The 2018 NFL draft for the Green Bay Packers is now over. How would I view the draft for the Pack overall? I have a number of thoughts. In conjunction with my opinion, I’m going to use the scouting insights of NFL scout Chris Landry.
Much like in the 2015 NFL draft which was run by then general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers focused on the cornerback position in the first two rounds. In that regard, I think new general manager Brian Gutekunst did quite well, especially based on the pre-draft scouting report by Landry.
Landry had both Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson rated with a 6.4 grade, which classifies as an early second-round value. Both players were on his horizontal draft board (best players regardless of position). Alexander was ranked No. 37, while Jackson was ranked No. 30. Jackson was ranked third, while Alexander was ranked fourth on Landry’s cornerback draft board.
I had the Packers taking Jackson in the second round in my third mock draft.
Green Bay desperately needed to upgrade the talent and youth at the cornerback position in this draft and they did just that. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has to be happy with these selections.
Later in this article, you will see Landry’s breakdown on the selections of both Alexander and Jackson, as well as all the other selections that the Packers made in the draft.
I also saw that he Packers definitely got bigger and faster at the wide receiver position with the three players they selected. J’Mon Moore of Missouri is 6’3″, weighs 207 pounds and ran a 4.48 in the 40 at his pro day. Marquez Valdes-Scantling of USF is 6’4″, weighs 206 pounds and ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Equanimeous St. Brown is 6’5″, weighs 214 pounds and ran a 4.48 in the 40 at the combine.
Landry had both Moore and Brown ranked on his horizontal board, which ranks players from first to fourth-round value. Landry has Brown ranked No. 86 and has the former Fighting Irish star graded with a 5.9 mark, which means a third-round value. Landry had Moore ranked No. 129 and has the former Tiger star graded with a 5.5 mark, which means a fourth-round value.
I had the Packers taking Brown in my first mock draft.
Valdes-Scantling was not on Landry’s horizontal board and was graded with a 5.4 mark, which means fifth to sixth-round value.
The Packers had a lot of question marks at wide receiver prior to the draft. For one, the team released Jordy Nelson. Secondly, the best wide receiver on the team, Davante Adams, who the Packers signed to a four-year $58.75 extension in late December, is coming off a season with multiple concussions. Finally, Randall Cobb is is in the final year of his four-year $40 deal, one which he has not exactly lived up to.
Adding Moore, Valdes-Scantling and Brown gives the Packers a lot of options at the wide receiver position, as well as speed and size as I mentioned earlier.
I’m sure quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t unhappy with the selections of these big and talented receivers. Nor was head coach Mike McCarthy.
In the third round the Packers picked linebacker Oren Burks. While I would have preferred adding an edge rusher at that point of the draft, the Packers have been trying to find a cover-linebacker for years now in the pass-happy league that they play in. It appears that Burks can fill that role.
Landry did not have Burks ranked in his horizontal draft board, but did have the former Vandy star graded with a 5.4 mark, which means a fifth to sixth-round value. Obviously the Packers graded Burks differently.
I liked the selection of offensive lineman Cole Madison in Round 5. I had the Packers taking Madison in my second mock draft. Landry had Madison ranked No. 9 on his guard draft board, although Madison played right tackle throughout his career at Washington State. Landry also had Madison ranked No. 158 on his horizontal draft board with a 5.5 grade which means fourth-round value.
And believe it or not, I had no problem with the Packers selecting punter JK Scott of Alabama in Round 5. Landry has Scott ranked as the second-best punter on his specialists board and gave the former Crimson Tide star a 5.4 grade, which means fifth to sixth-round value. It’s not a good omen for current Green Bay punter Justin Vogel that the Packers initially assigned Scott the same No. 8 that Vogel wears.
I also had no problem with two (DE James Looney of Cal and OLB Kendall Donnerson of Southeast Missouri State) of the three players that the Packers picked in Round 7. I do have a problem with one of them, long snapper Hunter Bradley of Mississippi State. More on Bradley in a moment.
