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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.