A Scout’s Take on the Addition of Tight End Jared Cook to the Packers

Jared Cook

The football world was abuzz in the NFL last week. Why? The Green Bay Packers really signed a free agent, when they signed tight end Jared Cook. Yes, it seems like Ted Thompson and the Packers never sign free agents, but that’s actually not true.

The Packers sign some undrafted rookie free agents each season. Examples include Sam Shields in 2010, Don Barclay and Sean Richardson in 2012, Andy Mulumba, Lane Taylor and Myles White in 2013, Jayrone Elliott and Mike Pennel in 2014 and LaDarius Gunter last season.

The Packers also sign “street” free agents as well. Players who have not really made their mark in the NFL yet. Examples are Tramon Williams in 2007, Brett Goode in 2008, Tim Masthay in 2010 and Chris Banjo and Scott Tolzien in 2013.

When signing “pure” free agents, players who have had nice careers in the NFL before they sign with the Packers, the team prefers that the player is first released from their previous team. Why? That way the signing of that particular player won’t be put into the equation for the formula which determines compensatory picks for the following season.

Examples of this type of signing would include Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders) in 2006, Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) in 2014 and this year with Cook (St. Louis Rams).

That formula has worked out well for Thompson and the Packers.

For instance, in his seven-year career with the Packers, Woodson put together a brilliant resume.  Woodson picked off 38 passes, including nine for touchdowns.  Woodson also forced 15 fumbles, recovering six more.  Woodson had 11.5 sacks to boot.

In addition to that, Woodson was also named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  Plus, Woodson was named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.

Peppers is also off to a great start with the Packers in his first two years on the team. In 2014 and 2015 combined, Peppers had 17.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and picked off two passes, both of which were returned for touchdowns. Peppers also went to the Pro Bowl this past season.

Cook has also had some nice moments in his seven-year career with both the Tennessee Titans and the Rams. The 6’4″, 235-pound Cook has 273 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career so far.

Cook has had that production without the help of a top-flight quarterback in both Tennessee and St. Louis. That will change in Green Bay, as Cook will now catch passes from Aaron Rodgers.

There is a huge difference between Rodgers and the likes of Austin Davis, Sean Hill, Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Jake Locker, Kellen Clemens and even Matt Hasselbeck, who all were quarterbacks who Cook played with.

Cook is the type of tight end the team has been looking for ever since Jermichael Finley was forced to stop his NFL career due to a neck injury. Cook has the ability and speed to be a seam-stretcher down the middle of the field for the Packers.

As a rookie out of South Carolina at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2009, Cook ran a 4.50 40-yard dash. Cook had reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and posted a 39.5-inch vertical leap in 2007 at South Carolina.

Cook is very excited to be in Green Bay. Even if it’s just on a one-year deal worth $3.65 million.

In a teleconference with the beat writers for the Packers earlier this week, Cook was excited about the possibilities in 2016 with No. 12 throwing him the football.

“It was more than the top priority I was looking for,” Cook said. “It was imperative that I find a person that’s known for getting the job done and is good at what they do. I think he’s probably one of the best in the league at doing it, clearly.”

Keith Jackson

Keith Jackson

To me, I believe that the combination of Cook and third-year player Richard Rodgers will be a very nice combination for the team in 2016. Similar to the production that the duo of Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura had for the Packers in 1995 and 1996, when Brett Favre was throwing them the ball.

In those two years, Jackson had 53 receptions for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Chmura had 82 receptions for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson was the deep threat, while Chmura was the short-to-middle yardage weapon.

Richard Rodgers has fabulous hands, but is just a short yardage or red zone threat, due to his lack of speed and his inability to break tackles. In 2015, Rodgers had 58 receptions for 510 yards  and eight touchdowns.

That adds up to just an 8.8 yard average per reception for No. 82, and that number was buffered by the 61-yard game-winning Hail Mary pass he caught versus the Detroit Lions in Week 13.

But if you add Rodgers and Cook together, the Packers could be looking at quite a dynamic duo.

I wanted to get an opinion about the signing of Cook by NFL scout Chris Landry. Landry chimed in to me about the signing yesterday.

“Jared has been a little inconsistent, but this is BY FAR the best quarterback he will have played with,” Landry said. “They have wanted a nice size athletic tight end who can work down the seam and he definitely fits that mold.

“He and Richard Rodgers gives them versatility. If the offensive line can stay healthy and if Eddie Lacy stays in shape, this offense could be great this year.”

Green Bay Packers: 7-Round 2016 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine

We are now less than a month away from the 2016 NFL draft, which will take place starting on April 28. It’s time to put out my third version of a 7-round NFL mock draft for the Green Bay Packers.

I will not be selecting any of the players that I have picked in my first two mock drafts. For reference, here is my initial mock draft and here is my second mock draft, which I did shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine.

I will do one final mock draft the week of the actual draft. In that draft, I will utilize players who I have selected in earlier mock drafts. As always, I am using the insight and information that I have been able to access from NFL scout Chris Landry to help me work through this process.

Through my conversations with Landry and by gaining key data from his website, I have had some success through the years doing mock drafts for the Packers. For instance, I was correct in my projection that both both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan would be selected by the Packers in my final mock draft last year.

Enough of that, it’s on to the next mock draft.

Round 1: Defensive Tackle Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech)

Vernon Butler

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 324 pounds

In 2014 and 2015, Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech was a load trying to block.  In those two seasons combined, Butler had 106 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three passes deflected, two forced fumbles and one recovered fumble.

Butler is very quick off the ball and is outstanding versus the run. The former Bulldog can be explosive off the snap and can push the pocket backwards in passing situations.

Butler had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl, as he was very effective in one-on-one drills due to his athleticism. He used his short area quickness upper body strength to get through and around blockers. Butler also has long arms which allow him to rag doll his opponents once he gets them off-balance.

Chris Landry like what he saw from Butler in Mobile.

“Vernon Butler to me, is a really good penetrator,” Landry said. “Really quick off the ball. Good use of hands. I think he’s to me an early second-round value, who could slip into the first round.

“Again, it’s an unusually deep year (for defensive linemen). I expect in the first round that A’Shawn Robinson will go, Jarran Reed to go, both are from Alabama. Robert Nkemdiche is going to go somewhere. You are talking about a guy who is a top five pick, but will slip some. And how far, I don’t know. I just sit there and think that I could see a guy like Rex Ryan saying, ‘I’ll take that guy. I’m not afraid.’

“Sheldon Rankins of Louisville. Andrew Billings of Baylor. Vernon Butler is right in that group. And there was another yesterday with Kenny Clark of UCLA (pro day). Jonathan Bullard from Florida. I think Butler would have real good value at the top of the second round and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s late first round.”

With B.J. Raji taking a hiatus from football in 2016, it makes sense that the Packers add some size and talent across their defensive front. Butler certainly fills that bill, as he still has some real upside.

Round 2: Inside Linebacker Joshua Perry (Ohio State)

Joshua Perry

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 254 pounds

Joshua Perry of Ohio State won’t be the first Buckeye linebacker picked in the 2016 draft, as that honor will go to Darron Lee, but Perry has some very nice ability as well.

Perry was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, as he had 293 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and eight passes defended in those three years. Besides having excellent size, Perry ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, plus had an excellent broad jump which covered 124.0 inches.