Landry gave Looney a 5.4 grade, which means fifth to sixth-round value. Landry did not have Donnerson listed on his horizontal or linebackers draft board, but as you will see on his evaluation below, he definitely believes Donnerson has some definite upside.
In terms of selecting Bradley, I’m still scratching my head. I can’t recall the Packers ever drafting a long snapper before. Green Bay has drafted players who played different positions and who could also long snap, but never just a long snapper. I saw some players on the draft board at the time Green Bay picked Bradley who could have helped the Packers more in other areas.
The selections of both Scott and Bradley tell me that the Packers are making a concerted effort to improve the special teams units of coach Ron Zook. Both Scott and Bradley would have to really mess up the bed in training camp to not make the team.
Overall, the big problem that I had with this draft with the Packers was not addressing the pass-rushing issues (except for Donnerson in Round 7) that the team has. It’s great to improve the secondary and to draft a cover-linebacker like the Packers did in this draft, but if an opposing quarterback has too much time to pass, he’ll eventually find an open receiver.
Again, just look at last season. The Packers were tied for 17th in the NFL in sacks last season with 37. That is almost 20 sacks behind the NFL leader, the Steelers, who had 56.
The lack of a potent pass rush by the Packers led to the secondary being exposed last season. Green Bay was ranked second-worst in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating, as the season average was 102.0.
Not only that, the Packers 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.
The secondary will be better with Alexander and Jackson, that is for sure. Burks should be a solid cover-LB. But where will the pass rush come from? Yes, the Packers still have Clay Matthews (7.5 sacks in 14 games) and Nick Perry (seven sacks in 12 games) at OLB. Plus, the team added DE Muhammad Wilkerson. And maybe players like Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel will become the pass rushers like they were in college at OLB. But all of those players, minus Wilkerson, did not exactly light the world on fire last year with pass pressure for the Packers.
I was also shocked that the Packers did not select one player from Wisconsin. They may have wanted to add a Badger or two, but were unable to due to another team selecting that player before the Packers had a chance to. I do know the Packers were very interested in tight end Troy Fumagalli, who was selected by the Denver Broncos in Round 5.
Finally, Gutekunst put the Packers in a great position in the 2019 NFL draft by acquiring a first round pick from the New Orleans Saints.
Below is Landry’s breakdown of all the selections that the Packers made in the 2018 NFL draft.
Round 1: Cornerback Jaire Alexander (Louisville)
Green Bay gave up the No. 27, No. 76 and No. 186 picks to move up nine spots. The Packers are also receiving a seventh-rounder (pick No. 248). Alexander (5’10/196) converted from wide receiver and broke out for five interceptions as a sophomore in 2016 before missing all but six games as a junior with a broken hand and recurring knee injuries. Alexander had a 28.6% completion rate and a 19.9 passer rating allowed in 2017, lowest among draft-eligible corners. A twitchy athlete with ballhawking flashes and sticky man-cover skills, Alexander blazed 4.38 in Indy and destroyed agility drills. His lone weakness on tape came in run support, where Alexander needs to improve as a tackler. Long term, Alexander offers high-end No. 2 or low-end No. 1 cornerback upside.
Round 2: Cornerback Josh Jackson (Iowa)
Jackson (6’0/196) dabbled at wideout his first two years as a Hawkeye before breaking out to lead the nation in interceptions (8) and pass breakups (26) as a 2017 redshirt junior cornerback, earning first-team All-American and Big Ten DB of the Year. Jackson had an anemic 32.2 passer rating allowed in 2017. Although Jackson lacks blazing straight-line speed (4.54), he tested as a top-five SPARQ athlete in this cornerback class and offers field-flipping ball skills. Most scouts thought Jackson would be better in zone than man coverage. The Packers just doubled up at the position after taking Jaire Alexander in round one.
