Green Bay Packers: 5 Possibilities for Pick No. 14 in the 2018 NFL Draft

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In the 2018 NFL draft, which will be held April 26 though April 28 at AT&T Stadium, the Green Bay Packers will be doing something that they haven’t done since 2009. That is, making a selection in the first round among the top 15 players being picked. The Packers will pick at No. 14 this year, while in 2009, they picked at No. 9, when the team selected defensive lineman B.J. Raji.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Packers has to be licking his chops.

Since 2009 and in the eight NFL drafts since then, the Packers have never been able to pick below No. 21 in the first round. From 2010 through 2017, the Packers have picked at No. 23, No. 32, No. 28, No. 26, No. 21, No. 30, No. 27 and No. 33 (had No. 29 but traded back into the first pick of Round 2).

That selection record tells you that the Packers have been pretty successful since the 2009 NFL draft. Since then, the Packers have gone 94-49-1 in the regular season, have won five NFC North titles, have been to the playoff eight times, have been in three NFC title games (winning one) and also won Super Bowl XLV.

The Packers should be able to select a great prospect at pick No. 14 in the upcoming draft, in which I will list five possible prospects. I am using the horizontal draft board (best players overall) put together by NFL scout Chris Landry to help me in determining who to select and choose from. Every NFL team has their own horizontal draft board that is put together before the draft.

Here are the Round 1 grades put together by Landry in his horizontal draft board:

7.4 – 7.0 = Superstar Ability
7.4 = 1st Pick Value

7.0 = Definite Top 5 Pick

1. RB Saquon Barkley–Penn State
2. OG Quenton Nelson–Notre Dame

6.9 – 6.5 = Immediate Starter
6.9 = Early 1st Round

3. DE Bradley Chubb–North Carolina State
4. S/CB/SLOT Minkah Fitzpatrick–Alabama

6.5 = Mid to Late 1st Round Value

5. QB Sam Darnold–USC
6. QB Josh Rosen–UCLA (Character)
7. DE Marcus Davenport–Texas San Antonio
8. OLB/DE Tremaine Edmunds–Virginia Tech
9. WLB/MLB Roquan Smith–Georgia
10. MLB/ILB Rashaan Evans–Alabama
11. SS/FS/SLOT Derwin James–Florida State
12. CB Denzel Ward–Ohio State
13. CB Mike Hughes–Central Florida
14. RB Derrius Guice–LSU
15. RB Ronald Jones III–USC
16. DT Viota Vea–Washington
17. DT Daron Payne–Alabama
18. DT Maurice Hurst–Michigan (Medical)

===============END OF FIRST ROUND GRADE

Landry also has 25 other players who have a second round grade, but who also have a chance to be selected in the first round. That obviously will happen with a number of those players, as 32 players get selected.

Looking at the top four players who Landry has graded, if any of them drop to No. 14, the Packers should quickly run to the stage at AT&T Stadium with their draft card. Of the four, the only one that may still be there at No. 14 in my opinion is cornerback/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. I just can’t see running back Saquon Barkley of Penn State, guard Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame or defensive end Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State being there at that point of the draft.

The good news for the Packers is that the two quarterbacks (Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA) who are listed in Landry’s group from above will most likely be selected before Green Bay gets a chance to pick.

Plus there is a reasonable chance that two more quarterbacks will be taken as well. They would be Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Josh Allen of Wyoming, who Landry has rated at No. 20 and No. 21 on his horizontal draft board, as they both have grades of 6.4, which equals early second round value.

Plus, Landry also has quarterback Lamar Jackson of Louisville rated at No. 22. One never knows, but there might be a run on all of the top-rated QBs before the Packers pick at No. 14, which will definitely help Green Bay’s cause in selecting a very talented prospect.

Of the players listed above, two have been selected in my first two mock drafts. In my first mock draft, which was done before Landry put together this horizontal draft board, I had the Packers taking CB Mike Hughes in Round 2, which would be an excellent value based on this list. I had the Packers selecting DE/OLB Harold Landry in the first round of that mock. Landry has the former Boston College star rated at No. 23 on his horizontal draft board, with a 6.4 grade (2nd round value).

In my second mock draft, I had the Packers selecting DE/OLB Marcus Davenport in Round 1.

No matter what, the Packers should have an excellent opportunity to bring in a great player with their first selection in this draft.

Here are five conceivable prospects who I believe the Packers may indeed select at No. 14. You will notice that each of the players grade-out well in the area of speed and that all play on the defensive side of the football. Included in the list will be a scouting report of each player by Landry.

Cornerback/Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 201 pounds

If Minkah Fitzpatrick is still on the board at No. 14, the Packers should not hesitate to select him. The former Crimson Tide star is very versatile, as he can play safety, standard cornerback or in the slot position in the secondary.

On his horizontal draft board, Landry ranks Fitzpatrick at No. 4.

In three years at Alabama, Fitzpatrick had 171 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine interceptions (four for touchdowns), 24 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

The Packers really need to upgrade the talent and the depth in their secondary, both at cornerback and safety. Fitzpatrick can help out in both areas, plus he would excel immediately due to his talent level.

The two-time All-American ran a 4.46 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Fitzpatrick:

I think he is a better player than Jalen Ramsey. A true difference maker in the secondary and a true team leader. He’s instinctive and versatile–can line up anywhere in the secondary, tackle cover and match up against elite receivers. I see him best in the slot where he can be a huge factor as a blitzer and against the run in addition to carrying a big slot, tight end or back down the field. his best quality is his instincts and what he does worse is play the ball with his back towards the play. He has the size and strength to match up vs size receivers yet quick enough to deal with the two way go quicker slot players. He sorts through trash against the run and has impeccable feel as a blitzer.

Outside Linebacker Marcus Davenport (University of Texas-San Antonio)

Marcus Davenport III

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 264 pounds

The Packers would have to be very pleased if Marcus Davenport is still on the board with pick No. 14 of the first round.

On his horizontal draft board, Landry ranks Davenport at No. 7.

In Green Bay, Davenport would be a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, similar to the role Julius Peppers had when he was a Packer. The Packers desperately need to invigorate their pass rush, which will undoubtedly help the secondary have more success. Davenport would make a big impact in that regard.

In four years at UTSA, Davenport improved over each of those seasons and had 185 total tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 21.5 sacks, eight passes defended, two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and six forced fumbles.

At the combine, Davenport put on quite a show, when he ran a 4.58 40, which is remarkable for a man his size.

This is the scouting report Landry put out on Davenport:

Very raw but an explosive and long pass rusher who can play in a two or three point stance. Love his first step quickness and shows an ability to transfer speed to power. At this point is a first move pass rusher only but will technique development should be a force as a pass rusher in the league. I like his effort and play strength against the run but will need to improve his upper body strength for that to translate as well to the NFL level. He will also have to transition to playing more effectively from a 3-point stance as he loses leverage getting too high. I love his length and body frame. Built like a player I drafted years back in Jevon Kearse but long levered like Jadeveon Clowney. Has the quickness to drop but lacks coverage understanding and instincts. Love his edge and closing speed along with his motor. Best edge speed rusher in this draft with lots of upside.

Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)

Tremaine Edmunds

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 253 pounds

Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is another exceptional defender who the Packers would love to see on the board at pick No. 14.

Landry has Edmunds ranked No. 8 on his horizontal draft board.

In the 2016 and 2017 seasons at Virginia Tech, Edmunds had 202 tackles, 30.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, one interception, five passes defended, one fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.

Edmunds was named All-ACC in both the 2016 and 2017 season, plus was named third-team All-American by AP in 2017.

Edmunds would play outside linebacker for the Packers, and like Nick Perry, can play the run extremely well, plus can rush the quarterback. Unlike Perry, Edmunds has also shown some nice ability to drop back into pass coverage.

At the combine, Edmunds ran a 4.54 in the 40.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Edmunds:

Tall, long well put together athlete who shows excellent instincts against the run while flashing some edge rush speed. His range to make the tackle is what jumps out first and foremost. Plays with good bend and disengages well from blockers. Shows quickness to cover backs in man and can even handle a big slot or TE. I don’t like his instincts to play inside but I think he can be a outstanding SAM backer who can develop as a nickel edge rusher. Will be a better fit for some teams than others depending on how they see him fit their scheme. I have him rated at his highest level due to where teams that see a fit will have him.

Safety Derwin James (Florida State)

Derwin James

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 215 pounds

Derwin James is another player who the Packers would love to see on the board when they pick at No. 14, as he can play both safety positions, plus can play the slot as well.

Landry has James ranked James No. 11 on his horizontal draft board.

In 26 games at FSU, James had 186 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), 15 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

In 2016, James only played in two games because he suffered a left lateral meniscus tear in Week 2 which ended his season. But in 2017, James bounced back with a great year, as he earned first-team All-ACC and second-team AP All-American honors.

In 2015, James was named as a Freshman All-American and also third-team All-ACC (media).

For the Packers, James could function at either safety position, but most likely as the strong safety due to his outstanding tackling skills

At the combine, James ran a 4.47 in the 40, plus had a vertical jump of 40 inches.

Big, athletic safety with loose hips and outstanding COD (change of direction). Has experience playing in the box and in coverage. Can handle the big slots and mirror as well as effectively play in zone. Shows good take on and shed and is an excellent tackler with excellent pursuit speed. While he positions himself well, he doesn’t make as many plays on the ball as he should. His hands are average. I seem him as a better box player and over a slot that I do as a center fielder due to his hands and pursuit angles. He can stay on the field in nickel as Will backer. Still, he is the type of body type you seek to cover the big athletic TE types that terrorize defenses in this league.

Cornerback Denzel Ward (Ohio State)

Denzel Ward

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 191 pounds

In terms of the pure cornerbacks in this draft, no one is faster or has better ball skills than Denzel Ward, which is why he would be an excellent option with pick No. 14.

Landry has Ward ranked No. 12 on his horizontal draft board.

In 2016, when Ward was the third cornerback for Ohio State, along with Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley (both first-round picks), he was earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice from league media as a non-starter. For the season, in which he played 30 snaps per game, Ward had 23 tackles and nine passes defended in the best secondary in the country.

Ward followed that up in 2017 by being named first-team All-Big Ten and first-team AP All-American, as he had 37 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups.

Packer fans should immediately think of Sam Shields when they look at Ward, as he will add much-needed speed to the cornerback position.

