The NFL’s New Year is just a single day away, and for the Packers that means many things. As of Wednesday, Damarious Randall will be a Cleveland Brown, free agent contracts can officially be signed, and the team can bring in Draft Prospects for official interviews before April 26th’s Dallas extravaganza.
And while Brian Gutekunst and company appear to be a lot more active in the early stages of free agency for the first time since Tony Fisher was a productive running back, the Packers will be still primarily focused on the NFL Draft. There are a lot of holes to fill on the roster and only so much money to fill them. That means getting inexpensive, and young, talent is still extremely important. And with 12 picks currently, the Packers are in good shape to do just that.
With all those picks, they can pick a lot of talented prospects at many positions of need. So let’s take a look at a new group of prospects at each position, followed by another Draft projection from myself (with the new draft order following Randall trade and Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn deal)
Quarterback – Mike White, Western Kentucky
6’5″ 224 lbs. Senior
Notable: 3827 Yards, 24 TD, 7 INT in 2017. 8189 Yards in last two seasons (2nd in nation)
Projected Round: 3-4
One of the bigger “sleepers” in this year’s top heavy QB class is White. Prototypical size and a strong arm have helped him dominate the Conference USA the past couple years, and he continued his ascent in the Senior Bowl, completing 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards and a TD. He has all the technique you want from a rookie signal-caller, setting his feet well and showing the ability to fit the ball into tight windows down the sideline and over the middle. Has one of the best deep ball’s in the class, but isn’t very mobile. He can be a statue in the pocket, especially if an overload blitz gets through.
Running Back – Nick Chubb, Georgia
5’11” 227 lbs. Senior
Notable: 4.52 40 Time, 29 Bench Reps,
Projected Round: 3-4
Seen once as a first round lock, Chubb was one of the bright stars in college, mentioned in the same breath as Leonard Fournette and Saquon Barkley before a 2015 leg injury wrecked his explosiveness. He’s still extremely talented, especially between the tackles, but he’s fallen behind teammate Sony Michel in the Running Back pecking order. Injuries aside, he’s one of the best one-cut runners in the class and uses his lower body extremely well to run through arm tackles. Compares favorably to Alfred Morris and could be a consistent lead runner for the right team.
Wide Receiver – Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
5’10” 181 lbs. Junior
Notable: 4.43 40 Time, 4.15 3 Cone, 1429 Receiving Yards in 2017, 31.5 yards per Kick Return
Projected Round: 4-5
Undersized but productive in Texas Tech’s offense, Coutee wins with his speed and agility. Not a vertical guy with his stature, Coutee has thrived using crossing routes and digs, selling his cuts well and showing a knack for making tacklers miss in the open field. A home run threat whenever he has the ball. Also returns kicks. Biggest issue is his size. He is a shade under 5’10” with small hands and short arms which likely limits him to slot receiver duty.
Tight End – Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
6’5″ 253 lbs. Senior
Notable: Four Star Recruit out of HS, 4.23 20 Yard Shuttle, 4.81 40 Time
Projected Round: 4-5
A big, strong tight end stuck in Notre Dame’s brutally painful (to watch) offense, Smythe is an unknown because of his years under Brian Kelly. A strong blocker at the point of attack, he has the ability to line up as a tradition tight end while also serving as a safety net for quarterbacks at the first down marker. A throwback tight end in the modern game, Smythe can fit into offenses that don’t rely on the seam tight end as their primary. Fits well as a #2 tight end on a ball control offense.
Offensive Tackle – Will Richardson, NC State
6’6″ 306 lbs. Redshirt Junior
Notable: Didn’t Allow a Sack or Pressure in 11 game in 2017
Projected Round: 5
A big, powerful tackle built for the right side if he stays outside, Richardson drives off the ball and seals off the edge really well in the run game. Showed good foot quickness in 2017 as a pass protector, but can be knocked off balance by a good speed move. Richardson also shows good awareness of stunts on the edge and has a very strong initial punch. May have to move inside with his frame and strength. Has questions to answer about his work ethic and off-field issues. Was suspended for first two games of 2017 and for a game in 2015 for a team rules violations.
Interior Offensive Line – Timon Parris, Stony Brook (G)
6’6″ 312 lbs. Senior
Notable: FCS 1st Team All-American (2017)
Projected Round: 5-6
Listed as a tackle by some and a guard by others, Parris was a dominant college tackle for Stony Brook facing FCS competition. He shows strong lateral footwork and is able to stop inside rushers well. Is rarely cleanly beaten by a pass rusher, he makes them earn it. However, while he has good lateral footwork and hips, he lacks consistent technique. He bends at the waist too much and can get driven backwards by more powerful linemen. Played lower-level competition which always brings questions and also missed time with a broken leg at the end of 2017 which prevented him from running or participating in skill drills at the Combine.
