Green Bay Packers: Jamaal Williams Gets His Chance to Shine Now at Running Back

Jamaal Williams vs. da Bears

Having a solid ground game is always a plus for the Green Bay Packers once the weather starts getting cold, damp and snowy in the region where the Fox River connects to the bay off Lake Michigan.

The Packers have been blessed with two of the best quarterbacks (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers) to ever play in the NFL in the last quarter century, but from November through the end of the season and the postseason, it’s always a positive to have an effective running game as well.

In fact, if one looks at the NFL titles that the Packers won when they were victorious in Super Bowl XXXI with Favre at quarterback and Super Bowl XLV with Rodgers at quarterback, the team was very productive running the football in the postseason which later led to a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

It’s even more important to have a running game you can count on when you are playing a young backup quarterback like the Packers currently are doing with Brett Hundley, due to the broken collarbone suffered by Rodgers in Week 6 versus the Minnesota Vikings.

And right now, even with injuries at the running back position, the Packers have been very solid in running the football in a number of categories.

Going into the matchup Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field versus the 4-5 Baltimore Ravens, the 5-4 Packers know they will be without rookie Aaron Jones (MCL sprain) and it also looks like Ty Montgomery (ribs) will also miss the game, based on comments made by head coach Mike McCarthy on Friday.

Jones was a having a great rookie campaign before his knee injury, which will keep him out of the lineup for several weeks. Up until the injury, , which he suffered last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Jones had rushed for 370 (5.3 yards per carry average) and scored three touchdowns. Plus, Jones had broken off three runs of 20-plus yards or more.

Montgomery first hurt his ribs in Week 4 against the Bears at Lambeau and then hurt them again last week against da Bears at Soldier Field. So far in 2017, Montgomery has rushed for 270 yards (3.8 yards per carry average) and three touchdowns.

Because of the injuries in the Chicago game, the Packers called on Jamaal Williams, another rookie running back, to carry the load. Williams carried 20 times for 67 yards, as the Packers beat the Bears 23-16.

Before we can look ahead and surmise about how effective Williams and company will do versus the Ravens and also down the stretch in the 2017 season, let’s first look at how good the running game has been for the Packers compared to other NFL teams.

Currently, the Packers are ranked 18th in rushing offense in the NFL. But that doesn’t tell the real story. The Packers are tied for fifth in the league in two very important categories. They are yards per carry average (4.5) and touchdowns (nine).

Plus, Green Bay running backs have only fumbled the ball once in 2017, which ties them for the league lead in that category as well.

Williams is a different type of runner compared to both Jones and Montgomery. No. 30 is more of straight-ahead, grinding between-the-tackles type of running back. Where as both Jones and Montgomery are more cut and run type of backs that can be very effective running to the outside.

Plus, both Jones (eight catches for 16 yards) and Montgomery (23 catches for 173 yards and one score) are better receivers than Williams. That being said, Williams is a better blocking back without a doubt and that’s important when a young quarterback like Hundley goes through his reads going back to pass.

Williams can catch the ball as well, as he has five catches for 45 yards. Overall for the season, Williams has run for 101 yards on 31 carries, which averages out to a very pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry average. Williams also has a rushing touchdown.

The Packers decided to load up at the running back position in the 2017 NFL draft, when they drafted Williams in the fourth round, Jones in the fifth round and Devante Mays in the seventh round.

Expect to see Mays getting some carries on Sunday backing up Williams versus the Ravens.

Speaking of Baltimore, although their defense has been fairly solid in 2017 (6th in total defense), the Ravens struggle in stopping the run, as they are ranked 28th in the NFL, as they give up an average of 125.9 yards per game.

Jamaal Williams II

Getting back to Williams, NFL scout Chris Landry was very impressed with what he saw of Williams at the Senior Bowl.

This is what Landry said about Williams after the first day of practice at Mobile that week:

“BYU’s Jamaal Williams entered as the expected top running back and looked the part after Day 1. Williams is a smooth runner, and was making nice cuts during team drills and was consistently the most productive of the running back group. Williams simply looked natural.”

This is what Landry said about Williams at the next practice:

“I was surprised by the speed and quickness Williams showed. He hits the hole with authority and ran hard all day.”

This is what Landry opined about Williams the following day at practice:

“Williams was one of the better backs of the day. He ran the ball well on the inside, picking his way through the traffic and he also looked terrific catching the ball out of the backfield. He was the best of all the backs in blocking drills.”

And after the Packers selected Williams in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, here is what Landry said about the former BYU star:

“A decisive, downhill grinder on college tape, Williams is a two-down back with a ceiling in the Alfred Morris range. That said, he could find himself with a big rookie role behind Ty Montgomery.”

In his career at BYU, Williams rushed for 3,901 yards (5.4 average) and 35 touchdowns. Williams also added 60 receptions for 567 yards and another score.

In 2016, the 6’0″, 212-pound Williams rushed for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns, which includes one game when Williams ran 287 yards and five touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him.

The bottom line is that there is still a lot of upside for Williams to be very successful in the NFL.

This is what running backs coach Ben Sirmans said about Williams being the man toting the rock for the Pack.

“He’s a downhill runner,” Sirmans said, “trying to get four yards-plus, very aggressive. I think it just took him some time to get a comfort level just with what we were doing. And once that happened, he just relaxed and stopped being as conservative as he was as a runner, and figured, ‘Hey man, this is just like running in college,’ at least from the way he goes about his business.

“The things that we thought he possessed is what he showed.”

We shall see how Williams plays this Sunday against the Ravens and later on in the season, but based on the insightful comments I’ve heard from from people in the know like Landry and Sirmans, I like his chances of succeeding.

Green Bay Packers: A Scout’s Take on Rookie Running Back Jamaal Williams

Jamaal Williams as a Packer

The Green Bay Packers had a definite need at the running back position going into the 2017 NFL draft and general manager Ted Thompson certainly addressed that situation.

Thompson took three running backs in the draft, including Jamaal Williams of BYU in the fourth round, Aaron Jones of UTEP in the fifth round and Devante Mays of Utah State in the seventh round.

Those three backs will be competing for playing time behind Ty Montgomery, who made the transition from wide receiver to running back last season.

After those selections were made, the Packers quickly released both Christine Michael and Don Jackson from their roster at running back. The Packers then added a couple more running backs to the depth chart, as they signed two undrafted rookies, Kalif Phillips of Charlotte and William Stanback of Virginia Union.

It’s expected that the Packers will keep at least three running backs on their roster in 2017. That number could become four, if the Packers only decide to keep one fullback.

The Packers have to be excited about the production they received from the 6’0″, 216-pound Montgomery in 2016. No. 88 rushed for 457 yards on just 77 carries. That adds up to a 5.9 yards-per-attempt average.

Plus, Montgomery also hauled in 44 passes for 348 more yards.

Still, the Packers are looking for a compliment for Montgomery at running back. The rookie who has the best chance of being that player is Williams.

In his career at BYU, Williams rushed for 3,901 yards (5.4 average) and 35 touchdowns. Williams also added 60 receptions for 567 yards and another score.

In 2016, the 6’0″, 212-pound Williams rushed for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns, which includes one game when Williams ran 287 yards and five touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Williams ran a 4.59 40.

This is what NFL scout Chris Landry said about Williams after the Packers selected him:

“A decisive, downhill grinder on college tape, Williams is a two-down back with a ceiling in the Alfred Morris range. That said, he could find himself with a big rookie role behind Ty Montgomery.”

Landry was also impressed with Williams at the Senior Bowl. I’m sure Thompson saw the same thing in Mobile that week. By the way, Landry and Thompson have known each other for over 30 years. Their relationship goes back to when Thompson was a linebacker with the Houston Oilers from 1975 though 1984. Landry was a scout for the Oilers at that time.

Landry considers Thompson as a scout’s scout, even as a general manager. Thompson is always on the road scouting, whether it’s the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, pro days or going to college games.

At the Senior Bowl, Williams had quite a performance according to Landry. This is what Landry said about Williams after the first day of practice at Mobile that week:

“BYU’s Jamaal Williams entered as the expected top running back and looked the part after Day 1. Williams is a smooth runner, and was making nice cuts during team drills and was consistently the most productive of the running back group. Williams simply looked natural.”

Jamaal Williams in the Senior Bowl

This is what Landry said about Williams at the next practice:

“I was surprised by the speed and quickness Williams showed. He hits the hole with authority and ran hard all day.”

This is what Landry opined about Williams the following day at practice:

“Williams was one of the better backs of the day. He ran the ball well on the inside, picking his way through the traffic and he also looked terrific catching the ball out of the backfield. He was the best of all the backs in blocking drills.”

In addition to those nice scouting reports on Williams, I also heard from a source who said that another NFL scout was very high on Williams. The source told me that the scout said, “Williams was without a doubt the best value pick the Packers had in this year’s draft and could be the surprise of the entire draft.”

So what does this all mean? Well, it looks like the Packers selected a back who has three-down back ability, as not only does Williams run well, but also is a good receiver and a solid blocking back.

Plus, the other two rookie backs who were drafted have ability as well.

Jones had a great career for the Miners, as he rushed for 4,114 yards (6.3 average) and 33 touchdowns. Jones also added 71 catches for 646 yards and seven more scores.

The 5’9″, 209-pound Jones was second-team All-Conference USA in 2014 and first-team All-Conference USA this past season.

At the combine, Jones ran a 4.56 in the 40 and excelled in a number of other drills, including the vertical jump (37.5 inches) and broad jump (127.0 inches), plus posted a very impressive 6.82 three-cone time.

This is what Landry said about Jones after the Packers selected him:

“On tape, Jones is a determined inside runner with plus vision, darting quickness, and serious big-play ability. In 2016, Jones led the nation in touchdown runs that began outside the red zone (12), including nine TD runs of 40-plus yards. While probably not an NFL workhorse, Jones is one of this year’s top sleeper running backs.”

In two years with Utah State, Mays rushed for 1,221 yards (6.1 average) and 12 touchdowns. Mays missed half of the 2016 season due to an ankle/knee injury.

The 5’10”, 230-pound Mays had a great pro day, as Landry gave his thoughts on the selection of Mays by the Packers:

“Mays (5’10/230) is the third running back the Packers have drafted this weekend, so they’re taking as many chances at their weakest offensive position. He ran 4.52 at Utah State’s Pro Day with an explosive 40.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump. Mays will compete for a final roster spot.”

So, while it’s still just the middle of May and there are OTAs and training camp ahead for the Packers, right now it looks like the team will utilize a tandem of Montgomery and Williams at running back for the most part.