How fast is Ward? He ran a 4.32 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a vertical leap of 39 inches.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Ward:

Undersized athletic CB with excellent quickness, toughness and ball skills. Physical in press and can flip his hips and plays the ball in air with confidence. Can play off and in zone but I like him best in press. His lack of size is an issue but he plays little bigger as he anticipates and high points the ball effectively. He is physical vs run and as tackler. Doesn’t have much playing experience and lacks the length and upside of Lattimore from last year but I seem as an early playmaker from the slot.

Green Bay Packers: Welcoming Back Tramon Williams Makes a Lot of Sense

Tramon Williams Super Bowl XLV

I remember the day well. It was the first day of training camp in 2007 for the Green Bay Packers. As I stood in front of the Don Hutson Center watching the team practice on Clark Hinkle Field, one player in the secondary really stood out to me.

He was a relatively obscure player by the name of Tramon Williams. The unknown cornerback covered receivers like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings like a glove as Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers threw passes to them. I kept thinking to myself, who is that guy?

The secondary of the Packers had some very talented players in 2007. Charles Woodson led the way, with Al Harris and Nick Collins not far behind. But it was Williams who stood out for me that day.

At that point in time, Williams was just trying to make the roster of the Packers for the first time. In 2006, Williams had been undrafted out of Louisiana Tech and was signed by the Houston Texans. After he was released by the Texans, the Packers signed Williams to their practice squad where he remained throughout the 2006 season.

But in 2007, it wasn’t just my eyes which were opened. The coaching staff of the Packers also liked what they saw and Williams made the team. He played in all 16 games that season, had 17 tackles and started one game. He also picked off a pass.

In 2008, Williams really started to make an impact, as he made nine starts, made 57 tackles, picked off five passes and forced two fumbles. In 2009, Williams started 10 games, had 55 tackles, picked off four more passes, plus had a sack.

It was in 2010 in which Williams became a full-time starter and also had a breakout year. No. 38 had 57 tackles, six picks, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. That performance led to Williams being named to the Pro Bowl.

But as good as the 2010 season was for Williams, he was extra special in the 2010 postseason.

In the Wild Card game versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, Williams made the game-winning interception with less than a minute to go in the game, as the Packers hung on to beat the Eagles 21-16.

Six days later in a Divisional Playoff game against the No. 1 seeded Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, Williams picked off two more passes, including one he returned for a touchdown for 70 yards just before halftime. That pick basically broke the back of the Dirty Birds in the game, as the Green Bay upset Atlanta 48-21.

After beating the Chicago Bears 21-14 in the NFC title game at Soldier Field, the Packers faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Williams and the Green Bay secondary were put in a very difficult situation, as Woodson (broken collarbone) was unable to play in the second half of the game, plus rookie cornerback Sam Shields (shoulder) also missed most of the second half.

But somehow the secondary held together on the last drive of the Steelers (with less than two minutes remaining in the game), as the Packers had a 31-25 lead. On fourth down, it was none other than Williams who broke up a pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace to secure the victory which allowed the Packers to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Talk about apropos.

In 2011, Williams suffered a shoulder injury early in the season and missed a game, but still played through the lingering injury the rest of the year.

That was the only time Williams missed a game between 2010 through 2014. In those five years. Williams had 18 picks for 229 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 68 tackles per season, had two forced fumbles, recovered seven fumbles and had 3.5 sacks.

Unfortunately, just like with Favre, many in Packer Nation still remember the last play Williams was involved in during a NFC title game. Favre threw an interception in the 2007 NFC title game which led to a game-winning field goal which put the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, while Williams was beaten on a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 NFL title game.

Favre was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 and then played with the Minnesota Vikings for two years after that, but he never returned to play for the Packers again.

Williams left via free agency in 2015 to play with the Cleveland Browns.

But unlike Favre, Williams is getting an opportunity to come back after spending two years (2015-2016) with the Browns (including one under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine when he was head coach there) and last season with the Arizona Cardinals.

Tramon Williams vs. the Eagles

Bringing back Williams was made official on Friday when general manager Brian Gutekunst announced the signing of Williams.

I had an inkling that the Packers might sign Williams, similar to my thoughts as to why Muhammad Wilkerson would be a good addition to the team. In both cases, it was having the opportunity to play again in the defensive system of Pettine.

In a recent story, I wrote how the Packers did in the legal tampering period of free agency. I added this conjecture in the piece:

In terms of what the Packers might possibly do soon again in free agency now that it’s official, my guess is that they will try and bring in a veteran cornerback who knows how to play in the Pettine system and who also knows all about being a Packer.

That cornerback is Tramon Williams. Yes, I know Williams is 35 now, but he is still playing good football in the NFL and would be a solid addition as a stop-gap at cornerback.

Also, in my latest mock draft, published three days ago, I wrote this:

The Packers also need to add a veteran to their young cornerback corp, which also has fourth-year CB Quinten Rollins, who is coming off an Achilles injury. Adding Tramon Williams via free agency would definitely help, as although he is 35, he is still playing well in the secondary (like he did with Arizona last season), plus he has played in the Pettine defensive system in Cleveland.

Well, the Packers did indeed sign Williams and he will definitely help the other players in the young secondary of the Packers. Not only with his knowledge, but also with his play.

Besides Rollins, the Packers also have last year’s second-round pick Kevin King, plus undrafted free agents Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, Donatello Brown and Herb Waters.

A former teammate of Williams in Green Bay, veteran Davon House, who returned to play with the Packers last season after spending two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, remains on the free agent market.

Williams will also aid the rookie cornerbacks who the Packers will select in the 2018 NFL draft. I see the Packers picking at least two cornerbacks in the upcoming draft, plus most likely a safety due to the departure of Morgan Burnett in free agency.

Bottom line, Williams will be able to provide the veteran leadership in the secondary that the Packers were desperately looking for. Yes, Williams is 35, but he is also still playing good football, as evidenced by his play in the talented Arizona secondary last season, when he started nine games and had two interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

Post- Free Agency 2018 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst II

The 2018 NFL draft will take place in about five weeks, as it starts April 26 and will last through April 28. This year the location is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

This year’s draft process has already taken us through the bowl games, plus the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl) and finally the NFL Scouting Combine.

We are now in the various pro days that the prospects are having.

The Green Bay Packers go into this draft knowing that they will have 12 picks, which includes their own in each of the seven rounds of the draft, plus four compensatory picks (one in fourth round, two in the fifth round and one in the sixth round) and another pick in the seventh round due to a trade with Buffalo.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst will be running his first draft with the Packers. He’s already been quite busy, as earlier this month he  traded cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Cleveland Browns, plus the teams swapped picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

That trade means that the Packers will have the first pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL draft and that the Packers will most likely not select a quarterback in the draft.

Then a few days after that, the Packers released wide receiver Jordy Nelson and then signed tight end Jimmy Graham, as well as defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in free agency.

The deal for Graham is a three-year pact worth $30 million, while Wilkerson signed a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives.

Nelson landed on hist feet in Oakland, where he signed a two-year contract worth $15 million.

The Packers had another departure, as safety Morgan Burnett signed a three-year deal worth reportedly $14.5 million with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday.

I did my first mock draft for the Packers a couple weeks ago just as the NFL combine was ending. In this mock draft, I will not be selecting any of the players I selected in the first mock draft.

As usual, I will utilize the expertise and knowledge of NFL scout Chris Landry. I will use his horizontal draft board to guide me through much of this draft, plus I will use the draft boards he has put together for the various positions.

Also, like in the first mock draft, I’m going to emphasize the connection between new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers.

I believe that the history between the two men, plus knowing Wisconsin had a number of talented players who played under Leonhard and are now eligible for this draft, could mean that the Packers might add a Badger or two in this draft.

While Pettine was the defensive coordinator for both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, plus when he was in his first year as head coach of the Browns, Leonhard played safety for him for five of those six years. Leonhard was like a coach on the field for Pettine.

All that being said, without further adieu, here is my second mock draft for the Pack.

Round 1: Outside Linebacker Marcus Davenport (University of Texas-San Antonio)

Marcus Davenport II

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 264 pounds

The Packers would have to feel very fortunate if Marcus Davenport is still on the board with pick No. 14 of the first round. On his horizontal draft board (best overall players), Landry ranks Davenport at No. 7.

Landry also has Davenport ranked No. 2 on his defensive end draft board, behind only Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State.

In Green Bay, Davenport would be a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, similar to the role Julius Peppers had when he was a Packer. The Packers desperately need to invigorate their pass rush, which will undoubtedly help the secondary have more success. Davenport would make a big impact in that regard.

In four years at UTSA, Davenport improved over each of those seasons and had 185 total tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 21.5 sacks, eight passes defended, two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and six forced fumbles.

At the combine, Davenport put on quite a show, when he ran a 4.58 40, which is remarkable for a man his size.

This is the scouting report Landry put out on Davenport:

Very raw but an explosive and long pass rusher who can play in a two or three point stance. Love his first step quickness and shows an ability to transfer speed to power. At this point is a first move pass rusher only but will technique development should be a force as a pass rusher in the league. I like his effort and play strength against the run but will need to improve his upper body strength for that to translate as well to the NFL level. He will also have to transition to playing more effectively from a 3-point stance as he loses leverage getting too high. I love his length and body frame. Built like a player I drafted years back in Jevon Kearse but long levered like Jadeveon Clowney. Has the quickness to drop but lacks coverage understanding and instincts. Love his edge and closing speed along with his motor. Best edge speed rusher in this draft with lots of upside.

Round 2: Cornerback Isaiah Oliver (Colorado)

Isaiah Oliver

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 201 pounds

Landry gave Isaiah Oliver of Colorado a mid-to-late second round grade on his horizontal draft board.

Overall, Landry has Oliver ranked No. 5 on his cornerback draft board, behind only Denzel Ward of Ohio State, Mike Hughes of Central Florida, Josh Jackson of Iowa and Jaire Alexander of Louisville.

The Packers really need to add to the quality depth of the cornerback position in this draft, plus get an immediate starter if at all possible. Oliver could be that type of player for Green Bay, plus he could pair up with Kevin King (6’3″, 200 pounds) to give the Packers two of the bigger CB duos in the NFL.

The former Buffalo was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2017, as he had 27 tackles, two interceptions, and 13 pass breakups.

At the combine, Oliver ran a 4.50 40.

