Packers: Targets at 12 after free agent signings

Green Bay Packers

After their recent free agent signings, these are three players the Green Bay Packers should consider taking with the 12th overall pick.

It was about a month ago that I put together a similar article, highlighting players that the Green Bay Packers could select with the 12th overall pick. However, since then the combine has taken place and Green Bay signed FOUR free agents, including two edge rushers.

Prior to these signings it was almost unanimously decided that the Green Bay Packers had to take an edge rusher at 12, and for good reason. But now, general manager, Brian Gutekunst does not have to feel tied to certain position at a particular point in the draft. These free agent signings have given them great flexibility when it comes to the draft.

While this doesn’t mean the Packers absolutely won’t take an edge rusher at 12, they are now more free to address other needs knowing that they have Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith under contract. As well as players in the draft such as Jachai Polite and Chase Winovich who will be available in the later half of the first round and into the second.

Now, I am of the mindset that if Devin White or Ed Oliver happens to be available at 12, the Green Bay Packers shouldn’t hesitate to take them. But for this exercise, I am going to assume they are off the board.

Jonah Williams, Offensive Tackle – Alabama

Solidifying the offensive line is a must this offseason. In 2018 Aaron Rodgers was under constant pressure, particularly up the middle and that had major impacts on this offense. The Green Bay Packers ranked as one of the worst teams in the league, giving up 3.3 sacks per game.

Williams is a player that could come in and start from day one. Whether he takes over at right guard, or takes Bulaga’s spot at right tackle allowing Bulaga to move inside, he will make an immediate impact.

He is an excellent run blocker and his quick feet will allow him to fit in quite well with new head coach Matt LaFleur’s zone running scheme that requires lateral movement from the offensive line.

While there are some concerns about William’s arm length limiting his effectiveness at the tackle position in the NFL, in college pass blocking was not an issue. According to Pro Football Focus, in 466 pass blocking attempts, Williams allowed no sacks and just two quarterback hits last season. And in 908 total snaps, Williams was flagged only four times.

Compared to some of the other lineman in the class, Williams is slightly smaller but the man can play. As we all know there are no guarantees in the NFL draft, but Williams sure is close.

Devin Bush, Linebacker – Michigan

Much of the discussions this offseason have been about the Green Bay Packers bringing in an edge rusher, but the front seven as a whole needs to be addressed and Devin Bush would be a fantastic addition.

After a stunning performance at the combine, Bush has been flying up many big boards as he tested incredibly well in the 40 yard dash, the vertical jump and the broad jump. All of which showoff just how explosive he can be.

As a linebacker, Bush really can do it all. His athleticism makes him great in coverage as Pro Football Focus gave him an overall coverage grade of 87.7 in 2018, which ranked 14th among all linebackers. But don’t be mistaken, Bush loves to lay the lumber. Last season he tallied 66 total tackles along with six sacks, five quarterback hits and nine hurries as a blitzer.

When describing Bush’s play, perhaps it is Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network who said it best: “Linebackers who can run, hit, blitz and cover are typically prioritized by the NFL and Bush can do all those things.”

With Jake Ryan and Antonio Morrison gone, Oren Burks still an unknown, all the Green Bay Packers currently have at linebacker is Blake Martinez. So spending an early pick on a dynamic player like Bush, may not be a bad idea.

T.J. Hockenson, Tight End – Iowa

Although the Green Bay Packers have brought back Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan recently to join Jimmy Graham, finding a tight end in the draft still should be a priority. With Lewis and Graham past their primes, Tonyan’s skill set still quite raw, as well as none of these players being under contract in 2020, spending a high draft pick on the position should be strongly considered.

Regarded by many as the best all-around tight end in the draft, Hockenson did not disappoint at the NFL combine. While he may not an “elite” athlete such as his former teammate Noah Fant, Hockenson’s versatility is something that Matt LaFleur would love to have in his offense and would know exactly how to take advantage of it.

From receiving to blocking, you name the category and there is the strong possibility that Hockenson received one of the best grades from Pro Football Focus in that area last season.

Run blocking from the tight end position is critical in LaFleur’s zone running scheme, which Hockenson can do quite well and he would give Rodgers another reliable target. In 2018 he caught 76.6 percent of the passes thrown his way and averaged a whopping 15.5 yards per catch.

I’ll admit I was skeptical of the idea of taking a tight end with the 12th overall pick, but given the free agent signings and the immediate impact Hockenson can make on this offense, I am on board with the selection.

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