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.

Boyd Dowler Talks About the 1959 NFL Draft Class of the Green Bay Packers

Boyd Dowler Running Downfield

A little over a year ago, I wrote about the 1958 NFL draft class of the Green Bay Packers. One of the members of that draft class, right guard and occasional placekicker Jerry Kramer, commented about that prodigious class.

When I wrote the piece, Kramer had not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, like he was earlier this month.

Now with Kramer being enshrined, that means that three members of that draft class in 1958 are among the best of the best in the hallowed halls in Canton. Both Jim Taylor (1976) and Ray Nitschke (1978) preceded Kramer into the Hall of Fame.

In addition to those three, the 1958 draft class also had Dan Currie, who was a great pro in his own right until a knee injury hampered him throughout the rest of his career. The class also had a guard by the name of Ken Gray who was drafted two rounds after Kramer in the sixth round.

Kramer and Gray basically battled for one job in training camp and Kramer won out while Gray was cut. Gray soon ended up signing with the then Chicago Cardinals and ended up having a great career with the Cards.

While he was with the Cardinals (in Chicago and St. Louis), Gray was named to six Pro Bowl squads, plus was named first-team All-Pro four times.

Needless to say, the 1958 NFL draft class for the Packers was the best the team ever had in it’s history.

Back in the 1950s, the man who headed the scouting for the Packers was Jack Vainisi. A number of great players were drafted by Vainisi over that time. The list includes Billy Howton, Bobby Dillon, Dave “Hawg” Hanner, Bill Forester, Jim Ringo, Max McGee, Forrest Gregg, Bob Skoronski, Hank Gremminger, Bart Starr, Ron Kramer, John Symank and also the class of 1958.

Vainisi also played an important role in drafting the class of 1959 for the Packers. The team was undergoing a very strange set of circumstances. Green Bay was coming off the worst season in in team history, as the Pack went 1-10-1 under head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean.

Sadly, Vainisi died of a heart attack in 1960 at the young age of 33, just prior the championship run that the Packers had under Vince Lombardi, who had not been hired until after the 1959 draft.

Anyway, back in those days, the NFL draft was set up to have the early part of the draft in the latter part of the ongoing 1958 season (December 2, 1958), while the next part of the draft took place after the season had ended (January 21, 1959).

When the first part of the draft took place, McLean was still the head coach. But the writing was on the wall for “Scooter” to be replaced. At that point, the front runner to become the new head coach of the Packers was Forrest Evashevski, who was the head coach at Iowa.

Evashevski had turned the Hawkeyes into a powerhouse in the Big Ten in the ’50s and was on his way to his second Rose Bowl win in three years. Iowa was led by quarterback Randy Duncan, who guided the Hawkeyes to a 8-1-1 record in 1958 and a 38-12 victory over the Cal Bears in Pasadena.

Duncan was consensus All-American in 1958 and finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

So, when the 1959 NFL draft took place, the Packers sort of rolled the dice and selected Duncan with the first pick of the draft in the first round. I’m sure that Packers were thinking that Evashevski would soon be following. But that never happened.

Plus, Duncan never played for the Packers and went to the CFL instead to play for the British Columbia Lions.

Two other players were selected on that early December day in 1958 for the Packers. In the second round, Green Bay selected halfback Alex Hawkins of South Carolina and in the third round, the Packers selected flanker Boyd Dowler of Colorado, who actually played a number of positions for the Buffaloes. More on that later.

The early part of that draft lasted four rounds, but the Packers were done after selecting Duncan, Hawkins and Dowler, as they had traded away their selection in round four.

In the second stage of the draft, when by then McLean had resigned as head coach, and the team was still in the process of hiring a new one, the Packers selected 28 more players. Yes, you read that correctly. The draft lasted 30 rounds in those days.

Of those 28 players, only three made the team. Those players were guard Andy Cvercko of Northwestern (fifth round), halfback Bill Butler of Tennessee-Chattanooga (19th round) and halfback Timmy Brown of Ball State (27th round).

You probably have recognized two pretty well known players in this draft, who then went on to have pretty good careers in the NFL, but for other teams. I’m talking about Hawkins and Brown. More on them later.

A week after the second stage of the 1959 NFL draft was completed, the Packers hired Lombardi to become their head coach.

Vince meeting Dominic to become the new head coach of the Packers

Vince Lombardi shakes hands with Dominic Olejniczak of the Packers in 1959.

Lombardi obviously did not take part in the draft for the Packers in 1959, but he did make a number of trades that offseason after looking at film of the team he would now be coaching.

Here are the key trades Lombardi made:

  • G Fred “Fuzzy”Thurston from the Baltimore Colts for LB Marv Matuzak.
  • S Emlen Tunnell from the New York Giants for cash.
  • QB Lamar McHan from the Chicago Cardinals for a 1960 third-round pick.
  • HB Lew Carpenter and DE Bill Quinlan from the Cleveland Browns for WR Billy Howton.
  • DT Henry Jordan from the Cleveland Browns for a 1960 fourth-round pick.

Between the 1959 NFL draft and the trades Lombardi made, that set up what the Packers had to work with going into the 1959 season. It’s also important to remember that Green Bay had not had a winning season since back in 1947.

So, with all that being said, I had another opportunity to speak with Dowler earlier this week. He and I talked about the 1959 draft and also one of the Lombardi trades that made his role even larger on the team in 1959.