This is what Landry said about Oliver after his performance at his pro day:

Isaiah Oliver performed well during the drills on his pro day on Wednesday.
Oliver didn’t have an outstanding combine, but he wasn’t a disaster. It’ll be more about game tape anyways for the 6-foot, 201-pound cornerback, but it was a quality showing for Oliver on Wednesday in Boulder. Oliver posted 35.5 inches in the vertical jump, 10-foot-6 in the broad jump, 3.94 in the short shuttle and 6.85 in the three-cone.

Round 3: Wide Receiver Deon Cain (Clemson)

Deon Cain

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 202 pounds

Landry gave Deon Cain of Clemson a third-round value on his horizontal draft board, plus was ranked No. 9 on Landry’s wide receiver board.

In three years with the Tigers, Cain had 130 receptions for 2,040 yards (15.7 average) and 20 touchdowns.

Cain ran a 4.43 in the 40 at the combine.

With the loss of Nelson, the Packers need to add a receiver or two in this draft, as the future of Randall Cobb is also somewhat cloudy after the 2018 season. Cain would give the Packers a big, fast receiver who can add to the weaponry that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will definitely utilize.

This is what Landry said about Cain at the combine:

Clemson WR Deon Cain ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder possesses an ideal combination of size, speed and route-running, but has struggled with mental mistakes such as drops and false starts over the past two seasons.

David Raih, the wide receivers coach of the Packers, will need to work with Cain on the cognitive part of the game.

Round 4: Running Back Royce Freeman (Oregon)

Royce Freeman

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 234 pounds

Landry gave running back Royce Freeman of Oregon a third-round grade on his horizontal draft board, but there is a chance he could slip a bit and with the Packers having the first pick of the fourth round, he would definitely be a player the team would consider.

Landry has Freeman ranked No. 8 on his running back draft board.

In four years with the Ducks, Freeman rushed for 5,641 yards (5.9 average) and 60 touchdowns. Freeman also caught 79 passes for 814 yards and four more scores.

As a freshman at Oregon, he was named the Pac-12 Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American with 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground plus added 16 receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown.

Freeman was also first-team All-Pac-12 as a sophomore and second-team All-Pac-12 as a senior.

The Packers were very pleased with the production they received from both Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones as rookies last year at running back. But you can never have enough running backs in the NFL, especially if one is as talented and as versatile as Freeman is, as he has the ability to be a three-down back.

At the combine, Freeman ran 4.54 40 at the combine.

Landry said this about Freeman in February:

Oregon RB Royce Freeman’s draft slot will be heavily dependent on his work at the NFL Scouting Combine. Freeman gets dinged for having a lot of wear on his tires and for accruing his stats in Oregon’s wide-open offense against thin boxes, but the skill set is extremely intriguing. With a strong showing at the combine, Freeman’s stock will soar.

Round 4 (compensatory): Cornerback Nick Nelson (Wisconsin)

Nick Nelson

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 208 pounds

Landry gave Nick Nelson of Wisconsin a fourth-round value on his horizontal draft board and has him ranked No. 17 on his cornerback draft board.

Nelson played two years for Hawaii before transferring to Wisconsin. In three years combined at both schools, Nelson had 122 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and two forced fumbles. Nelson did not have any picks, but he did have 41 passes defended.

With the Badgers in 2017, he was named first-team All-Big Ten after after having 35 tackles, 21 passes defended and a blocked kick. Nelson was also the team’s punt returner, as he had 24 returns for 206 yards and one touchdown.

Nelson ran a 4.52 in the 40 at the combine.

Nelson adds to the quality depth at cornerback, plus has the skills to be a future starter. The Packers also need to add a veteran to their young cornerback corp, which also has fourth-year CB Quinten Rollins, who is coming off an Achilles injury. Adding Tramon Williams via free agency would definitely help, as although he is 35, he is still playing well in the secondary (like he did with Arizona last season), plus he has played in the Pettine defensive system in Cleveland.

Landry said this about Nelson recently:

Nelson is not often mentioned among the top corners, but reportedly received a second-round grade from the NFL so evaluators in the league certainly like his game. At 5-foot-11 and 200-pounds, Nelson can likely hang on the outside.

Round 5: Center/Guard Will Clapp (LSU)

Will Clapp

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 314 pounds

Landry gave Will Clapp of LSU a late fourth-round grade, which mean the Packers would have a nice opportunity to grab him with the first pick of the fifth round.

Clapp is also ranked No. 5 on Landry’s center draft board. The former Tiger can also play guard, which is a big plus. That means he can be the backup center to Corey Linsley in Green Bay, plus can possibly start right away at right guard.

In three years at LSU, Clapp shined at both center and guard. He started all 13 games at center in 2017, which got him first-team All-SEC notice. In 2016, Clapp was named first-team all-conference at left guard in 11 games.  As a redshirt freshman, Clapp started all 12 games (11 at right guard, one at left guard) for the Tigers. The New Orleans native received multiple freshman All-American accolades honors from various outlets.

At the combine, Clapp had 25 reps in the bench press drill.

Landry gave Clapp a RED grade, which according to Landry, it means that RED players win for you. They have starter type production at the top level programs. REDS are usually BLUE (top line) in either the running or passing game but fall short in the other. RED players are impact players on top teams.

Round 5 (compensatory): Wide Receiver Allen Lazard (Iowa State)

Allen Lazard

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 227 pounds

Landry gave Allen Lazard of Iowa State a fourth-round grade on his horizontal draft board. But because the wide receiver class is so deep, there is a real possibility that Lazard will last to the fifth round.

Landry has Lazard ranked No. 20 on his wide receiver draft board.

Lazard had a very productive career with the Cyclones. In four years, he had a whopping 241 receptions for 3,360 yards and 26 touchdowns. Lazard was a four-year starter and was named second-team All-Big 12 as a sophomore and first-team All-Big 12 as a junior and senior (coaches).

And even as big as he is, Lazard averaged 19.5 yards returning punts his sophomore year at Iowa State.

Lazard has great hands and would be a big weapon in the red zone for the Packers, plus has the frame to become a pass-catching tight end if he added some weight.

Lazard surprised some at the combine when he ran a 4.55 in the 40.

Landry said this about Lazard at the combine:

Iowa State WR Allen Lazard ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Lazard (6’5″/225) has plenty of size, but there was some question about his foot speed.

Round 5 (compensatory): Tight End Dalton Schultz (Stanford)

Dalton Schultz

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 242 pounds

Landry did not have Dalton Schultz of Stanford ranked on his horizontal draft board, which is only for fourth round or higher grade players at this point. Schultz is ranked No. 8 on Landry’s tight end draft board and was given a fifth to sixth round value.

Schultz does not have the type of speed (4.75 in the 40 at the combine) to be a threat down the seam, but he does have nice hands and is a very good blocker.

In three years as a member of the Cardinal, Schultz had 55 catches for 555 yards and five touchdowns. Schultz was honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2016 and was named first-team All-Pac-12 in 2017.

The Packers need a tight end who can block and Schultz provides that, plus is a very capable receiver.

Landry said this about Schultz at the combine:

Stanford TE Dalton Schultz ran the 40 yard dash in 4.75 seconds on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. It ranks around the middle of the pack of the other tight ends, which isn’t a surprise since Schultz (6’5″/244) ranks near the middle of the pack among the position to most analysts.

Round 6: Guard/Tackle Cole Madison (Washington State)

Cole Madison

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 313 pounds

Landry has given Cole Madison of Washington State a fourth-round grade, but he could possibly last further into the draft based on other grades he has been given (like NFL.com).

Landry also has Madison ranked No. 9 on his guard draft board, although Madison played right tackle throughout his career at Washington State.

Madison started 47 games at right tackle for the Cougars, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a sophomore and junior at right tackle and then second-team All-Pac-12 at right tackle as a senior.

Madison can add some depth at the right tackle spot behind an injury prone Bryan Bulaga, plus can compete for the starting job at right guard.

Madison had 26 reps in the bench press drill at the combine.

Landry said this about Madison at the Senior Bowl:

Gets the most from his ability. Quick, explosive and fundamentally sound. Blocks with good lean, effectively gets his hands into opponents and controls them at the point. Has not played like a powerhouse or great athlete but gets the job done.

Round 6 (compensatory) Safety Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama)

Jeremy Reaves

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 190 pounds

Landry has Jeremy Reaves of South Alabama ranked No. 20 on his safety draft board and with a fifth to sixth round value.

In his career at Alabama State, in which he played both cornerback and safety, Reaves had 301 total tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, eight interceptions, 22 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles.

The stats of Reaves tells you exactly what he is, a hitter. A solid tackler as well. Reaves was named first-team All-Sun Belt pick and also the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Reaves was also first-team All-Sun Belt as a junior and second-team All-Sun Belt as a sophomore.

Reaves adds some needed depth at the safety position, especially in light of the loss of Burnett. The two players in line to replace Burnett as a starter opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice.

Reaves did not run at the combine and will do so at his pro day on April 6.

Round 7: Linebacker Jack Cichy (Wisconsin)

Jack Cichy

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 234 pounds

Landry has Jack Cichy of Wisconsin ranked No. 32 on his linebacker draft board and has given him a seventh-round to priority free agent grade.

This grade has everything to do with Cichy’s injury history and not his playing ability.

In 2016, Cichy was playing at a very high level when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle which ended his season. Up until that point, Landry called Cichy the best player on the Badgers that season, even though the Badgers also had a player by the name of T.J. Watt on their defense.

Cichy couldn’t play in 2017 because of a torn ACL.

In 19 games as a sophomore and junior, Cichy had 120 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, six passes defended and two forced fumbles.

“Three-Sack Jack” made a name for himself in the 2015 Holiday Bowl, when he had consecutive sacks on three straight plays, as Wisconsin beat USC 23-21.

Cichy can play inside or outside in the 3-4 scheme, but has been more effective inside.

If healthy, Cichy would be an outstanding partner at inside linebacker with Blake Martinez, who had an outstanding 2017 season for the Packers.

Cichy only did the bench press drill (18 reps) at the combine, but looked very good at the Wisconsin pro day, as he ran a 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle, which would have placed him fourth among linebackers at the combine. Plus, Cichy ran 6.88-second three-cone drill, which would have placed him fifth among linebackers.

Round 7 (via trade): Outside Linebacker Darius Jackson (Jacksonville State)

Darius Jackson

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 242 pounds

Landry ranked Darius Jackson of Jacksonville State 35th on his linebacker draft board and like Cichy, gave him a seventh-round to priority free agent value.

No matter the grade, the talent is definitely there. Jackson won the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.

In those two seasons combined, Jackson had 103 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks.