It appears that Jones and Mays will battle for the third running back job. The ability to perform well on special teams will play a key part in the determination as to who wins in that competition.

But in terms of getting an opportunity to tote the rock for the Packers as a rookie in a combination with Montgomery, Williams looks to be the guy.

Williams, who will wear No. 30, hopes that he will have similar success as the last two backs who wore that number for the Packers, John Kuhn and Ahman Green.

In his career with the Packers as a fullback, Kuhn rushed for 601 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus caught 81 passes for 557 yards and eight more scores. Kuhn was also named to three Pro Bowl squads and also was named first-team All-Pro once and second-team All-Pro once.

Green is the all-time leading rusher in Green Bay history, as he rushed for 8,322 yards, plus scored 54 rushing touchdowns as a tailback. Plus, Green also caught 350 passes for 2,726 yards and 14 more scores. The former Nebraska Cornhusker was also named to four Pro Bowl squads and was named second-team All-Pro once.

If Williams even comes close to the production of Kuhn and Green, not to mention the awards that they both received, the Packers will be more than pleased that they selected the former Cougar in the 2017 NFL draft.

A Scout’s Take on the New and Improved Secondary of the Green Bay Packers

Kevin King II

Kevin King taking back an interception.

The Green Bay Packers definitely needed some help in their secondary after what occurred in the 2016 regular season, as well as the NFC title game versus the Atlanta Falcons.

As a unit, the Packers were ranked 31st in pass defense in 2016, as they allowed 32 touchdown passes, while only picking off 17 throws. Opposing quarterbacks had a robust 95.9 passer rating against the secondary of the Packers.

In addition to that, the Packers gave up 58 plays which netted 20-plus pass yards and also allowed 11 plays which netted 40-plus pass yards.

The Packers were fine at safety with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett manning that position, but the Green Bay cornerbacks really struggled last season.

It really became very apparent in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers were definitely exposed for their weakness at cornerback, as Julio Jones had nine catches for a ridiculous 180 yards and two touchdowns, as the Falcons beat the Packers 44-21.

The problem started in the very first game of the 2016 season when the best cornerback on the team, Sam Shields, suffered a season-ending concussion. A history of concussions forced the Packers to release Shields this offseason.

It didn’t help that second-year cornerback’s Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins both suffered groin injuries last season and both players did not play anywhere near expectations, especially after each player had a promising rookie year.

To add to that, the Packers saw one of their unsung heroes in the secondary, Micah Hyde, sign with the Buffalo Bills in free agency.

The Packers used free agency themselves to add a cornerback, as the team brought back Davon House, who played the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, after being with the Packers from 2011-2014.

Then in the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers used their first and second round picks to further improve the secondary.

With pick No. 33 (along with pick No. 108) that the Packers acquired from the Cleveland Browns for pick No. 29, the Packers drafted Kevin King of Washington.

King was a three-year starter in the very talented Husky secondary, where he started at safety in 2014, before starting at cornerback in 2015 and 2016.

In his career with Washington, King had 165 tackles, 28 passes broken up, six interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The 6’3″, 198-pound King put on quite a show at the NFL Scouting Combine. King ran a 4.43 in the 40, plus led all defensive backs in the 20-yard shuttle (3.89), 60-yard shuttle (11.14) and 3-cone (6.56).

Then with pick No. 61, the Packers brought in some more size and speed for their secondary, as they drafted Josh Jones of North Carolina State.

The 6’1″, 220-pound Jones ran a 4.41 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 20 reps in the bench press drill, which was tied for first among all safeties. In addition, Jones had a vertical leap of 37.5 inches (third) and a broad jump of 11 feet (second).

In his career at North Carolina State, Jones matched his workout prowess with his play on the field. In three years with the Wolfpack, Jones had 229 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, eight interceptions, 17 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Jones did not allow a touchdown in coverage as a senior.

I wanted to get some input on the new and improved secondary of the Packers by speaking once again to NFL scout Chris Landry.

I was able to speak with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

I first asked Landry about the additions of King and Jones and also about the status of Randall and Rollins.

“One of the things that Ted Thompson learned and Ron Wolf was a believer in, was if you have a need or have a problem, flood the area [of concern],” Landry said. “You don’t know who is going to make it or what’s going to happen. So take as many of those guys as you can who you have high enough grades on to try and make that position better.

“I think King is a big, tall and rangy guy, who is more straight lineish. But he’s got some Antonio Cromartie in him and has the potential to be a really good player.

“Josh Jones is the guy who is going to play the Micah Hyde role. Good player. Physical in the box. Is an inconsistent tackler, but he’ll come up and be physical. With those two [King and Jones], they have two good players, two good prospects.”

Josh Jones II

Josh Jones being physical.

Landry then talked about the overall secondary.

“They are in good shape I think with [Morgan] Burnett and [Ha Ha] Clinton-Dix,” Landry said. “They have two good guys there. But they need to have more versatility. You got to have in this league, three starting caliber safeties and three starting caliber cornerbacks. At least.

“You have to play with six guys and they have to be interchangeable. If you don’t, you are going to be short-handed. Then you start to get an injury and you are down to five or four and then you are really in trouble.

“It’s really important that you address that, and certainly they are going to need [Damarious] Randall and [Quinten]Rollins to come back and play healthy to allow them to play at full strength, which as you mentioned, they were not even close to that last season.”

The secondary is obviously a key in the pass-happy NFL now and I also mentioned that to Landry in closing.

“You have to be able to match up,” Landry said. “That’s the difficult part of it. You have to be a good enough tackler in nickel, because when people make you small they run against you. You have to be physical enough to tackle against the run.

“But you have to be able to also match up against a big slot, a small slot, a quick guy, an outside guy, a X, a Z, or a wide-flex tight end. You’ve got to have different types of guys to match up. You have different type slot receivers, big guys and small guys. You’ve got to have guys like that on defense who can match up with them.

“As you see the number of guys at receiver take up a lot of spots on the roster, you’ve got to have an equivalent number on the defensive side to match up with those guys.”

Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson Hauls in Quite a Catch in the 2017 NFL Draft

In the 13 years that Ted Thompson has run the NFL draft for the Green Bay Packers, one can tell that he certainly loves draft picks. In six of those drafts now, Thompson has accumulated 10 draft picks or more, which includes the 2017 NFL draft which netted the Packers 10 more players.

Ever since Thompson hired Mike McCarthy as head coach in 2006, the Packers have been primarily a draft-and-develop team.

In eleven seasons using the draft-and-develop philosophy for the most part, that marriage of Thompson and McCarthy has led to a 114-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances (including eight consecutive), four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

But this offseason and before the draft, Thompson threw a curve ball at the draft-and-develop only strategy. In fact, Thompson and the Packers signed five free agents, which is the most they have signed since 2006, which was McCarthy’s first year as head coach.

The five free agents signed were tight end Martellus Bennett, tight end Lance Kendricks, cornerback Davon House, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and guard Jahri Evans.

Those moves set up the draft which took place starting last Thursday night. I’m going to write about each one of the draft picks, plus NFL scout Chris Landry will share his thoughts on each player.

After trading out of the first round of the 2017 NFL draft on Thursday night, the Packers decided to make sure that their defense became bigger and faster in the second and third rounds on Friday night, especially in the secondary.

Kevin King

Kevin King

With pick No. 33 (along with pick No. 108) that the Packers acquired from the Cleveland Browns for pick No. 29, the Packers drafted Kevin King of Washington.

King was a three-year starter in the very talented Husky secondary, where he started at safety in 2014, before starting at cornerback in 2015 and 2016.

In his career with Washington, King had 165 tackles, 28 passes broken up, six interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The 6’3″, 198-pound King put on quite a show at the NFL Scouting Combine. King ran a 4.43 in the 40, plus led all defensive backs in the 20-yard shuttle (3.89), 60-yard shuttle (11.14) and 3-cone (6.56).

This is Landry’s take on King:

“King ripped up the Combine with an absurd 99th-percentile SPARQ score and 4.43 straight-line speed. King struggles with short-area routes as most plus-sized corners do, but his ceiling is sky high as a long boundary presence with highlight-reel ball skills. On tape, King reminds of Antonio Cromartie in his prime.”

Josh Jones

Josh Jones

Then with pick No. 61, the Packers brought in some more size and speed for their secondary, as they drafted Josh Jones of North Carolina State.

The 6’1″, 220-pound Jones ran a 4.41 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 20 reps in the bench press drill, which was tied for first among all safeties. In addition, Jones had a vertical leap of 37.5 inches (third) and a broad jump of 11 feet (second).

In his career at North Carolina State, Jones matched his workout prowess with his play on the field. In three years with the Wolfpack, Jones had 229 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, eight interceptions, 17 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Jones did not allow a touchdown in coverage as a senior.

Here is Landry’s take on Jones:

“Jones’ stock skyrocketed at the Combine, blazing 4.41 with a 37 ½-inch vertical, absurd 11-foot broad jump, and 20 reps on the bench. An inconsistent tackler with mouth-watering athletic traits, Jones has boom-bust characteristics as a free-strong safety tweener.”

Montravius Adams

Montravius Adams

After adding talent and speed in their secondary with their first two selections in the draft, the Packers added some size, strength and speed to their defensive line, as they selected Montravius Adams of Auburn.

The 6’4″, 305-pound Adams showed his speed at the combine, as he ran a 4.87 in the 40. Adams was third-team All-SEC honors as a junior and second-team All-SEC this past season, as he had a breakout senior season.

In his career with the Tigers, Adams had 147 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 10. 5 sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

This is Landry’s take on Adams:

“Adams’ down-to-down consistency improved as a senior, and scouts at January’s Senior Bowl described his performance as “dominant” in Mobile. While he should push for early-down run-stopping snaps as a rookie, Adams’ pass-rush upside is limited. At his ceiling, Adams likely projects as a 3-5 sack-per-season player in the pros.”

Vince Beagle

Vince Beagle and Vince Biegel

In the fourth round, with the first pick of that round acquired in the trade with the Browns, the Packers went the local product route, as they selected linebacker Vince Biegel of Wisconsin.

That pick was a big hit in our household, as Vince our Beagle, was very pleased with the selection.

The 6’3″, 246-pound Biegel had a great career as a Badger, as he had 191 total tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

In addition to that, Biegel was third-team All-Big Ten in 2015 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2016. Plus, Biegel was a team captain and was part of the winningest senior class in school history, which posted a record of 41-13 (.759), including a 26-7 (.788) mark in Big Ten play and three consecutive bowl wins.