Perry is strong and physical at the line of scrimmage, plus he reacts quickly in finding the football. He also is a very good tackler and and can blitz well when called upon to do so.

The former Buckeye is a high character guy, who was a team leader at Ohio State, as the Buckeyes went 38-4 with Perry as a starter, including a national championship.

The addition of Perry will make the expected move of Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker seamless. Perry will undoubtedly be one starter on the inside,  with Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan battling for the other starting job at ILB.

Round 3: Outside Linebacker Jordan Jenkins (Georgia)

Jordan Jenkins

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 259 pounds

Jordan Jenkins was a four-year starter at Georgia, as he forced his way on the field halfway through his freshman year. Jenkins never takes a play off and his motor is always running, as he plays hard to the whistle.

Jenkins played both right and left outside linebacker positions in the Bulldogs 3-4 defense, as he had 205 tackles, 40 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks, five passes defended, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in four seasons.

The former Bulldog is equally effective playing the run and rushing the passer.

Although the Packers did re-sign Nick Perry, it was only a one-year deal, as the jury is still out on whether No. 53 can be a consistent performer at OLB. Plus, Julius Peppers is now 36, and is in the last year of his three-year contract.

The Packers also like the upside of Jayrone Elliott, but the Packers still need to add depth and talent to the outside linebacker position. Jenkins will do that.

Round 4: Running Back Kenyan Drake (Alabama)

Kenyan Drake

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 210 pounds

By adding running back Kenyan Drake, the Packers will add  a very talented running back, who is not only pretty good toting the rock, but also is a big threat catching the football. Drake is also an outstanding kick returner.

In addition, the Pack will be adding another back from Alabama, which is where Eddie Lacy hails from. Drake played second fiddle to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry at running back for the Crimson Tide, but was very effective when he got his opportunities.

Drake ran for 1,495 yards (6.4 average)  and 18 touchdowns in his career at Alabama, plus had 46 receptions for 570 yards (12.4  average) and four more scores.

Drake showed his kick returner prowess in the national title game versus Clemson, when he returned a kick for 95 yards and a score late in the game.

Drake would be the heir apparent to James Starks as a compliment to Lacy, as No. 44 came back to the Packers on just a two-year deal after he tested the free agency market.

The Packers expect Lacy to come back with a vengeance in 2016 after a disappointing 2015 season. No. 27 was obviously carrying too much weight this past season, but has become much leaner thanks to working out with Tony Horton and utilizing his P90X workout.

The Packers expect Lacy top look more like the player he was in 2013 and 2014, when he averaged 1,159 yards rushing (4.4 average) and 10 touchdowns. Lacy also averaged 38.5 catches per season and two more scores in those two years.

I anticipate Lacy to have another big year in 2016, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. At that point, I believe the Packers would re-sign Lacy and that Drake would be an excellent partner to pair with No. 27 at running back into the future.

Round 4 (compensatory): Offensive Lineman Joe Dahl (Washington State)

Joe Dahl

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 304 pounds

Joe Dahl started out at Montana before transferring to Washington State, where he played both left guard (one year) and left tackle (two years) as a three-year starter.

Most scouts see Dahl as a guard in the NFL, although he could play offensive tackle in a pinch. Dahl had a good week at the Senior Bowl where he had looks at both left and right guard.

Dahl kept his hips low off the snap and and used his near 33-inch arms extended to engage. He also was very active with his hands and showed accurate placement to tie up rushers and control the point of attack.

The Packers need to add to their depth and talent on the offensive line, at both guard and tackle. Both left guard Josh Sitton and right guard T.J. Lang played through injury issues in 2015 and both will be unrestricted free agents in 2017.

Round 4 (compensatory): Defensive End Jihad Ward (Illinois)

Jihad Ward

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 297 pounds

Jihad Ward has the prototypical size one is looking for as a 3-4 defensive end. Ward was a two-year starter with Illinois, where he had 104 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes deflected, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Ward has the body type to add more bulk. He plays the run very well, which is the most important attribute for a 3-4 DE. Excels against 1-on-1 blocks. That being said, he needs to be better against double team blocks. Ward also need to use his hands better in taking on blocks.

Ward has nice athleticism and he has the ability to play both defensive end spots. He always puts out great effort and his pass rush is a work in progress.

With good coaching, Ward can continue his development, which has a lot of upside. Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac of the Packers is the perfect coach for Ward to work under.

Round 5: Tight End Tanner McEvoy (Wisconsin)

Tanner McEvoy

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 230 pounds

Tanner McEvoy was used like a Swiss Army Knife by Wisconsin. The 6’6″, 230-pound McEvoy played quarterback, safety and wide receiver for the Badgers. In three years with the team, McEvoy showed how athletic he was at these positions.

At quarterback, he wasn’t a great passer, as he had just five touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 709 yards. But when it came to running the football as a QB, he was very dangerous. McEvoy ran for 706 yards on just 82 carries (8.6 average) for eight touchdowns.

McEvoy got to play some wide receiver at Wisconsin in 2015, and he had 10 catches for 109 yards. The reason his stats were so low was because he was a starting safety for the Badgers, as he had six interceptions, which was second in the Big 10 and sixth nationally.

Most scouts think McEvoy would be better suited to play tight end in the NFL due to his size and athleticism. Those attributes would also be a big reason why he would also excel on special teams.

Chris Landry had this to say about McEvoy:

“He [McEvoy] is an athletic guy,” Landry said. “I think he can play tight end. He’s a project. I think he’s more of a later-round guy. But I do have him and I’ve done a lot of work on him this spring.

“I do think he does have some value later in the draft. I’ve got him as a fifth-round guy and I’ll update my boards in a little bit. I’ve got a 5.4 grade on him and I think he and a couple other kids, like the [Darion] Griswold kid from Arkansas State, have a lot of ability.

“They’ve [Wisconsin] done a really good job with tight ends in the past. They understand blocking, which is important. He’s not a guy who is going to be a great receiver, but I think he can develop into more of a polished receiver and understand blocking.”

Like the Badgers did, the Packers can utilize McEvoy in a number of ways. Besides being a special teams stalwart, McEvoy can be groomed at tight end (even with the recent signing of Jared Cook), plus can help out on defense at times.

McEvoy would also be an intriguing prospect to play at linebacker on passing downs, where he could cover running backs and tight ends. He has the size, speed and hands to excel there.

Round 6: Offensive Lineman Nick Ritcher (Richmond)

Nick Ritcher

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 305 pounds

Nick Ritcher was the best player on the offensive line for one of the best football programs in the FCS at Richmond.

Ritcher has very quick and light feet to play the offensive tackle position in the NFL. He has the ability to play inside as well.

Nick’s dad Jim was a 16-year NFL veteran, who played with the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. Jim mostly played center in the NFL.

Ritcher definitely has the lineage and ability to add some quality depth to the offensive line of the Packers, especially at offensive tackle.

The Packers desperately need that, as the lack of depth and talent at offensive tackle position was very apparent for Green Bay last year. Especially when right tackle Bryan Bulaga and left tackle David Bakhtiari were out with injuries.

Round 7: Quarterback Cody Kessler (USC)

Cody Kessler

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 220 pounds

With backup quarterback Scott Tolzien moving on from the Packers to the Indianapolis Colts via free agency, the Packers will be looking to add another quarterback to their roster.

Obviously, former Cal Bear Aaron Rodgers will be the starter, while second-year player Brett Hundley out of UCLA moves up to be the backup.