Jackson only ran a 4.87 40 at the combine, which certainly had something to do with his grade.

Still, Jackson is another player who can certainly rush the passer and if nothing else would be a dynamic addition to special teams.

Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson and Boyd Dowler Have Many Similarities

Boyd Dowler Jordy Nelson side by side

Jordy Nelson (left) in Super Bowl XLV and Boyd Dowler (right) in Super Bowl II.

With the Green Bay Packers recently releasing long-time great wide receiver Jordy Nelson, it got me thinking about who was comparable to No. 87 in the annals of team history. The first player who jumped into my head was Boyd Dowler.

Both players had size and speed working for them. Nelson is 6’3″, 215 pounds, while when Dowler played in the 1960s for the Packers, he went 6’5″, 225 pounds. Plus, both Nelson and Dowler had a track backgrounds.

Both Nelson and Dowler were early draft picks by the Packers. Nelson was a second-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft and was the 36th player taken overall, while Dowler was a third-round selection in the 1959 NFL draft and was the 25th player taken overall (there were only 12 teams in the NFL back then).

Nelson went to one Pro Bowl in 2014, plus was named second-team All-Pro that same season.

Dowler went to two Pro Bowls (1965 & 1967) and was named second-team All-Pro in 1967. Dowler was also named the 1959 NFL Rookie of the Year by UPI and was also on the All-Decade team of the 1960s.

In terms of the Green Bay record book, both Nelson and Dowler appear prominently in the receiving records for the Packers.

In the nine years he played with the Packers (2008 through 2017), not counting the 2015 season when he tore his ACL in the preseason, Nelson had 550 receptions (third) for 7,848 yards (fifth) and 69 touchdowns (second). Nelson also had a 14.3 yards-per-catch average.

In the 11 years he played with the Packers, who were then a run-first team, Dowler had 448 catches (sixth) for 6,918 yards (sixth) and 40 touchdowns (11th). Dowler had a 15.4 yards-per-catch average.

Both Nelson and Dowler also came up big in the postseason.

In 13 games for the Packers in the playoffs, Nelson had 54 catches (first) for 668 yards and five scores (tied for third).

In 10 games with the Packers in the postseason, Dowler had 30 catches for 440 yards and five touchdowns (tied for third).

The teams Nelson played on were 7-6 in the postseason, played in three NFC title games and won Super Bowl XLV.

The teams Dowler played on were 9-1 in the postseason, won five NFL titles, including three straight (1965, 1966 & 1967), plus won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLV, while Dowler caught a 62-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl II.

Jordy Nelson in Super Bowl XLV (II)

In Super Bowl XLV, not only did Nelson catch a TD pass, but he caught nine passes overall for 140 yards, which is tied for the all-time lead in team history in terms of receptions in a postseason game.

Dowler caught all five of his postseason touchdowns in championship games, either in a NFL title game or in a Super Bowl.

I had a chance earlier this week to talk with Dowler, and although he doesn’t personally know Nelson, he definitely tracked his career, even before he became a member of the Packers.

“I don’t know Jordy, but I followed him very closely,” Dowler said. “I read his bio coming out of Kansas State. He went to a small Kansas high school and what I couldn’t get over was that he wasn’t offered a scholarship. He was a walk-on at Kansas State.

“I read about what he did in high school. He was all-state in football at two positions, receiver and safety I believe. He was an all-state point guard in basketball. Plus he won the 100 meters in the Kansas high school track meet. I ran track in college (Colorado), and kids from Kansas or Kansas State were always good. It was a good track state.

“He did all those things and Kansas State didn’t offer him a scholarship. He was allowed to walk-on and he did and he earned a scholarship.

“I’ve really liked him as a player. He’s 33 years-old now. I was ready to retire about then. He’s a big guy with good speed. He was probably faster than I was.”

I mentioned to Dowler that he had a better yards-per-catch average than Nelson, but he responded with a great observation.

“Jordy did a lot of work inside the 20 or the red zone,” Dowler said.

The player that reminded Dowler of Nelson was Max McGee.

“Max was a college halfback,” Dowler said. “Max was real good run after catch. Max was pretty big, about 6’3″, about the same size as Jordy. Max went about 215 pounds (same weight as Nelson). He could run too, and he was in track as well in high school, I think maybe high jumping. Max was an awfully good athlete.”

As we talked about Nelson’s release by the Packers and he subsequent signing by the Oakland Raiders for $15 million over two years, Dowler was not shocked by the money.

“I’m not surprised,” Dowler said. “They have a former Green Bay person (GM Reggie McKenzie) in management. And I’ll bet Edgar Bennett was right there when Jordy first came out to Oakland.”

Bennett had spent most of the last 25 years in Green Bay, either as a player (five years, 1992-1996 and a member of the Super Bowl XXXI team), player development (four years, 2001-2005) or a coach (as running backs coach, wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator for 13 years, 2005-2017) .

When head coach Mike McCarthy hired Joe Philbin to become his new offensive coordinator in 2018, he left open a possibility that Bennett could return to the team in a different coaching role. Bennett declined however and instead took over as the wide receivers coach of the Raiders when he was hired by new head coach Jon Gruden, who had previously coached the Raiders from 1998-2001.

Obviously, Bennett had worked closely with Nelson in Green Bay, so that certainly had to be a plus with Nelson signing with the Raiders. Bennett had also been Nelson’s position coach for four years in Green Bay.

“The Raiders have a pretty good idea who they are getting,” Dowler said. “Plus, they are coached now by Jon Gruden (runs a similar offense that McCarthy runs in Green Bay).”

Like Nelson, Dowler did not finish his career in Green Bay as a player, as he played with the Pack from 1959 through 1969. The former Colorado Buffalo explained to me why he decided to move on.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

“After the ’68 season, after Vince [Lombardi] left, we just didn’t play the way we had played before in the ’60s,” Dowler said. “We just weren’t the same football team. We had some of the same players, but the nucleus of the team all got old at the same time. The defense was still pretty solid, but we had a lot of young guys on offense.

“We weren’t able to match up with the Colts in ’68 and the Vikings in ’69. Anyway, after we finished the ’68 season and went to camp in ’69, I just felt down deep that this team had gone through it’s great years and it was about over. In ’69, we were out of the race with like three games to go in the season.

“I kind of decided at that point that I was going to get into coaching.”

Dowler tried to hook up with his old coach in Washington, as Lombardi was now the head coach of the Redskins starting in 1969.

“I called Vince on the phone and told him what I was thinking of doing,” Dowler said. “He said, ‘I just hired Lew Carpenter as my receivers coach. If I had known you were available, I would have brought you here to Washington.’ But that wasn’t an option.

“So I called Don Shula, because he had coached me in the Pro Bowl one year. He told me, ‘I think you would be a good coach, but I just hired Howard Schnellenberger from the Rams, who was George Allen’s receivers coach.’ Shula told me that he would call George Allen and give me a recommendation.

“As soon as I got off the phone, I called George Allen myself.”

Allen quickly hired Dowler to be his receivers coach that year, but the entire coaching staff of the Rams was fired after the 1970 season. But Allen was soon hired to become the new head coach of the Redskins in 1971, as Lombardi has not been able to coach in 1970 due to the colon cancer which took his life on September 3, 1970.

Lombardi had led the Redskins to a 7-5 record in 1969, which was Washington’s first winning season in 14 years. After Lombardi’s illness and eventual death in 1970, the Redskins were coached by Bill Austin, but the team slumped to a 6-8 record. That led to the hiring of Allen, which also led to Dowler coming to Washington as well as the receivers coach.

But that role soon became that of player-coach due to injuries at the receiver position. Dowler wore the same No. 86 which he wore in Green Bay and had 26 receptions for 352 yards in 1971, as the team went 9-4-1 and made the playoffs as a wild card team.

In 1972, Dowler strictly was the receivers coach for the Redskins, as the team went 11-3 and went to the Super Bowl, where they lost 14-7 to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

Dowler stayed in coaching for the next decade or so, as he was receivers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1973-1975, the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1976-1979, wide receivers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1980-1982 and then quarterbacks coach for the Bucs in 1983 and 1984.

Dowler later worked as a scout for the Carolina Panthers when they became an expansion team in 1995. By 1996, the team had improved to the point where they ended up playing the Packers in the 1996 NFC title game at Lambeau Field, in which the Packers won 30-13.

The bottom line is not all the players that fans of the Packers grow to love over the years stay in Green Bay to end their careers. They move on to new locales.

It’s happened with Hall of Fame players like Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderley, Jim Ringo, James Lofton, Reggie White, Dave Robinson and of course Brett Favre.

It also happened with the legendary coaching icons of the Packers, Curly Lambeau and Lombardi.

Having a great player like Nelson move on to another team certainly is crushing to many in Packer Nation, especially since he was cut. But when the dust clears, Nelson will retire as a Packer and end up in the Packers Hall of Fame.

Just like Dowler did, when he was inducted in 1978.

A Scout’s Take on How the Packers Did in the Legal Tampering Period of Free Agency in the NFL

Brian Gutekunst NFL SC 2018

Brian Gutekunst

Well, Brian Gutekunst did not waste a lot of time beginning his tenure as the new general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

First, before the legal tampering period began on Monday, which is now allowed before free agency officially began today at 4:00 pm (EST), Gutekunst made a trade last Friday before the negotiating period with free-agent players became legal.

On Friday, Gutekunst made a deal with a former associate of his with the Packers, general manager John Dorsey of the Browns, as the Packers traded cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer, plus a swap of picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

Then on Tuesday, Gutekunst really got to work with three big maneuvers.

NFL Scout Chris Landry wrote about the three moves the Packers made on Tuesday on his fine website LandryFootball.com.

Landry wrote this about the release of wide receiver Jordy Nelson:

The Packers released WR Jordy Nelson. The move clears $10.2 million in cap space and leaves behind a modest $2.3 million in dead money. The 33-year-old receiver is coming off a concerning campaign. Looking visibly slower, Nelson saw his yards per catch crash to 9.1 in 2017. He struggled with both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley under center. Despite his age, the drop off was surprising after Nelson bounced back so well from his torn ACL in 2016. Healthy now, Nelson won’t hurt for teams wanting to take a flier.

It definitely was a gut-wrenching move by Gutekunst to release Nelson, who is one of the most beloved players in recent memory in the eyes of Packer Nation.

Nelson will leave behind some remarkable stats in the Green Bay record book. No. 87 currently is third all-time in franchise history in receptions with 550. Nelson is also second all-time in touchdown receptions with 69. The former Kansas State star is third all-time in 100-yard games with 25.