Dowler first talked about the process he went through before the 1959 draft.

“I did not hear from very many people,” Dowler said. “I heard from the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted a few spots down from the Packers. I was picked with the 25th pick, which was the first selection in the third round. So I heard from the 49ers who said they would be interested in drafting me.

“As it turned out, the Packers took me with the 25th pick and the 49ers took my roommate Eddie Dove a few picks later at No. 29. Eddie was one of my best friends and teammates from college (Colorado).

“Eddie was a safety and got picked to play in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, while I was named Rookie of the Year. Eddie and I played against each other for a number of years in the same division before he was traded to the Giants.”

I asked Dowler about the two players who were selected before him in the draft, Duncan and Hawkins.

“I was still in college at Colorado when the Packers took Randy Duncan first as a quarterback,” Dowler said. “Then they took me third, and I also played quarterback and I sort of shook my head and said, ‘What in the hell is going on here?’ It was pretty obvious that the Packers didn’t think of me as a quarterback.

“In terms of Duncan, I’ve never seen him in my life. I never met him. He went to the CFL instead of coming to Green Bay.”

But what about Hawkins and why was he eventually cut?

“Alex played running back as a rookie and for a number of years with the Colts, but he also turned into a good receiver with Falcons,” Dowler said. “Hawkins was sort of a free spirit. He also was on a roster that had quite few running backs. We had Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor. They traded for Lew Carpenter, who was also pretty good. Plus they had Don McIlhenny from SMU who was also a pretty good back.

“Plus they drafted Timmy Brown, who ended up going to the Eagles and had a good career there. But those guys were all on the team. The roster limit was 35 at the time, so it was tough for Alex to make the team, plus he fumbled in a preseason game which sort of sealed his fate.”

Hawkins went on to have a fine career in the NFL. In 11 seasons in the league, nine with the Colts and two with the Falcons, Hawkins rushed for 787 yards and 10 touchdowns, while he caught 129 passes for 1,751 yards and 12 more scores. Hawkins was obviously never a part of any championship teams in Green Bay, but he did strike gold early, as he was on the Colts in 1959 when they won the NFL title.

Dowler also talked about Brown.

“Tim opened the season with us in ’59,” Dowler said. “He fumbled a kickoff in the opener against the Bears and was cut on Tuesday the very next week.”

I checked the Packers media guide and that is correct. That one game was the only game Brown ever played for the Pack.

Brown had a great career with the Eagles, plus also won a NFL title with them in 1960, when they ironically defeated his former teammates 17-13 in the 1960 NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

Timmy Brown

Timmy Brown

In eight years with the Eagles, starting in 1960, Brown rushed for 3,703 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. Brown also caught 231 passes for 3,346 yards and 26 more scores. As good as those stats are, Brown really made a mark as a returner, as he returned five kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a score.

Dowler then talked about a trade that Lombardi made which allowed him a real opportunity to get playing time.

“When Coach Lombardi traded Billy Howton, who was really their best receiver (four Pro Bowls), I was fortunate,” Dowler said. “That opened up a spot for me in the lineup. We did not have a lot of receivers them. We had Max [McGee], who was the only wide receiver on the team who had really played when I came in as a rookie.

“I didn’t start right away, but I played quite a bit. I got into the starting lineup against the Bears in Chicago and then had a breakout game against the Colts (eight receptions for 147 yards), who were the world champions that year, the next week in Milwaukee.”

Dowler and I also discussed the reason why Howton was traded. I had heard and read that Howton had rubbed Lombardi the wrong way with his clubhouse lawyer demeanor.

“Howton sort of felt like he should be helping out on who they were going to throw the ball to,” Dowler said. “And that he needed to get the ball more. I think they met up in Lombardi’s office. I think before Howton got in his car to leave that day, he was already traded.”

As it was, Dowler filled in quite well as a rookie at receiver, as he caught 32 passes for 549 yards and four touchdowns, plus rushed for 20 yards on one scamper. That led to Dowler being named Rookie of the Year by UPI in 1959.

That was a great accomplishment for Dowler, as he was not even sure what position he would play in the NFL because he had so many roles when he played at Colorado.

Kramer talked about that in a story I did about Dowler last year.

“Boyd was a very talented athlete,” Kramer said. “He led Colorado in passing, running, receiving and punting. But when you think about that, how the hell could you lead the team in both passing and receiving? You can’t throw to yourself! But Boyd told me that he played in a single-wing offense at Colorado and sometimes he threw the ball and sometimes he caught the ball.”

Dowler concurred.

“When I was drafted, I didn’t really know what position I would play,” Dowler said. “I played quarterback at Colorado. I played in the slot in the East-West Shrine Game and caught some passes and punted. I actually looked pretty good, as we played both ways back then, playing pass defense. My senior year in college, I led the conference in pass interceptions with five. I had 10 in my career at Colorado.

“So I really didn’t know what position I would play. I kind of thought I would be a receiver. I knew I wouldn’t be a quarterback. I knew enough about how I played and how I threw the ball that I wouldn’t be a NFL quarterback.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

“When I showed up with the other quarterbacks with the Packers in June, as Coach Lombardi brought us in early, it didn’t take Coach very long to figure out I was a flanker.”

Lombardi figured out a lot of things that year, as the Packers ended having their first winning season (7-5) in 12 years.

