The 2019 NFL draft is now just two days away and will take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The Green Bay Packers, behind general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting team, surely have their draft board set.
As a matter of fact, Gutekunst told the media on Monday that he closed the draft room door. “I wouldn’t imagine there’d be a whole lot of changes between now and Thursday,” said the man who replaced Ted Thompson as GM of the Packers last year.
The scouting team has done it’s work, as they have scouted the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl), the NFL Scouting Combine and finally the pro days.
Gutekunst, who along with Mark Murphy, the President and CEO of the Packers, hired Matt LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy as the new head coach of the Packers back in January.
The draft is one way to help LaFleur succeed. But for that to happen, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to get back to the way he played when he was twice named NFL MVP, not to mention winning Super Bowl XLV, when he was MVP of that game. I expect the Packers to utilize the draft to get Rodgers some help.
Just like the way Gutekunst used free agency to help out Mike Pettine’s defense.
Gutekunst shocked just about everyone in Packer Nation when he signed four free agents in one day back in March, when he signed edge rusher Preston Smith (formerly of the Washington Redskins), edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens), safety Adrian Amos (formerly of the Chicago Bears) and offensive lineman Billy Turner (formerly of the Denver Broncos).
The men called Smith will certainly help improve the pass rush of the Packers, while Amos will help out at safety, a position that was continuously being exploited by opponents of the Packers.
Turner adds real depth and talent on the offensive line of the Packers and has played both guard and tackle in his career thus far in the NFL. In addition to that, the Packers also now have Cole Madison back in the fold, after he missed his entire rookie year due to some personal issues.
Madison started 47 games at right tackle for Washington State, but is also seen as a player, who like Turner, can move inside to guard and play very effectively in the NFL.
Both Turner and Madison seem like perfect fits in LaFleur’s outside zone running scheme.
I did my first mock draft a little over a month ago. Since then, the Packers have lost both Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb to free agency. Unfortunately, that is life in the NFL, especially when the production doesn’t match the salary allocated to the player who leaves.
Throughout the years, like a blind squirrel who finds an acorn, I have had decent success with my selections in my mock drafts and a lot of that is due to the relationship I have struck with NFL scout Chris Landry.
I am using the draft analysis and grades of Landry to guide me through this mock draft.
As I mentioned in my first mock draft, as you look through my draft selections, especially the ones later in the draft, please note that I am trying to address the special teams issues which have plagued the Packers recently and are now trying to improve with new coaches.
In this mock draft, you will note that I am again drafting three players who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft.
That being said, here is my second and final 2019 NFL mock draft for the Packers.
Round 1: Tight End T.J. Hockenson (Iowa)
Weight: 251 pounds
As we get closer to the 2019 NFL draft, it appears that if the Green Bay Packers want one of the top two tight ends in this particular draft, they will most likely have to pick that player at selection No. 12, which is the first of two picks that the Packers have in Round 1. The two tight ends who I am talking about are T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom played at Iowa.
Hockenson had a breakout season in 2018 with the Hawkeyes, as he hauled in 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Iowa had a dynamic duo at tight end last season with both Hockenson and Fant (39-517-7).
Overall in his career at Iowa, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. Hockenson also had a rushing TD.
In terms of his draft status, Hockenson has a higher rating from most scouts than Fant going into the upcoming draft, as he is a much better blocker.
This is what Chris Landry said about Hockenson at the Senior Bowl.
“Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson is an excellent receiver and a unusually great blocker coming out of college. He is more advanced than 2018 breakout tight end George Kittle at the same stage.”
The Packers certainly need additional help at the tight end position, as Jimmy Graham is nearing the end of his career, as is Marcedes Lewis (who was re-signed). The Packers also have Robert Tonyan.
Hockenson would help in two big areas. One as a productive pass-catching receiver, plus would tremendously help with his run-blocking in the outside zone scheme which Matt LaFleur will be utilizing in 2019.
If Hockenson is off the board at No. 12, I would expect the Packers to select Fant, because he won’t be there at No. 30. If by chance both are gone, then the Packers might select someone like edge rusher Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, who I had the Packers taking in my first mock draft or an offensive lineman, perhaps a player like Jonah Williams of Alabama or Jawaan Taylor of Florida.
Round 1: Wide Receiver A.J. Brown (Mississippi)
Weight: 226 pounds
Wide receiver Arthur “A.J.” Brown had a great three-year career at Mississippi, as he was twice named first-team All-SEC when he played with the Rebels.
The Rebels had quite a passing attack with Brown on one side and D.K. Metcalf on the other. Metcalf also looks to be selected in Round 1 in this year’s draft.
In his career, Brown had 189 receptions for 2,984 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his last two years at Ole Miss, Brown averaged 80 catches for 1,280 yards and 8.5 TDs.