Hundley shined last summer as a rookie out of UCLA in the preseason, as posted a passer rating of 129.7 based on 45 completions on 65 attempts for 630 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception in the preseason.

Another Pac-12 quarterback could join the Packers in 2016. That QB could be Cody Kessler out of USC. Kessler never quite lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school, but was still effective with the Trojans.

Kessler never had a completion average below 65 percent in three years as a starter at USC. In those three years, Kessler threw 88 touchdown passes versus 19 interceptions for 10,330 yards.

Although Kessler doesn’t have the running ability of either Rodgers or Hundley, he still moves around quite well in the pocket. He also has experience in a pro-style, West Coast offense, which is the offense he ran at USC.

Kessler also doesn’t have the arm strength of either Rodgers and Hundley, but is very accurate and he gets through his reads very quickly.

A Scout’s Take on the Draft Status of Tanner McEvoy

Tanner McEvoy

In terms of looking at the list of team needs for the Green Bay Packers going into the 2016 NFL draft, which will take place starting on April 28, the tight end position is high on the list.

Yes, second-year player Richard Rodgers put up some decent numbers with 58 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. But that adds up to only a 8.8 yards receiving average, which was buffered by the 61-yard game-winning Hail Mary pass he caught versus the Detroit Lions in Week 13.

Rodgers has trouble adding yardage after the catch for two reasons. His lack of speed and his inability to break tackles.

That is why the Packers are looking at adding another tight end to compliment what Rodgers can do. That would be a seam-stretching tight end who can hurt a defense down the middle of the field. Very similar to what the Keith Jackson (the deep threat) and Mark Chmura (the short-yardage threat) duo did for the Packers in 1995 and 1996.

The tight end talent in the 2016 draft is not very deep. The top target in that class is Hunter Henry. I had the Packers taking Henry in the first round in my initial mock draft a couple of months ago.

The Packers also brought in veteran tight end Jared Cook for a visit a couple of weeks ago. So far, the Packers, nor anyone else in the NFL have signed Cook as of yet.

Cook has the ability and speed to be that seam-stretcher the Packers are looking for. Cook will turn 29 on April 7. In his NFL career, the 6’4″, 235-pound Cook has 273 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Cook is coming off a disappointing 2015 season with the St. Louis Rams, as he had just 39 catches for 481 yards and no touchdowns. But much of that lack of success can be laid at the feet of the very inconsistent and unproductive play at quarterback for the Rams.

As a rookie out of South Carolina at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2009, Cook ran a 4.50 40-yard dash. Cook had reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and posted a 39.5-inch vertical leap in 2007 at South Carolina.

This is not to say that Cook still has that great speed currently, but he is still plenty fast if you watch tape of him.

So, will the Packers sign Cook or not? That is a good question. One would believe that he would be much better off as a receiver with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, especially compared to the quarterbacks he has had to play with recently.

Ben Sirmans, the new running backs coach of the Packers, was with Cook in St. Louis for three years, as he held the same position with the Rams the past four years.

Between that situation and how the meeting between Packers and Cook went, it appears that Green Bay is mulling over the possibility of signing Cook. If I had to guess, I would say that money is the biggest obstacle right now. Most likely, guaranteed money.

Jared Cook

Whether or not the Packers sign Cook, I would think the team will still look for a tight end in the 2016 draft. If Cook is signed, the Packers would look for more depth later in the draft. If not, the Packers might strike earlier, depending on how the draft board plays out for them.

Currently, it appears that veteran Andrew Quarless will not be coming back to the Packers. The Packers also have Kennard Backman, Justin Perillo and Mitchell Henry on the roster at the position. But except for Backman, no one can really fill the deep-passing threat option down the middle of the field at the tight end position.

But Backman was inactive most of the 2015 season as a rookie, and in seven games did not have a single reception.

One player that might interest the Packers at the tight end position in the draft is Tanner McEvoy of the Wisconsin Badgers. The odd thing about that scenario, is that McEyoy never really played tight end at Wisconsin.

The 6’6″, 230-pound McEvoy played quarterback, safety and wide receiver for the Badgers. In three years with the Badgers, McEvoy showed how athletic he was at these positions.

At quarterback, he wasn’t a great passer, as he had just five touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 709 yards. But when it came to running the football as a QB, he was very dangerous. McEvoy ran for 706 yards on just 82 carries (8.6 average) for eight touchdowns.

McEvoy got to play some wide receiver at Wisconsin in 2015, and he had 10 catches for 109 yards. The reason his stats were so low was because he was a starting safety for the Badgers, as he had six interceptions, which was second in the Big 10 and sixth nationally.

Most scouts think McEvoy would be better suited to play tight end in the NFL due to his size and athleticism. Those attributes would also be a big reason why he would also excel on special teams.

In addition to that, McEvoy has the talent to help the offense on two-point conversion plays as a runner and also as a deep defensive back when the opponent has to try a Hail Mary pass. His abilities as a safety in college, not to mention his 6’6″ frame would be definite assets.

I see McEvoy as a big third-day value in the draft. I wanted to see if my assessment was correct when I had the opportunity to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

Tanner McEvoy II

“He [McEvoy] is an athletic guy,” Landry said. “I think he can play tight end. He’s a project. I think he’s more of a later-round guy. But I do have him and I’ve done a lot of work on him this spring.

“I do think he does have some value later in the draft. I’ve got him as a fifth-round guy and I’ll update my boards in a little bit. I’ve got a 5.4 grade on him and I think he and a couple other kids, like the [Darion] Griswold kid from Arkansas State, have a lot of ability.

“They’ve [Wisconsin] done a really good job with tight ends in the past. They understand blocking, which is important. He’s not a guy who is going to be a great receiver, but I think he can develop into more of a polished receiver and understand blocking.

“So, I think you are right on it with with a late-round project.”

A Scout’s Take on the Newest Promotion of Eliot Wolf

Eliot and Ron Wolf

Earlier this week, the Green Bay Packers announced two promotions in their front office. General manager Ted Thompson promoted both Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst. Wolf’s new title is director of football operations, while Gutekunst is changing his title from director of college scouting to director of player personnel.

Wolf was promoted for the fourth time since Thompson took over in 2005 and as director of football operations, now has the same title John Schneider, John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie held before they became NFL general managers.

Eliot is the son of Ron Wolf. It was Ron that resurrected the Green Bay franchise in 1991 when he took over as general manager of the team. From 1992-2000, the Packers had a 92-52 record (a .639 winning percentage), won three NFC Central titles, seven straight winning seasons, six straight playoff appearances, participated in three consecutive NFC Championship games (winning two of them) and were also in two consecutive Super Bowls—with the Packers winning Super Bowl XXXI.

Before his time with the Packers, Ron Wolf started out in the then AFL under Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders in 1963 at age 25, first as a scout and then as a key member of the front office of the Raiders.  Wolf helped bring Oakland a number of talented players in the draft, including Jack Tatum, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell and Ken Stabler.

All of those players had key roles for the Raiders as Oakland won Super Bowl XI in 1976.

Wolf left Oakland in 1975 and moved on to Florida to head football operations of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Wolf brought in some very talented athletes, drafting players like Lee Roy Selman, Doug Williams and Ricky Bell.  That group led the Bucs to the NFC title game in 1979.