At the combine, Biegel ran a 4.67 in the 40.

This is Landry’s take on Biegel:

“Turning 24 in July, Biegel is an over-aged prospect, undersized by NFL edge-player standards, and got overpowered too frequently in college. An overachieving son of a coach, Biegel projects as a special teamer whose long-term ceiling is likely in the Erik Walden range.”

Jamaal Williams

Jamaal Williams

With their second pick in the fourth round, the Packers selected running back Jamaal Williams of BYU.

In his career as a Cougar, Williams rushed for 3,901 yards (5.4 average) and 35 touchdowns. Williams also added 60 receptions for 567 yards and another score.

In 2016, the 6’0″, 212-pound Williams rushed for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns, which includes one game when Williams ran 287 yards and five touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him.

At the combine, Williams ran a 4.59 40.

This is Landry’s take on Williams:

“A decisive, downhill grinder on college tape, Williams is a two-down back with a ceiling in the Alfred Morris range. That said, he could find himself with a big rookie role behind Ty Montgomery.”

DeAngelo Yancey

DeAngelo Yancey

With their first pick in the fifth round, the Packers selected wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey of Purdue.

In his career as a Boilermaker, the 6’1″, 220-pound Yancey had 141 receptions for 2,344 yards (16.6 average) and 20 touchdowns. Wisconsin fans might recall that Yancey lit up the Badger secondary in 2016, as he had six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Yancey ran a 4.53 in the 40 at Purdue’s pro day, plus shined in the three-cone drill (6.84).

This is Landry’s take on Yancey:

“Yancey generated minimal pre-draft buzz because he struggles to separate and drops too many passes, but he is big with some downfield playmaking ability, which makes him flier worthy.”

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

With their second fifth-round pick, this one as a compensatory pick, the Packers selected running back Aaron Jones of Texas-El Paso.

Jones had a great career for the Miners, as he rushed for 4,114 yards (6.3 average) and 33 touchdowns. Jones also added 71 catches for 646 yards and seven more scores.

The 5’9″, 209-pound Jones was second-team All-Conference USA in 2014 and first-team All-Conference USA this past season.

At the combine, Jones ran a 4.56 in the 40 and excelled in a number of other drills, including the vertical jump (37.5 inches) and broad jump (127.0 inches), plus posted a very impressive 6.82 three-cone time.

This is Landry’s take on Jones:

“On tape, Jones is a determined inside runner with plus vision, darting quickness, and serious big-play ability. In 2016, Jones led the nation in touchdown runs that began outside the red zone (12), including nine TD runs of 40-plus yards. While probably not an NFL workhorse, Jones is one of this year’s top sleeper running backs.”

Kofi Amichia

Kofi Amichia

In the sixth round, the Packers selected offensive lineman Kofi Amichia of South Florida.

The 6’3″, 304-pound Amichia started two games at right tackle in 2014 before starting 26 straight games at left tackle in 2015 and 2016. Because of his size, Amichia will play guard/center in the NFL.

Amichia was named first-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2016.

The former Bull had a great pro day at USF, as he ran the 40 in 4.99, did 32 reps in the bench press drill, had a vertical jump of 33½ inches and a broad jump of 9 feet 6 inches.

Amichia also scored a 31 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.

This is Landry’s take on Amichia:

“Has started 26 straight games at left tackle for a USF program that has broken the school’s rushing record in back-to-back seasons – posting 3,501 yards and 44 touchdowns on the ground in 2016 – and consistently ranked among the least sacked teams in the nation. At 6030 304, he runs and moves his feet well.”

Devante Mays

Devante Mays

In the seventh round, where the Packers acquired another pick after a trade with the Denver Broncos, Green Bay first took yet another running back, this time Devante Mays of Utah State.

In two years with the Utes, Mays rushed for 1,221 yards (6.1 average) and 12 touchdowns. Mays missed half of the 2016 season due to an ankle/knee injury.

The 5’10”, 230-pound Mays had a great pro day, as Landry explains in his take on Mays:

“Mays (5’10/230) is the third running back the Packers have drafted this weekend, so they’re taking as many chances at their weakest offensive position. He ran 4.52 at Utah State’s Pro Day with an explosive 40.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump. Mays will compete for a final roster spot.”

Malachi Dupre

Malachi Dupre

With their final selection of the draft and their second seventh-round pick, the Packers picked wide receiver Malachi Dupre of LSU.

Like Yancey, Dupre has great size, as he’s 6’2″ and 196 pounds. In his career at LSU, Dupre had 98 receptions for 1,609 yards (16.4 average) and 14 touchdowns.

At the combine, Dupre ran a 4.52 in the 40, plus was a top performer in both the vertical jump (39.5 inches) and broad jump (135.0 inches).

Here is Landry’s take on Dupre:

“A top-two wideout recruit out of high school, Dupre’s college stats were torpedoed by horrific quarterback play in LSU’s run-first offense. Built like Justin Hunter but not as straight-line fast (4.52), Dupre is a long, lanky, developmental wideout with no clear calling card. Like Hunter, Dupre struggled on college tape with press-man coverage and contested catches, lacking a my-ball mentality. Dupre’s best NFL projection is probably in the Andre Holmes range.”

So, the Packers definitely improved their size and speed in the secondary with the selections of King and Jones.

They also added strength, speed and athleticism in the trenches with their selections of Adams on the defensive line and Amichia on the offensive line.

With the selection of Biegel, Green Bay added a productive edge rusher, plus is a player who has the ability to move inside at linebacker.

And with the selections of Williams, Jones and Mays, the depth and talent at the running back has certainly been enhanced. So much in fact, that the Packers released both Christine Michael and Don Jackson earlier today.

Finally at wide receiver, the Packers added two more big receivers, who have shown a big-play ability in college catching the deep ball. The addition of Yancey and Dupre will push the younger receivers on the team, which includes Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison.

It’s also important to note that Davante Adams will be a unrestricted free agent in 2018 unless the Packers extend his contract.

Bottom line, the Packers have added 15 players to their roster this offseason via free agency and the draft, which does not even include the undrafted free agent rookies the team has signed.

The Packers are a team which has been a participant in two of the last three NFC title games and don’t be surprised if Green Bay makes it three out of the last four with the new additions on their team helping them to get there.

Final 7-Round 2017 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine II

Well, Christmas day in the NFL is almost here. Yes, the 2017 NFL draft is just a couple of days away.

In terms of the pre-draft evaluation of prospects, we have now seen the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl).

Plus the NFL Scouting Combine has taken place and so have the individual pro days. And now the midnight hour approaches for all 32 NFL teams, which includes the Green Bay Packers.

A lot has changed regarding the Green Bay roster since this draft evaluation process started. While all that was going on, I did three 7-round mock drafts for the Packers.

I did my first mock draft back in early February, my second mock draft in the middle of March and my third mock draft earlier this month.

In terms of how the roster  of the Packers has changed over the past several weeks, a number of players have left via free agency. This includes center/guard JC Tretter, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, defensive back Micah Hyde, who signed with the Buffalo Bills, outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who signed with the Carolina Panthers, right guard T.J. Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions, running back Eddie Lacy, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks, outside linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones who signed with the Minnesota Vikings and tight end Jared Cook, who signed with the Oakland Raiders.

In addition to those players, the Packers also released cornerback Sam Shields (failed physical-concussion) and running back James Starks.

The Packers have however, re-signed a number of their own players as either unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents. This list includes outside linebacker Nick Perry, offensive lineman Don Barclay, running back Christine Michael, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, outside linebacker Jordan Tripp, linebacker Joe Thomas, punter Jacob Schum, running back Don Jackson, wide receiver Geronimo Allison and fullback Joe Kerridge.

And believe it or not, general manager Ted Thompson has actually utilized free agency to bolster his roster. In fact, Thompson has signed four free agents, which is the most he has signed since 2006.

That list includes tight end Martellus Bennett (formerly of the New England Patriots), tight end Lance Kendricks (formerly of the Los Angeles Rams), cornerback Davon House (formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois (formerly of the Washington Redskins).

House was originally drafted by the Packers in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft and stayed with Green Bay through the 2014 season, before signing with the Jags in free agency.

The Packers signed Kendricks, House and Francois after each of them were released by their previous teams. That was the same manner in which the Packers had signed players like Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers in the past.

Thompson prefers to sign unrestricted free agents who were previously released by the former teams. Why? Because that way the signing won’t have any bearing on the compensatory draft formula for the following draft.

But when you sign an unrestricted free agent who is still with his current team (like with Bennett), that does factor into the compensatory formula.

Still, the Packers look to get a number of compensatory picks in the 2018 NFL draft, based on the seven free agents that they have lost this offseason, even with the signing of Bennett.

In this final mock draft, just like with the three previous ones, I am utilizing the expertise and insight from NFL scout Chris Landry from both our conversations and also information from his fine website.

I’ve had a pretty decent track record predicting some of the players that Thompson has actually selected in the draft over the past few years.

In my final 2013 NFL mock draft, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select defensive lineman Datone Jones in the first round. In my final 2014 NFL mock draft, I was also correct that the Packers would select wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. I also had the Packers taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round in an earlier mock that year, which is exactly what ended up happening.

In my final 2015 NFL mock draft, like a blind squirrel that finds an acorn, I was right about the Packers selecting both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan.

And finally last year in my final 2016 NFL mock draft, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select offensive lineman Kyle Murphy of Stanford in the draft.

The great information that I get from Landry certainly has helped me put together these mock drafts. Landry is definitely one of the best in the business in his field, plus he and Thompson go back over 30 years, when Landry was a scout for the Houston Oilers and Thompson was a linebacker on that team.

In this final mock draft, Landry will add a scouting summary about each player I select.

Okay, without any further adieu, here is my final 2017 NFL mock draft for the Packers.

Round 1: Linebacker T.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

t-j-watt-in-cotton-bowl

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 243 pounds

One big reason why the secondary of the Wisconsin Badgers had such an outstanding year in 2016 (except for the second half vs. Penn State in the B1G title game), was the play of the Front 7 of the Badgers.

Nobody was more prevalent in that regard than T.J. Watt. No. 42 had 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks in 2016, which garnered him second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Watt also had a great workout at the combine. He finished 12th among linebackers in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.69, plus the former Badger also had 21 reps on the bench press which placed him tied for eighth.

But in the other five workout categories, Watt was at or near the top in every one of those drills.

Watt finished second in the vertical jump with a leap of 37 inches. The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native was also tied for first in the broad jump with Jabrill Peppers of Michigan with a jump of 10’8″.

