In thinking about the construction of the Packers receiving core, there really isn’t a deep threat outside of Nelson.
Janis would be the counter argument for drafting Doctson, as his speed warrants a few downfield targets but to pass on a potential star receiver for a seventh-round pick with 11 career receptions isn’t much of a counter argument at all.
In theory, Doctson would have opportunities to go over NFL defensive backs in one-on-one coverage situations as a member of the Packers offense with Nelson flanking the other side of the field and Cobb requiring attention in the slot.
It’s easy to get excited over the idea of a first round skill player such as Doctson. There are plenty of other receivers projected to go in the top end of the draft that would be easy to get excited about as well, but the likelihood of that being the position addressed at 27 is still low.
I say that while acknowledging that they are one injury away from being a depleted receiving core such as last year’s painstakingly putrid crew. I mean, the core that finished the Divisional Playoff game was nothing short of a debacle, despite the heroics that nearly erased how desperate a situation that really was from our minds. And James Jones is gone so technically, they’re a second Nelson injury away from being even worse than that crew. Yikes.
A first-round receiver definitely falls more into the category of a luxury than necessity, albeit one that is easy to get behind. The fact that Thompson has never taken a receiver in the first round during his tenure as GM doesn’t lend to the idea that a pass catcher could be the selection. Don’t be surprised if one is taken on day two, however.
Shock value: 6/10
Myles Jack (via trade), LB, UCLA
Alright, this one is a straight up pipe dream for multiple reasons.
The first being that everyone, media types and NFL execs alike, sees straight through the BS that has been circling around recently about Jack’s knee. Yes, it may be a minor concern but the idea that he only has a finite amount of football left in him before he can no longer function on his surgically repaired meniscus sounds like a load of hogwash coming from either an agent for someone with an interest in his own client’s stock rising higher than Jack’s or from an NFL team hoping to temper the excitement surrounding Jack to land him a few slots lower than most projections have him going.
The second reason being that while Thompson has shown he is willing to trade up, it has never been for the price that it would cost to move from 27 to somewhere in the top 10, where Jack would go. Guys like Thompson just don’t do that.
Still, play this scenario out. It would require multiple teams to buy into the questions of Jack’s health and passing on one of the more explosive players in this year’s class.
Then, the Packers would have to get to the point where they can realistically provide the assets needed to move up to get him without sacrificing large portions of future drafts.
Maybe you reach the mid teens in the first round and Jack’s phone is yet to ring in the green room. The camera continually pans to him as Mel Kiper Jr. waxes on poetically about Jack playing on both sides of the ball and continually states the obvious fact that “he is a football player.” Thanks, Mel.
A producer whispers in Chris Berman’s headset about trade news causing him to lose his cool, 10 full seconds of dead air follow as John Gruden is too busy gazing into his draft notes which almost certainly have first round grades on every single “football player, man” that declared for the draft.
Then, BAM! The sounder goes off. The bottom corner of your screen is suddenly green and yellow. You can’t believe what it is you are witnessing. You call anyone who isn’t actually watching the draft with you. Could this be it? Everything you have always fantasized about. Conservative Thompson didn’t let the draft come to him, he went out and took that damn draft right out of the grip of some other poor GM, Kevin Costner in Draft Day style. Jack is coming to the Pack!
Then he takes a lineman.
A fun and heartbreaking scenario to never happen.
Even in a delusional draft world, it’s hard to envision Jack in green and gold.
Shock value: 10/10
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, OSU
This slippage is easier to buy into. If there are even a handful of teams that don’t feel that Elliot is an absolute no brainer in terms of talent, he could find himself falling out of the top half of the first round.
Again, not likely. That’s why these are shocking picks and not any type of actual mocking of the draft.
But everyone knows the tale of the running back position being devalued quite well. And while both Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon went in the first round last year, Trent Richardson is the only other back to go in round one since 2012.
Elliott is an exceptional talent and evaluators don’t look solely at numbers, but also traits shown on film, etc. His production isn’t on par with the likes of Gordon but surpasses that of Gurley. Gordon played four seasons and rushed for 4,915 yards and 45 touchdowns. Gurley had just 3,285 yards and 36 touchdowns in three seasons, but missed a great deal of time due to injury.
Elliott’s production is there, no doubt. 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns in three seasons is his legacy at OSU, although his first season was really more like a couple of games in terms of the amount of touches he received.
But to be worth an early selection at his position, Elliott must have close to zero question marks. Who knows what real talent evaluators employed by NFL teams might be thinking?
Maybe they’re rubbed the wrong way by his perceived arrogance displayed when he called out the play calling of Urban Meyer, one of the game’s best coaches, following the Buckeyes 17-14 loss to Michigan State last November. Probably not. I actually appreciate the honesty and confidence that more touches for himself equals a win.
Maybe the teams on the board feel as if there isn’t enough value in a running back based on where they are picking and who else may be on the board at that time.
Just imagine if Elliott made it past the Jets and crept into the 20’s in round one. You’d really have to wonder whether there would be any Packers interest whatsoever.
We know Eddie Lacy has lost a few pounds and is primed and ready to take a big step in 2016. By that, we mean just not gain 30 pounds of dirty weight through the course of the season by indulging in fourth meal. That is easier said than done, believe me.
I know, I know, they also brought back James Starks after he flirted with the Patriots in free agency. So why the hell would the Packers be interested?
Well, they won’t have to even make that decision. But in the off chance they did, I could justify it. Lacy can’t be fully trusted (yet) to be in the type of shape that position requires at all times, Starks is likely on his final contract and will have his greatest career accomplishment remain “hey, we won a Super Bowl with Starks at running back” which is almost always stated when a Packers fan is making a case for why the position isn’t very relevant. It’s more an insult than a compliment, really.
Oh, and Lacy is coming off of his rookie deal and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he does keep up his efforts to get shredded and go all Hulk on the league, he may drive his price up to a point that Thompson would not want to pay. Sure, Thompson rewards his own guys and usually gets the important deals done before it ever reaches that point. That was the case with Daniels and Cobb.
We also don’t have a precedent for a running back of sizeable investment that became worthy of such a second contract under Thompson. His highest running back selections prior to Lacy were Alex Green and Brandon Jackson. Neither one saw a second deal from the Packers.
So maybe the kind of guy with Elliott’s talents on a rookie deal with a controllable salary for the next five seasons would be worth taking a shot on. Or maybe we just need actual football to break up the monotony and give us something real to talk about. That’s probably it.
Shock value: 9/10
Football cannot come soon enough.