Nelson is also the only player in franchise history to have three seasons with 13 or more touchdown receptions (2011, 2014 & 2016).

Jordy and Aaron in Super Bowl XLV

Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers celebrate a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.

The former second-round draft pick in 2008 is the only player in franchise history to be named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year after catching 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016 following a yearlong recovery from a torn ACL.

The 2014 year was a special one for Nelson, as he had 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. Nelson was named to the Pro Bowl squad that year, plus was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and first-team All-Pro by The Sporting News.

Nelson also came up big time in the postseason, as he is the leading receiver in team history with 54 receptions. He also is tied with Edgar Bennett and Antonio Freeman with the most postseason catches in a game with nine. Nelson did that in Super Bowl XLV, when he had nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.

It was definitely a tough decision for Gutekunst to make when he released No. 87.

“These are tough days when you have to release a player that means so much to your organization, to your team,” Gutekunst said in a press confernce Tuesday evening. “Jordy Nelson is one of the great Packers to have played here. He was such an excellent player on the field, an excellent player in your locker room, and obviously in the community as well. He’s everything that you want a pro to be and he’ll be missed.”

Probably the player who was affected the most by the release of Nelson was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, not just because of the great duo that they formed on the football field, but also because of their friendship.

Rodgers posted a heart-felt message to Nelson on Instagram late Tuesday night:

“Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me,” Rodgers wrote. “No teammate exemplified what it means to be a packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning. #leader #brother #friend #baller #loyal #champion #legacy #intact #stillcanplayball #backshoulder #1stSBTD”

The move to release Nelson allowed the Packers to bring in tight end Jimmy Graham, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints.

This is what Landry wrote about that acquisition:

The Packers signed TE Jimmy Graham, formerly of the Seahawks, to a three-year contract. Graham appeared headed for a reunion with the Saints, but the sides couldn’t figure out the financials. Graham is coming off his first double-digit touchdown campaign since 2014 but saw his yards per catch crater from 14.2 to 9.1 last season. The drop off came even as Graham was another year removed from his devastating knee injury. Now 31, he required frequent maintenance days in Seattle. Despite his advancing age and seeming loss of a step, Graham is an intriguing pairing with a quarterback who at one point coaxed an eight-score season out of Richard Rodgers. 

According to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Graham’s deal with the Packers is for three years and $30 million, with $22 million paid out during the first two years of the deal.

Graham will be a big red zone weapon for Rodgers to utilize, as well as someone who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field. Rodgers has taken advantage of that situation before in Green Bay with other tight ends like Jermichael Finley and Jared Cook.

In his eight-year career in the NFL, Graham has 556 receptions for 6,800 yards and 69 touchdowns.

at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Jimmy Graham

Graham has also been named to five Pro Bowl squads and was also named first-team All-Pro in 2013 by AP.

In the postseason, the former University of Miami (FL) star has 22 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Graham did that in 2011 and 2013 for the Saints and in 2016 for the Seahawks.

Graham was almost unstoppable in the 2011 postseason, as he had 12 receptions for 158 yards and three scores for the Saints.

Before Tuesday was over, Gutekunst also added defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. I had speculated that the team might add Wilkerson back on March 1 due to his past association with the new defensive coordinator of the Packers, Mike Pettine.

This is what Landry wrote about the Packers bringing in Wilkerson:

The Packers agreed to terms with DE Muhammad Wilkerson, formerly of the Jets. Wilkerson shopped his wares on visits with the Redskins and Chiefs, but a reunion with old Jets DC Mike Pettine was always in his best interests. Wilkerson had a very-public falling out with Jets management the past two years, but he remained an effective player on the field, and was dominant during his time with Pettine. Wilkerson is only 28 years old. He’ll add disruptive interior ability against both the run and pass to a defensive front that needed help. 

Wilkerson signed a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives, according to Tom Pellissero of NFL Network.

In his entire seven-year career with the Jets, Wilkerson had 405 tackles, 44.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (for a touchdown).

Wilkerson will make the defensive line of the Packers a very formidable force, along with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets rushes Aaron Rodgers

Muhammad Wilkerson (No. 96) of the New York Jets attempts to bat down a pass attempt by Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers in a 2014 game at Lambeau Field.

In terms of what the Packers might possibly do soon again in free agency now that it’s official, my guess is that they will try and bring in a veteran cornerback who knows how to play in the Pettine system and who also knows all about being a Packer.

That cornerback is Tramon Williams. Yes, I know Williams is 35 now, but he is still playing good football in the NFL and would be a solid addition as a stop-gap at cornerback.

I also see the Packers drafting as many as three secondary players in the 2018 NFL draft, one of whom (an early draft pick) will most likely be able to start on Day 1 in the NFL.

Williams played for Pettine (when he was head coach) with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 when he started 15 games at right cornerback.

Before Williams signed with the Browns as a free agent in 2014, No. 38 had a great career with the Packers. In eight years in Green Bay, Williams had 28 interceptions for 428 yards and one touchdown.

Williams had his best year with the Packers in 2010, which is the same season the team won Super Bowl XLV. Williams was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and also had a fabulous postseason for the Packers.

In four games in the 2010 postseason, Williams had three picks for 79 yards and a touchdown, plus recovered two fumbles.

After eight years with the Packers and two years with the Browns, Williams started nine games for the talented secondary of the Arizona Cardinals in 2017.

Yesterday, Williams talked to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN and he commented about being a free agent this year.

“At this point in my career, one of the things I said last year is that I wanted to control the way I finish my career,” Williams said. “I wanted go to a team where I know that has a chance and I want to play my game. That was one of the two things I really wanted to do. I wanted to go to a team that has a legitimate chance and I wanted to play my game because a lot of teams you go to, you get there and then they change up and tell you, ‘Oh, this is how we want you to play, this is what we want you to do.’

“I want to play my own game.”

Williams certainly played his own game in 2010, as he was one of the main reasons the Packers eventually won Super Bowl XLV.

We shall see if Williams does indeed come back to the Pack, but if he still has some tread left on his tires, I believe that he would be a good fit for the team for a couple of obvious reasons.

He knows how to play the defense that Pettine utilizes and he could also add the veteran leadership for players like second-year pro Kevin King and the other young cornerbacks on the team, as well the future CBs selected in the 2018 NFL draft.

It’s also being reported by Adam Schefter that the Packers are also interested in cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who played with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. Melvin, who is 28, played in 10 games for the Colts last season and had 36 tackles, three interceptions and 13 passes defended.

The 6’2″, 193-pound Melvin has started 31 games in his NFL career, which has seen stops with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and the Colts. Melvin was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Northern Illinois by the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2013.

Bottom line, we shall see how this all plays out in both free agency and the 2018 NFL draft for the Packers, but Gutekunst has already left a mark that was rarely seen when his predecessor, Ted Thompson, was GM.

Which is utilizing NFL free agency at an early stage.

Green Bay Packers: QB DeShone Kizer Could Be a Diamond in the Rough

DeShone Kizer

QB DeShone Kizer of the Cleveland Browns looks downfield, as LB Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers applies pressure during their 2017 game, won by the Packers 27-21 in overtime.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers was pretty busy the past few days, as he and the team first hosted free agent defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

On Friday, Gutekunst then made a trade with a former associate of his with the Packers, general manager John Dorsey of the Browns, as the Packers traded cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer, plus a swap of picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

The trade means that the Packers will have the first pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL draft and that the Packers will most likely not select a quarterback in the draft.

In terms of Wilkerson, the former New York Jet is still making a tour of other NFL teams, but has not made a decision yet on where he will play. The Packers have the advantage of having Mike Pettine as their new defensive coordinator, as it was Pettine who was Wilkerson’s first defensive coordinator with the Jets.

Pettine pushed hard for the Jets to select Wilkerson in the 2011 NFL draft, as the Jets selected him with the 30th pick of Round 1.

While Pettine was his coordinator in 2011 and 2012, the Jets were ranked fifth and eighth in total defense in the NFL, while Wilkerson put up good numbers as well, as he had 118 total tackles, eight sacks, one safety, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Time will tell if Wilkerson will end up as a Packer, but according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the visit by Wilkerson to Green Bay went very well.

In terms of the trade to acquire Kizer, the Packers decided that they have seen enough of Randall’s inconsistent play and also his behavior with the coaching staff.

Case in point, in Week 4 last season versus the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, Randall was benched because of his play and then later was told to head to the locker room because of a heated argument on the sideline with a coach.

After that game, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, a number of veteran players on the Packers told head coach Mike McCarthy to release Randall. But the coaching staff stood by Randall and kept him on the team

Randall was drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft with the 30th pick of that round. Randall had an up and down three-year career with the Packers. At times, he looked very good, but he also struggled with injuries, plus had a number of blown coverage assignments during his time in Green Bay.

Bottom line, Gutekunst and Packers saw a diamond in the rough with Kizer and shipped the enigmatic Randall to the Browns, where he gets to reunite with a couple of people in the Browns front office who were in that same capacity with the Packers when Randall was drafted by the Packers. I’m talking about Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith.

With the addition of Kizer to the Packers, the future of Brett Hundley with the Packers is now in doubt. At the NFL scouting combine, McCarthy did not mince his words when talking about the play of No. 7 in 2017 and the way he was coached.  “Brett Hundley wasn’t ready for what he needed to be ready for,” McCarthy said.  “That’s something that we have to learn from, and that stings.”

It’s also important to note that McCarthy did not keep quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt after the season.

At the time of the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers reportedly had Hundley on the trading block and nearly moved him at one point according to Demovsky. Part of the article says this:

The Packers dangled their backup quarterback on the trade market and came close to making a deal on the second day of the draft. Now it appears they’ll likely hang on to him for another year, but expect them to move him before he enters the final year of his contract in 2018. They believe they can get much more in return than the fifth-round pick they invested in him in 2015.

That might not be the case after the way Hundley struggled at times during the 2017 season in relief of an injured Aaron Rodgers. Hundley was 3-6 as a starter and he threw nine touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions for 1,853 yards. His passer rating was just 70.9.

Hundley was also sacked 29 times, as he had trouble moving around the pocket and going through his reads.

Hundley did run for 270 yards and two scores, but he just couldn’t lead the Packers down the field consistently due to his passing deficiencies.

The Packers expected much more from their third-year QB.

That is also why it has been rumored that Hundley was almost traded recently to the Tennessee Titans according SB Nation- Music City Miracles, via a tweet by my friend Jersey Al, who has some excellent sources.