Watt finished second in the 3 cone drill with a time of 6.79. The former Badger also tied for first with Ben Gideon of Michigan in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.13. Finally, Watt finished first in the 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.20.

In addition to that performance at the combine, Watt also met with the Packers.

Like his brother J.J., who turned 28-years-old on March 22, T.J. first started out as a tight end in college and then became a talented late-bloomer on defense with the Badgers. The comparisons are striking.

Bottom line, if the Packers do select Watt and if he comes anywhere close to the production of his brother J.J. in the NFL, the team would have to be ecstatic.

With the losses of both Peppers and Jones in free agency, plus with the injury issues with Clay Matthews the past couple of years, the Packers need to add some talent at outside linebacker/edge rusher. The Packers like the upside of Kyler Fackrell, who the Packers drafted last year, but you can never have enough pass rushers in today’s pass-happy NFL.

I know that the Watt to Green Bay bandwagon has been growing for weeks now, but I had the Packers taking Watt in the first round in my first mock draft way back on February 10.

Here is a summary scouting report on Watt by Landry:

“A one-year starter at Wisconsin, Watt made the switch to defense in 2015 and became a starter in 2016, standing up as an outside linebacker in the Badgers’ 3-4 base scheme – his 11.5 sacks as a junior ranks fifth-best in a single season in school history. Although he doesn’t play with elite twitch in his hips, Watt’s initial quickness and play speed pop off the screen, using his violent hands and long arms to work off contact. His aggressiveness is a double-edged sword, leading to both positive and negative plays, but his determination, work habits and competitive drive mirror his older brother and will win over a NFL coaching staff. As long as the medicals check out, Watt projects as a starting rush end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.”

Round 2: Cornerback Fabian Moreau (UCLA)

fabian-moreau

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 194 pounds

In terms of the draft, the Packers are catching a break in 2017, as the cornerback position is one of the deeper ones in this draft. That’s why they can select the best player on their board in the first round and still get a talented cornerback later on.

Case in point is Fabian Moreau of UCLA. Just prior to the 2015 season, head coach Jim Mora, Jr. said that Moraeu was a first-round talent. Unfortunately for Moreau, he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot early in the season which ended his year.

But in 2016, Moreau bounced back, as he had 10 pass breakups and two interceptions, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Before his foot injury, Moreau flashed his talent as a Bruin, as he was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2014, with 53 tackles, three for loss, one interception and eight passes defensed.

In 2013, Moraeu was also named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Similar to Sam Shields, he started out on offense in college, as Moreau was a running back initially, but switched to defense.

Moreau looked fantastic at the East-West Shrine Game and also met with the Packers there.

At the combine, Moreau ran a blistering 4.35 in the 40, plus did well in the vertical jump (38 inches), the broad jump (136 inches) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.45 seconds).

Moreau did suffer a torn pectoral at UCLA’s pro day, but is expected to be ready to go by training camp.

The Packers need some more talent and speed at the cornerback position. Moreau provides both.

Here is a summary scouting report on Moreau by Landry:

“A three-year starter at UCLA, Moreau played mostly left cornerback in press-man and off coverage for the Bruins with some experience inside vs. the slot. Transitioning from offense, he didn’t see meaningful snaps at the cornerback position until the 2013 season and his inexperience shows at times with spotty ball awareness and anticipation. But he is patient and coordinated in press with the balanced movements to attach himself to receivers, making it tough for them to create much separation. Although he might never be a playmaker at the position, Moreau has the athleticism and football character to develop into a reliable NFL press-man starter – possible first rounder prior to his pec injury, now likely a second round projection.”

Round 3: Running Back Marlon Mack (South Florida)

Marlon Mack

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 213 pounds

Marlon Mack was a three-year starter at South Florida, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of those years. In his career as a Bull, Mack rushed for 3,609 yards (6.2 average) and 32 touchdowns.

Mack was also a threat in the passing game as well, as he hauled in 65 passes for 498 yards and another score during his time at USF.

Mack led the All-American Athletic Conference in rushing as a freshman and a sophomore and was named first-team All-AAC in each of his three seasons at USF.

Mack has an explosive burst when running the ball and is very shifty. Has the ability to run away from tacklers, as six of his 15 touchdowns in 2016 went for 43-plus yards.

At the combine, Mack ran a 4.50 40 and excelled in the broad jump with a mark of 125 inches.

Right now, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery as a sure thing at running back. And that is just a year after taking on that position full-time after being a wide receiver his first year with the Packers.

Although the Packers did re-sign Christine Michael as a free agent, he is not certain to make the final roster due to his mental mistakes.

That’s why one or maybe even two rookie running backs could make the Green Bay roster in 2017.

Mack would be a great one-two combination with Montgomery at running back.

Here is a summary scouting report on Mack by Landry:

“A three-year starter at South Florida, Mack was consistently productive for the Bulls with three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, averaging 6.2 yards per rush over his career – leaves USF with 14 program records. He is at his best on stretch and outsize zone designed runs, using his sudden acceleration and controlled feet to bounce between open spaces and race downfield. Mack doesn’t have ideal build, power or patience as an inside runner and is quick to freelance and break runs outside. But that is where he is best on tape, using his instant speed to get east-west and burst outside the hashes. Mack isn’t built to take steady punishment as a feature NFL runner, but he projects as a dynamic scatback – his NFL playing time trajectory will depend on his development as a blocker, receiver and fumbler.”

Round 4: Center/Guard Ethan Pocic (LSU)

Ethan Pocic

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 310 pounds

Ethan Pocic  started 37 games on the offensive line at LSU, 27 at center, nine at right guard and one at left tackle. That bodes well for Pocic about possibly playing for the Packers, as versatility is one of the attributes that Green Bay looks for with offensive linemen.

Pocic was second-team All-SEC in 2015 and first-team All-SEC in 2016, when he also received multiple second and third-team All-American honors.

Pocic knows how to keep his hands inside while pass-blocking and also has nice lateral movement to pick up blitzers or stunts. Even with his size, Pocic has the ability to get to the second-level with ease.

The former Tiger is also athletic enough to be very effective on sweeps and screens.

With the Packers losing both JC Tretter and T.J. Lang in free agency, selecting a player like Pocic who can help out at both center and guard makes a lot of sense.

Here is a summary scouting report on Pocic by Landry:

“Three-year starter who earned Third Team All-American honors in 2016, making 11 starts at center and one at right tackle. Named Second Team All-SEC in 2015 after starting all 12 games at center. Started nine games at right guard in 2014, making three appearances at center when starter Elliott Porter was injured. Started once at center as a true freshman in place of Porter. Stays square, keeps his head on a swivel and effectively seals defenders from the action. Works to bend his knees, has enough strength to turn defenders from the action and is quick out to the second level. Effective with the shotgun snap. Terrific leader on the offensive line. There are a variety of opinions on Pocic as to his next-level potential and the position he’ll play. I see his best spot as OG where he can thrive in a running game that operates in space, but his lack of power will produce some extremely challenging matchups for him at times.”

Round 5: Cornerback Brendan Langley (Lamar)

Brendan Langley

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 201 pounds

Brendan Langley was originally recruited by Georgia as top 25 cornerback nationally.  Played both cornerback and wide receiver for the Bulldogs before transferring to Lamar (FCS) his junior year.

In 2015, Langley had 21 tackles, one interception (for an 86-yard touchdown) and had 11 pass breakups. Langley also played some receiver that year as well, as he had four receptions for 51 yards and a score.

Langley broke out in 2016, as Southland Conference coaches voted him first-team all-conference as a cornerback and punt returner as a senior.

Langley intercepted six passes (tied for third nationally) last season, broke up seven passes and scored twice on punt returns.

Langley also played in the 2017 Senior Bowl.

At the combine, Langley ran a 4.43 in the 40, plus led all cornerbacks with 22 reps in the bench press and was second in the 60-yard shuttle (11.19 seconds).

Like Moreau, Langley adds speed to the cornerback position, plus will also add some much needed help on special teams, both on the return units and the coverage units.

Here is a summary scouting report on Langley by Landry:

“A one-year starter at Lamar, Langley was more of an athlete than football player most of his career, but showed promising development as a senior boundary corner, lining up primarily in press-man and zone coverages. After he was bounced between offense and defense at Georgia and struggled to see the field, he moved on to the FCS-level and often looked like the fastest player on the field – finished his two-year career at Lamar with four touchdowns (two punt returns, one receiving and one interception return). Langley is raw as blue steak with undeveloped cover technique and route recognition, but his size, athleticism and receiver-like skills are foundation traits for a patient team who can cultivate his talent – mid-round developmental target who can eventually earn a roster spot.”

Round 5 (compensatory): Defensive Lineman DeAngelo Brown (Louisville)

DeAngelo Brown

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 312 pounds

In four years at Louisville, DeAngelo Brown had 107 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Brown was third-team All-ACC in 2016, plus earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine game.

The former Cardinal is an immovable object and eats up multiple blockers, which would be his job in Green Bay on early downs and in short yardage situations. Letroy Guion is running out of chances to stay in the NFL, and Brown would be a solid replacement in terms of stopping the run.

Brown showed his strength at Louisville’s pro day, as he had 36 reps on the bench press. That performance would have topped anyone at the combine.

Here is a summary scouting report on Brown by Landry:

“A two-year starter at Louisville, Brown started every game at right defensive end in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 base scheme, making his living on the interior. He is a double-team magnet and unselfishly takes on multiple blockers to help keep his teammates clean. Brown has the brute strength to reset the line of scrimmage and squeeze through openings to make stops in the backfield, leading the Cardinals with 13.0 tackles for loss as a senior. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and needs to improve his technical skill to be more efficient with his hands. Overall, Brown is a power-packed gap plugger and has NFL starting potential as a nose tackle in both even and odd fronts.”

Round 6: Running Back Joe Williams (Utah)

joe-williams-utah

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 210 pounds

There were a lot of solid performances by prospects during the East-West Shrine Game week, one of which came from running back Joe Williams of Utah. Williams is part of a running back class that is also exceptionally deep in 2017.

That’s why you could still get a quality back like Williams in the sixth round or later of the upcoming draft. Williams had a phenomenal back half of the 2016 season for the Utes in 2016. This was after a slow start to the season and the thought of retiring from football.

But starting in the seventh game of the season for Utah, when the Utes played Oregon State, Williams went on a run that would have put him in the Heisman discussion had this performance been year round.

In six games to end the season, with opponents like Washington and Colorado on the Pac-12 schedule, Williams rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns. Then in the the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana, Williams rushed for 222 yards and another score, plus caught a pass for 56 more yards.