However, Wolf was not around to see what developed that year, as he resigned from the Bucs in 1978 and returned to work with his mentor Davis.  Wolf stayed on with the Raiders until 1990.  Once again, Wolf was able to bring in talents such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and Matt Millen, and the Raiders won two more Super Bowl titles in that time frame.

Wolf then spent a year with the New York Jets front office, before taking the reins in Green Bay.

All of that great work led to Wolf being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Wolf’s first move with the Packers was to fire then head coach Lindy Infante and to hire Mike Holmgren as his new head coach.

Wolf also brought on a guy to help out in the scouting department for the Packers.  The guy’s name was Ted Thompson.  One of Thompson’s first jobs was to review tape of a player the Packers were thinking about acquiring via a trade.  Thompson looked at the tape of the player and gave his endorsement to Wolf about trading for him.  The player’s name was Brett Favre.

Wolf was a mentor to Thompson.  When Thompson was hired by Wolf, his first job was assistant director of pro personnel in 1992.

When Eliot Wolf first joined the Packers in 2004 at age 22, he worked in the same department Thompson did when he was first hired. But even before then, Eliot had accumulated quite a resume.

Eliot first started working with his dad Ron unofficially at age 10, watching film. He then started working the NFL draft and has now been part of 23 consecutive drafts for the Packers. Eliot has also been to 24 consecutive NFL Scouting Combines.

In addition to that, Eliot had nine NFL scouting internships—five with the Packers, three with the Atlanta Falcons and one with the Seattle Seahawks. Wolf basically grew up in Green Bay, as he was nine years old when his dad joined the Packers. Eliot graduated from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, before going to Miami (Fla.) for college, where he graduated in just three-and-a-half years.

Aaron Rodgers and Eliot Wolf

Mark Hoffman photo

After being pro personnel assistant with the Packers from 2004-2008, Wolf was then promoted to assistant director of pro personnel for three years, before he was promoted to assistant director of player personnel in 2011. He then was named director of pro personnel in 2012, a position he held until his most recent promotion.

Is the latest promotion of Wolf setting him up to be the heir apparent to Thompson as general manager of the Packers? Or will this lead to Wolf leaving the team to become the general manager for another NFL team like Schneider (Seattle Seahawks), Dorsey (Kansas City Chiefs) and McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) did?

Thompson denies that there is a succession plan in place with the promotions.

“It has nothing to do with it,” Thompson said of succession. “It’s just part of our organization and this part of the organization, the personnel part, fluctuates from time to time. As it’s gone forward the 10 or 11 years I’ve been here, there’s been times when you’re a little bit top heavy in your personnel department and there’s times when it lessens a little bit.

“And like I’ve said, we’ve been using these two guys in an advanced role for some time and now it’s time we kind of acknowledged it.”

I wanted to make sure that I got the opinion about this interesting situation from NFL scout Chris Landry, when I talked with him earlier in the week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

“I don’t know,” Landry said. “Ted still loves doing this. He’s a lifer. He’s not married and lives in a hotel. I don’t know for how much longer. I think these moves and this position has been the stepping stone for guys that have moved on.

“You mentioned Schneider. You mentioned Dorsey. Brian Gutekunst has really grown in that system as a scout. He moves up as well. Eliot, as you mentioned, grew up around his dad. He’s a bright young guy.

“I think this step could mean moving on somewhere else, or maybe [staying] with the Packers. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, I don’t know for example, when Ted retires, that maybe John Schneider might come from Seattle and run it. John is from Green Bay and went to high school right in Green Bay.

“I think when that time happens, I think that’s going to be a very coveted job, with a lot of guys that would maybe want to go home. Ted obviously has a fondness for Ron Wolf, because Ron gave him his chance. Ted was a Houston Oiler and is from Texas. We were close because he always thought of himself as an Oiler. So when I was with the Oilers, we would always have great conversations.

“But he’s a Packer through and through now. I don’t know what the future is, but obviously it’s bright for Eliot and I think the Packers’ future is bright beyond Ted. They’ll have a lot of options with a lot of good people who are going to want that job.”

Wisconsin Badgers: How Sweet (16) It Is!

Bronson Koenig

Bronson Koenig of Wisconsin hits the game-winning jump shot at the buzzer versus Xavier.

It truly is a remarkable story. The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team was really in a state of flux earlier this year. The team was just 1-4 in the Big 10 and 9-9 overall. Legendary coach Bo Ryan had recently resigned and had given the head coaching reins to long-time assistant Greg Gard.

It had been a rough season for the Badgers up to that point, as Wisconsin was trying to overcome the losses of five key players from last year’s 36-4 team, which made it to the finals of the NCAA tournament. Included in that group were Frank Kaminsky (National College Player of the Year) and Sam Dekker, both of whom became first-round picks in the NBA draft.

Adding to that misery, the Badgers had shockingly lost to Western Illinois, plus had been beaten by state rivals UWM and Marquette.

At that point in time, it sure looked like a couple of streaks would be ending. Certainly the Badgers wouldn’t finish in the finish in the top four of the Big 10 for the 15th consecutive year. Nor would the Badgers make the NCAA tournament for 18th consecutive time.

Those streaks were done, right? Wrong!

Thanks to the leadership and guidance of Gard, the Badgers turned their season around. The Badgers won 11 out of their last 13 games in conference play to finish with a 12-6 record, which was good enough to finish in a tie for third place.

Included in those victory totals were wins against Michigan State and Indiana at home, plus wins versus Maryland and Iowa on the road.

The turnaround for the Badgers also got them a bid to the NCAA tournament for the 18th consecutive year.

Wisconsin wasn’t exactly hot when they faced Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament in St. Louis. The Badgers had lost their last conference game of the year to Purdue on the road, plus were one and done in the Big Ten tournament, as Nebraska shocked Wisconsin.

In addition to that, the veteran leaders of the Badgers, junior’s Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, were as cold as ice shooting the ball.

The ice cold shooting woes of Hayes and Koenig continued versus Pitt, as Wisconsin was down by as many as 12 points in the first half. But somehow the seventh-seeded Badgers scrapped back.

Wisconsin was led by redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, who had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Vitto Brown continued to be clutch from three-point range, as he also chipped in 11 points. Zak Showalter also helped out with a key steal and played excellent defense, as the Badgers gutted out an ugly 47-43 win.

Hayes was just 3-of-17 in shooting, but did still chipped in 11 points, thanks to six free throws. Koenig was just 1-of-8 shooting the ball and had just two points. Still, the Badgers advanced to take on the second-seeded Xavier Musketeers.

Not many people gave the Badgers a chance against Xavier, who were 28-5 heading into the game against the Badgers and were coming off a 71-53 thrashing of Weber State in the first round of the tournament.

If the Badgers had any chance at all, Hayes and Koenig had to start making some shots, plus Happ, Brown and Showalter had to make some solid contributions as well.

The bad news for the Badgers was that Hayes continued to be frigid in terms of his shooting, as he made just 2-of-10 shots and finished with just six points against Xavier.

Koenig also started out very cold, but he kept shooting and finally the shots started dropping, as he finished with 20 points, including 6-of-12 three-pointers.

Happ was very solid again with 18 points and seven rebounds, as was Brown, who once again hit some a couple of key three-point shots, as he ended up with 12 points.

Showalter also came up with a couple of game-shifting plays once again.

The Badgers were down by nine points with about six minutes left, but they never wavered.

Gard knew his team could come back. He has seen the same thing up close over the past couple of months.