My guess is the Packers will end up moving Hundley now that Kizer is aboard. The Packers have been high on Kizer since the 2017 NFL draft when the Browns selected him in the second round with the 52nd pick of the draft.

The Packers were considering selecting Kizer themselves with the 33rd pick of the draft, but instead picked cornerback Kevin King. According to Pro Football Rumors, via a tweet by Ian Rapoport, the National Insider for NFL Network and NFL.com, the Packers were definitely considering Kizer with the 33rd pick.

In college at Notre Dame for two seasons, Kizer threw 47 touchdown passes versus just 19 picks for 5,805 yards. Kizer also rushed for 997 yards and 18 more scores.

NFL scout Chris Landry liked what he saw of Kizer prior to the 2017 NFL draft. In fact, on Landry’s horizontal draft board, which ranks players regardless of their position, Landry ranked Kizer 29th on his board. He gave Kizer a mark of 6.4, which means a potential starter and an early second round grade.

at Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.

DeShone Kizer

This is what he said about Kizer in his scouting report:

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer measured in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-4 1/4-inch and 233 pounds.

His hands are 9 7/8-inchs and may have the most upside of any in the draft but perhaps also the lowest floor. He is built like Carson Palmer but in big moments has performed like Jay Cutler.

Kizer posted a passer rating of 154.7 when using play action in 2016. That play-action passer rating of 154.7 was tops in the country. However, that mark takes a terrifying drop to 85.5 — 62nd in the country, when Kizer was not involved in play action. Legitimate questions as to his pro-readiness have emerged during the draft process, including those of accuracy on the outside and mental makeup. He hasn’t played well under pressure and while the physical tools are all present, his issues are between the ears. The natural instincts for the position and pure arm talent are there if he can land in the right system with the right coach.

He has slow eyes while deciphering the defense. Kizer has all of the traits evaluators look for and played with poise and composure, but the inconsistencies stood out. He is a tick late on a number of decisions when working off his primary read. That plus inaccuracy on outside throws that should be made at the pro level should incite pause for an NFL evaluator.

Kizer is a two-year starter who had a career passer rating of 98.6. He cranks the ball through the tight windows. He’ll stand tall in the pocket. When he’s under pressure he doesn’t move in the pocket as well as you would like.

I see the athleticism and arm talent, but I wonder if he can take hard coaching. Things went downhill in a hurry at Notre Dame.

I think you have to go back and look at the 2015 tape to fully appreciate him. He can make all of the throws and he’s athletic. Plus, he has won some big games during his time there. I know it got a little sideways for him (in 2016), but he can play. I believe he is one of the top three in this class. Kizer is a big, athletic passer with arm talent and movement skills but has played a lot of bad football with the game on the line in the fourth quarter this year. Like all QB’s it is how he is trained in the league and his work ethic and coachability that will determine his success or failure.

There is no doubt that Landry saw a lot of very good attributes while scouting Kizer. Qualities like his size, his big arm and his excellent mobility.  But Landry also saw some flaws that need to be corrected.

In 2017, as rookie quarterback with the 0-16 Browns, Kizer started 15 games and threw 11 touchdown passes versus 22 picks (led the NFL) for 2,894 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of just 60.5, plus Kizer only completed 53.6 percent of his passes.

While that was a tough rookie campaign for Kizer, it’s important to note that left tackle Joe Thomas played in only seven games last season. That’s a big hole to fill from Kizer’s blindside, especially when that player has gone to 10 Pro Bowls and has been named All-Pro six times like Thomas has.

This is what Landry said about the recent trade with Randall going to the Browns and Kizer coming to the Packers:

The Packers acquired DeShone Kizer from the Browns in exchange for CB Damarious Randall.

The deal also includes a pick swap. With Tyrod Taylor coming in and an early-round rookie likely to follow, the writing was on the wall for Kizer in Cleveland. That said, this move is likely a blessing for the 2017 second-round pick, who will get a chance to develop behind one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Despite his rocky rookie season, the book is not closed on Kizer as a starting quarterback. With Kizer on board, the Packers could look to move on from Brett Hundley, who was overmatched as a starter last season.

I certainly agree with Landry on that assessment of his. The book is not closed on Kizer as a NFL quarterback and also that the Packers will indeed try to move Hundley via a trade. If that happens, I could also see the Packers bringing in an experienced free agent NFL quarterback, perhaps someone like Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins, who played under Joe Philbin (now offensive coordinator for the Packers) for couple of years when he was head coach for Miami.

It’s important to have a steady NFL veteran in the wings if Rodgers is unfortunately hurt again. Similar to what Matt Flynn did back in 2013 when Rodgers was hurt.

Still, it’s also very important that the coaches get Kizer ready to play. That means hours of film study in the Green Bay quarterback school, which will now be led by new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr., formerly of the New York Giants coaching staff.

Cignetti not only has to teach Kizer how to prepare as a NFL quarterback, but he also has to earn the trust of Rodgers, who was not a happy camper when the Packers did not bring back Van Pelt as quarterbacks coach.

McCarthy and Philbin have to be part of this teaching process as well. Plus, Rodgers needs to lend support and also his knowledge to Kizer, which is something he has always done for his backups when he was not playing due to injury throughout his NFL career.

Bottom line, Kizer has all the tools to be a very good NFL quarterback. At first glance, looking at his stats in Cleveland, the addition of the former Fighting Irish star doesn’t look too appealing.

Nor did the acquisition of a quarterback named Brett Favre in 1992 for a first round draft pick look too promising. After all, Favre had thrown two interceptions in just four attempts as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons back in 1991. Favre registered a passer rating of 0.0.

But then general manager Ron Wolf saw enough of Favre’s quarterback play at Southern Mississippi to make the trade.

Brian Gutekunst II

Brian Gutekunst

Apparently Gutekunst saw much of the same of Kizer with his overall play at Notre Dame and with some of the bright moments of his play with the Browns in 2017.

Now I’m not saying Kizer will have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career like Favre had, but he certainly has the attributes to be a fine NFL QB.

Based on the 2017 NFL draft scouting report of Landry, one of the best of the best in the scouting business, Kizer has all the ability in the world to be an effective quarterback in the NFL. For that to happen, as Landry also said, Kizer needs to be trained well, have a strong work ethic and be coachable.

That all should happen in Green Bay, with the coaching staff (McCarthy, Philbin & Cignetti), plus learning from and watching Rodgers.

Time will tell if Kizer is indeed a diamond in the rough for the Packers, but the athletic ability is definitely there for that possibility to occur.

Initial 2018 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst at 2018 NFL Scouting Combine

The 2018 NFL draft will take place starting on April 26 and will last through April 28. This year the location is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The draft process is now situated in Indianapolis, where the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium and is on it’s final day.

Up until now, we have seen the bowl games, plus the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl).

After the combine is over, the final step in the draft process for prospects will be the workouts that they will have at their various school’s pro days.

The Green Bay Packers go into this draft knowing that they will have 12 picks, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns in terms of having the most selections in the draft.

Unlike the last 13 NFL drafts for the Packers, Ted Thompson will not have the final say as to whom the Packers will select this year. Thompson has moved on from his role as general manager of the Pack to one in an advisory role and he was replaced as GM by Brian Gutekunst, who is going into his 20th year in the Green Bay organization.

Gutekunst, who is 44, has served in a number of capacities with the Packers, which includes being a scouting intern, East Coast scout, director of college scouting and as director of player personnel.

Gutekunst sees this upcoming draft class as being very solid.

“I think it’s a good class, it’s intriguing. I think it’s a strong secondary group, you know?,” Gutekunst said while speaking to the media at the combine last Wednesday. “I think the interior of the offensive line group is pretty strong. I think there’s depth at quarterback. There’s a lot of pieces that haven’t been answered yet, questions that haven’t been answered yet. We have 12 picks, and I think it’s a good class to get after those guys with 12 picks.”

In terms of the mock draft I’m doing, this will be the first of four. I have been doing mock drafts for the Packers since my days at Packer Report, which goes back 16 years.

I have had a decent track record over the years with my projections, which is a combination of getting excellent insight and information from NFL scout Chris Landry, as well as sometimes being like a blind squirrel who still finds an acorn.

In this mock draft, you will note that I have utilized a couple of things I am very familiar with. One is the East-West Shrine Game, which is played locally here in St. Petersburg and where I am often a spectator.

The other is the University of Wisconsin, a football program I have grown close to, ever since Kevin Cosgrove (a college buddy) became an assistant coach there under Barry Alvarez in 1990 and later became his defensive coordinator from 1995 through 2003.

That period saw the Badgers win three Big Ten titles, as well as three Rose Bowl wins.

In this past East-West Shrine Game, the Badgers had four of their players in the game and one of those players, safety Natrell Jamerson, was Defensive MVP of the game.

Adding to that, the hiring of Mike Pettine as the defensive coordinator of the Packers sets up a connection between someone he is very familiar with. I’m talking about Jim Leonhard, the defensive coordinator of the Badgers.

I see that association as being an inroad for the Packers possibly adding a couple of Badgers on their roster via the 2018 NFL draft, as well as possibly signing a couple as undrafted rookie free agents.

In this mock draft, I will not utilize any trades, although I believe Gutekunst will most likely go down that road in this draft. I also see Gutekunst using free agency more often than Thompson did, which also will play a part on the position players I select in this draft.

Speaking of free agency, Pro Football Talk says that Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported today that defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will be visiting the Packers soon, once he is officially released by the New York Jets. I wrote about the possibility of Wilkerson joining the Packers on March 1.

The bottom line in this mock draft is that I will be picking five players who played in the recent East-West Shrine Game, plus I will be selecting two Badgers, one of whom played in that game.

So, without further adieu, here is my initial 2018 NFL mock draft for the Pack.

Round 1: Outside Linebacker Harold Landry (Boston College)

Harold Landry

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 250 pounds

I talked to NFL scout Chris Landry last week to get his take on both Harold Landry of Boston College and Marcus Davenport of UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) in terms of their pass rushing ability. I also wanted to get his read on who he would select if both were on the board and if he happened to be the GM of a team like the Packers.

Landry told me that he likes both players a lot, but based on recent play, like at the Senior Bowl, not to mention what happened at the combine on Sunday, Davenport (ran 4.58 in the 40) would be the player he would pick.