Williams also met with the Packers at the East-West Shrine Game.

At the combine, Williams ran a 4.41 in the 40 and finished second among running backs in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.19 seconds.

Williams has had some definite off the field issues, but nothing like the incident which involved Joe Mixon. Based on the way he finished the 2016 season and also with his performance in the bowl game for Utah, not to mention how he looked in St. Petersburg for the East-West Shrine Game, NFL teams are hoping that he has finally seen the light.

In training camp with the Packers, it would probably come down to Williams competing with Michael for the third running back position behind Montgomery and Mack. I also see the Packers signing a couple undrafted rookie free agents at running back to add to the competition.

This is where being above average on special teams can earn you a roster spot.

Here is a summary scouting report on Williams from Landry:

“A one-year starter at Utah, Williams played football at four different programs since high school and didn’t truly show his potential until the final seven games of the 2016 season, rushing for 1,332 yards over that stretch. He has home run speed and explosive gears to gash defenses once he spurts through holes, running with better toughness than expected. Williams doesn’t have a pro body and his lack of play strength is evident, also creating doubt due to ball security and durability issues. His considerable baggage is the main issue after his abrupt retirement as a senior, abandoning his teammates and creating concerns about his commitment to the game. Williams has the pure speed and athleticism that is NFL worthy, but a leopard doesn’t change his spots and his questionable character will push him down draft boards or off them altogether.”

Round 7: Linebacker Eric Wilson (Cincinnati)

Eric Wilson

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 230 pounds

Eric Wilson first played at Northwestern, before transferring to Cincinnati. In three years with the Bearcats, Wilson had 261 tackles, 14. 5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, four passes defended, seven fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and six forced fumbles.

Wilson was named All-AAC in both 2015 and 2016.

At his pro day, Wilson had an outstanding performance, as he ran a 4.53 in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.

The Packers had Wilson in for a private workout.

I see Wilson playing primarily on special teams, where the 29th-ranked Packers need plenty of help. In addition, because of his tackling prowess and speed, he will also push for playing time at inside linebacker, competing with Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas.

Here is a summary scouting report on Wilson by Landry:

“A former three-star recruit, Wilson started his career at Northwestern before deciding to transfer to Cincinnati in search of more playing time. After sitting out the 2013 season and spending 2014 as a reserve, he became the starting WILL linebacker in 2015 and led the Bearcats in tackles his junior and senior seasons, posting 100+ tackles and earning All-AAC honors both years. Wilson is a magnet to the football with efficient lateral quicks to mirror the run at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t hesitate downhill, but is hyper-focused on the ball and late to locate blockers through his peripherals, getting popped backwards. Wilson displays lower body explosion in his tackles attempts, but his stiff hips encumber his ability to redirect, break down and finish tackles in the open field.”

Early April 7-Round 2017 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

2017 NFL Draft Logo

We are now less than a month away from the 2017 NFL draft, which will take place in Philadelphia on April 27 and run through the 29th. The Green Bay Packers will have eight picks in the draft, one in each of the seven rounds, plus a compensatory selection in the fifth round.

There has been a lot of activity on the roster of the Packers since I did my first mock draft back in early February. I wrote about some of that activity in my second mock draft in the middle of March.

The Packers have lost a number of unrestricted free agents, as center/guard JC Tretter signed with the Cleveland Browns, defensive back Micah Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills, outside linebacker Julius Peppers signed with the Carolina Panthers, right guard T.J. Lang signed with the Detroit Lions, running back Eddie Lacy signed with the Seattle Seahawks and outside linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

In addition tight end Jared Cook signed with the Oakland Raiders, but that move came after Ted Thompson shocked the football world by signing an unrestricted free agent who had not been released by his team yet.

That player was tight end Martellus Bennett, formerly of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Shortly after that move, the Packers signed another tight end, Lance Kendricks, but that move came after Kendricks was released by the Los Angeles Rams.

Thompson prefers to sign unrestricted free agents who were previously released by the former teams. Why? Because that way the signing won’t have any bearing on the compensatory draft formula for the following draft.

But when you sign an unrestricted free agent who is still with his current team, that does factor into the compensatory formula.

All that being said, the Packers still look to get a number of compensatory picks in the 2018 NFL draft, based on the seven free agents that they have lost this offseason.

The Packers have been able to keep a number of their own free agents on the roster, as this list includes outside linebacker Nick Perry, offensive lineman Don Barclay, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, outside linebacker Jordan Tripp and running back Christine Michael.

Than there are the players who are exclusive rights free agents. The list includes punter Jacob Schum (signed his exclusive rights contract), inside linebacker Joe Thomas (received tender offer), defensive lineman Christian Ringo (received tender offer), wide receiver Geronimo Allison (received tender offer), running back Don Jackson (signed tender offer), running back John Crockett (did not receive tender offer) and fullback Joe Kerridge (received tender offer).

Besides Kendricks, the Packers signed two other unrestricted free agents who were released by the former teams, as they signed cornerback Davon House, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars ( House was also a Packer from 2011-2014) and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, formerly of the Washington Redskins.

The Packers also signed “street” free agent guard Justin McCray.

So with all those moves, the Packers still appear to be short-handed at running back, plus need quality depth in the defensive backfield, the interior offensive line and at linebacker.

In this mock draft, I will not be selecting any players I selected in the first two mock drafts I have done previously. That will change when I do my final mock draft the week of the actual draft.

Like I do with all my draft work, I am utilizing the expertise and insight from NFL scout Chris Landry from both our conversations and also information from his fine website. In fact, for this mock draft, I will be utilizing the vertical draft boards Landry has set up for prospects at various positions and also his horizontal draft board, which lists the best players regardless of their position.

Landry explains the process on his site:

After teams set their VERTICAL draft board (positions), they prepare their HORIZONTAL draft board (best players regardless of position) with each team establishing a Top 150 overall board based on grades, which means the “150” board can range anywhere from 120-200 players depending on how the grades fall in each of the 32 draft rooms.

In this mock draft, Landry will add an observation about each player I select. In the late rounds, keep in mind that I am looking for players who not only add quality depth at their respective positions, but who also can help improve the 29th-ranked special teams units for the Packers.

Okay, enough of that, it’s time to draft.

Round 1: Running Back Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Berkeley, California.

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 202 pounds

This pick may or may not shock some people. But if any of the three top running backs in this draft (Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey) are still on the board at pick No. 29, my guess is that the Packers will select one of them. The Packers met with Cook at the combine as a matter of fact.

The Packers currently have three running backs on their roster, Ty Montgomery, Christine Michael and Don Jackson. Montgomery is the only sure bet to be on the roster when the 2017 season begins.

To me, McCaffrey would be the best option for the Packers at running back if he was still available. And he could be, as Landry has McCaffrey ranked No. 23 on his horizontal draft board.

In his career at Stanford (the same school that Montgomery came out of), McCaffrey rushed for 3,922 yards (6.2 average) and scored 21 touchdowns. In the passing game, McCaffrey had 99 receptions for 1,206 more yards and had 10 scores.

McCaffrey also returned a punt (11.2 average) for a score, as well as a kickoff (26.2 average) for a score.

In 2015, McCaffrey was a consensus All-American, Heisman Trophy finalist, Associated Press and Pac-12 Player of the Year. In 2016, McCaffrey was named first-team All-Pac-12 and Associated Press second-team All-American honors.

McCaffrey excelled at the NFL Scouting Combine, as he ran a 4.48 in the 40, plus was among the best in the vertical jump, the 3 cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard shuttle.

This is part of what Landry said in his scouting report about McCaffrey:

“Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey has been compared to former Cardinal Ty Montgomery, but he is a better runner than Montgomery, a better catcher, he’s more explosive, more agile and he’s faster. Montgomery is more of a straight-line guy.

“McCaffery is a jack-of-all-trades guy who can be your returner and give you 15 snaps a game at RB. McCaffrey is a skilled running back but would also rank as one of the best WR’s in this draft as well. He is the type that needs to get 18-25 touches per game.

“The NFL’s become a matchup league, and Christian McCaffrey is a matchup player. You can line him up anywhere: the I, slot, all the way out wide, wing back. Under a creative offensive mind, he becomes even more valuable. I see him as a better version of Dion Lewis with a little Brian Westbrook in his game.”

Round 2: Outside Linebacker Jordan Willis (Kansas State)

Jordan Willis

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 255 pounds

Jordan Willis had 115 tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss, 26 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his career at Kansas State.

The 6’4″, 255-pound Willis was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, plus was named first-team All-Big 12 and also third-team Associated Press All-American as a defensive end.

Willis opened some eyes at the combine, as he ran a 4.53 in the 40, plus had a 39 inch vertical jump.

Although he played defensive end in college, the former Wildcat will offset the losses of both Julius Peppers and Datone Jones at outside linebacker in the Green Bay 3-4 scheme.

Willis is ranked No. 55 on Landry’s horizontal draft.

This is part of what Landry said in his scouting report On Willis:

“Willis should be able to earn a roster spot and work his way up the pecking order in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He was easily one of the best all-around performers at the NFL Scouting Combine and plays with a great motor on film.

“While he is a straight-liner and deliberate as a pass rusher, his motor and speed will land him a spot. He is more gifted than Jared Allen was coming out of college and if he continues to work, he could have a good career of his own.”

Round 3: Center/Guard Tyler Orlosky (West Virginia)

Tyler Orlosky

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 298 pounds

Tyler Orlosky was a three-star offensive guard recruit out of high school, when he passed on offers from Big Ten programs like Michigan State, Northwestern and Illinois, and instead enrolled at West Virginia. Orlosky played guard while playing with the West Virginia scout team as a redshirt freshman. After that, Orlosky developed into a fine center.

After starting three games at center in 2013 for West Virginia, Orlosky has remained a fixture at the position ever since and started every game at center from 2014 through 2016.

Orlosky was also team captain. He received second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2015 and then was named first-team All-Big 12 as a senior.

Orlosky has the skill set to play well at both guard and center, which is what the Packers need right now.

The former Mountaineer only participated in the bench press drill at the combine, where he had 24 reps.

Landry has Orlosky ranked No. 99 on his horizontal draft board.

This is part of what Landry said in his scout report on Orlosky:

“Orlosky played guard in high school and wanted to stay at that position in Morgantown, but he saw center as his opportunity to see early playing time, making the switch as a redshirt freshman and developing into an All-American as a senior.

“Although not a rangy, explosive mover, he competes with physical hands and the tenacious mentality to tie up defenders at the line of scrimmage. If he can improve his sink and mirror skills in space, Orlosky has the brute power and protection awareness to win a starting role and make all the line calls in the NFL.”