It led to the Packers winning five NFL championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls. In addition to that, the Packers won three NFL titles in a row, a feat that has never ever been duplicated in the playoff history of the NFL.

Dowler was in Green Bay for all of that and he played a large role in a number of the championship victories, as he had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores in 10 postseason games.

In his overall career in Green Bay, No. 86 had 448 catches for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. Dowler also punted for the Packers for four seasons and had a 42.9 average.

That led to Dowler being named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade team, plus he was also named to the second team on the NFL’s 50 Anniversary team.

When Dowler retired, he was ranked 10th in receptions and ranked 12th in yards receiving in NFL history.

Not bad for guy who wasn’t sure what position he would play in the NFL out of college, huh?

Green Bay Packers: More Wisconsin Badgers on the Way in the 2018 NFL Draft?

draft banner

The Green Bay Packers made a significant change this offseason that many of the members of Packer Nation have been asking for. That was, the firing of defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

When head coach Mike McCarthy made that change, many, like NFL scout Chris Landry, thought that Vic Fangio might be a possibility to replace Capers.

But while Fangio decided to stay on as defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, McCarthy decided instead to bring in Mike Pettine to run his defense.

Pettine hadn’t coached in the NFL since 2015, which was his second and last year as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, where he was 10-22 over those two seasons. Not a great record, but it looks pretty good compared to the 0-16 mark that the Browns had in 2017.

Pettine was named head coach of the Browns because of his prowess as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. In five years at that position, four with the New York Jets under head coach Rex Ryan and one with the Buffalo Bills, Pettine always coordinated a top 10 defense.

From 2009 though 2012 with the Jets, his defenses were ranked first, third, fifth and eighth in the NFL in total defense, while in 2013 with the Bills, his defense was ranked 10th in that category.

There was one player who was a constant for Pettine, both as a coordinator and one year as a head coach. That player was safety Jim Leonhard, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Leonhard played under Pettine with the Jets from 2009 through 2011, then again with the Bills in 2013 and then finally with the Browns in 2014, which was Pettine’s first year as head coach.

In the year off between playing in the NFL and getting into coaching, Leonhard studied film in 2015 with then defensive coordinator Dave Aranda of the Badgers. Then, in 2016, head coach Paul Chryst of the Badgers hired Leonhard as the defensive backs coach of the Badgers to work under the new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

When Wilcox left to become the head coach at Cal, Chryst surprised some people by making Leonhard his new defensive coordinator in 2017.

The decision turned out to be a wise one by Chryst.

Wisconsin has had a fairly long tradition of having good defenses over the past decade. From 2009 though 2012, the Badgers were ranked 16th, 21st, 20th and 13th in total defense in the country.

But when then head coach Gary Andersen brought in Aranda to be the defensive coordinator in 2013, things really changed for the better. First, Aranda switched the Badgers from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.

The players definitely took hold of the new scheme as the Badgers were ranked eighth, fourth and second in total defense from 2013 to 2015, which was Aranda’s final year as defensive coordinator.

The after Aranda left to become the defensive coordinator at LSU, Wilcox took over in 2016, kept the 3-4 scheme, and the defense was ranked sixth in total defense.

But in 2017, in only Leonhard’s second year as a coach and his first as a defensive coordinator, the Badgers were ranked second in total defense (262.1 yards per game) and were exceptional in other statistical categories as well.

The Badgers were ranked third in scoring defense (13.9 points per game), third in rushing defense (98.4 yards per game), fifth in passing defense (163.6 yards per game) and tied for sixth in turnovers gained (29).

Leonhard also used the 3-4 scheme he had learned under both Aranda and Wilcox, plus sprinkled in concepts he had learned playing in the 3-4 defense he played in the NFL under Pettine.

Back when my college buddy Kevin Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator of the Badgers from 1995 through 2003, he told me that the coaching staffs of the Badgers and Packers would get together once every summer before training camp to discuss concepts and schemes.

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Mike Pettine and Jim Leonhard

Now, with Pettine and Leonhard being so closely aligned in the recent past, expect that there will be more than concepts being discussed between the two. I’m sure that there will be a discussion about players as well, especially since a number of former Wisconsin defenders who played under Leonhard in 2017 will be available in the 2018 NFL draft.

There are a number of Badger prospects who should interest Pettine and the Packers on defense. The list includes includes cornerback Nick Nelson, linebacker Jack Cichy, linebacker Garret Dooley, linebacker Leon Jacobs, safety Natrell Jamerson, defensive lineman Alec James and defensive lineman Conor Sheehy.

General manager Ted Thompson of the Packers did select linebacker Vince Biegel of the Badgers in the 2017 NFL draft, when he was selected with the first pick of the fourth round.

But it was the bookend to Biegel on the Badgers, that many, including myself, thought Thompson should have selected. I’m talking about T.J. Watt.

I had the Packers taking Watt in the first round of my first mock draft from last year, as well as in my final mock draft.

Watt ended up being named to the 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team at linebacker.

This year, Thompson has stepped away from his duties as general manager and has been replaced by Brian Gutekunst.

When Thompson was GM, he was almost always a regular at the Wisconsin pro day prior to the draft. You can be assured that Gutekunst will do the same thing and that he will be accompanied by folks like McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and Pettine.

McCarthy and Philbin will be taking a close look at tight end Troy Fumagalli, as well as fullback Austin Ramesh.