That being said, Chris Landry also likes Harold Landry quite a bit. Going into the 2017 season, the NFL scout had the BC star ranked sixth overall on his 2018 NFL draft board. There is a good reason for that. In 2016, Landry had 50 total tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, one interception, four passes defensed and seven forced fumbles. The number of sacks and forced fumbles led the country in those categories.

That led to Landry getting multiple All-American honors, as well as being named first-team All-ACC. But things were different in 2017, as Landry played through an ankle injury. Still, he still earned third-team All-ACC honors with 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two pass breakups.

Landry didn’t play in the Senior Bowl because of the ankle injury, but he looked very athletic and healthy at the combine on Sunday. He ran a 4.64 in the 40, had 24 reps in the bench press, jumped 36 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 119 inches (9.9 feet) in the broad jump, ran 6.88 seconds in the 3 cone drill, ran 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and ran 11.35 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle.

At this point of the draft for the Packers (pick No. 14), I see the two top pass rushers (Bradley Chubb and Davenport) off the board. Still, selecting Landry here would be quite the consolation prize, as he definitely lives in the same neighborhood with both Chubbs and Davenport.

Round 2: Cornerback Mike Hughes (Central Florida)

Mike Hughes

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 191 pounds

The situation at cornerback for the Packers is definitely in a state of flux. The secondary for the team was just horrible last season. For one thing, the Packers were ranked second-worst in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating, as the season average was 102.0.

Not only that, Green Bay also allowed opposing QBs to complete 67.8 percent of their passes. The Pack also allowed 30 touchdown passes and only had 11 picks. The defense also allowed 55 completions of 20 yards or better.

Plus, their top pick from last year’s draft, cornerback Kevin King, played hurt all season with a shoulder injury, although he flashed very good ability when he played. The  Packers are confident King will recover fully from a medical procedure this offseason to repair the labrum in his left shoulder.

The good news for the Packers in terms of the cornerback play last season was the way Damarious Randall performed for the most part in 2017. Randall was the No. 1 pick for the Packers in 2015. Still, Randall has been on and off with his play in his tenure in Green Bay, so nothing is a given.

In that same 2015 draft, the Packers selected cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round. Rollins, who will never be known for his speed, showed some good awareness for the football at times, but he unfortunately had an Achilles rupture last year which ended his season. That injury also clouds his future in the NFL.

The bottom line is that the Packers need to add at least one cornerback to their roster in this draft and most likely two. The first one they draft should have the ability to start immediately. That takes me to a player I saw quite a bit in 2017 here in FLA. That player is cornerback Mike Hughes of UCF.

Hughes is not only a great cornerback, as he had 49 total tackles, four interceptions (one for a score), 11 passes defended and one forced fumble for the 13-0 Knights, but he was also a very dangerous kick returner as well.

Hughes had two kickoff returns for touchdowns for UCF in 2017, plus also had a punt return for a score.

At the combine, Hughes ran a 4.53 in the 40, plus had 20 reps on the bench press.

In scouting Hughes, Landry compared his ability to Marcus Peters, now of the Los Angeles Rams. In a deep cornerback class, Landry said Hughes will be one to watch,  because he is an excellent press corner with versatility.

Round 3: Wide Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)

Equanimeous St. Brown

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 214 pounds

At this point, all is quiet on the wide receiver front for the Packers. That will probably change at some point. Why? That’s because both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will most likely be looking at getting their contracts renegotiated to a lower price, especially with the re-signing of Davante Adams to a four-year $58 million contract extension.

Nelson is set to have a cap number of $12.5 million this year, while Cobb will have a cap hit of $12.7 million according to Over The Cap. I expect at least one of them to re-do their current contract, even with the NFL salary cap going up to at least $178 million in 2018. We shall see.

But either way, I see the Packers adding to the receiver corp in this draft, probably twice, as Nelson will be 33 in May and while Cobb will only be 28 in August, No. 18 has had his fair share of injury woes.

One receiver who has great size and speed who should interest the Packers is Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame.

Not only is St. Brown 6’5″, 214 pounds, but he also ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds and had 20 reps in the bench press at the combine. St. Brown’s numbers at Notre Dame are a bit uneven, but that is mostly due to the mediocre QB play this past season.

In 2016, when DeShone Kizer was his QB, St. Brown had 58 receptions for 961 yards (16.6 average) and nine touchdowns. This past season, those numbers fell to 33 catches for 515 yards and four TDs.

But his size speed and athleticism have always been off the charts. Landry said this about St. Brown heading into the 2017 college season:

BREAKOUT STAR: WR Equanimeous St. Brown — He has a terrific opportunity to produce as the No. 1 wideout in Notre Dame’s revamped offense. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is known as an innovator despite being only 34 years old, and he could find ways to open up St. Brown in the passing game. Many experts considered the 6-foot-5, 203-pound receiver as a top-100 recruit when he committed to the Fighting Irish as a high school standout in Anaheim, Calif.

Round 4: Offensive Lineman Mason Cole (Michigan)

Mason Cole

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 305 pounds

Offensive lineman Mason Cole is from nearby Tarpon Springs, Florida and was a star at East Lake High School before heading to Ann Arbor to play at Michigan.

Cole’s versatility is something that the Packers love to see in an offensive lineman. Cole started 25 games at left tackle in 2014 and 2015, before moving to center for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Cole was named second-team All-Big Ten in both 2016 and 2017 and was honorable mention in 2015.

Cole also told the media at the combine that he would love to play for the Packers and a quarterback who wears No. 12.

“I think that’s one of the crazier things about playing in the NFL, especially as a rookie,” Cole said. “I’ve grown up my whole life watching guys like Aaron Rodgers play football. And to have a chance to be his center, be an offensive lineman for him next year, I mean that’s just incredible to think about: How fast time flies and how great of a journey this has been.”

At the combine, Cole had 23 reps in the bench press and ran a 5.23 in the 40.

Cole was also named to the Senior Bowl, where Landry had this to say about Cole’s practice performances in Mobile:

Tuesday: Terrific day for Cole, who lined up at center. Fundamentally sound and blocked with proper knee bend and leverage. Quick, explosive and strong at the point. Handled opponents in one-on-ones and looked good during scrimmage.

Wednesday: Another really good day for Cole. Smart, tough and blocks with great fundamentals. Agile and also strong but must learn to finish run blocks.

Round 4 (compensatory): Tight End Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)

Troy Fumagalli

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 248 pounds

In four years at Wisconsin, Troy Fumagalli had 135 receptions for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns. After the 2017 season, in which he had 38 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns, No. 81 was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. In addition to that, Fumagalli won the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in the Big Ten.

In 2016, Fumagalli was named second-team All-Big Ten, plus was named Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP, as he caught six throws for 83 yards and a touchdown in the 24-16 victory over Western Michigan.

Like Cole, Fumagalli would love to play for the Packers after he met with both Gutekunst and tights ends coach Brian Angelichio.

“I want to show I love the game and that I’m a complete tight end,” said Fumagalli via Packers.com. “I’ve been asked over the years to run block, to pass block, to catch.

“Just being reliable, being there whenever (the QB) needed me, that’s something I always took pride in. Clutch situations I want to be that guy. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make a play for them.”

It’s important to note that Fumagalli has only nine fingers, as he lost the index finger on his left hand at birth. Still, Fumagalli estimated that he dropped only one pass per season as a Badger.

On his first practice day at the Senior Bowl, Fumagalli showed some nervousness  at times catching the ball, but overall Landry was impressed with his catching ability and blocking:

Tuesday: Struggled in a number of areas catching the ball but looked really good blocking.

Wednesday: Plays like a big-bodied tight end. Tough. Not spectacular in any area rather very efficient as a blocker and pass catcher.

Fumagalli did not run at the combine, but did 14 reps in the bench press. Expect to see Fumagalli run at the Wisconsin pro day.

Round 5: Cornerback Tony Brown (Alabama)

Tony Brown

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

When you look at the statistics, Tony Brown of Alabama doesn’t stick out to you. One reason was because he was part of a very talented defensive backfield. Plus, he was a part-time starter and who also filled the role of the nickelback.

In his career with the Crimson Tide, Brown had 86 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, three interceptions (including one in the 2018 CFP National Championship Game), five passes defended and one forced fumble.

But there is a lot more to like about Brown. For one, he is very fast. Brown ran a 4.35 at the combine, plus he earned first team All-America honors in track and field in the spring of 2015 in the 4×400 meter relay .

Brown is also a stalwart on special teams and is a very good tackler in run support.

Bad tackling and a lack of speed have become issues in the Green Bay secondary, plus it’s always a plus to improve special teams, which is why Brown would be a great value here.

Round 5 (compensatory): Linebacker Micah Kiser (Virginia)

Micah Kiser

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 238 pounds

Micah Kiser led the ACC in tackles each of the past three years and in 2017 won the Campbell Trophy, the academic Heisman of college football.

In his career at Virginia, Kiser had 408 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks, one interception, 12 passes defended, six fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles.

As one can see by that stat line, Kiser was a magnet to the football.

At the Senior Bowl, Kiser left after one practice due to a lingering knee injury, but this is what Landry said about him in a Senior Bowl preview:

Micah Kiser was underrated entering the season, but the Virginia linebacker built off solid sophomore and junior seasons in 2017 to make himself into a legitimate second-day prospect. He’ll have an opportunity to put his sideline-to-sideline speed, motor and instincts on display in Mobile, and he could jolt his stock if he shows well in coverage — an ability he’s flashed at times in his career.

Kiser did work out at the combine and fared pretty well, as he ran a 4.66 in the 40, jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 121 inches in the broad jump, ran 7.05 seconds in the 3 cone drill and ran 4.24 in the 20-yard shuttle.

The Packers need to add quality depth at the inside linebacker position and bringing on a player like Kiser certainly does that.

Round 5 (compensatory): Wide Receiver Daurice Fountain (Northern Iowa)

Daurice Fountain

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 210 pounds

Daurice Fountain’s hometown is Madison, Wisconsin, where he went to James Madison Memorial High School, where he was named first-team All-State at wide receiver.

In four seasons at Northern Iowa, Fountain caught 150 passes for 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Landry said this about Fountain after he was named Offensive MVP in the East-West Shrine Game, as he had three receptions for 61 yards (20.3 average).

Speed was not an issue for Fountain, and neither was catching the ball. Fountain caught the ball very well, except he was doing it at full speed, down the field and running past defenders. I was also impressed by his feistiness and willingness to compete. He leaves Shrine week with a draft grade a full round higher than the one he arrived with in St. Petersburg.