“As I told the team in the locker room,” Gard said, “this game was kind of a microcosm of our season from the standpoint of November, December, January.

“It was like three minutes to go being down seven or eight, whatever we were, and this group would not quit, would not give in. We knew we had some fight left in us and eventually the ball was going to go in.”

It came down to three big plays. Two by Koenig and one by Showalter. The Badgers were down 63-60 when Koenig nailed a clutch three-pointer to tie the game with 11.7 seconds left.

Then it was Showalter’s turn. The Badgers got the ball back with 4.3 seconds left when Showalter drew a charge against Xavier freshman guard Edmund Sumner.

Zak Showalter

Zak Showalter of Wisconsin draws a charge from Edmund Sumner of Xavier.

“The play Showalter made to get the charge was huge,” Gard said. “That’s why the kid’s on the floor and why he is in the program. That was a big-time play.”

The Badgers then got the ball past mid-court and called a timeout with 2.0 seconds left. After the timeout, Happ inbounded the ball to Koenig, who raced to the deep right corner and tossed up a game-winning three-point shot at the buzzer.

“I told Ethan before the play even started, I knew I wanted the ball,” said Koenig. “So I went up to him and told him, pass to me if I’m open.

“And I got open. He did a great job of hitting me. And to answer your question, I knew it was going in before it even left my hand because that’s a shot I practice quite a bit pregame with Nigel Hayes one-on-one and I do a lot of step-backs in the corner.

“I let it fly and I knew it was going in. I can’t really explain the feeling after I hit it. I think it was my first real game-winner – well, kind of like that. So, yeah, it was a lot of excitement.”

What this means is that the Badgers will be advancing the the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six years. Wisconsin is the only team in the country that can claim that notoriety.

The Badgers will be facing Notre Dame in Philadelphia Friday night for the right to advance to the Elite Eight. If Wisconsin does win, it will be the third straight year the Badgers have advanced to that stage of the tournament.

Can the Badgers continue this improbable journey? I know that their head coach believes in them.

“I’ve always had confidence in them even when we were 1-4 and 9-9,” Gard said. “And the thing that I’ve talked about, and they’re probably tired of me hearing the word process, to stick to the process and not deviate from the plan.”

So far, the plan has taken the Badgers to the Sweet 16.

A Scout’s Take on Three Louisiana Tech Draft Prospects

Vernon Butler

Vernon Butler

On March 22, Louisiana Tech will have it’s pro day. You can be certain that someone from the Green Bay Packers will be there to witness it. It might even be general manager Ted Thompson.

La Tech has three players who I have to believe the Packers would be very interested in. Those three players are defensive tackle Vernon Butler, running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel.

I had the Packers taking Driskel in the seventh round of my first mock draft, as a matter of fact.

Butler, Dixon and Driskel would all fill a need for the Packers.

Butler would certainly help the Packers on the defensive line, especially since B.J. Raji announced he was taking a one-year hiatus from football earlier this week.

Dixon could be a great addition to the Packers as well, as he has the attributes to be a three-down back in the NFL. The Packers will probably be re-signing unrestricted free agent James Starks, but No. 44 is now 30 years old, while Eddie Lacy will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

With Scott Tolzien moving on to the Indianapolis Colts via free agency, that means that the Packers will be looking to add a third quarterback to their roster to learn from Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley.

La Tech had a nice season in Conference USA in 2015, as the Bulldogs finished 9-4 overall, plus were 6-2 in the conference, which was good for second place in the West division. The Bulldogs also won the New Orleans Bowl, as they beat Arkansas State.

Butler, Dixon and Driskel all played very well for La Tech in 2015.

The 6’4″, 323-pound Butler had 50 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and eight quarterback hurries this past season. For that performance, Butler was named first-team All-Conference USA.

Kenneth Dixon

Kenneth Dixon

The 5’10”, 215-pound Dixon was another Bulldog who was named to first-team All-Conference USA, as he rushed 1,070 yards and 19 touchdowns, plus caught 34 passes for 467 more yards and seven scores. Dixon did it all for the Bulldogs, as he also was very effective picking up the blitz on passing downs.

Dixon had just a marvelous career at La Tech. He finished with 4,480 yards rushing and 72 touchdowns, plus had 88 receptions for 972 yards and 15 more scores.

The 6’4″, 234-pound Driskel transferred from Florida to La Tech and had the best season of his collegiate career in 2015. Driskel threw 27 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,033 yards. He also ran for 323 more yards and five touchdowns.

NFL scout Chris Landry got to see Butler, Dixon and Driskel up close and personal at the Senior Bowl. All were outstanding that week.

Butler was very effective in one-on-one drills, as he used his short area quickness and powerful upper body to force his way to the pocket. Butler has long arms which allow him to rag doll blockers once he gets them off-balance.

Landry saw Dixon as having the best week of all the running backs at the Senior Bowl.

Driskel completed 8 of 9 passes for a game-high 108 yards and one touchdown.

I had another opportunity to talk with Landry yesterday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

I wanted to get Landry’s take on the three La Tech players.

“Well, Jeff [Driskel] to me is a late-round guy,” Landry said. “He really did a good job. They did a good job with him. Coach [Skip] Holtz did a good job with him. A lot of Florida connections there with Skip and Jeff being from the Gators. Jeff really did settle down and I think the stability of that offense helped him.”

Driskel did play much better at La Tech than he did at Florida, where the offense always seemed to be in a state of flux. In three years with the Gators, he threw 23 touchdown passes versus 18 interceptions for 3,263 yards.

Jeff Driskel

Jeff Driskel

Like he did at La Tech, Driskel was a threat running the ball for the Gators, as he ran for 63 1 yards and nine touchdowns. By the way, Driskel ran a 4.56 40 at the combine.

Landry also had plenty of praise for Dixon.

“I do like Kenneth Dixon a lot,” Landry said. “He’s got really good wiggle, change of pace, balance and run under his pads. I think he’s a mid-to-late second round guy. He might slip into the third.

“Ezekiel Elliott we talked about. Derrick Henry. I like Devontae Booker. The guy that I really like the more and more I look at him, and I’m going to raise him on my board as I do more and more work, is Alex Collins of Arkansas. Outside of that, I think Kenneth Dixon is the next best back.”

Landry also had some very nice things to say about Butler.

“Vernon Butler to me, is a really good penetrator,” Landry said. “Really quick off the ball. Good use of hands. I think he’s to me an early second-round value, who could slip into the first round.

“Again, it’s an unusually deep year (for defensive linemen). I expect in the first round that A’Shawn Robinson will go, Jarran Reed to go, both are from Alabama. Robert Nkemdiche is going to go somewhere. You are talking about a guy who is a top five pick, but will slip some. And how far, I don’t know. I just sit there and think that I could see a guy like Rex Ryan saying, ‘I’ll take that guy. I’m not afraid.’

“Sheldon Rankins of Louisville. Andrew Billings of Baylor. Vernon Butler is right in that group. And there was another yesterday with Kenny Clark of UCLA (pro day). Jonathan Bullard from Florida. I think Butler would have real good value at the top of the second round and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s late first round.”

So from the Packers standpoint at pick No. 27, Butler may be a viable option late in the first round, depending on how the board looks at that time. Dixon would be an option for the Packers with their pick in the second round, while Driskel could be an option for the Packers in the sixth or seventh round.