Fumagalli would certainly fill a big hole for the Packers at tight end, and the offense of the Packers under McCarthy are always looking for multi-skilled fullbacks, and Ramesh certainly fills that role.

But it is the defense of the Packers which desperately needs upgrading. The Packers were ranked 22nd in total defense in 2017, as they allowed an average of 348.9 yards per game.

Green Bay was ranked 23rd in passing defense (236.8 yards per game) and was ranked 17th in rushing defense (112.1 yards per game).

The Packers played the run fairly well in the early part of the 2017 season, but got progressively worse as the year wore on.

The pass defense of the team was basically in disarray all season long.

The Packers were ranked second-worst in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating, as the season average was 102.0. That is an amazing and very disappointing stat. Why? Because there is only one quarterback in NFL history (based on 1,500 pass attempts) who has a passer rating over 100. That is Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, who has a career mark of 103.8.

To give up a season average of 102.0 is almost unfathomable. Plus 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.

That is why the Pettine will certainly want to look at cornerbacks in the draft like Nelson, who received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Or safeties in the draft like Jamerson, who had a great week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game, plus was named Defensive MVP of the game itself.

Jamerson definitely improved his draft stock in the Shrine game and is currently projected to get selected late in the draft.

Cichy was probably the best player on the Wisconsin defense in 2016 (which included Watt) in 2016, before he tore his pectoral muscle. In seven games in 2016, Cichy was a magnet for the football, as he had 60 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Cichy didn’t play in 2017 due to a knee injury suffered in training camp. “Three-Sack Jack” could have come back to play for Wisconsin in 2018, as he was eligible for a medical redshirt, but he decided to declare for the NFL draft instead. Cichy received his nickname due to the three consecutive sacks he had in the 2015 Holiday Bowl versus USC, when the Badgers beat the Trojans 23-21 and Cichy was Defensive MVP of the game.

Jack Cichy

Jack Cichy

Cichy would definitely add some talent to the linebacker depth of the Packers, as he can play inside or outside. Right now Cichy is slotted to be picked anywhere from the fourth through the sixth round. How Cichy is clocked in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine and at the Wisconsin pro day will definitely determine where teams will slot him in the draft.

The Packers would seem to be in an excellent position to select Cichy if they like him, as they are slotted to have four picks in the fifth round according to Over The Cap. The Packers will have their own selections in each of the seven rounds of the draft, plus will be also have an additional seventh round pick because of a trade with the Bills, when the team shipped linebacker Lerentee McCray to Buffalo in 2016.

The NFL will officially announce the number of compensatory picks each team will receive soon, but Over The Cap has the Packers getting one in the third round and three in the fifth round. That would mean the Packers would have 12 picks overall in the 2018 NFL draft.

*** The NFL announced on Friday that the Packers were awarded four compensatory picks Friday in the 2018 draft: a fourth-round pick (No. 133 overall), two fifth-round picks (Nos. 172 and 174) and a sixth-round pick (No. 207).

Dooley is another player who could help the linebacker corp for the Packers. He was very consistent for the Badgers at outside linebacker in both 2016 and 2017, as he had 79 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Dooley is another prospect slotted to be selected in the fifth round or later.

Jacobs had a great senior year for the Badgers, as he had 60 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown). Jacobs, like Cichy, can play either inside or outside. Jacobs is also expected to go late in the draft.

In terms of the defensive line, both James and Sheehy were very good in stopping the run at Wisconsin. James also had 11 sacks in his career as a Badgers, while Sheehy added six. Both James and Sheehy are projected to go late in the draft or be signed as an undrafted rookie free agent.

The draft stock of all these players will be helped or diminished by how they perform at the combine and at their pro day.

All of the Wisconsin draft prospects certainly know how to win, as the Badgers have gone 34-7 under Chryst the past three seasons (10-3, 11-3 and 13-1), which includes bowl wins in the Holiday Bowl, Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

But based on the connection between Pettine and Leonhard, I definitely could see at least one Badger defender taken in this draft by the Packers, especially based on the seven picks the team will have from the fifth round through the seventh, where a number of the Wisconsin defensive prospects are slotted.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame: Both Boyd Dowler and Ron Kramer Deserve Consideration

hall of fame packer logo 2

In my most recent story, in which Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers reflected about being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the things we talked about was the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

You see, Kramer was the last player on the first team of that half-century team of the NFL to be enshrined in Canton. The other players on the first team are Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell and Lou Groza.

Talk about an impressive list of the best of the best in NFL history!

I mentioned to Kramer that only two other players on that 50th anniversary team were still not inducted and both were teammates of his. Kramer was shocked to hear that the players are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

The other players on the second team besides Dowler, are Sammy Baugh, Bronco Nagurski, Harold “Red” Grange, Forrest Gregg, Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Danny Fortman, Mel Hein, Len Ford, Ernie Stautner, Joe Schmidt, Jack Butler, Jack Christiansen and Ernie Nevers.

Not a bad group to be associated with, huh?

The other players on the third team besides (Ron) Kramer, are Norm Van Brocklin, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenney, Lenny Moore, Joe Stydahar, Dante Lavelli, Jim Parker, Alex Wojciechowicz, David “Deacon” Jones, Art Donovan, Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, Herb Adderley, Larry Wilson and Ken Strong.

Another stellar group.

After I told Jerry that Boyd and Ron were the only two out of 45 players from the 50th anniversary team of the NFL not in Canton, No. 64 talked about his two former teammates.

