Packers Draft Prospects: Pre-Combine Edition

Kalen Ballage

Front office officials, scouts, and coaches are preparing to head to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine and for Brian Gutekunst and the Packers, there are going to be a lot of players who could pique their interest. So, like we’ve been doing the past few weeks, let’s take another look followed by another FanSpeak projection (with the official draft order!)

Quarterback – Kyle Lauletta, Jr., Richmond
6’3″ 217 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: School record for total offense in a season (3,827 yards in 2017), Senior Bowl MVP
Projected Round: 3-5

Lauletta is a smart, efficient quarterback who has excelled the past two years at Richmond. He is one of the more cerebral passers in the draft, with a good understanding of the pocket and route progressions. Accuracy is his biggest strength, but his arm strength is his biggest weakness. He has a significant issue his deep ball right now and it might not get corrected in the NFL. He floats up his deeper throws, which worked at Richmond, but will not in the NFL. Most likely a career backup unless his arm really develops quickly.

Running Back – Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
6’2″ 222 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: 8 Touchdown game vs Texas Tech in 2016. 29 Career TD (27 Rushing)
Projected Round: 4-7

Ballage is an athletic freak who will have some of the best numbers at the Combine, but with the exception of the Texas Tech game, he hasn’t always shown it on tape. As far as measurables, he has it all. Tall and lean with great bend around the corner as a runner, Ballage is a big play waiting to happen. He has a good feel for the passing game and is comfortable catching the ball and making things happen. But his vision is sometimes lacking and he can struggle to break tackles when he stays too far upright. He is a lottery ticket on Day 3.

Wide Receiver – Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
5’11” 200 lbs. Junior
Notable Stats: Over 4,500 all-purpose yards in career. At least 70 catches and 900 yards in every season.
Projected Round: 1-2

Kirk is one of the safest players in the Draft. A natural slot receiver, he has elite ability to get in and out of breaks and is one of the more natural pass catchers to come out in years. A savvy route runner, he can sit in zones and get off the press with equal ability. Also provides great kick and punt return value. Biggest negative is lack of length. At 5’11” he can be smothered by longer corners if they can keep up. Not the highest ceiling compared to other receivers, but arguably the highest floor in the Draft class.

Tight End – Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State
6’5″ 242 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: All-Time School Record for TE (Rec, Yards, TD) 2-time All Big-Ten 1st Team
Projected Round: 2-4

Gesicki is an elite athlete at the tight end position with a smoothness rarely seen from a Draft prospect. Incredibly smooth with his routes, sneakily quick for such a big guy. Has probably the best ball skills among tight ends in the Draft. Can leap over any corner or linebacker during jump ball situations and doesn’t drop passes (No credited drops the past two years). Biggest knock is his strength on underneath routes and as a blocker. Can get jammed due to his long limbs and stride. Best seam tight end in the class, but may be a receiving tight end only in the NFL. A lot of Jimmy Graham in his game.

Offensive Tackle – Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
6’7″ 360 lbs. Junior
Notable Stats: Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2-Times)
Projected Round: 1-2

The biggest man in the Draft, Brown is one of the more polarizing tackles in recent memory. A lot of evaluators think he can be a left tackle in the NFL, while some, like Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, don’t think he’ll be able to develop the footwork to play the blind side. As a blocker, he has elite length to seal off defenders and the strength to drive them off the ball. he is very rarely bull-rushed successfully and is a nightmare for linebackers on the second level. But he can struggle with his bend and can be beat around the corner if his initial punch doesn’t land. He is the size of Phil Loadholt with the length of Nate Solder.

Interior Offensive Line – Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech
6’5″ 311 lbs. Redshirt Senior
Notable Stats: 23 Consecutive Starts at LG. Not called for a live-ball penalty in 2017.
Projected Round: 3-4

Recruited as a defensive lineman after a dominant high school career, he switched over to offense during his redshirt year. A four year starter at left guard, Teller is one of the strongest players there will be at the Combine, with a 400 pound power clean and a 600 pound squat. He is a prototypical road grading guard who will not be moved at the point of attack with a nasty streak. Lacks lateral agility at this time and isn’t best in space as a pulling blocker. But he could be a TJ Lang-type of player with time. His strength and demeanor are well suited for a starting guard spot in the NFL.

Defensive Line – BJ Hill, North Carolina State
6’3″ 321 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: 55 Tackles in 2017, Honorable Mention All-ACC.
Projected Round: 3-5

Extremely athletic for a defensive lineman, Hill is expected to put up big numbers in Indianapolis. Moves laterally well and is quick off the ball. Diagnoses well pre-snap and is able to adjust to cut blocks well. High usage rates for the Wolfpack and is consistently productive no matter the time of the game. Biggest knock is his lower body strength against road graders. Can be driven off the ball in the run game. A natural 3-4 end who can slide inside on passing downs.

