On the first night of the 2017 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers had an opportunity to make my prognostication of them selecting linebacker T.J. Watt of Wisconsin with pick No. 29 become true.
But Ted Thompson and the Packers decided to make a trade with the Cleveland Browns and slide down four spots to pick No. 33, which happens to be the first pick tonight on the second day of the draft. In addition to that, the Packers also acquired pick No. 108, which is the first pick in the fourth round and also the first pick of the third day of the draft.
The possibility of selecting Watt with pick No. 33 became a moot point, when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected the former Badger with pick No. 30.
As much as I thought that Watt would have been an excellent fit at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense run by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers still have some excellent options at pick No. 33, plus they now have extra ammo for later in the draft.
In all of my mock drafts and any of the draft stories I’ve done leading up to the draft, I have relied on the insight and expertise of NFL scout Chris Landry.
Based on Landry’s horizontal (best player) draft board, the Packers still have some excellent options as to who to select with the first pick tonight.
In his horizontal draft board, which he put together on March 23, Landry had 26 players who he gave a first-round grade to. Six of those prospects are still available. Those players and their ranking are No. 7 cornerback Sidney Jones (Washington), who suffered a torn Achilles tendon on his pro day, No. 14 safety Budda Baker (Washington), No. 16 offensive lineman Cam Robinson (Alabama), No. 18 offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky), No. 22 running back Dalvin Cook (Florida State) and No. 25 cornerback Teez Tabor (Florida).
A scout’s evaluation of the various prospects is a fluid process and this is what happened with Tabor, as Landry put together he vertical (position) draft board for cornerbacks 17 days after he put together his horizontal draft board.
Tabor ended up falling to No. 11 among the cornerbacks on the vertical board. Instead of a first-round grade, his classification was that of an early second-round value.
So in terms of the six players who Landry gave first-round grades to, I would cross off a number of those prospects for consideration at pick No. 33.
One would be Jones because of his medical situation. Another would be Baker, as he is under 5’10”, and Thompson does not like to select defensive backs who are shorter than 5’11”.
Robinson is not a prime prospect either, as he is primarily an offensive tackle, and the Packers are reasonably deep at that position. Tabor is off the list as well, mostly because of his lack of speed (4.62) shown at the NFL Scouting Combine.
That leaves Lamp and Cook as viable options for the Packers at pick No. 33, as guard and running back are definitely positions that Green Bay needs to address in this draft.
This was after the Packers saw right guard T.J. Lang leave the team via free agency and go to the Detroit Lions, while running back Eddie Lacy used the same method to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.
The day before the draft, the Packers did sign guard Jahri Evans, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, as a free agent. Evans was once one of the very best guards in the NFL, as he was named to six Pro Bowl teams and was named first-team All-Pro four times.
But Evans will be 34 when the 2017 season rolls around, and an exceptional talent like the 6’4″, 309-pound Lamp would be hard to pass up.
Lamp excelled at the combine, where he was fourth among all offensive linemen in the 40, where he ran a 5.00, plus was tied for second with 34 reps in the bench press. Lamp also was tied for third in the broad jump (111 inches) and was tied for fifth in the 3-cone drill with a time of 7.55.
A little over a month ago, I wanted to get Landry’s take on Lamp.
“Lamp is a Zack Martin-type player,” Landry said. “Very athletic. Very smart. Very instinctive. Takes good angles. Best in a zone-blocking scheme. And he is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft.”
Lamp was a four-year starter at Western Kentucky. He started three games at right guard in 2013, before moving to left tackle for the rest of his career with the Hilltoppers. All in all, had 51 career starts.
Lamp was named honorable mention All-Sun Belt as a freshman, honorable mention All- CUSA as a sophomore and then was named first-team All-CUSA as a junior and senior.
Picking Lamp would make a lot of sense, especially with the age of Evans, and also because left guard Lane Taylor graded out as the fifth-best offensive lineman on the Packers last year.
Cook would also be a possibility at pick No. 33. The talent of the former Florida State star goes without question. The 5’10”, 210-pound Cook had an outstanding career with the Seminoles, as he rushed for 4,464 yards and scored 46 touchdowns running the ball.
Cook also caught 79 passes for 935 yards and two more scores.
Cook was named first-team All-ACC in both 2015 and 2016, plus was named first-team All-American by the Associated Press and Walter Camp Foundation this past season.
But with all that talent, there are also some valid questions. Cook has had some injury issues with both his hamstring and his shoulder (three surgeries). Also, Cook had 13 career fumbles.
Finally, there are the three times Cook has had run-ins with the law. In each case, the charges were either dropped or Cook was found not guilty.
All that being said, when you run a 4.49 in the 40 like Cook did at the combine, plus when you add the production Cook had at Florida State, there is a lot to like. It’s also important to note that the Packers met with Cook at the combine.