First, Jerry talked about the player who shared his last name.

“Ron was a 260-pound runaway truck,” Kramer said. “He was an outstanding athlete at Michigan. He high-jumped 6’4”. He threw the shot put around 60 feet. Ron was also very good in basketball, was the captain of the team and at one point was the all-time leading scorer in team history at Michigan.

“He was an All-American in football for two years running. Overall, Ron won nine letters in sports at Michigan, three each in football, basketball and track.

“Ron was also quite the character off the field. He and Paul Hornung were very close. Ron was a unique human being. He was a bit wacky at times. He loved to put a drink on his head because he had a flat spot up there, and he would dance with it up there.

Ron Kramer and Vince Lombardi in 1961 NFL title game.

“Ron also like to mess with you. He would kiss you in the ear or some silly-ass thing. Just to irritate you. He would do that just for aggravation and he would giggle and laugh.

“So when Ron died, Hornung goes to his funeral up in Detroit and Ron’s son Kurt picked up Paul at the airport. When Kurt sees Paul, he gives him a big kiss right on the lips. And Paul yells, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And Kurt said, ‘Dad told me about three months ago that if he didn’t make it and if you came to his funeral, I was supposed to give you a big kiss on the lips and to tell you it was from dad.’

“Paul started crying like a baby after that.”

When Kramer played tight end for the Packers, they were predominately a running team and that is when the power sweep was most effective, as the tight end played a key role in the blocking scheme.

From 1960 to 1964, the Packers were ranked either first (three times) or second (twice) in rushing in the NFL.

In one of our many conversations, Jerry said of the power sweep, “Bobby, in the first three years we ran that play, we averaged I believe 8.3 yards a carry.”

Ron Kramer was one hell of a run-blocker, but was also very effective in the passing game. In his career with the Packers, which spanned seven years before he played out his option to play for his hometown Detroit Lions, No. 88 had 170 receptions for 2,594 yards and 15 touchdowns.

In the postseason, Kramer had six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores occurred in the 1961 NFL title game, when the Packers beat the New York Giants 37-0 at then City Stadium (now Lambeau Field). That was the first championship game ever played in Green Bay.

Ron Kramer was named All-Pro once and also was named to one Pro Bowl team. Plus, Kramer was also on the third team of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

Jerry then turned his attention to Dowler.

“Boyd was so precise and so mature his rookie year,” Kramer said. “He started taking care of business right out of the gate. He rarely dropped a pass. He would catch it over the middle, catch it on the sidelines and catch it wherever the hell you threw it. He was consistent throughout his career.”

I wrote a story about Dowler last year, as Kramer added some more commentary. One of the things Kramer mentioned was how Dowler was very self-assured.

“I think Boyd’s confidence was one of the big reasons why he was accepted so quickly and completely,” Kramer said. “There were no excuses from Boyd. If he screwed something up, he would be the guy to tell you. But he very seldom screwed things up and made very few mistakes.”

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Dowler had 448 receptions for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. In the postseason, Dowler also had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores.

In his rookie year in 1959, Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI (United Press International). The former Colorado star was also named to two Pro Bowls in his career.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in 1961 NFL title game

In addition to that, Dowler was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the second team on the NFL’s 50 Anniversary team.

I had an opportunity to talk with Dowler earlier this week to talk about his being on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and also about his chances of getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The reason I brought up the Hall of Fame, was because Rick Gosselin also noted that only Dowler and (Ron) Kramer are the only players on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not in Canton.

Here is what Gosselin said about Dowler and Kramer in a recent podcast on the Talk of Fame Sports Network:

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

I certainly concur with Gosselin’s take there.

As I wrote about earlier in the story, the Packers did not throw the ball as often as many NFL teams, because they had such a solid run game behind the likes of Hornung and Jim Taylor. On average, quarterback Bart Starr threw the ball less than 20 times per game.

Dowler talked about one factor which set him apart from a lot of receivers in his day.

“Probably the most significant statistic that I can come up with in my career was the fact that I caught five touchdown passes in championship games,” Dowler said. “The guy who sticks out to me who is sort of similar as far as statistics are concerned is Lynn Swann. He probably got inducted because of his play in playoff or championship games.”

Dowler brings up an excellent comparison.

In terms of regular season numbers in his career, Dowler had 448 catches for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns, while Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 and 51 touchdowns.

In the postseason, Dowler had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores in 10 games. One of those games was Super Bowl I, when No. 86 missed almost the entire game due to a shoulder injury.

After that injury, Dowler was replaced by Max McGee, who went on to have the best game of his career, as he had seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Swann had 48 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 postseason games.

Dowler continued the comparison between himself and Swann.

“Swann and John Stallworth on the other side, are both in the Hall of Fame,” Dowler said. “Stallworth put up better numbers than Swann. The only argument I can make for myself is that I always seemed to come up with big plays in our championship games.

“The rest of the story in terms of my production was pretty much being consistent. I led the team in catches seven times.

“The other thing that I’ve noticed, is that on our team in the Hall of Fame, there are now three offensive linemen…Jerry, Forrest Gregg and Jim Ringo, two running backs…Jimmy and Paul, and one quarterback…Bart of course.

“But there is no tight end and no wide receiver. I’ve never looked it up or figured it out, but how many quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame without having one of their receivers in there as well?”

Very few, as a matter of fact. Here is the list of modern-day quarterbacks who are in Canton and who also have had at least one of his receivers/tight ends also in the Hall of Fame.