The Packers do have a history of having La Tech players on their roster, including a couple of pretty good cornerbacks who had nice careers in Green Bay. Doug Evans went there, as did Tramon Williams. Both players ended up with Super Bowl rings.

Wide receiver Myles White, who spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Green Bay, also hails from La Tech.

The most famous football alumnus of La Tech is quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Defensive lineman Fred Dean and offensive tackle Willie Roaf also played their college ball with the Bulldogs.

Bottom line, I believe the Packers would be quite pleased if they were able to land either Butler or Dixon in the draft. Driskel wouldn’t be bad either, as he has a strong arm and great mobility, but his role would be that of third-string quarterback.

There is no doubt that Butler and Dixon are the cream of the crop for the Bulldogs in this draft and would most likely see plenty of playing time for the Packers as rookies.

Can Nick Perry Become a Pro Bowl-Caliber Player?

Nick Perry

The 2016 NFL League Year started on March 9. That also was the first day teams could sign prospective free agents, starting at 4 p.m. ET. As expected, the Green Bay Packers were slow out of the gate.

Anyone who has followed the Packers since Ted Thompson became the general manager of the team in 2005, knows that he rarely uses free agency to enhance his team.

Especially since he hired Mike McCarthy to become head coach of the team in 2006.

Since then, the Packers have been primarily a draft-and-develop team. The draft is the main focus for Thompson to build the roster that McCarthy and the rest of his coaching staff try to develop.

So far, that formula has been somewhat successful. Since Thompson and McCarthy became a duo in 2006, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in the regular season in 10 years.

In that time, Green Bay has also won five NFC North titles, plus have gone to the postseason eight times, which includes seven consecutive years now. That also includes a victory in Super Bowl XLV, as well as three appearances in the NFC Championship Game.

But when it comes utilizing free agency, Thompson has been very cautious and deliberate. You might call him Ted the Tortoise when it comes to that method of improving his team.

When he does use it, at least in it’s “pure” form, Thompson has had success. Examples are Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Julius Peppers.

Normally, Thompson will instead sign “street” free agents or undrafted rookie free agents. Examples are Sam Shields, Don Barclay, Chris Banjo, Tim Masthay and Jayrone Elliott.

The main thing that Thompson tries to do in free agency though is to re-sign his own players. Before free agency began on March 9, the Packers did make a few moves for players who were slated to become free agents.

The Packers signed defensive lineman Mike Daniels to a four-year, $41 million deal in mid-December and then in February, signed defensive lineman Letroy Guion to a three year deal worth $11.25 million. Last week the team signed kicker Mason Crosby to a four-year deal worth $16.1 million.

The team has been very quiet in free agency until late yesterday afternoon, when the Packers re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry to a one-year contract, worth $5 million.

To me, it’s sort of a prove-it contract for Perry. It’s also a sizable raise, as Perry made just $1.412 million last year in the final year of a four-year contract.

Perry was the No. 1 pick of the Packers in 2012, as he was selected with the 28th pick of the draft. Perry played at USC, where he was a defensive end who had led the Pac-12 in sacks with nine in 2011.

Perry also excelled at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. The 6’3″ Perry went into the combine weighing 271 pounds. Still, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. In addition to that, Perry also had the best vertical jump (38.5 inches) and tied for first in the broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) among defensive linemen.

Perry also showed he was plenty strong, as he had 35 reps in the bench press.

The Packers made Perry into an outside linebacker under the tutelage of now Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, when he was still on the coaching staff of the Packers.

Perry learned the nuances of outside linebacker slowly but surely, but it was the injury bug that hampered him his first two years in the NFL. In those two years, Perry only played in 17 games, with 71 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles.

In his rookie year, it was first a wrist injury and then later a knee injury which put No. 53 on on injured reserve after just six games.

In 2013, it was foot injury that kept him out of five games.

In 2014, Perry was able to play in 15 games, even with a bad shoulder injury. Because of the bad shoulder, Perry only had 24 tackles and three sacks.

Perry had shoulder surgery in the off-season and was able to play in 14 games in 2015. The former Trojan star finished with with 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in the regular season.

Perry really came on in the playoffs,  as he totaled 3.5 sacks, eight tackles and a forced fumble.

Nick Perry II

In his career, Perry has shined in the postseason. In five games, Perry has six sacks and a forced fumble.

The Packers are hoping that Perry can continue the style of play he exhibited late in the 2015 season and into the playoffs this past year. That is why they gave him a good increase in his salary for 2016.

Perry has always been a very good run defender and if he continues to show the prowess rushing the passer that the Packers expected out of him when they drafted him in 2012, he might be looking at a long-term deal with the team after 2016.

Perry has not yet turned 26. He’s still very young. The Packers are giving him a chance to prove himself in 2016. My guess is that he will split time with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers at outside linebacker to keep all three players fresh.

With his new deal, the Packers seem to think Perry may have turned the corner in his development. If that’s true, than Perry needs to keep elevating his game and become a Pro Bowl-caliber player like the two guys that he’ll be sharing snaps with, Matthews and Peppers.

Will that happen? That’s a good question. Perry certainly has the ability and has shown flashes of being that type of player.

A Scout’s Take on the Free Agency Status of Matt Forte

Matt Forte II

Just before the free agency period started for the NFL in March of 2014, I wrote that Julius Peppers might be a good fit for the Green Bay Packers. Sure enough, just a few days later, the Packers did indeed sign Peppers to a three-year deal.

With one year left to go on his contract, the marriage so far has been a good one between Peppers and the Packers. In two years in Green Bay, Peppers has had 17.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and picked off two passes, both of which were returned for touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy who just turned 36 in January.

In terms of what the Packers will do in free agency in 2016, I evaluated the free agency situation with the Packers in a recent story I wrote.

Since I wrote that story, the NFL Players Association announced this past Monday that the salary cap will be set at a record $155.27 million. Plus, as expected, the Packers re-signed kicker Mason Crosby to a four-year deal worth $16.1 million. No. 2 will make $6.15 million in 2016 alone, which is a combination of bonuses ($5.25 million) and salary ($900,000).

The cap hit for Crosby is $2.4 million. Between the new salary cap number and the signing of Crosby, the Packers are believed to still be $19.1 million over the cap.

Ever since the alliance of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy took place in 2006, the Packers have been predominantly a draft and develop team. That method has been largely successful, as the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in the regular season in 10 years.

In that time, Green Bay has also won five NFC North titles, plus have gone to the postseason eight times, which includes seven consecutive years now. That also includes a victory in Super Bowl XLV, as well as three appearances in the NFC Championship Game.

With Thompson as the captain of the front office of the Packers over that time, the team has tried to sign as many players on their own roster before free agency begins, and only rarely will they try to get free agents who have played with other NFL teams.

When it comes to using free agency, Thompson prefers to sign “street” free agents or undrafted rookie free agents. Examples are Tim Masthay, Sam Shields, Don Barclay, Chris Banjo and Jayrone Elliott.

But when Thompson has tried the “pure” free agency route, he has hit gold. Examples are Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett in 2006, plus with the signing of Peppers in 2014.

Which takes me a player who I believe the Packers should be looking at signing in free agency when it starts on March 9. I’m talking about running back Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears.

The Bears have already informed Forte that they will not be re-signing him.

So, why would the Packers be interested in signing the former Tulane star? A number of reasons.

