We are now just 22 days away from the first night of the 2016 NFL draft. Yes, the first round of the draft starts on April 28.
The Green Bay Packers have selection No. 27 in that first round. It will be interesting as to who the Packers might select at that point late in the first round. One thing is for sure. Ted Thompson and the Packers should have a number of options.
I have put out three mock drafts thus far and will also put out a final mock draft the week of the actual draft.
In my first mock draft, I had the Packers selecting tight end Hunter Henry of Arkansas in the first round. However, after the signing of free agent tight end Jared Cook, I believe the Packers will definitely look to shore up at another position in the first round.
That is not to say that the Packers still won’t be looking to select another tight end later in the draft.
In my second mock draft, I had the Packers selecting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama. That is still a very distinct possibility, especially with the Packers looking to move Clay Matthews back to the outside at linebacker.
In my third mock draft, I had the Packers taking defensive lineman Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech. That also is a good possibility, because veteran B.J. Raji is taking a hiatus from football in 2016.
As I’ve mentioned a number of times, when it comes to all the NFL draft material I put out, I rely heavily on the insight and information I receive from scout Chris Landry via our conversations and also the data I get from his fine website.
Speaking of his site, Landry put out a piece earlier this week which talks about the possible projections and options of each team in Round 1. Here is what he wrote about the Packers:
1-27-27 Green Bay—ILB Reggie Ragland-Alabama, DT Andrew Billings-Baylor, DT Vernon Butler-LaTech, CB Artie Burns-Miami-FL, CB Mackenzie Alexander-Clemson,
Keep an eye out for a 6.5 graded player on my board that may drop or one of the top of the 6.4 group. For example, I don’t think Eli Apple, Darron Lee, Andrew Billings or Leonard Floyd to be left on board but if they are—bingo. The Packers can opt to go with one of the top players available at this juncture while also addressing an area of need. Ragland is a 3 down run defending specialist who would help to facilitate the move for Clay Matthews back outside. The have addressed the secondary in recent draft but that would not stop them for adding another young corner as they are down to 3 reliable ones with the loss of Hayward. They need to get younger and better on the interior of their defensive line.
You will note that Landry has both Ragland and Butler as possibilities for the Packers in the first round. I agree with Landry in his assessment that Darron Lee, Andrew Billings and Leonard Floyd will all probably be off the board by the time the Packers select at No. 27.
But you never know. Landry didn’t believe that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be there for the Packers to select with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. But No. 21 was indeed there and Thompson was more than happy to select the former Alabama star.
“I didn’t really think Clinton-Dix would be there for you, but I thought about you last night and I knew Packer fans like yourself have got to be really happy,” Landry told me the day after Clinton-Dix was selected by the Pack.
“This is a perfect example of a guy who knows how to run a draft in Ted Thompson, that works that draft board and good players fall to you. And you knew that the player was going to be a good one, and I thought it might be another guy from Alabama [C.J. Mosley], but this one’s a great one and was a really good pick for them.”
I would think that if Lee is still on the board, the Packers would take him without blinking an eyelash. As good as Ragland is, Lee is faster, as evidenced by the 4.47 he ran in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
Lee is athletic as any linebacker in this draft and at 6’1″, 232-pounds, can play inside in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Lee also has the frame to add some bulk. The former Buckeye had 147 tackles over the past two seasons, plus had 27.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks and three interceptions.
There is no doubt that Lee will be a three-down linebacker, as he showed excellent cover skills while he was at Ohio State.
If the Packers were able to get Lee on No. 27, Thompson would have to be pretty pleased. This is not to say that Ragland wouldn’t be an excellent fit either. Landry also sees the former Crimson Tide star as someone who can stay on the field all three downs on defense.
“Well, I think Reggie Ragland is a better version of C.J. Mosley,” Landry told me. “When he shows off [at the combine], I think he’ll weigh-in close to 260 [was actually 247 pounds] and he can run. He’s got great range. I do think he’s a three-down linebacker.”
Landry has known Thompson for a long time. Their relationship goes back to when Thompson was a linebacker with the Houston Oilers from 1975 though 1984. Landry was a scout for the Oilers at that time.
When the NFL Scouting Combine takes place each year, Landry takes the opportunity to catch up on things with Thompson again. Speaking of the combine, Landry was one of the scouts who first put together the initial combine for the NFL.
In looking at Landry’s possible projections and options for the Packers, I believe there is another position the Packers might be looking at with pick No. 27. That would be offensive tackle.
The Packers are in desperate need of a swing tackle who can come in to play if either right tackle Bryan Bulaga or left tackle David Bakhtiari can’t play. Let’s also not forget that Bakhtiari is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Bakhtiari also played on a bad knee almost all of the 2015 season, plus had an ankle injury late in the year that caused him to miss a number of games.
In addition to that, Bulaga has now missed 38 games due to injury in his six-year career. That averages out to missing six games a year. Bulaga is a very good right tackle when he’s healthy. In fact, he’s one of the best right tackles in the NFL. The problem is that he can’t seem to stay healthy, as he missed four games just last season.
The team’s lack of depth at the position was a sore point last season. For instance, in the Week 16 game versus the Arizona Cardinals, 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.
That was the game when Bakhtiari didn’t play due to an ankle injury and then Bulaga also hurt his ankle and was forced to leave the game. The results were not pretty. They were in fact, downright ugly.
If one looks at the offensive tackles who Landry grades with either a 6.5 or 6.4 mark, the list includes Jack Conklin of Michigan State, Taylor Decker of Ohio State, Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Shon Coleman of Auburn.
While I believe the Packers would be more likely to take linebacker or defensive lineman at pick No. 27, if one of these offensive tackles are on the board at that pick, especially Conklin or Decker, the Packers might just take the plunge.
It all depends on what the board looks like at the time. Yes, I could see the Packers taking another cornerback in the first round, but remember this, Thompson has never drafted a cornerback who is shorter than 5’11”.
That would mean that Mackenzie Alexander of Clemson might not be an option for the Packers, as he is just 5’10”. But Eli Apple of Ohio State is 6’1′, while Artie Burns of Miami (FL) is 6’0″, so either would seem to be a fit for the Packers.
But if one looks at the cornerback depth on the roster of the Packers, it’s fairly deep. The three reliable cornerbacks of the Packers that Landry refers to are Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.
Behind those three are Demetri Goodson and LaDarius Gunter, who both came on late in the 2015 season and showed some flashes of being pretty solid at the cornerback position.
Plus, the Packers are very intrigued by Robertson Daniel who was on their practice squad last season.
So, if the Packers do select a cornerback in Round 1, that player would have to be the best player on the Packers board. Perhaps that would be Apple, if he was still around at pick No. 27. Landry has him rated as the second-best cornerback on his board with a 6.5 grade.
Still, I still believe the Packers would opt to select someone who could help their front seven on defense. That would include players like Lee and Ragland at linebacker or players like Billings, Butler and Kenny Clark of UCLA on the defensive line.
I believe the Packers would be very happy with either Billings, Butler or Clark if they were there at pick No. 27, but what if someone like Jarran Reed is still there at that pick. Like they would with someone like Lee still on the board, I believe that the Packers wouldn’t hesitate to select the former Crimson Tide star.
Bottom line, the Packers will have a number of options at pick No. 27. One never knows what the board will look like at that point. No matter what, the Packers should be able to select a quality player who can help the team.