  • Troy Aikman
  • George Blanda
  • Terry Bradshaw
  • John Elway
  • Dan Fouts
  • Otto Graham
  • Bob Griese
  • Sonny Jurgenson
  • Jim Kelly
  • Joe Montana
  • Joe Namath
  • Ken Stabler
  • Roger Staubach
  • Johnny Unitas
  • Norm Van Brocklin
  • Bob Waterfield
  • Steve Young

Talking about the postseason games he played in, Dowler made a great point.

“We won a lot of championship games,” Dowler said. “In those championship games, there were a lot of big plays made by receivers and tight ends. We kind of flew under the radar.”

Bart looking downfield in the Ice Bowl

Dowler is correct in that assertion. In 10 postseason games as a quarterback, Starr threw 15 touchdown passes, compared to just three picks for 1,753 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.8, which is the best in the history of the league.

No. 15 didn’t do all that by himself, as he got some help from his receivers like Dowler as well.

Talking about being a bit unnoticed, Dowler said he is fine with that, even with his Hall of Fame snub.

“I don’t really have a problem with that,” Dowler said. “I’m real happy with the fact that we won five world championships. I never thought throughout my career or since, that I’ve never been nominated. It really doesn’t surprise me. And it doesn’t upset me.

“That’s just the way it is and that’s the way our team was put together. I was happy that they kept putting out there in the huddle for 11 years.”

Talking again about his play in the postseason, Dowler reminisced about the 1967 postseason.

“The highlight for me was the two touchdown catches in the “Ice Bowl” and I got another score in the Super Bowl, the second Super Bowl,” Dowler said.

“I always seemed to come up with something against Dallas. I always seemed to come up with big plays against the Cowboys. I can’t really explain why.  We just kind of operated that way.

“We never went into a game thinking that I was going to get the ball a lot this week. We just never did that. We just went along and Bart ran plays on how the game developed. We didn’t game-plan those things or that I was going to catch two scores in the “Ice Bowl” game.”

The second touchdown pass that Dowler caught in the “Ice Bowl”, was one of the favorite calls for Starr throughout his years in Green Bay. It was third and short and on a play-action fake, Starr hit Dowler on 43-yard post pattern.

Dowler talked about the way Starr liked to use play-action on third and short and also about that particular play.

“It almost always worked,” Dowler said, talking about the play-action calls by Starr. “On the long touchdown pass from Bart in the “Ice Bowl”, I kind of went, ‘oh oh’, because he was throwing into the wind. But I was pretty sure I could get to it and the wind held it up just a little.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

“On that play, I was a little bit off the line like I was going to block and my eyes met Mel Renfro about the time we got even. He was still facing the line of scrimmage and I was pretty sure I could get by him, even though he was pretty fast, as he was a world-class sprinter. Renfro was an awful good football player and had a lot of speed, but it was the play-call that got me open.”

Getting back to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I mentioned to Dowler the comments of Gosselin, talking about that fact that he and (Ron) Kramer are not be enshrined in  Canton, even with being on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

That, plus the fact that Gosselin has submitted what he calls his “amnesty proposal” which will allow several seniors to get inducted in the 100th anniversary of the NFL, as opposed to the one or two per year as it stands now. That proposal is being considered by David Baker, the President/Executive Director of the Hall of Fame.

“If a guy [Rick Gosselin] is going to take the ball and run with it for a bunch of old guys for the 100th year of the NFL, that’s fine by me,” Dowler said. “If he wants to put me in that mix, I’m all for it. I’m not going to discourage him from doing that. I think that’s a great idea.”

Jerry Kramer Reflects on his Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry with David Baker

Well, the day that so many of us waited for finally happened. Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

That epic honor came at last for Kramer, after 45 years of being eligible and on his 11th time as a finalist for enshrinement.

Kramer certainly had the résumé to become a member among the best of the best in pro football history.

In 1969, Jerry was named the best player ever at the guard position in the first 50 years of the NFL, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame named their NFL 50th anniversary team.

Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

In addition to that, Kramer was a six-time AP All-Pro at right guard and was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. Kramer would have had even more honors if not for injuries and illness. Kramer missed half of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and almost all of the 1964 season due to an intestinal ailment which took nine operations to resolve.

Plus there was his performance when the lights were the brightest, when the Packers went 9-1 under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. That led to five NFL championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer was exceptional in three (1962, 1965 and 1967) of those championship games.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at very cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Kramer booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest. Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers.

In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.

Jim Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung led a rushing attack that gained 204 yards, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs as the Packers gained big chunks of yardage past the line of scrimmage.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback, as the “Golden Boy” made his way into the end zone.

In the 1967 NFL title game, better known as the “Ice Bowl”, Kramer made the most famous block in NFL history, when with help from center Ken Bowman, Kramer delivered a classic block on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, as quarterback Bart Starr scored the game-winning touchdown on a QB sneak behind Kramer’s block with just 13 seconds left in the game, as the Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17.

Bart's Sneak III

That play was the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy, while the power sweep was the signature play of the Lombardi era. Kramer played a large role in the success of both of those instances.

I tried getting a hold of Kramer after the word came out that he was indeed part of the Class of 2018, but it was near impossible to catch him with all the whirlwind activity Kramer took part in this past weekend in Minneapolis. That included going to the NFL Honors show on Saturday night, Super Bowl LII the next day and also being fitted and measured for a gold jacket and a ring for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday, not to mention getting his likeness studied for the bust which will be made of him.