Round 3: Linebacker Oren Burks (Vanderbilt)
Burks (6’3/233) was a four-year starter in the Commodores’ back seven, initially manning safety, moving to “star” (linebacker/safety hybrid) as a junior, and settling in at inside linebacker as a senior, all told recording 15.5 career tackles for loss and five interceptions. Burks’ stock soared at the Combine, testing as a 95th -percentile athlete with 4.59 speed and a quick three-cone time (6.82). Burks once would have been labeled a “tweener,” but the value of his style of play and versatility has grown in a pass-heavier NFL. He’s a sleeper to become a Mark Barron-level defender.
Round 4: Wide Receiver J’Mon Moore Missouri
Moore (6’3/207) was a three-year starter for the Tigers, graduating with a 158/2,477/21 career receiving line at 15.7 yards per catch. Moore had 391 of his 2017 receiving yards on 20-plus-yard catches, third most in the SEC. An 85th-percentile SPARQ athlete with 4.49 (Pro Day) speed and a 38-inch vertical, Moore’s pre-draft concerns were rawness and off-field concerns, but he is every bit an NFL-caliber wide receiver on game tape.
Round 5: Offensive Lineman Cole Madison (Washington State)
Madison (6’5/308) made 47 starts at right tackle on the Cougars’ offensive line, earning second-team All-Pac 12 as a senior and ranking fifth among Pac 12 offensive tackles in pass-blocking efficiency rating (97.7). Just a 14th-percentile SPARQ athlete, Madison was a quality college starter who will likely struggle in the pros. He would do well to carve out a Sam Young-like swing tackle career.
Round 5: Punter JK Scott (Alabama)
Scott (6’6/208) punted for the Crimson Tide all four years, graduating at the school’s all-time leader in gross average (45.6). Scott dropped 50% of his 2017 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and doubled as Alabama’s kickoff specialist. Scott showed enough versatility, leg strength, and accuracy in the SEC that he has a shot to become a long-term NFL solution at punter.
Round 6: Wide Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (USF)
Valdes-Scantling (6’4/206) transferred from NC State to USF for his final two seasons, where he logged a 75/1,294/11 career receiving line and averaged 17.3 yards per reception. Valdes-Scantling padded his resume with a 4.37 forty and 10-foot-4 broad jump in Indy. Valdes-Scantling’s sheer size and speed give him Devery Henderson-like potential, but his ball skills and route running are both well below average on tape. Valdes-Scantling is a one-trick pony, and isn’t great at the one trick.
Round 6: Wide Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)
Brown (6’5/214) turned pro after starting two years for the Irish, logging a 92/1,484/16.1/13 career receiving line, and regressing from 961 yards and nine TDs with DeShone Kizer as a sophomore to 515/4 as a junior in a much worse passing attack. St. Brown blazed 4.48 at the Combine and showed he’s been in the weight room with 20 bench-press reps. A height-weight-speed projection with Jekyll & Hyde game tape, St. Brown offers No. 1 wideout traits with some Dorial Green-Beckham-like moments mixed in. He’s a classic boom-bust pick.
Round 7: Defensive End James Looney (California)
Looney was a Shrine game invite and is an upfield disruptor. At Cal he often created instant penetration after jumping the snap, creating plays for loss. Looney then went to the NFL Combine at produced an athletic profile in the 93rd percentile, which is outstanding. Looney finished his collegiate career with seven sacks.
Round 7: Long Snapper Hunter Bradley (Mississippi State)
Bradley is the first snapper of longer than normal snaps to be selected this year. Being a seventh-round pick makes it likely Bradley snaps the snaps longer than other snaps for the Packers this season.
Round 7: Outside Linebacker Kendall Donnerson (Southeast Missouri State)
Donnerson (6’2/248) was a two-year starter at SEMO, earning first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference as a senior with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Donnerson put himself on the map with a monster Pro Day workout, running 4.44 with a 40-inch vertical and 7.03 three-cone time. Donnerson is a developmental project, but he offers pass-rush upside based on his H/W/S combo.