Round 4: Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado)

Ahkello Witherspoon

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 198 pounds

Ahkello Witherspoon was part of a great secondary at Colorado, as he tied with teammate Tedric Thompson with a nation-leading 23 passes defensed in 2016. Witherspoon also had one pick and 22 passes broken up for the season.

In 2015 as a part-time starter, Witherspoon had two interceptions and four passes broken up. In the past two seasons, Witherspoon had 64 total tackles.

Witherspoon tested well at the combine, as he ran a 4.45 40, plus had a 40.5 inch vertical jump, which was tops among cornerbacks. He also did the 60-yard shuttle in 11.60 seconds, which put him in fourth place in that category.

The former Buffalo has been compared to Richard Sherman due to his size/speed and he will definitely enhance a position that struggled mightily at times last season for the Packers.

This is part of what Landry said in his scouting report about Witherspoon:

“A two-year starter at Colorado, Witherspoon played primarily at right cornerback in press-man technique, blossoming as a senior with his impressive ball production to put his name on the NFL radar. He has the physical traits that immediately draw the eye and his classroom smarts (graduated high school with 4.4 GPA; pre-med student at CU) translate on film.

“Witherspoon is still very young in football years and admittedly still learning the position, but his long frame, quick feet and developing instincts are intriguing traits worth developing – long-term NFL starting potential and one of the more underrated players in this class.”

Round 5: Running Back Brian Hill (Wyoming)

Brian Hill

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 219 pounds

Brian Hill had a great career at Wyoming, as rushed for 4,287 yards (5.5 average) and 35 touchdowns. Hill also caught 41 passes in his career for 403 yards.

In 2015, Hill was named second-team All-Mountain West, while this past season, Hill was named first-team All-Mountain West.

At the combine, Hill ran a 4.54 in the 40 and looked very sharp in the broad jump and the 60-yard shuttle.

Hill will compete for a roster spot with Michael and Jackson at running back. He could definitely enhance his chances of making the team by becoming a regular contributor on special teams.

This is part of what Landry said in his scouting report on Hill:

“A two-year starter at Wyoming, Hill was a durable, productive workhorse for the Cowboys, rushing for 135.9 yards per game as a sophomore and 132.9 yards per game as a junior. He is at his best off tackle where he can stretch runs outside, using his speed, open-field toughness and hungry run appetite to gash defenses.

“Overall, Hill has the run toughness, play speed and consistent production that projects well to the next level, but he is undeveloped as an inside runner and needs to improve his patience and reliability on third downs to get (and stay) on the field.”

Round 5 (compensatory): Outside linebacker Carroll Phillips (Illinois)

Carroll Philips

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 242 pounds

In 2015 with the Fighting Illini, when he started three games, Carroll Phillips had 26 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks. In 2016, when he became a full-time starter, the player known as “Wild Man”, had 56 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

For his performance last season, Phillips was named first-team All-Big Ten. At Illinois, Phillips played defensive end, but he has all the attributes to become an effective outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Phillips showed nice speed at the combine, as he ran a 4.64 40.

Like Willis, Phillips will help offset the losses of Peppers and Jones at outside linebacker. Plus he has the temperament to become a terror on special teams.

This is what Landry said about Phillips after watching him at a Senior Bowl practice:

“Today was a big win for Phillips. He was terrific standing up over tackle looking quick, fast and fluid. He made plays in every direction of the field, looked forceful on the blitz and did not embarrass himself in coverage drills.”

Round 6: Linebacker Connor Harris (Lindenwood)

Connor Harris

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 242 pounds

Connor Harris has been called a poor man’s Chris Borland, due to his size and his tenacity on the football field. In his career at Lindenwood, Harris became the the NCAA All-Division record holder with 633 career tackles.

Harris was named first-team All-American and 2016 Cliff Harris Award award winner as the top defender in Divisions II, III and NAIA. In addition to that, Harris was a three-time first-team All-Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) pick.

Harris also received some playing time as a running back (50-328, seven touchdowns) and as a punter.

At the combine, Harris ran a 4.73 in the 40, but was among the best at linebacker in the 60-yard shuttle.

Harris would add some depth at the inside linebacker position, but his biggest contribution would be on special teams where he looks to be a demon.

This is what Landry said about Harris after watching him at a Senior Bowl practice:

“Harris had a tough time handling blocks but looked really good otherwise. He was solid against the run and looked fluid and smooth moving in reverse.”

Round 7: Safety Montae Nicholson (Michigan State)

Montae Nicholson

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 212 pounds

When you look at Montae Nicholson, he has everything that you would want as defensive back. Good size and good speed.

But Nicholson’s problem is being timid at times about tackling. Still, in the last two seasons, Nicholson had 169 tackles, which is not bad. The former Spartan also had four passes broken up and had four interceptions in that time.

Nicholson’s speed will definitely help the secondary of the Packers, plus better tackling technique can be taught.

Nicholson is another player who can improve the special teams units.

This is what Landry said about Nicholson after watching him at the NFL Scouting Combine:

“Michigan State S Montae Nicholson notched a 40-yard dash of 4.42 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday. Nicholson’s 4.42 seconds tied USC do-everything DB Adoree’ Jackson for ninth sharpest among defensive backs during Monday’s tests. Despite that top time, he might have trouble drawing interest in the draft this April as he lacks the ideal aggressiveness needed.”

A Scout’s Take on Several of the Top Edge Rushers in the 2017 NFL Draft

t-j-watt-in-cotton-bowl

T.J. Watt

The 2017 NFL draft is now less than a month away. The Green Bay Packers have a number of positional needs on their roster currently. Among those needs is the outside linebacker position or edge rusher.

Edge rushers can be prospects who played defensive end in college in a 4-3 scheme, but also have the attributes to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, which is what the Packers employ under Dom Capers.

The Packers also need some quality depth at cornerback, running back and at guard.

The odds are that fairly strong that the Packers will address those particular position groups in the first four rounds of the draft.

But it is yet to be determined what the pecking order will be. It depends on how general manager Ted Thompson and his scouting staff have set up their Green Bay draft board.

When it comes to looking at some edge rushing prospects who would fall into the category of where the Packers will be selecting in the draft, which is late in each round, I wanted to get some insight and expertise from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

I had another opportunity to talk with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show,  which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

The Packers will have the 29th, 61st, 93rd and 134th picks in the first four rounds of the draft. I wanted to get a read on what edge rushers might fit in that area, especially in the first two rounds of the draft.

There are a couple of edge rushing prospects that the Packers will not have an opportunity to select, as they will be long gone by the time the Packers select with pick No. 29 in the first round.

I’m talking about Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, who will most likely be the first overall pick in the draft, along with Solomon Thomas of Stanford and Derek Barnett of Tennessee.

Landry has Garrett ranked at No. 1 on his horizontal draft board, while Thomas is ranked No. 3 and Barnett is ranked No. 8.

When I talked with Landry, I specifically asked about Charles Harris of Missouri, Tim Williams of Alabama, Takkarist McKinley of UCLA, Carl Lawson of Auburn and T.J. Watt of Wisconsin.

“Harris is an intriguing guy out of Missouri,” Landry said. “I think he’s as good if not better than Shane Ray.  He doesn’t test out as well, but he’s got great bend, great lean and great close. Good off-the-ball quickness. 253 pounds. Really good player.”

The 6’3″, 253-pound Harris played defensive end for Missouri. In the last two years for the Tigers, Harris had 117 tackles, 30.5 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Harris was named second-team All-SEC in both 2015 and 2016. Harris ran a 4.82 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Landry has Harris ranked No. 30 on his horizontal draft board.

“Tim Williams of Alabama has got some off the field concerns or issues,” Landry said. “Really talented guy who is long and lean.”

When it comes to Williams, it’s a buyer beware situation, as Williams failed multiple drug tests at Alabama. That being said, in his last two years with the Crimson Tide, the 6’3″, 244-pound Williams had 50 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 19.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Williams was a second-team Associated Press All-American and All-SEC pick in 2016 when he primarily played defensive end. Williams also showed his speed for his size, as he ran a 4.68 40 at the combine.

Landry has Williams ranked at No. 31 on his horizontal draft board.

“McKinley is a guy who is really an intriguing athlete,” Landry said. “Has a torn labrum which has contributed to some of his problems off the field. But he’s got really great speed off the edge. He might be best as a 3-4 stand-up rusher. This guy was a 10.58 100 meter guy in high school. And he’s 265 pounds and he can really motor. He reminds a bit of Whitney Mercilus who came out a couple of years ago who is with the Texans.”

McKinley played defensive end at UCLA, but also has the potential to become a 3-4 outside linebacker due to his pass-rushing skills and speed.

McKinley, who goes 6’2″, 250 pounds, really stepped-up his play in 2016 with the Bruins, as he had 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups. That earned McKinley a first-team All-Pac-12 designation.

The former Bruin showed off his speed at the combine, as McKinley ran a 4.59 40.

Landry has McKinley ranked at No. 32 on his horizontal draft board.

takkarist-mckinley

Takkarist McKinley

“Carl Lawson is a really good player on third down,” Landry said. “He’s got power and explosion. I’m not saying he’s going to be as good, but boy,  he’s got a little of the qualities of that we saw with Dwight Freeney coming out of Syracuse.”

The 6’2″, 261-pound Lawson played defensive end at Auburn. Lawson has  a great year in 2016, as he had 30 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and one forced fumble. In his career as a Tiger, Lawson had 24 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks.

In 2016, Lawson was named first-team All-SEC and was a Freshman All-American in 2013. Lawson missed the 2014 due to a ACL injury.

Lawson ran a 4.67 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 35 reps in the bench press drill.

Landry had Lawson ranked No. 33 on his horizontal draft board.

“T.J. to me is a guy who is an outside backer who can be played down at nickel,” Landry said. “I see him as a guy who could go late first round. I think he’s got great athleticism. I mean he can bend and he can turn the corner. I think he’s got the ability to rush from a two or three point stance.”

I had the Packers selecting Watt in my very first mock draft, which I put out in early-February.

One big reason why the secondary of the Wisconsin Badgers had such an outstanding year in 2016 (except for the second half vs. Penn State in the B1G title game), was the play of the Front 7 of the Badgers.

Nobody was more prevalent in that regard than Watt, who goes 6’4″, 252 pounds. No. 42 had 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks in 2016, which garnered him second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Watt also met with the Packers at the combine where he excelled in a number of drills, including the vertical jump (37.0 inches), broad jump (128.0 inches), 3-cone drill (6.79 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.20 seconds). Watt also ran a 4.69 in the 40.

