Yes, it’s that time of year again. NFL teams are surveying all of the talent for the 2016 NFL draft. We just had the East-West Shrine Game last weekend and this upcoming weekend will be the Senior Bowl.
The NFL Scouting Combine starts on February 23 and after that we will have the various pro days for the players in the draft to further improve their stock.
The actual draft will start on April 28 and last through April 30.
Any of you who have read my work throughout the years, know that I love this part of the offseason. I’ve been doing mock drafts for several years now and I have had a decent track record in terms of guessing who Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers might select in the draft.
In 2013, I correctly had the Packers taking defensive end Datone Jones in the first round in my final mock draft. In 2014, I also was right about the Packers selecting wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in my final mock draft that year.
Then in 2015, like a blind squirrel finding an acorn, I was able to correctly predict that the Packers would select both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan in my final mock draft last year.
In addition to that, although I didn’t have the Packers taking these players in my final mock draft of the particular year they were drafted, I did have the Packers taking players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jeff Janis, Eddie Lacy, Micah Hyde, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward in earlier mock drafts.
One of the reasons I believe I have been fortunate in correctly naming players who the Packers actually select in the draft, is being able to talk quite often with NFL scout Chris Landry to gain his insight about certain players.
Landry has known Thompson for a long time. He just talked with him again earlier this week at the Senior Bowl as a matter of fact. Landry considers Thompson to be a scout’s scout as a general manager.
I had another opportunity this week to talk to Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.
During the show, Landry talked about Thompson.
“Ted is one of the really good ones,” Landry said. “Ted is a scout. I think the best general managers are the ones who are scouts. They’re the ones who can evaluate players, plus help train their scouts how to evaluate players and see players in the correct way.”
When I talked with Landry I wanted to get his read on the offensive tackle position in this upcoming draft and also his take on a tight end who I believe would be a great fit for the Packers.
Yes, I know the Packers have Richard Rodgers at the position, and he does have phenomenal hands, but he is limited due to his lack of speed and his inability to break tackles.
Plus, although he improved his blocking in 2015, that part of No. 82’s game still needs improvement.
The Packers need an additional tight end who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field, similar to what Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots and Greg Olsen of the Panthers can do.
It wouldn’t hurt if this tight end could block as well.
The tight end I’m thinking about who can do these things is Hunter Henry of Arkansas. Henry is not playing in the Senior Bowl, as he is coming out early as a junior.
Henry was named to the 2015 AP first team All-American team, as well as being named to the first team All-SEC squad. Henry also won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.
In 2015, Henry had 51 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns. In his first two years at Arkansas, Henry had 65 receptions for 922 yards and six touchdowns.
Henry did all this in an offense that is primarily a run-first attack. Because of that, Henry also had to block well.
Landry really likes what he has seen from Henry.
“I’ve liked Hunter Henry since he stepped on at Arkansas as a true freshman,” Landry said. “I thought he was one of the best tight ends in the country then. He’s very athletic in the modern day game of football where you can play the wide-flex and put him out.
“He’s outstanding in the passing game and he is really good in the running game, because you have to be in the run-scheme that Bret Bielema has. I like him an awful lot. I think he’s good. I think the kid [Austin Hooper] from Stanford is a good player. The kid from Ohio State has had a really good week here, Nick Vannett, who I think is a really good player as well, so keep an eye out on him.
“But I would definitely put Hunter Henry at the top of this group. I think you can get him later in the first round, simply because tight ends tend to move down a little bit, but it wouldn’t shock me if someone in the teens reached for him. He’s that good.”
In case you were wondering, the Packers will have the 27th selection in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.
The Packers certainly have a number of needs, like at offensive tackle, inside linebacker and on the defensive line.
But tight end is another area which needs help, especially in terms of stretching the field.
You can be certain that Henry will be one of the players I will take in one of my mock drafts and perhaps even in my final mock draft, depending on how I believe the first round will flow.
I plan on putting out my first mock draft next week.