Brown can play both outside and inside, but I see him more as a slot receiver with the Packers. Brown has great body control, plus can change direction quickly and runs extremely well after the catch. Also has great separation skills.
At the combine, Brown ran a 4.49 in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches.
Chris Landry said this about the talented wide receiver.
“Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown will be a quality NFL WR who can work outside and in the slot. Brown (6’0/226) has plenty of experience inside, but he also played on the perimeter in the second half of 2018 and he did well in those reps as well. He is an efficient route runner and is both competitive and tough with natural hands.”
Round 2: Offensive Tackle Kaleb McGary (Washington)
Weight: 317 pounds
Kaleb McGary was a four-year starter at right tackle for the Washington Huskies. Not only that, but McGary was named All-Pac-12 there in both 2017 and 2018.
McGary has the strength and agility which has made him a very good run blocker throughout his career at Washington. Those attributes will come in handy in the outside zone blocking scheme which will be utilized by new head coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers.
The former star of the Huskies is not a bad pass blocker either based on the honors he has received in the Pac-12, but his ability to run block is his biggest strength.
McGary is also mentally tough, as he and his family have gone through some difficult times recently.
Chris Landry said this about McGary after watching film of him at the Senior Bowl.
“Kaleb McGary was impressive when studying senior bowl practice tape. He was a stalwart for the Washington offensive line in his four seasons as a starter. He could potentially step in right away and help someone and should go no later than mid second round.”
The Packers desperately need a right tackle to come in and play well, as Bryan Bulaga has often been injured playing at that position. Since 2012, Bulaga has missed 40 games due to injury, plus has had to leave a number of games early due to an injury.
I believe McGary can be the guy to step in for Bulaga.
Round 3: Safety Juan Thornhill (Virginia)
Weight: 205 pounds
The draft stock of safety Juan Thornhill of Virginia is definitely starting to rise, so if the Packers were able to select Thornhill in Round 3 they would have to be quite pleased.
Thornhill was a three-year starter at Virginia, as he had 208 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 26 passes defended and one forced fumble. In 2017, Thornhill was third-team All-ACC and in 2018 was first-team All-ACC.
Thornhill would be just what the Packers need, a pure free safety who can play center field.
The former Cavalier impressed at the combine, as he ran a 4.42 in the 40 and had an explosive vertical jump of 44 inches.
Chris Landry said this about Thornhill back in March.
“Virginia S Juan Thornhill was impressive for the Cavaliers in 2018, and his stock has risen after his strong testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the size and cover skills that we look for at the NFL level in today’s game. He is skilled enough to play inside over a slot and can cover well enough outside to play some corner looks.”
Round 4: Running Back Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)
Weight: 206 pounds
Running back Trayveon Williams of Texas A&M may be a bit on the short side, but he is not small. In fact, he plays like a much larger RB. In addition to that, he has all the abilities that one wants in a three-down back, as he runs extremely well, catches the ball reliably and blocks very efficiently too.
Add to that, Williams is a great character guy who works well with coaches and teammates.
In his three-year career as an Aggie, Williams ran for 3,615 yards (6.0 average) and 34 touchdowns. Williams also caught 66 passes for 561 yards and another score.
In 2019, Williams was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American, as he ran for 1,524 rushing yards, plus scored 15 times on 252 carries (6.1 average). He also caught 27 passes for 278 yards (10.3 average) and a touchdown.
At the combine, Williams ran a 4.51 in the 40.
Chris Landry said this about Williams prior to the Texas A&M vs. LSU game.
“RB Trayveon Williams ran for more than 100 yards last week for the third straight game as he amassed 167 on 20 carries with two touchdowns against UAB. Williams has 1,326 yards rushing this year, the most in the SEC and averages 6.1 yards per carry.”
Round 4: Outside Linebacker Justin Hollins (Oregon)
Weight: 248 pounds
Even with the additions of Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, the Packers will still be looking for some more edge rushing help in this draft. And in the fourth round, they would be able to find a real gem if they were able to select Justin Hollins of Oregon.
Hollins played on the other side of OLB Jalen Jenks, who is the better known of the two. But once the Ducks switched their defense into a 3-4 scheme from a 4-3 look, Hollins really flourished.
Hollins started out as a defensive end in 2016, but switched to OLB in 2017 and 2018. In those two years, Hollins had 123 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), six passes defended. one fumble recovery and seven forced fumbles.
Hollins was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2018, as he had 64 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, seven pass breakups, and five forced fumbles (tied for second in the FBS).
Hollins wowed at the combine, as he ran a 4.5 in the 40.
Chris Landry said this about Hollins back in October.