Landry also said this about how Fountain practiced that week.

Fountain showed flashes of ability during the initial two Shrine practices then really pulled it together on Wednesday morning and was the top receiver on the field. He catches the ball well, showing good hand-eye coordination as well as the ability to win out for contested passes. Fountain was probably the fastest receiver on the field during East practice, showing a terrific burst and the ability to outrun defenders down the sidelines. He looks primed to be a fourth or fifth man on the depth chart at the next level, and displaying return skills during Saturday’s game will only enhance his draft stock.

For some unfathomable reason, even after his performance in the East-West Shrine Game, Fountain was not invited to the combine.

Fountain will have to make due working out for NFL teams at his pro day.

Round 6: Running Back Justin Jackson (Northwestern)

Justin Jackson

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 193 pounds

In four seasons at Northwestern, Jackson rushed for 5,440 yards and 41 touchdowns, plus caught 122 passes for 858 yards and another score.

Jackson was named honorable mention All-Big Ten his freshman year as a Wildcat, plus was named second-team All-Big Ten in his three remaining years at Northwestern.

Jackson also played in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game, where he rushed for 39 yards in just seven carries. Jackson also caught five passes for 17 yards.

Landry said this about Jackson prior to the 2018 Big Ten season:

Northwestern senior RB Justin Jackson looks like one of the best running backs in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the best but Jackson slotted in right behind, followed by Iowa’s Akrum Wadley and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. This past season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Jackson rushed for a healthy 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns across 13 games played. If he were to rush for 2,277 yards during the coming season, he would exit his Northwestern career as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher. As productive as he has been, that mark is probably beyond the pale for the Northwestern standout.

Jackson ran a 4.52 in the 40 at the combine, plus did 13 reps on the bench press, jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 122 inches in the broad jump, ran 6.81 seconds in the 3 cone drill, ran 4.07 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and ran 11.06 in the 60-yard shuttle.

The Packers invigorated their running attack last season, as two rookies (Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones) stood out. The other rookie who was drafted last season, Devante Mays, did not fare well when given limited opportunities (two fumbles).

Ty Montgomery has been too injury prone, both at running back and wide receiver.

Adding a back like Jackson make sense, because he not only adds to the depth at RB, but also because he is made for the type of offense that the Packers run.

Round 6 (compensatory): Outside Linebacker Joe Ostman (Central Michigan)

Joe Ostman

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 255 pounds

In his last two seasons at Central Michigan, Joe Ostman had 129 total tackles, 33 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks, two fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles.

In the East-West Shrine Game, Ostman had six tackles, which included one sack.

One can never have enough players who can rush the passer in the NFL, so Ostman is an excellent value in Round 6.

Landry had Ostman rated among the top overall graded players in the MAC.

Like Fountain, Ostman was not invited to the combine, so he will work out for NFL teams at his pro day.

Round 7: Safety Natrell Jamerson (Wisconsin)

Natrell Jamerson II

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

Natrell Jamerson really helped himself with a solid senior season at Wisconsin, as the safety had 51 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 10 passes defended.

Jamerson also has experience at cornerback as well, as he played there as a sophomore and as a junior.

As I mentioned earlier, the secondary of the Packers was a mess in 2017. The safeties did not exactly stand out either. Morgan Burnett will be an unrestricted free agent, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took a definite step back with his play last season and rookie Josh Jones missed way too many assignments.

Picking a player who can play both safety and cornerback, plus was well-coached at Wisconsin is a no-brainer here in Round 7.

Landry said this about Jamerson after the opening day of practice at the East-West Shrine Game:

Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson had an impressive opening day. In the team scrimmage, he flew across the field to track down an interception in front of a receiver and cornerback. It was a very nice play as Jamerson showed speed and an ability to track the ball. Jamerson (6-0, 198) is a versatile athlete who could end up really helping himself this week.

Jamerson was named Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, as he scooped up a fumble and ran it back 68 yards for a touchdown.

At the combine, Jamerson ran a 4.40 in the 40 and had 25 reps in the bench press.

Round 7 (via trade): Quarterback Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech)

Nic Shimonek

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 225 pounds

There is no doubt that the Packers are going to do at least two things this offseason regarding the quarterback position. One will be to re-do the contract of Aaron Rodgers and make him the highest paid QB in the NFL (at least at the time). Secondly, the Packers are definitely going to add some competition to the depth chart at the QB position, seeing as to how badly Brett Hundley struggled at times last season in relief of an injured Rodgers.

I see the Packers adding a veteran free-agent NFL QB, perhaps someone like Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins, who has worked under Joe Philbin there. With Philbin back now as offensive coordinator, Moore would appear to be a good fit.

I also see the Packers drafting a QB. If one of the top QBs fall into their lap at No. 14, I would expect the Packers to possibly select that QB (depending on who he is), similar to what Thompson did in the 2005 NFL draft when he selected Rodgers at pick No. 24, or to trade the pick to someone like the quarterback-needy Arizona Cardinals, who have the next pick at No. 15. Just by trading spots with the Cards, the Packers would be able to get an additional fourth round pick. Or, perhaps someone like the Los Angeles Chargers (pick No. 17) would want to trade up, due to the age of Philip Rivers. That would net the Packers an additional third round pick.

But more likely than that is to select a QB between the fifth and seventh rounds of the draft. One quarterback who falls into that scenario is Nic Shimonek of Texas Tech.

Shimonek has put up some pretty good numbers in 2017 and also in a brief glimpse of him in 2016. In that period, Shimonek threw 39 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,427 yards.

In 2017, Shimonek led the Big 12 in pass completions and was named honorable mention All-Big 12.

Shimonek ran a 4.88 in the 40 at the combine and has shown some good ability to throw on the run.

Landry said this about Shimonek after the first practice at the East-West Shrine Game:

Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek had a decent first practice of the week. Some team sources were remarking that Shimonek has a live arm and Texas Tech runs more pro concepts than many people realize. Shimonek could be the top quarterback to watch on the West squad this week.

Shimonek threw the game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass for the West with just a little over a minute remaining in the Shrine game, as the West beat the East 14-10. Overall, Shimonek was 12-of-18 for 105 yards with one touchdown pass and no picks in the game. That added up to a passer rating of 100.5.

Green Bay Packers: Could Muhammad Wilkerson Reunite with Mike Pettine?

Muhammad Wilkerson

Back on March 11, 2014, when I was with Bleacher Report, I wrote that there was a good possibility that Julius Peppers could become a member of the Green Bay Packers if he was released by the Chicago Bears.

Well, a day later, Peppers was released by da Bears. And four days after that, the Packers and then general manager Ted Thompson signed Peppers to a three-year $26 million dollar deal.

The deal tuned out to be a really good one for the Pack. In those three years, No. 56 had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns. The Packers were also in the NFC championship game in two of the three years Peppers was a Packer.

One of the reasons that I thought Peppers might come to Green Bay was because he would be able to reunite with Mike Trgovac, who was Peppers’ defensive line coach in 2002 as a rookie and also his defensive coordinator from 2003-08 when Peppers was with the Carolina Panthers.

We could see the same thing happen again in 2018. In this case, we might see defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson reunite with his first defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, who is now the defensive coordinator of the Packers.

Wilkerson will be a free agent after his official release by the New York Jets, who announced today that Wilkerson will be cut. In 2011, which was Wilkerson’s rookie year with the Jets, and in 2012, the defense of that team was coordinated by Pettine.

The Jets selected Wilkerson, who played his college ball at Temple, with the 30th pick of Round 1 in the 2011 NFL draft.

Pettine did one hell of a job as the defensive coordinator of the J-E-T-S, as the team was ranked first, third, fifth and eighth in total defense in the four years (2009 through 2012) he ran the defense.

Wilkerson was there for two of those years. In those two years, Wilkerson had 118 total tackles, eight sacks, one safety, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Mike Pettine

Mike Pettine

In his entire seven-year career with the Jets, Wilkerson had 405 tackles, 44.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (for a touchdown).

Wilkerson was named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2015 and was voted second-team All-Pro twice (2013 & 2015).

To me, that is pretty nice production out of a defensive end who primarily played in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

Yes, I know the concerns about Wilkerson. That his motor isn’t always running to full capacity when he plays and that he has been late to meetings at times.

Still, look at his production. Plus, getting together with Pettine could possibly invigorate his focus back on football.

Not to mention having a teammate like Mike Daniels making sure Wilkerson toes the line correctly.

Speaking of Daniels, he is part of a defensive line that certainly could use some help in 2018. The depth chart for the line currently is Daniels, Kenny Clark, Quinton Dial, Dean Lowry and Montravius Adams (two total tackles as a rookie 2017).

The 6’4″, 315-pound Wilkerson would certainly help that group, especially based on his production. Plus, Wilkerson won’t be 29 until October.

Daniels, along with Clark, are considered the two best defensive linemen on the Packers. In six years with Green Bay, Daniels has 207 tackles, 27 sacks, one pass defensed, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), plus went to the Pro Bowl in 2017.

The solid production from Daniels doesn’t even approach the production of Wilkerson. This is not to say Daniels is not a good defensive lineman, because he is, but Wilkerson has even better ability and his production has proven it.

To me, adding Wilkerson to the defensive line group of the Packers would help in a number of ways.

One, the defensive line would be fresher as Pettine would be able to rotate the group as needed. Secondly, the linebackers would be able to make more plays, both in stopping the run and in rushing the passer, because Wilkerson is double-teamed so often. Finally, all of those things will help the secondary, because that should mean a much better pass rush to force the opposing quarterback off his spot and create havoc.

Time will tell if Wilkerson and Pettine will reunite or not, but if nothing else, I sure believe that new general manager Brian Gutekunst is considering it.

At least, based on his comments at the NFL Scouting Combine yesterday in Indianapolis.

“Obviously there’s limits in what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see (if) we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said. “Now whether that leads to us ending up signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there. But we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try to improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market and it’s a little bit riskier market. So I think as my mentor and predecessor would say, you have to be very cautious as you enter that. But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”

Wilkerson is certainly an option. Plus, because he was released, the Packers can sign him at any time. Even before the official ability to sign free agents begins on March 14.

Signing Wilkerson would be an aggressive move by Gutekunst and the Packers. Just like it was when Thompson and the Packers signed Peppers to a three-year deal back in 2012.

That signing helped the Packers to go on to have two appearances in the NFC title game in three years.

I know the Packers would be thrilled to have the same thing happen this time around if they inked Wilkerson.

We shall see.