Landry has Watt rated at No. 39 on his horizontal draft board.

Landry also talked about four edge rushers who might be available when the Packers pick late in the second round with pick No. 61. The players are DeMarcus Walker of Florida State, Jordan Willis of Kansas State, Tarell Basham of Ohio University and Derek Rivers of Youngstown State.

“I think DeMarcus Walker is a more of a guy who is a late second-round value, the FSU product,” Landry said. “He’s a little bit of a tweener.”

In his career at Florida State, Walker had 182 tackles, 45 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks, three forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

Walker was named third-team All-ACC in 2015 (coaches) and then was named first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation and first-team All-ACC in 2016.

Walker, who goes 6’4″ and 280 pounds, would need to drop some weight to play outside linebacker for the Packers. The former Seminole defensive end also needs to get stronger, as he only had 18 reps in the bench press drill. Walker did not do any other drills at the combine.

Landry has Walker ranked at No. 55 on his horizontal draft board.

“Jordan Willis of Kansas State is very intriguing,” Landry said. “I think he’s got really good athleticism and he plays with a great motor.”

Willis had 115 tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss, 26 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his career at Kansas State.

The 6’4″, 255-pound Willis was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, plus was named first-team All-Big 12 and also third-team Associated Press All-American as a defensive end.

Willis excelled at the combine, as he ran a 4.53 in the 40, plus had a 39 inch vertical jump.

Landry has Willis ranked No. 56 on his horizontal draft board.

Jordan Willis

Jordan Willis

“Terell Basham of Ohio is a good player,” Landry said. “And the kid from Youngstown State, Derek Rivers, is really good value in the late-second or early-third.”

Basham, who played defensive end at Ohio, had 158 tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss, 29.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and one recovered fumble in his career as a Bobcat.

The 6-4, 269-pound Basham was the Mid-American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.

Basham ran a 4.70 in the 40 at the combine.

Landry has Basham ranked No. 57 on his horizontal draft board.

Rivers, who goes 6’4″, 248 pounds, played defensive end at Youngstown State. In his career in the FCS, Rivers had 173 tackles, 56.5 tackles for a loss, 37.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Rivers was named as a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection each of the past three seasons. Rivers was also named as a third-team Associated Press FCS All-American in 2016.

Rivers also had a fine combine, as he ran a 4.61 in the 40, had 30 reps in the bench press drill and had a 35 inch vertical jump.

Landry has Rivers ranked No. 86 on his horizontal draft board, but is quickly moving up in status, which is why Landry believes Rivers could be selected in the late-second or early-third round.

So what does all this information mean? It tells me that there is a real good chance that one of the eight players who Landry talked about in this story will be a Green Bay Packer. That will be especially true if the team decides to select an edge rusher in one of the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.

A Scout’s Take on the Top Interior Offensive Linemen in the 2017 NFL Draft

Forrest Lamp

Forrest Lamp

Going into the 2017 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers have a number of positions that they need to address during the draft. The list includes cornerback, running back and outside linebacker.

You can also add the interior offensive line position to the group as well. Especially after starting right guard T.J. Lang and the sometimes starter at center, JC Tretter, as both exited the team via free agency.

The Packers still have a solid offensive line with David Bakhtiari at left tackle, Lane Taylor at left guard, Corey Linsley at center and Bryan Bulaga at right tackle.

But who now fills the hole at right guard is a question, as is who will back up Linsley at center if he can’t play due to injury?

The Packers drafted two offensive tackles in the 2016 NFL draft, but both Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy are not sure bets to successfully make the move inside to guard. When Spriggs did get playing time last year, at both tackle and guard, he showed good foot quickness, but also showed a lack of strength at times.

The Packers hope some time in the weight room will improve the latter situation for Spriggs. It certainly did for Bakhtiari. I believe the Packers see Spriggs as their swing tackle.

Murphy would have a better chance to move inside to play guard in my opinion, as he was able to effectively play both left and right tackle at Stanford. The Packers love versatility out of their offensive linemen. Murphy is also a better run-blocker than Spriggs.

Plus, the Packers did re-sign Don Barclay to a minimum contract to remain as a key backup. Barclay can play all the positions on the offensive line, including center, but would be best used as a backup only.

The Packers also really like guard Lucas Patrick who was on the practice squad last season.

All that being said, the Packers definitely need to address the interior offensive line position in the draft. They need to draft a guard and maybe a center as well. Or perhaps someone who can play both positions.

Speaking of the draft and interior offensive linemen prospects, I had another opportunity to speak with NFL scout Chris Landry the other day on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

I talked with Landry last week on the same show about the running back class in this year’s draft.

Unlike the cornerback, running back and edge-rusher positions, the classes for interior offensive linemen (guards and centers) are not nearly as deep or talented.

That’s why I wanted to get a read on the top interior offensive linemen in this draft. Prospects who will most likely be selected in either the first round or the second round, if the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson decide to go that route.

I asked Landry about four prospects, Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky, Dan Feeney of Indiana, Pat Elflein of Ohio State and Ethan Pocic of LSU.

Landry talked about each of those linemen, as well as Dorian Johnson of Pittsburgh.

“Lamp is a Zack Martin-type player,” Landry said. “Very athletic. Very smart. Very instinctive. Takes good angles. Best in a zone-blocking scheme. And he is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft.”

Lamp was a four-year starter at Western Kentucky. He started three games at right guard in 2013, before moving to left tackle for the rest of his career with the Hilltoppers. All in all, had 51 career starts.

Lamp was named honorable mention All-Sun Belt as a freshman, honorable mention All- CUSA as a sophomore and then was named first-team All-CUSA as a junior and senior.

Lamp tested out well at the NFL Scouting Combine, as he excelled in a number of drills. Lamp also had 34 sets in the bench press, which tied him for second among all offensive linemen.

Landry has Lamp ranked at No. 18 on his horizontal draft board.

“Dan Feeney is more of a power guy,” Landry said. “He’s more of a pure-guard type.”

Feeney played in a program at Indiana which plays at a up-tempo style. Like his former teammate Jason Spriggs, now with the Packers, Feeney also was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten as a senior.

Feeney was also named honorable mention All-Big Ten as a freshman and sophomore, named first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-American as a junior.

Feeney led the way at Indiana for running backs like Tevin Coleman (now with the Atlanta Falcons) and Jordan Howard (now with the Chicago Bears).

Played some right tackle as a senior due to injuries, but playing inside at guard is where he operates best. Some scouts believe Feeney could also play center.

Landry has Feeney ranked at No. 49 on his horizontal draft board.

“Ethan Pocic played center at LSU,” Landry said. “I think he’s more of a guard and can play tackle. He’s played all positions. His strength is his versatility.”

Ethan Pocic

Ethan Pocic

Pocic  started 37 games on the offensive line at LSU, 27 at center, nine at right guard and one at left tackle.

Pocic was second-team All-SEC in 2015 and first-team All-SEC in 2016, when he also received multiple second and third-team All-American honors.

I had the Packers selecting Pocic in the second round in my post-combine 7-round mock draft for the team recently.

Landry has Pocic ranked at No. 76 on his horizontal draft board.

“Dorian Johnson of Pitt is a very underrated player,” Landry said. “He can play right tackle in a pinch, but is primarily a guard.”

Johnson started three games his freshman year, two at left tackle and one at right guard. Since then, Johnson became a regular at left guard where he started 39 straight games.

Johnson was named second-team All-ACC as a junior and then was name first-team All-ACC as a senior,plus was named to a number of All-American teams.

Johnson excelled in the vertical jump and the broad jump drills at the combine.

Landry has Johnson ranked at No. 77 on his horizontal draft board.

“In terms of Pat Elflein, I think he’s a center,” Landry said. “That’s what he is best at. I think he can play guard, but he is the best center in this draft. I think he’s really effective.”

Elflein was first-team All-Big Ten three times in his career with the Buckeyes. In 2014, Elflein started three games at left guard and 12 at right guard. In 2015, played strictly right guard, when he was also a second-team Associated Press All-American.

In 2016, Elflein moved to center and was named first-team All-American.

Landry has Elflein ranked at No. 45 on his horizontal draft board.

“I think all those guys who I mentioned are all [up there],” Landry said. “Lamp is a first rounder and all the rest are second-round values.”

Pat Elflein

Pat Elflein

In terms of what Thompson might do about selecting an interior offensive lineman in this draft, we can look at his history of doing that since he started running the front office of the Packers in 2005.

In his first year as GM, Thompson faced a situation which closely mirrors what has happened to the team over the last year with his starting guards, when both Josh Sitton (released in 2016) and Lang (left via free agency in 2017) moved on from the team. Both Sitton and Lang had achieved Pro Bowl status as Packers before they found new homes in the NFL.

In the 2005 offseason, both Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle left the team via free agency. Rivera had been named to the Pro Bowl three times in his career with the Packers, while Wahle had been named first-team All-Pro by Sports Illustrated in 2003.

The loss of both Rivera and Wahle opened up a big hole in the middle of the offensive line that Thompson tried to correct that offseason.

Thompson selected two guards (Junius Coston and Will Whitaker) late in the 2005 draft, plus signed Adrian Klemm and Matt O’Dwyer via free agency.

The results were not good, as the offensive guard play was horrible. The Packers finished 4-12 in 2005 and Mike Sherman was fired and replaced by Mike McCarthy in 2006.

Thompson looked earlier in the draft in 2006 to add talent to the guard position. Unlike 2005, this time Thompson selected Daryn Colledge in the second round and Jason Spitz in the third round.

Those selections helped to solidify the guard position as both Colledge and Spitz became starters as rookies and remained starters for a numbers of seasons. Colledge started through the 2010 season, while Spitz started through the 2008 season.

The next changing of the guards occurred in the 2008 and 2009 NFL drafts. In 2008, the Packers selected Sitton in the fourth round and then in 2009 selected Lang in the same round.

Sitton became a starter at guard in 2009 and remained as a starter (both at RG and LG) until he released just before the 2016 regular season.

Lang became a starter in 2011 (both at LG and RG) and remained a starter through the 2016 season.

The replacement for Sitton in 2016 was Lane Taylor, who Thompson signed as an undrafted rookie in 2013. Taylor did a solid job as Sitton’s replacement last season.

The center position was manned by veteran Mike Flanagan in Thompson’s first year as GM in 2005, but he was replaced by Scott Wells in 2006. Wells was originally drafted in the seventh round by Sherman when he was both head coach and general manager back in 2004.

