Tomorrow is the night. We will finally see where the future of the Green Bay Packers lies. In Chicago, the NFL Draft prepares itself for the coming wave of fresh young talent looking to make their name in the NFL world.
That is why I want to take my own shot at what will happen in Green Bay and see who will be joining the ranks of Rodgers, Matthews, Sitton, Linsley, Hyde, and all the other draft picks who have created their own niche in Packers lore.
Compiling information from many sources to make my selections, as well as a little bit of gut instinct, here are the 9 young men who will hear their named called at the podium as members of the Green Bay Packers.
ROUND 1 (Pick 27) – Reggie Ragland, LB. Alabama
I just cannot shake the feeling that Ragland is going to fall. Not many people have him dropping past Atlanta or Buffalo but Alabama doesn’t have the greatest history with high round linebackers in recent memory (Rolando McClain, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron). That combined with questions about whether he can play for three downs gives me the sinking feeling that he is one of those prospects who slides and drops into the perfect spot, Green Bay. He is a plug and play guy who can wear the green dot by the end of the season and with the right coaching and mentoring from guys like Clay Matthews, can be that all around linebacker that the team needs.
ROUND 2 (Pick 55) – Jaylon Smith, LB. Notre Dame
A risky pick to be sure, and the Packers do have pressing needs on the defensive line, but Ted Thompson does like to make risky picks in the second round (Quinten Rollins, Jordy Nelson were not considered Top 2 Round picks). Smith will miss the 2016 season, but if he can return healthy in 2017 he can be a superstar. He has a similar skill set to Thomas Davis, including the knee injury to boot. He can run sideline to sideline and cover as well as any linebacker in the draft. And most importantly, he wants to play. He is working extremely diligently on his rehab from that devastating injury, leading me to believe that he can come back better than ever in 2017.
ROUND 3 (Pick 88) – Kenny Clark, DT. UCLA
A lot of people had Clark in the first round and almost everyone who didn’t had him in the second. But I have him dropping to pick 88 (or a trade up to get him, don’t underestimate Ted). He needs work on his technique especially in passing situations, but he is one of the best run stoppers in the class and a coup in Round 3. He is intelligent and willing to adapt his game for the team, and someone like Mike Daniels could really make an impact mentoring him.
ROUND 4 (Pick 125) – Joe Schobert, LB. Wisconsin
A triple dip at linebacker, I know it might be overkill but with Smith out for the year another body could be useful and Schobert can probably be an impact player early on, at least on special teams. A high motor player with that innate desire for the game, he reminds me a lot of Aaron Kampman. Highly productive when all the measurables say he shouldn’t be, both in coverage and rushing the passer. He just needs to improve some of his technique, especially tackling.
ROUND 4 (Pick 131) (Compensatory) – Willie Beavers, OT. Western Michigan
After a defensive overload, it’s time to address the offense. The biggest key for this team is depth. The Packers seems to seem to suffer from attrition more than other teams every year, and it always to be in one full position group. Last year it was receivers and offensive line. Receivers you can find, but good depth linemen are difficult. That is why this pick goes to Beavers. He is an athletic tackle with experience at left tackle but needs a lot of work on his technique, especially in pass protection. Once he settles in, he can be a starter in this league or at worst a top swing tackle.
ROUND 4 (Pick 137) (Compensatory) – Avery Young, OL. Auburn
The second compensatory pick for losing a corner is also used on an offensive lineman, one who is versatile enough to play inside and out. Young is a junior who entered early and probably could have benefitted by staying for his senior year. But he is a good athlete who profiles as a guard with the natural ability to stop power defenders in their tracks. He is best fit for a zone-blocking scheme due to his strength and natural pulling ability.
ROUND 5 (Pick 163) – Tyler Higbee, TE. Western Kentucky
The tight end finally comes to Green Bay. Higbee is a Day 2 talent but is in free fall due to an arrest for assault for his role in a bar fight. That raises some major red flags, but in Round 5 you can take a few risks. Higbee is a natural receiver playing tight end at 6’5” and has shown the smarts as a route runner to find holes in zones and make linebackers look dumb. The only knocks are his arrest and his run blocking.
ROUND 6 (Pick 200) – Tom Hackett, P. Utah
Last time the Packers drafted a punter, it didn’t work (BJ Sander) but something has to be done to the punting position as Tim Masthay just didn’t get it done. Hackett is an Australian rules punter and uses that style in his play. But he gets great hang time and places his kicks well. Only 11 punts were returned against him (out of 61) last season. He also placed 28 of those kicks inside the 20. A two time winner of the Ray Guy Award, Ted Thompson would be wise to snatch him up.
ROUND 7 (Pick 248) – Jayron Kearse, S. Clemson
I contemplated putting a receiver like Mitch Matthews or a running back here but Kearse’s size is too good to pass up. He has fallen down draft boards due to his inconsistency and a struggle on the biggest stage. For a guy listed at 6’4” he didn’t seem to want to initiate contact against Alabama in the National Championship and didn’t run well. But he could be a guy who can develop with the right coaching. He at times looked like a Top 100 pick but at worst could be another special teams dynamo like Sean Richardson.
That’s my picks. I know that most of them will be wrong, but let me know what you guys think. Until next time, Go Pack Go!——————
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.