“A defensive playmaker, Hollins has been making big plays all year long, leading the Ducks with four sacks and creating three forced fumbles this season. He was out of position in the Ducks 4-3 scheme and looks much more comfortable playing outside linebacker in their 3-4 system. The one-time track star ran a 10.88 in the 100-yard meters during junior high school.”
Round 5: Defensive Lineman Daniel Wise (Kansas)
Weight: 281 pounds
The Packers have drafted a defensive lineman in every draft since 1996 and this year I expect them to do the same. Especially knowing that this is the last year in the contract of Mike Daniels.
A guy who impressed me and others during the East-West Shrine Game week here in nearby St. Pete was Daniel Wise of Kansas.
Wise, like Daniels, plays until he hears the whistle and sometimes past it. He plays the run very well and flashes as a pass rusher from time to time.
Wise was All-Big 12 in both 2017 and 2018, as he combined for 87 total tackles, had 28 tackles for a loss, had 10 sacks and had two forced fumbles.
Chris Landry said this about Wise after watching him all week at the East-West Shrine Game.
“Wise was used all along the defensive front at Kansas, but his skill set is maximized as a three-technique which became evident at Shrine practices. His quickness, play strength, hand technique and motor are optimized in a penetration-style role where he was unblockable in both 1v1s and team drills. He leaves St. Pete with plenty of positive buzz after dominating the week from start to finish.”
No matter whether the Packers select Wise or another defensive lineman, the team is still interested in bringing back free agent DE Muhammad Wilkerson.
Round 6: Linebacker Cole Holcomb (North Carolina)
Weight: 235 pounds
If there was ever a definition of a tackling machine, linebacker Cole Holcomb of North Carolina would deserve consideration.
In the last three seasons that Holcomb played for the Tarheels at LB, he averaged 104 tackles per season. Holcomb also looked the part in pass coverage, plus forced four fumbles.
At his pro day, Holcomb was off the charts, as he ran a 4.48 in the 40.
Holcomb would be a natural stud on special teams, plus would add a nice piece of depth at the ILB position.
Chris Landry said this about Holcomb in late October prior to the North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech game when Holcomb had 22 tackles.
“LB Cole Holcomb was the defensive leader at Virginia with 13 tackles, a season high for the senior and former walk-on. Holcomb has a team-high 59 tackles for the season with 5.5 for losses and figures to be a busy man against Georgia Tech’s option game.”
Round 6: Cornerback Derrek Thomas (Baylor)
Weight: 189 pounds
Similar to former Packer CB Sam Shields, Derrek Thomas switched positions in college from wide receiver to cornerback. Thomas started college at Temple before moving to Baylor for the 2018 season along with his former coach Matt Rhule.
Thomas had one pick and seven pass breakups for the Bears in 2018 in 11 starts.
Thomas is still raw, as he is still learning how to play the CB position. But the size, athleticism and speed are all there, as Thomas ran a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.
The NFL doesn’t have a lot of 6’3″ CBs who can run a 4.4.
Chris Landry said this about Thomas last month.
“Baylor CB Derrek Thomas doesn’t impress on tape but he did test well with a 4.44 second 40-yard dash while measuring in at 6-foot-3, 189-pounds. Thomas has just 14 career collegiate starts, and though he doesn’t break down well in coverage or as a tackler, his athletic traits give him a late round chance.”
With good coaching, Thomas has the size and speed to help out eventually in the secondary, plus can be a real fixture on special teams if his tackling skills improve. Shields was not a good tackler initially either, but he learned to improve that facet of his game.
Round 7: Outside Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (Wisconsin)
Weight: 241 pounds
Although outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel of the Wisconsin Badgers certainly wasn’t near the classification of former Badger T.J. Watt (who Ted Thompson should have drafted in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL draft) or even Vince Biegel (who Thompson did draft in Round 4 of that same 2017 NFL draft), No. 17 definitely had his moments on the field for the Badgers.
Van Ginkel had a solid two-year career at Wisconsin after transferring from Iowa Western Community College. In 2017 and 2018, Van Ginkel had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), five passes defended, one fumble recovery and four forced fumbles.
In 2018, Van Ginkel was named third-team All-Big Ten.
Besides being productive at outside linebacker for the Badgers, Van Ginkel’s play on special teams stood out.
At the combine, Van Ginkel put up nice numbers, as he had a 38 inch vertical jump and ran the 20-yards shuttle in 4.14 seconds. At the Wisconsin pro day, Van Ginkel ran a 4.56 in the 40.
Chris Landry said this about Van Ginkel prior to the Wisconsin-Minnesota game late in the 2018 season.
“LB Andrew Van Ginkel is coming off a 10-tackle showing. All 10 were solo tackles. When healthy, his hustle and long reach combined with T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly give the Badgers a strong linebacking core.”