I talked to Landry about Cook and the rest of the Big 3 in the running back class about six weeks ago, which also included Leonard Fournette (selected fourth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Christian McCaffrey (selected eighth overall by the Carolina Panthers).
“They all have the same grade, but all are different type of guys,” Landry said. “Dalvin Cook is the more complete back. He can run, has more explosiveness and has more make-you-miss skills than Leonard. Much more effective catching the football out of the backfield.”
When the Packers contemplate whether to pick either Lamp or Cook in this exercise, they need to look at the depth of the guard position and the running back position in this draft.
The draft is not very deep at the guard position, while it is very deep at the running back position.
There are also some other options at pick No. 33. I’m going to list four other possibilities. There are still two talented edge rushers available who grade out well by Landry in terms of where the Packers are selecting.
Landry has Tim Williams of Alabama ranked No. 31 on his horizontal draft board, while he has Carl Lawson ranked No. 33 on that same board.
I talked to Landry about those two players about a month ago.
“Tim Williams of Alabama has got some off the field concerns or issues,” Landry said. “Really talented guy who is long and lean.”
When it comes to Williams, it’s a buyer beware situation, as Williams failed multiple drug tests at Alabama. That being said, in his last two years with the Crimson Tide, the 6’3″, 244-pound Williams had 50 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 19.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Williams was a second-team Associated Press All-American and All-SEC pick in 2016 when he primarily played defensive end. Williams also showed his speed for his size, as he ran a 4.68 40 at the combine.
Because of his substance-abuse issues, I would not select Williams.
“Carl Lawson is a really good player on third down,” Landry said. “He’s got power and explosion. I’m not saying he’s going to be as good, but boy, he’s got a little of the qualities of that we saw with Dwight Freeney coming out of Syracuse.”
The 6’2″, 261-pound Lawson played defensive end at Auburn. Lawson had a great year in 2016, as he had 30 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and one forced fumble. In his career as a Tiger, Lawson had 24 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks.
In 2016, Lawson was named first-team All-SEC and was a Freshman All-American in 2013. Lawson missed the 2014 due to a ACL injury.
Lawson ran a 4.67 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 35 reps in the bench press drill.
Plus there are two cornerbacks who the Packers might consider selecting at pick No. 33. One is Quincy Wilson of Florida and the other is Kevin King of Washington.
Landry has Wilson ranked No. 42 on his horizontal draft board and sixth overall in the cornerback vertical draft board. The 6’1″, 211-pound Wilson had 84 career tackles, 26 passes broken up, six interceptions and one forced fumble.
Wilson ran a 4.54 in the 40 at the combine.
Here is part of Landry’s summary scouting report on Wilson:
“A two-year starter at Florida, Wilson was part of a deep cornerback depth chart for the Gators, but the coaches couldn’t keep him off the field – lined up primarily at right cornerback in both press and off-man coverage. He is a big athlete with several of the physical ingredients at the position that has NFL scouts optimistic, but he is more smooth than sudden and struggles to stick with wideouts at the top of routes, especially if he doesn’t disrupt the route at the line of scrimmage.”
In terms of King, long-time beat writer Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote in a recent article that the Packers are enamored with the former Husky. In fact, King is who McGinn projected the Packers to take with their first pick in the draft.
In that same article, McGinn surmises that Cook would probably not still be available for the Packers to select at running back, otherwise he would most likely be the Packers choice as their first pick in the draft.
Although he doesn’t mention it in his piece, I would also believe that McGinn would not have foreseen that Lamp would also be available when it was time for the Packers to select.
There is a lot to like with King, starting with his size, which is 6’3″, 200 pounds. King also ran a 4.43 in the 40 at the combine.
Landry has King ranked No. 15 on his cornerback vertical draft board. This is part of what Landry said about King in his scouting report about the former Washington star:
“King’s height, length and ball skills show up on tape. It’s hard to find corners with that combination of length and movement ability. At his pro day, he displayed a smooth backpedal and was very quick. His combination of size, length, ball skills and speed could make him a late-first-round pick. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and 32 inch arms, King produced a 4.43 forty, 3.89 short shuttle, 6.56 3-cone and 39.5-inch vertical jump, all numbers near or at the top of his position. He checks every box from a frame and athleticism perspective.”
So as you can see, the Packers will have a number of options at pick No. 33. But to me, it will come down to the Packers selecting either Lamp or Cook.
Both are special players who have proven their talent and ability consistently in college. Both also play positions that the Packers really need to upgrade.
At first glance, I’m thinking that Packers will go with Lamp at pick No. 33, as he has a chance to be a consistent All-Pro and Pro Bowl type of player for close to a decade.
But then again, Cook is a phenomenal running back and he also has the talent to win a number of honors in the NFL.
So while I won’t put out a sole projection, I believe that the Packers will be welcoming either Lamp or Cook to their team shortly after 7:00 pm (ET) this evening.