I finally was able to speak with Kramer on Tuesday night, as he relaxed at his home in the Boise, Idaho area after flying back from Minneapolis.

The first words he uttered were meant for me. “Thank you, thank you and thank you,” Kramer said. “For all of your efforts and all of your time. And also your commitment which I believe worked.

“It was an amazing week. An incredible time. I thank you for all of your input and all your effort. It’s definitely appreciated.”

Yes, there is no question that I have been on a long crusade to get Jerry what he rightfully deserved. Which of course was enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But many others have also played a large part in the success of this journey. None so much as Alicia Kramer, Jerry’s daughter.

Alicia has spearheaded the efforts to get her dad a bust in Canton and has used the social media and other outlets to keep fighting the fight for her dad for several years now. Jerry’s son Dan has also played a prominent role in helping out that cause. It’s been a sincere pleasure of mine to get to know both Alicia and Dan.

Then there is Packer Nation and also Kramer Nation, as I like to call them. The letters from those fans just kept flowing non-stop to 2121 George Halas Drive NW in Canton over the past several years. That is the address for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joe Horrigan, the Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has told me that one-quarter of his mail came from supporters of Kramer.

From my standpoint, over the past 15-plus years or so, writing for Packer Report, Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report and now on my own blog page (plus LandryFootball.com), I have written over 100 articles about Kramer.

Yes, several were about his ridiculous omission from the Hall of Fame, but many others were about his exploits in big games or seasons. In other stories, Kramer commented about his iconic head coach, Vince Lombardi, or about other teammates/opponents.

Before I became a writer and was just working in sales, I was writing letters on Kramer’s behalf for his induction into the Hall of Fame to publications like Packer Report, a place where I would later become a writer.

I showed one of those letters to Kramer at a golf outing prior to Super Bowl XXV here in the Tampa area. That was back in 1991. Kramer was touched by my letter. Little did he or I know that it would take 27 more years to see No. 64 finally inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Chatting with Kramer is like talking to your favorite uncle. It’s always fun and engaging. Our call on Tuesday night was like most of our other phone conversations. It lasted over an hour.

My first question was about how it felt waiting for the knock on his hotel door by David Baker, the President and Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Yeah, that was a pretty incredible time,” Kramer said. “I was starting to go downhill. I had pretty well gotten myself in a positive frame of mind because they told us that he [Baker] was supposed to be at the door between 3:00 and 4:00.

“I had heard that Rick Gosselin had done my presentation early to the selection committee, so I figured that they were going to do the seniors [knock on the door] first. So I’m thinking it’s good if I get a knock on the door at 3:15 or so, we would have a pretty good shot. But if it’s 3:45 or so, not so much.

“So it’s just about 3:30 and we hear that they were delayed and would be a little late. So about twenty minutes to 4:00, we hear a knock at the door. And everyone there, which was my daughter Alicia, my son Matt, my grandson Charlie, my son Tony and his wife Darlene, Chris Olsen (close friend), Chuck Greenberg (former owner of the Texas Rangers) and a couple other folks there, all started cheering. So we go to the door and it’s the maid.

“So she was like a deer in the headlights. She didn’t know what was going on.  So after she left, we settled back down. Now it’s 3:45 and I’m really sliding downhill. I’m thinking that I’m not going to make it. That they would be here by now. All of a sudden there is a thunderous knock on the door. Boom, boom, boom.

“And you knew that was him [Baker]. So I said, ‘Who is it?’, being bit of a smart ass and I open the door and David is standing there with a half a dozen photographers and camera people. He gave me a big hug and I gave him a big hug. He’s 6’9” and 400 pounds. And I said, ‘You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.’

“I was so wanting to see him. We were all praying for Mr. Baker to knock at the door and he was a lovely sight.”

The day was just getting started for Kramer, as he was whisked off to the NFL Honors show. There he had some unforgettable moments. First, he was announced to the crowd by Brett Favre.

Kramer stood on stage with the rest of the Class of 2018, which included Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins and Ray Lewis. Two other members of the class, Terrell Owens and Bobby Beathard, were not in attendance.

Jerry at the NFL Honors

After the class was announced, the other members of the Hall of Fame who were in the audience came on stage to welcome their new brethren.

“That was a real special moment,” Kramer said. “I think you ought to call Jerry Jones and ask him about me. I suspect there may be a story there, but I’m not sure. He gave me a big hug and I congratulated him for getting into the Hall and also apologized to him for the way I acted several years before.”

I wrote a story about that situation last year just before the Class of 2017 was named for the Hall of Fame, which included Jones.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas in the early-to-mid ’90s when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Jones was there and he saw Kramer and went up to him to say hello and stuck out his hand, but Kramer just kept walking. Kramer always regretted that moment, which was one of the reasons I wrote the piece about Jerry rooting for Jerry last year.

But this past Saturday, Kramer got the chance to convey his true feelings.

“I told Jerry that I rooted for him last year,” Kramer said. “I told him that he has done a hell of a job as an owner and has made this game better. I said that I didn’t have enough sense to be civil to you back when I was younger back in Dallas, but I sure as hell thought you ought to be here. And that I was glad to be associated with him now.

“Jerry got sort of teared up when I said that and it seemed like it was an emotional moment for him.”