Matt Forte

For one, Forte has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL over his entire career. In eight-year career, Forte has rushed for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns, plus has a whopping 487 receptions for 4,116 yards and 19 more scores.

Yes, I know Forte is now 30. But in 2015, No. 22 still put up better numbers than any running back on the Packers, as he rushed for 898 yards and four touchdowns, plus had 44 catches for 389 yards and three more scores.

When it came to the running back position for the Packers in 2015, inconsistent would be one word which could describe the production of the position.

For one thing, Eddie Lacy had an off year, at least compared to his first two years in the NFL. No. 27 rushed for just 758 yards and three touchdowns, plus caught just 20 passes for 188 scores and two more scores.

Lacy was hampered by the fact that he was definitely overweight in 2015 and was most likely north of 260 pounds. The Packers told Lacy that he needs to lose thirty pounds going into training camp this upcoming summer.

It appears that Lacy is heeding that warning and getting into great shape, at least based on this recent story from stack.com.

There is also the free agency status of James Starks, who like Forte, will be a unrestricted free agent in less than a week. No. 44 played well at times for the Packers in 2015, as he rushed for 602 yards and had two scores, plus had 43 receptions for 392 yards and three more touchdowns. But Starks also coughed up the ball five times on fumbles and lost three of them.

That is why I believe Forte may be a wild card in free agency this year with the Packers. If the Packers did sign Forte, Starks would certainly be the odd man out. But just think about the one-two combination of a leaner Lacy and Forte for a couple of years.

That is why I wanted to get the opinion of NFL scout Chris Landry about the free agency status of Forte, when I talked with him on Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

Landry definitely believes that Forte still has something in the tank.

“In terms of Matt Forte, I do think he’s got a little left,” Landry said. “I think he’s to me a tier-two free agent. I think he catches the ball out of the backfield and I do think he’s got some really good value.

“I like his toughness and instinctiveness. I like him on a short-term deal. I do like him.”

When the Packers signed Peppers,  Forte’s former Chicago teammate two years ago, No. 56 was 34 years old. As we all know, the Packers gave Peppers a three-year contract and so far the deal has paid real dividends.

I could see the Packers offering a similar deal to Forte, as he wouldn’t have to be the main guy anymore like he was in Chicago. Forte would get plenty of rest as Lacy would be the primary back.

It’s also important to know that Lacy is slated to be a free agent in 2017, which may one reason the former Alabama star is working hard to get in better shape for the 2016 season.

The Packers obviously know Forte and his talents very well. The addition of Forte would improve the offense, especially on passing downs. It’s not like the Packers were bad passing the ball to Lacy and Starks over the past three years, because both were pretty effective at times, but Forte is the best in the business as a pass-catching running back.

Forte is also very good in toting the rock and the combination of he and Lacy would be a very formidable duo for defenses in the NFL to contend with.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t be surprised if Forte does indeed sign with the Packers. The Lacy-Forte combination could be called “Louisiana Thunder and Lightning”, as both players hail from the Bayou State.

To me, there is no doubt that the combination of Lacy and Forte would certainly would cause a big storm for opposing defenses.

Post-Combine 7-Round 2016 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine

The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine is over. Which means it’s time for my second mock draft for the Green Bay Packers. For those of you who are interested, here is my initial mock draft.

As I do with all of my draft stories and my mock drafts in general, I’m going to be relying on the information and insight I have gotten from NFL scout Chris Landry.

The input I have received from Landry has been very helpful in giving me a pretty good track record over the years in terms of correctly identifying players who Ted Thompson and the Packers will select in the draft.

For instance, last year I was correct in my projection that both both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan would be selected by the Packers in my final mock draft last year.

The Packers currently have picks in all seven rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, plus are expected to receive two compensatory picks for the losses of Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency.

As I did in my first mock draft, I am projecting that the compensatory picks will garner the Packers an extra selection in the fourth round and also in the fifth round.

Okay, it’s time for my post-combine 2016 NFL mock draft for the Pack.

Round 1: Linebacker Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

Reggie Ragland

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 247 pounds

The Packers will have a number of options in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL draft, but if linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama is still on the board at pick No. 27, the Packers should not hesitate to select him. Chris Landry sees him as the best inside linebacker in the draft.

“Well, I think Reggie Ragland is a better version of C.J. Mosley,” Landry told me last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “He’s got great range. I do think he’s a three-down linebacker. I think he can do a lot in blitz looks as well. He’s going to be an outstanding player.

“And with the linebackers coming up, I’ll give a sneak preview, he’s going to be first round-graded guy (6.5). I think he’ll be in the mid-first round area. I know what you want to know, and I can’t really say if he will or will not be available, as I think it’s going to be close, but I think he would be a great pick if he was there for the Packers.”

In the past two seasons with the Crimson Tide, Ragland had 197 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups, one interception, four sacks and three forced fumbles.

Ragland is a downhill, physical linebacker at the point of attack on the inside on running downs, plus can blitz well, both from the inside and outside on passing downs. He also had a good week at the Senior Bowl, as he also showed nice coverage skills.

At the combine, Ragland ran a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash.

Plus, adding to all that, Ragland thinks he will become a member of the Packers, per this story by Chase Goodbread of 24/7 Sports.

“I did meet with them, and they talked to me about that they needed a linebacker on the inside,” said Ragland. “And if they had the opportunity, I think they would. But I’m not sure. It all depends when draft day comes.”

Round 2: Offensive Tackle Willie Beavers (Western Michigan)

Willie Beavers

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 324 pounds

When it comes to the top rated offensive tackles in the 2016 NFL draft, Chris Landry believes that four of them are sure-fire first round selections. Those players are Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss, Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, Taylor Decker of Ohio State and Jack Conklin of Michigan State.

There is a good chance that all of them will be selected before the Packers get a chance to select with pick No. 27. But in the second round, the Packers still should be able to get a nice option at the offensive tackle position.

Landry has early second round grades on Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Shon Coleman of Auburn. He has also has mid-to-late second round grades on Willie Beavers of Western Michigan, Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech and Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M. Looking at those three, Beavers looks to be the best option for the Pack in my opinion.

For one thing, besides having nice size, Beavers has the foot quickness which is needed to play left tackle. Beavers started 40 straight games for Western Michigan at left tackle and he showed that he can be very effective as a zone scheme blocker.

Beavers is also very tenacious and goes all out with both his pass blocking and run blocking. He also has the ability and skill to play other positions on the offensive line.

Beavers held up well playing against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State in 2015, plus was solid at the Senior Bowl.

Round 3: Tight End Jerell Adams (South Carolina)

Jerell Adams

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 247 pounds

Even if the Packers can’t snag either Hunter Henry of Arkansas or Austin Hooper of Stanford in the first couple of rounds in the upcoming draft, Green Bay should still have a couple of nice options at the tight end position in the third round.

Chris Landry has Henry (6.5) and Hooper (6.0) rated as his top  two tight ends in the draft. He sees Hunter going mid-to-late in the first round and Hooper going mid-to-late in the second round.

Landry has two tight ends with a third round value (5.9). They are Jerell Adams of South Carolina and Nick Vannett of Ohio State.

Vannett is the better blocker of the two, while Adams has more ability to split the seam down the middle of the field. Adams sort of reminds me of Jermichael Finley, which is why the Packers might have some real interest in him.