Wells remained a starter through the 2011 season, when he left the team via free agency. Thompson tried to solve that issue by signing veteran free agent Jeff Saturday, but towards the end of the 2012 season, it was apparent that the Packers needed to upgrade the position once again, as Evan Dietrich-Smith, who Thompson originally signed as an undrafted rookie in 2009, became the starter.

Dietrich remained the starter through the 2013 season, but then left the Packers in free agency the next offseason.

The Packers found his successor, Corey Linsley, in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. Linsley had faced a spirited battle in training camp with JC Tretter, who the Packers had drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. But Tretter suffered a knee injury which took him out of the competition.

Both Linsley (38 starts) and Tretter (10 starts) were very solid in their play at center over the past three seasons. After Tretter was injured again in 2016, Linsley took over again at center and never looked back. Tretter then moved on via free agency to the Cleveland Browns.

So what does this all mean for Thompson regarding the 2017 NFL draft and selecting an interior offensive lineman? I’m sure he’ll look back on the 2005 draft and ponder if he waited too late in the draft to select a guard that year. Then again, Thompson couldn’t be too disappointed in that draft, as he selected Aaron Rodgers in the first round and Nick Collins in the second round.

My guess is that because the classes for the interior offensive linemen in this draft are not especially deep, that Thompson will select one fairly early in the draft.

Which means that one of the five players Landry discussed in this story could be a Green Bay Packer in 2017.

A Scout’s Take on the Running Back Class in the 2017 NFL Draft

Marlon Mack

Running back Marlon Mack of South Florida.

With the exodus of Eddie Lacy to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week via free agency, the Green Bay Packers find themselves in a bit of quandary regarding their running back situation.

Right now, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery as a sure thing at running back. And that is just a year after taking on that position full-time after being a wide receiver his first year with the Packers.

The Packers can also re-sign unrestricted free agent Christine Michael, who the Packers brought on last season after he was released by the Seahawks. Other than that, the Packers also tendered an offer to exclusive rights free agent Don Jackson, who received a handful of plays last season with the Packers when injuries hit the running back position hard.

Plus, there are still a number of veteran running backs available via free agency. The list includes Adrian Peterson, LeGarrette Blount and Jamaal Charles.

Fortunately for the Packers and any team in need of help at running back this year, the 2017 NFL draft is extremely deep and talented this year at that position.

With that in mind, I wanted to get the opinion of NFL scout Chris Landry on this group of prospects. I once again was able to speak to Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show earlier this week, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

I first asked Landry to talk about what I believed to be great depth in the running back class in this year’s draft and I mentioned Marlon Mack of South Florida.

“I have Marlon as a high third-round pick,” Landry said. “In the upper-tier third round. I think he, Kareem Hunt of Toledo and the kid from North Carolina State, Matthew Dayes, are all high third-round values.

“You could get what I think would be fourth-round value with guys like Samaje Perine of Oklahoma, Jamaal Williams of BYU, Wayne Gallman of Clemson, all juniors. You’re right, there are guys like Brian Hill of Wyoming, who is an outstanding player. If you want a little back who is shifty, which is not what some people want, you have Donnel Pumphrey [San Diego State] is really good. Elijah McGuire of Louisiana Lafayette is a fifth or sixth-round value.

“There are good players in this draft. I absolutely like Marlon Mack. I think he would be great value at the top of the third round if you can get him there. Maybe even the late second round. We’ll see. I don’t think there is a half dozen players at the running back position who are better than Marlon in this draft. One of them is Joe Mixon, and we know that’s going to be an ownership decision.

“So I think that there is absolutely an opportunity to get healthy at the running back position [in this draft]. And most people prefer the younger guys who don’t have as much wear and tear on them.”

The Packers have a number of needs going into this draft. Mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Positions like cornerback, outside linebacker and inside linebacker. But what if one of the top three running backs were still on the board when they Packers had their selection at pick No. 29 in the first round.

I’m talking about Leonard Fournette of LSU, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

Would general manager Ted Thompson select one of them if that were the case? The answer is yes, if they were the highest-rated player on the Green Bay draft board.

I asked Landry to talk about the Big 3.

“They all have the same grade, but all are different type of guys,” Landry said. “Fournette is the Adrian Peterson power guy. An impact carry back. Needs to have 25 touches or carries a game. Not as good catching the football.

“Like Dalvin Cook, the more complete back. He can run, has more explosiveness and has more make-you-miss  skills than Leonard. Much more effective catching the football out of the backfield.

at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Berkeley, California.

Running back Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

“Christian McCaffrey is the smaller satellite back. You can line him up in the backfield, the wing position or the slot position. If you put him in the receiving group, he might be as good as a receiver as there is in the draft. A great route-runner. Superb hands. Nice returner.

“So listen, it’s really like going to a car lot. Do you want a sports car, a minivan, a SUV or a pickup truck? I mean, they are all good, but what do you want? All these guys to me are first-round talent. I think behind them is Alvin Kamara of Tennessee, who has really good explosiveness with size.

“But I’m going to tell you, that on the football field, I’m not so sure that Joe Mixon is not the best running back in this draft overall. But…fill in the blank on Joe Mixon. That is going to be a very tough decision. And I’m not advocating for him off the field. I’m just saying, football-wise, he’s special.”

I had the Packers taking Mack in my second mock draft, but based on Landry’s current grade on the former Bull, the Packers would most likely have to pull the trigger in the late-second round to bring in Mack, as opposed to waiting until the late-third round.

When I talked with Landry this week, I also brought up Joe Williams of Utah, who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft. Williams was a dynamo in the second half of the 2016 season for the Utes when he rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns (in six games).

In the the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana, Williams rushed for 222 yards and another score, plus caught a pass for 56 more yards.

Then at the East-West Shrine Game practices he impressed Landry, who said this about Williams:

“Utah RB Joe Williams has an outstanding burst and he was a little bit thicker than I anticipated. He is going to be a mismatch in the passing game as he gains more experience. He looks like an ideal change-of-pace back at the next level.”

Just to show you how deep and talented this running back class is in this draft, Landry currently has a seventh-round grade on Williams.

Bottom line, no matter what the Packers decide to do about bringing in a veteran free agent running back, the upcoming draft can certainly upgrade the depth and talent at the running back position for the team.

The 2017 NFL Draft: The T.J. Watt to the Green Bay Packers Bandwagon is Growing

t-j-watt-in-cotton-bowl

Almost a month ago, I put out my first and only 2017 NFL mock draft for the Green Bay Packers thus far. I plan to put out three more before the actual draft begins on April 27, including one later this week. But in my first mock, on February 10, I had the Packers selecting linebacker T.J. Watt of Wisconsin with pick No. 29 in the first round.

Since then, that prognostication has picked up some steam and the Watt to the Packers bandwagon is growing.

This past weekend, Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that Watt is well-positioned for the Packers to select at pick No. 29.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com put out a mock draft yesterday in which he had the Packers selecting Watt in the first round as well.

NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah was on the Watt bandwagon early like myself, when he had the Pack taking the Wisconsin linebacker at pick No. 29 in early February.

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock won’t put out an actual mock draft until the night before the draft, but he did compare Watt and his skill set to that of Clay Matthews of the Packers recently.

“The easy comparison is Clay Matthews. He’s an edge rusher who fits best into a 3-4 system,” Mayock told MMQB. “He has a similar game to Clay — an edge who can drop in coverage and has a motor that just won’t stop.”

Watt also told the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Saturday that he will be meeting with the Packers soon. That sure won’t stop any speculation about him going to Green Bay in the draft.

Watt certainly didn’t hurt himself in the workouts at the combine on Sunday either. The 6’5″, 243-pound Watt did well in all categories.

Watt finished 12th among linebackers in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.69. Watt also had 21 reps on the bench press which placed him tied for eighth.

But in the other five workout categories, Watt was at or near the top in every one of those drills.

T.J. Watt at the combine

Watt finished second in the vertical jump with a leap of 37 inches. The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native was also tied for first in the broad jump with Jabrill Peppers of Michigan with a jump of 10’8″.

Watt finished second in the 3 cone drill with a time of 6.79. The former Badger also tied for first with Ben Gideon of Michigan in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.13.

Finally, Watt finished first in the 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.20.

As Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote this past weekend, the primary needs of the Packers are cornerback, inside linebacker and outside linebacker.

Green Bay must feel pretty fortunate going into this draft, as those three positions appear to be very deep.

It might come down to the old best player on Ted Thompson’s board at pick No. 29 when the Packers make that pick.

The outside linebacker position will probably have some clarity for the Packers at the time of the draft, as I expect Green Bay to re-sign Nick Perry and Julius Peppers.

The agent for Peppers, Carl Carey, confirmed to various media outlets today that Peppers will indeed play in the NFL in 2017.

“There has been communication with the Packers, and there’s a tremendous amount of mutual respect between Julius and the Packers organization,” Carey said. “They’ve been great to him over the years, and that carries a lot of weight with him. Of course, free agency is unpredictable, so we’ll see what happens over the next several days.”

Peppers has been injury-free during his three year tenure with the Packers, but he’s also 37 years-old and will be playing in his 16th NFL season. Like in 2016, I expect his snaps to be limited at times in 2017.

Perry (two games missed in 2016 and 20 games missed in his five-year career) and Clay Matthews (four games missed in 2016 and 15 games missed in his eight-year career) have been anything but injury-free, which is another reason why selecting someone like Watt makes a lot of sense.

The Packers also like the upside of second-year outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, but as Mayock has said, Watt has the playmaking ability of Matthews. That type of ability is hard to find, as No. 52 has 72.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), plus has six interceptions (two for scores) in his career.

If the Packers did select Watt with the 29th pick of the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, it would be the first time since 1948 that Green Bay selected a Wisconsin native who also played his college ball for the University of Wisconsin in the first round.

The Packers selected back Earl “Jug” Girard of the Badgers in 1948. Girard hailed from Marinette, Wisconsin.

Finally, the Packers have to be looking at the lineage of the Watt family in the NFL. Brother Derek, who also played at Wisconsin, is a fullback with the now Los Angeles Chargers and is 24 years-old.

But the brother that people will certainly compare T.J. with is J.J., who has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award three times with the Houston Texans.

Like his brother J.J., who will turn 28-years-old on March 22,  T.J. first started out as a tight end in college and then became a talented late-bloomer on defense with the Badgers. The comparisons are striking.

Bottom line, if the Packers do select T.J. Watt and if he comes anywhere close to the production of his brother J.J. in the NFL, the team would have to be ecstatic.