Kramer shook hands and hugged with all of the other members of the Hall of Fame as well.

“That was a special moment,” Kramer said. “That was very, very special. When they came up hugging and saying, ‘welcome to the brotherhood’ and ‘welcome to the family’, it was just wonderful.

“It cleared everything up about how they were going to respond. And how they felt. You never know, but they were really like teammates. It was just special.”

I asked Kramer if there was anyone in particular he was anxious to meet and greet.

“Mike Singletary,” Kramer said. “I saw him and there were a couple of guys in between us, and I made a special effort to shake his hand and Mike did the same for me. It was a pleasant moment. We didn’t talk a lot, but we hugged. I thought he was just a hell of a player.”

I then mentioned to Kramer that it was apropos that one of the members of his draft class included another middle linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Urlacher.

“Yeah, while we were chatting, I said to Brian that he taught me something about the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. And Urlacher says, ‘What the hell is that, Jerry?’ I said that I finally understood that Bears are people too.”

After the NFL Honors show, Kramer went back to his hotel room to chill out and relax after his exciting afternoon and evening thus far. But his evening wasn’t over, as he received a call from Jeremy Schaap, the son of the late, great Dick Schaap. who co-authored three books with Kramer, including the classic Instant Replay.

Jeremy invited Kramer to dinner and cocktails, so Jerry and some of his entourage met Schaap. Kramer had a great time, plus saw Mark Murphy (President and CEO of the Packers) there and had a nice chat with him.

Plus on Super Bowl Sunday at the game, Kramer went to the Green Bay suite at the stadium and had another chat with Murphy for quite awhile. That got Kramer to thinking about a couple of great things coming up.

“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer said. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”

at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

That’s what happens to other Hall of Fame players, coaches or front office people from the Packers who are enshrined in Canton. The names currently on the facade are Earl “Curly” Lambeau, Robert “Cal” Hubbard, Don Hutson, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Clark Hinkle, Mike Michalske, Arnie Herber, Vince Lombardi, Tony Canadeo, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan, James Lofton, Reggie White, Dave Robinson, Ron Wolf and Brett Favre.

Speaking of Wolf, he sent a nice email to Kramer congratulating him on being inducted, as he was not in attendance at the NFL Honors show.

And like Kramer did with Robinson the night before “Robby” was inducted in 2013, the two of them went out to dinner the night before Kramer was inducted.

“That was a good luck dinner,” Kramer said. “Robby felt that it had worked for him, so he said let’s do it again so it can work for me. And it sure did. We had a nice dinner and a nice time.”

Kramer also talked to another teammate for the first time in over 45 years. That would be his old roommate, Taylor. The two of them have not talked since they had a falling out with each other back in the early ’70s.

“Yes, I talked to him,” Kramer said. “His wife is such a sweet lady and she sat down at the table with us. Someone was between Jimmy and I, but we were almost elbow to elbow. It would have been awkward and asinine to continue the boycott. I wasn’t overly friendly and didn’t slap him on the back or anything, but we did chat.”

After telling me that story, Kramer said that another discussion with Taylor probably won’t happen again.

But you never know.

While we chatted, I reminded Jerry that he was the last player on the NFL’s 50th anniversary first team to be enshrined in Canton. The other players who were on that first team and are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell and Lou Groza.

Now that Kramer has rightfully been inducted, there are just two players on that 50th anniversary team, one on the second team and one on the third team, who are currently not in Canton.

Kramer was shocked to hear who they were. They are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

I’ll be doing a story regarding that situation in the near future.

I then asked Kramer what is was like getting fitted for a gold jacket and all the other things associated with going into the Hall of Fame.

“It was an incredible time,” Kramer said. “It kind of was the last straw in believing if you were in or not. If they are measuring you for a bust, it’s not because you are President of the United States, it’s because you are in the Hall of Fame. And if they are measuring you for a gold jacket, than you know you are one of the guys. And when they put that Hall of Fame ring on my finger, I had to get out my sunglasses to protect my eyes. So those things solidified the whole thing for me.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket

When I heard the happiness in Kramer’s voice as he told me about the wonderful weekend that he had because of his induction into the Hall, I told him of a conversation I had with his son Dan the evening he was inducted.

Dan told me that his brother Tony, who was in the hotel room in Minneapolis with his dad, said that his father cried when he saw Baker at the door. I told Dan that I wasn’t surprised.

Jerry had always told me and many others that not being in the Hall of Fame didn’t bother him. Jerry would always say that the game of football had been very kind to him and had given him a number of gifts. If he didn’t receive the Hall of Fame gift, so be it, it still would be fine. If he got in, it would be like a cherry on a sundae.

But I never believed that. Jerry was just being stoic. He wanted this honor badly. When I mentioned that to Kramer, there was silence for a number of seconds. Then with his voice quivering slightly, Kramer replied, “No question, Bob. You are exactly right. Exactly right. All my honors came 40 years or so ago.  And I got the feeling that some people were thinking if you are so hot, how come you are not in the Hall?

“I mean the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] thought I was in the Hall. John Hannah thought I was in the Hall. I had to tell them that I wasn’t. I was thinking maybe I was overrated. So you start doubting yourself. Your emotions are up, down and around and around.

“But the ring day, the bust day and the gold jacket day put all that to rest for me”.

Yes indeed. From now on, Kramer will be forever known as a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He already was in the minds of many of us, but now it’s official.