At the combine, Adams ran a 4.64 in the 40, which is pretty good, considering his size. Adams is a long-strider, but he has the speed and quickness to make big plays in the middle of the field.

Adams also has the ability to break tackles, as he averaged 6.9 after the catch in 2015. In his career as a Gamecock, Adams had 66 receptions for 917 yards (16.3 average) and seven touchdowns.

Adams also works hard as a blocker.

Round 4: Defensive Tackle Hassan Ridgeway (Texas)

Hassan Ridgeway

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 303 pounds

A number of mock drafts have the Packers taking a defensive tackle in the first round. I could see that happening if the board fell right at pick No. 27, but I think the team has bigger needs depending on who might be available at that point of the first round.

Now I certainly see the Packers taking a defensive tackle in the draft. Green Bay has been busy making sure that they have kept some of their own defensive linemen, as they signed Mike Daniels to a four-year, $41 million deal in mid-December and then last month signed Letroy Guion to a three year deal worth $11.25 million.

The Packers also need to make a decision about B.J. Raji, who will be an unrestricted free agent when free agency starts a week from today. With the signings of Daniels and Guion, plus the nice development of Mike Pennel, not to mention the upside of Christian Ringo, who is currently on the practice squad, Raji has been put in a tough situation.

Pennel has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season due to a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Even with that, Raji is still in a difficult spot whether the Packers will re-sign him. Especially looking at the grades that Chris Landry put out for current defensive tackles in the NFL based on the 2015 season, Raji (5.4) was rated lower than both Guion (6.0) and Pennel (6.4).

Which takes me to a player who I believe would be a nice fit for the Packers in the 2016 NFL draft. That player is defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway of Texas. Landry gave Ridgeway (5.5) a fourth round value.

In his career as a Longhorn, Ridgeway had 96 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Ridgeway is quick, strong and powerful and can take on double teams.

Ridgeway has flashed some real talent at times and some compare his ability to Kawaan Short of the Carolina Panthers. But for Ridgeway to become the same type of player Short has become, he has to work on his conditioning and become more consistent.

Round 4 (compensatory): Offensive Tackle Joe Haeg (North Dakota State)

Joe Haeg

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 304 pounds

Even though the Packers drafted an offensive tackle earlier in this mock draft, it would be wise to add even more depth at the position. All one has to do is remember the late-season game against the Arizona Cardinals, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns). The backup to Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, was also sacked.

The main reason for all the mayhem that day was the shoddy play by the backup offensive tackles. Add to that, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who is very solid when he’s available, has now missed 38 games due to injury in his six-year career.

Plus, left tackle David Bakhtiari played on a bad knee almost all of the 2015 season, plus had an ankle injury late in the year.

One offensive tackle who the Packers might be able to scoop up in the fourth round is Joe Haeg of North Dakota State. Chris Landry has Haeg (5.5) rated with a fourth round value.

Like Beavers, Haeg is very athletic and moves his feet well. Haeg can play both tackle positions, as he played 29 games at right tackle and 32 at left tackle. He fits in well in the zone blocking scheme.

Even though Haeg went to a non-FBS school, he was named as an All-American both in his junior and senior years, plus was named the Top Collegiate Offensive Lineman award from the FCS Athletic Directors Association in 2015.

Haeg has the frame to add more bulk, plus he will need some time in the weight room to add more strength as he grows into the pro game.

Round 5: Running Back Daniel Lasco (Cal)

Daniel Lasco

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 209 pounds

If he is deemed healthy, Daniel Lasco of Cal could be a perfect fit for the Packers at running back in the upcoming draft. To me, Lasco is sort of a poor man’s Matt Forte.

Speaking of Forte, I would not be surprised to see the Packers go after him in free agency, as I wrote in a recent article.

Chris Landry has Lasco (5.5) rated with a fourth round value. The main reason why Lasco may last until the fifth round or later is his injury history. When healthy, Lasco is an outstanding running back, both in toting the rock and also catching the ball.

Lasco ran a 40 time of 4.46 at the combine, plus led everyone with a 41.5 inch vertical jump. He is a classic zone scheme runner. who plants a foot in the ground and heads up field quickly. His best year at Cal was his junior year, when he rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus he had 33 receptions for 356 more yards and two more scores.

Lasco had ankle and hip issues as a senior, which hampered his production. Still, Lasco has shown that he can be very effective when healthy, plus can really help in the passing game.

In addition to that, Lasco would be an asset to special teams, as he led Cal in tackles on that unit as a true freshman.

Round 5 (compensatory): Quarterback Kevin Hogan (Stanford)

Kevin Hogan

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 218 pounds

It’s expected that backup quarterback Scott Tolzien will be leaving the Packers this offseason, as he will be an unrestricted free agent when free agency starts next week.

Tolzien should be able to get an opportunity as a starter with another NFL team in 2016, as the quarterback play was absolutely brutal at times for a number of teams last season.

Third string quarterback Brett Hundley was brilliant in his chance to shine in the 2015 preseason for the Packers. All told, Hundley posted a passer rating of 129.7 based on 45 completions on 65 attempts for 630 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception last summer.

If Tolzien leaves, Hundley will become the main backup to Aaron Rodgers. That means the Packers will be looking to develop another young quarterback on their roster.

The quarterback who the Packers might just draft could be Kevin Hogan of Stanford. Could you imagine the quarterback room for the Packers if that happened. Green Bay would have three Pac-12 quarterbacks on their roster, as Rodgers went to Cal, while Hundley went to UCLA.

Besides being a Pac-12 quarterback, Hogan shares many of the same traits that both Rodgers and Hundley have. Hogan has a strong arm, plus has excellent mobility.

In four seasons with the Cardinal, Hogan threw 75 touchdown passes versus just 29 picks for 10,091 yards. Hogan also rushed for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Chris Landry has Hogan (5.4) rated with a fifth to sixth round value.

Round 6: Outside Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (Minnesota)

De'Vondre Campbell

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 232 pounds

One of the players who stood out at the combine was linebacker De’Vondre Campbell of Minnesota, as he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash.

That speed, along with Campbell’s size, look to be a great combination to become an effective rush linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme.

Up to this point, Campbell has just scratched the surface with his ability. In three seasons as a Golden Gopher, Campbell had 208 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Campbell was at the East-West Shrine Game and his speed around the edge stood out while rushing the passer during practices. Chris Landry has Campbell (5.4) rated with a fifth to sixth round value.

Campbell is a high character guy who can add his athleticism to the special teams units, while he learns the nuances about being a successful 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

Round 7: Safety Deon Bush (Miami of FL)

Deon Bush

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 199 pounds

There is something about defensive backs who have played for the Miami Hurricanes that Ted Thompson likes. Just ask Sam Shields and LaDarius Gunter. Both were undrafted rookies who still made the roster of the Packers in their first season in the NFL.

There is another Miami player who may make the roster of the Packers in a similar fashion. That player is Deon Bush, although he plays safety, while Shields and Gunter are cornerbacks.

Chris Landry has Bush (5.0) rated with a seventh round to priority free agent value. Bush has good size and ran a 4.64 40 at the combine. Bush also is a very intimidating hitter.

Bush had an up and down senior season at Miami, but he had a very good week at the East-West Shrine Game practices. He looked very good in covering the tight ends, plus was the most consistent safety at the practices in various drills.

In four years as a Hurricane, Bush had 168 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine forced fumbles, 13 passes broken up and 4 interceptions.