Defensive Line – Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
6’4″ 315 lbs. Senior
Notable: 80 1/2″ Wingspan, Division II All-American, Cliff Harris Award Finalist (Top Non-Division 1 Defender)
Projected Round: 2-3
Shepherd comes from a small school but he dominated during Senior Bowl practices and the Combine, shooting up draft boards into Top 100 consideration. Ran a 5.09 40 as a 315 pound defensive tackle and jumped 31 inches. Very strong at the point of attack, and he knows it, sometimes using strength over technique to break through double teams. But he is relentless in pursuit and shows good bend to get around the corner as a pass rusher. Needs a lot of work and seasoning at the NFL level after spending four years in Division II but upside is there in spades.
Edge – Josh Sweat, Florida State
6’4″ 251 lbs. Junior
Notable: #1 DE recruit out of HS, 12.5 TFL in 2017, 12 sacks past two years.
Projected Round: 4
Sweat is one of those rare cases of a guy who came into college with a ton of hype but left it as a underrated NFL prospect. Productive for the Seminoles despite being a focus of offensive coordinators the past two years, Sweat has elite agility and shows plenty of spring in his legs (39 1/2″ vertical). Has shown ability to drop into zone coverage. A natural pass rusher with plenty of moves in his arsenal, but his instincts are sometimes off and his motor can be hot and cold. Has serious injury questions, tore his ACL in senior of high school and injured meniscus in 2016.
Linebacker – Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
6’5″ 250 lbs. Senior
Notable: 2nd Team All-SEC (2017), 9.5 Sacks Past 2 Years, 4.50 40 Time
Projected Round: 2
Athletic freak who uses his long frame and freaky wingspan (82 inches) to his advantage, Carter had a productive career at Georgia but never had a signature moment until his blocked kick against Oklahoma in the National Semifinal. For such a big guy, Carter shows good agility, and is good with his contain at the edge if he can’t get to the passer. But while his frame is a strength, it is also a weakness as he is very gangly and can be driven off if he can’t initiate the contact with the offensive lineman.
Cornerback – Kevin Toliver II, LSU
6’2″ 192 lbs. Junior
Notable: Saw the field for all three years in Baton Rouge. 33″ vertical at Combine
Projected Round: 4-5
Toliver was a top recruit coming into LSU but after starting eight games his first season he fell down the depth chart and started only 10 games his final two years. But his lack of playing time didn’t diminish his physical tools. His long, lanky frame is built for press coverage and is fearless once the ball is in the air. However, that can also lead to stretches where he gets flagged. He is also willing to tackle and hits with an anger inside him. But he will be limited in the NFL by stiffness in his hips that may limit him to certain schemes. Has character concerns, was suspended multiple times at LSU for rules violations. Considered immature by former coaches.
Safety – Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
6’1″ 200 lbs. Redshirt Sophomore
Notable: 35 1/2″ Vertical, Freshman All-American (2016), 6 Career Interceptions
Projected Round: 3-4
Bates is a prototypical free safety coming into the league. A natural ballhawk, he reads the quarterback’s eyes well and jumps routes to get interceptions. Very fluid in coverage and is best suited to be the centerfielder in coverage, showing good instincts. Willing tackler who goes low but gets his guy to the ground. He is inexperienced compared to his Draft-mates, having played only two years at Wake Forest, and it shows on film. He trusts his instincts but can be beaten deep if offenses send a guy underneath him. Willingness to throw body around with his lean frame lends itself to durability concerns. Regarded highly as a teammate and lives in the film room. Has said he wants to be a coach once his career is done.
Mock Draft #7 (March, 12, 2018)
Matt Miller’s Big Board, User-Voted Team Needs, Difficult Algorithm
ROUND 1 (14) – Derwin James, S. Florida State
-New favorite prospect. Future All-Pro. Do whatever it takes to get him.
ROUND 2 (45) – Jaire Alexander, CB. Louisville
-Would be perfect replacement for Randall. Built for the slot and is much more natural in coverage.
ROUND 3 (76) – Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State
-Would bring the same skills Jared Cook did with more speed.
ROUND 4 (101) – Hayden Hurst, TE. South Carolina
-Age only thing dropping him, but he’s arguably the most Pro-Ready TE in Draft.
ROUND 4 (133) – Davin Bellamy, LB. Georgia
-Athletic, agile linebacker overshadowed by Bulldog teammates, could be more of a factor in NFL than he was in SEC.
ROUND 5 (138) – Shaquem Griffin, LB. Central Florida
-Best story of Combine, has floor of Special Teams beast, upside of rangy, sideline to sideline MLB.
ROUND 5 (172) – Andrew Brown, DL. Virginia
-Former top recruit underwhelmed in college, Brown has the ability to breakout in NFL, but is he disciplined enough to harness it?
ROUND 5 (174) – Allen Lazard, WR. Iowa State
-Massive receiver ran much better than expected and is built for the endzone.
ROUND 6 (186) – Kentavius Street, DL. NC State
-Rising prospect had showed very good agility, burst during Senior Bowl and Combine.
ROUND 6 (207) – Ade Aruna, EDGE. Tulane
-Long-armed pass rusher oozes with potential, but didn’t show it enough for Green Wave.
ROUND 7 (232) – Danny Johnson, CB. Southern
-Short (5’9″) but can fly. Ball magnet with 17 career interceptions.
ROUND 7 (239) – D’Montre Wade, CB. Murray State
-Smart press corner didn’t run as well at Combine as expected.
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.