Edge – Chad Thomas, Miami (FL)
6’5″ 277 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: Five-Star Recruit. 10 Career Sacks, 26 TFL
Projected Round: 3-6

Another great athlete out of Miami, Thomas has the ability to keep his current frame as an elephant rusher, or he can bulk up and become a defensive end. Good with stunts, and is able to smoothly transition his speed to power once engaged with a lineman. Uses great leverage for someone with his length. Struggles with hand usage as a pass rusher and can be driven out of the play. A project with tremendous upside but needs a year of seasoning in the NFL to see what’s there as a pro.

Linebacker – Josey Jewell, Iowa
6’1″ 236 lbs. Senior
Notable Stats: 433 Career Tackles, 28 TFL, 2017 LOTT Impact Trophy Winner
Projected Round: 2-4

A blue collar linebacker who will test better than people expect, Jewell is more than your typical Big Ten Mike ‘backer. A tackling machine, Jewell explodes into the ball carrier and doesn’t relent until the guy is on the ground. Quick to diagnose and never takes his eyes off the ball carrier, even if engaged with a blocker. Rarely misses tackles and shows very good recovery skills. Biggest issue is his length. Not particularly long and not as fluid with his hips in coverage, but his tape doesn’t lie. Could be one of the biggest steals in the Draft. Could have a Chad Greenway-like career.

Cornerback – Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
6’1″ 190 lbs. Junior
Notable Stats: 25 Career Passes Defended, All Pac-12 First Team
Projected Round: 1-2

Extremely long limbs and top end speed for a corner, Oliver will be the most likely corner to jump up in the Draft like Kevin King did last year at around this time. Well-rounded athlete, will compete for the ball and high point it. Has a natural jab in press coverage and opens hips well in coverage. But he can be beaten by dig routes and at times overruns the ball and doesn’t always have that edge as a tackler. Ankle tackles too much. Natural cover corner on the perimeter, but he needs to improve the little things to reach his potential. Very high character.

Safety – Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
6’2″ 220 lbs. Junior
Notable Stats: 196 Tackles in 3 Years, 6 Interceptions
Projected Round: 3-5

The brother of first round prospect and uber-athlete Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell is no slouch on the field either. Strong change of direction for his size at safety, the former cornerback is a natural fit to cover tight ends in the slot. Good hands at the back end and is a willing tackler with good pursuit speed. While is a willing tackler, he is unrefined, occasionally taking poor angles and missing in the open field. Too eager at times, can bite on a good fake. Better as a strong safety than free safety. Missed end of season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Mock Draft #5 (February 26, 2018)
Matt Miller’s Big Board, FanSpeak team needs, Difficult Algorithm
ROUND 1 (14) – Harold Landry, EDGE. Boston College
-Polished pass rusher can step in right away and make an impact.
ROUND 2 (45) – Dallas Goedert, TE. South Dakota State

-Well-rounded TE is an instant upgrade for depressing TE room.
ROUND 3 (76) – James Daniels, C. Iowa
-More athletic than JC Tretter was and is more experienced in the interior than him too.
ROUND 4 (114) – Marquis Haynes, LB. Mississippi
-Wore Chucky Mullin’s #38 last year at Ole Miss. And he produced with 7.5 sacks.
ROUND 4 (133) – Auden Tate, WR. Florida State
-Kelvin Benjamin-lite with his 6’5″ frame. Good ball skills but lack of speed hurts.
ROUND 5 (150) – Dante Pettis, WR. Washington
-More known for his kick returns, but was extremely productive as a receiver. One of my favorite players in the Draft.
ROUND 5 (172) – Jack Cichy, LB. Wisconsin
-Can’t teach his instincts or his competitiveness. Shows a knack for pass rushing from the interior. Hope he’s healthy.
ROUND 5 (174) – Cedrick Wilson, WR. Boise State
-Good speed and route running at 6’3″ but can struggle with drops.
ROUND 6 (186) – Micah Kiser, LB. Virginia
-Productive Cavalier doesn’t pass the measurement test, but tape is strong.
ROUND 6 (207) – Jason Cabinda, LB. Penn State
-Smart player with a lunchpail mentality, but lack of quick-twitch limits him.
ROUND 7 (232) – Brandon Facyson, CB. Virginia Tech
-Size and length are Pro-ready but struggles with deep speed and complex routes.
ROUND 7 (239) – Rashaan Gaulden, CB. Tennessee
-Had a good year at Tennessee as a corner but will be most known for gesture to Alabama fans.

——————

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.

——————

Share