Green Bay Packers: The 2020 NFL Draft Class and Some Possible Moves in Free Agency

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My interpretation of the 2020 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers was that the team definitely enhanced the preferred offense which is run by head coach Matt LaFleur. I’m talking about the outside zone running scheme.

Five of the nine selections by the Packers were aimed at making the outside zone strategy that much more effective. Those five picks were running back AJ Dillon, tight end/H-back/fullback Josiah Deguara, guard/tackle Jon Runyan Jr., center Jake Hanson and guard Simon Stepaniak.

I had the Packers taking Runyan in my final mock draft.

The most publicized pick of the draft was definitely the first round selection of quarterback Jordan Love, who looks to be the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, but like No. 12, also looks to be holding the clipboard for three or so years.

The draft by the Packers did not address the wide receiver situation for the team which has only one sure option in Davante Adams, plus did not help out the run-defense issue that plagued Green Bay all season long in 2019 and became an embarrassment in the 2019 NFC title game versus the San Francisco 49ers. Nor did the team specifically add to the cornerback position, as Kevin King is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season.

I see general manager Brian Gutekunst addressing those issues via free agency. In fact, he already has at the wide receiver position, as he added Devin Funchess to the team.

Plus, Gutekunst also added Christian Kirksey in free agency to play inside linebacker and replace Blake Martinez, who also used free agency to join the New York Giants. Still, even with Martinez, who was second in the NFL in tackles in 2019, the Packers were just 23rd in the NFL in run defense in the 2019 regular season.

To be more active in free agency, the Packers can help themselves by cutting guard Lane Taylor, which will add approximately $4 million more in cap space for the team.

Green Bay might have signaled that move on Saturday, when they took three offensive linemen in Round 6.

Plus the team has to be even more creative in regards to the salary cap.

Why? The Packers are currently just over $11 million under the NFL salary cap. The 2020 draft class alone will cut into that by just over $8 million. Cutting Taylor will give the team about $7 million to use in free agency. That’s not a lot if you want to add a few more players to your roster.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

David Bakhtiari

That’s why doing a contract extension for left tackle David Bakhtiari needs to be a priority. Right now, Bakhtiari’s cap hit is $14.5 million in 2020. But by re-doing his deal and extending it and using a large signing bonus, the Packers should be able to add quite a bit more revenue to use for free agency.

There are some options as to how that added revenue could be utilized.

In terms of helping out the situation at wide receiver and specifically the slot receiver spot in free agency, the Packers may look to Taylor Gabriel, as LaFleur is familiar with him during his time in Atlanta. Gabriel is small (5’7″, 170 pounds), but he’s been effective in the NFL and he’s fast (4.40 in the 40).

The Packers also still see some real upside with Allen Lazard, plus there is also Jake Kumerow and Equanimeous St. Brown, who have also shown flashes. In addition, there is also Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who seemed an afterthought the rest of the 2019 season after breaking off on a long touchdown versus the Oakland Raiders in the seventh game of the season.

In terms of helping out the run defense, one familiar name to look for is Clay Matthews III, who would be a great partner for Kirksey at inside linebacker. When the Packers were struggling to stop the run in both 2014 and 2015, they moved Matthews inside and he made a noticeable difference. As a matter of fact, he was named to the Pro Bowl both years.

Clay forces fumble in Super Bowl XLV

Clay Matthews III forces a key fumble in Super Bowl XLV.

Plus, Matthews is very versatile, as he obviously can enhance the pass rush on the outside as well, as he proved last year with the Los Angeles Rams with eight sacks in just 13 games.

The Packers did draft linebacker Kamal Martin and defensive end/outside linebacker Jonathan Garvin, but I see both players as having roles on special teams initially.

That’s why also adding a defensive lineman like Damon “Snacks” Harrison in free agency would be huge. There aren’t too many players in the NFL who can stop the run better than Snacks. Pro Football Focus did a piece on Harrison less than a year ago which described Snacks as an immovable force.

Snacks Harrison

Damon “Snacks” Harrison

In terms of adding quality depth at cornerback, I believe the odds are pretty strong that the Packers will be bring back Tramon Williams, who played very well last year for Green Bay at the age of 36.

The Packers did draft safety Vernon Scott, who also played some cornerback at TCU, but he too fits in more as a special team player in 2020.

Finally, even though the Packers did select three offensive linemen in the 2020 draft, bringing back Jared Veldheer would be a very important add, as the team found out in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau last postseason, when Bryan Bulaga couldn’t play due to the flu.

Yes, the Packers did sign right tackle Rick Wagner via free agency to replace Bulaga, but the depth at offensive tackle currently is iffy at best.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2020 draft class for the Packers, which hasn’t exactly gotten too many favorable grades from many of the “experts” out there.

I recently published a piece on Love, as NFL scout Chris Landry gave his take on his abilities. The one thing that keeps popping in my head about drafting a talent like Love is perhaps due to the injury history of Rodgers. In the last seven years, No. 12 was twice lost for half the season in both 2013 and 2017 due to a broken clavicle. Rodgers missed 16 games overall.

Plus, Rodgers narrowly missed seeing his entire 2018 season wiped out when he suffered a scary knee injury in the opening game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. Although Rodgers was able to come back after going to the locker room (in what appeared to be an ACL tear) and lead the Packers to a stirring victory in that game, that injury seemed to plague him throughout most of the season, especially with his throwing motion.

In a perfect world, Love will do exactly what Rodgers did while backing up Brett Favre, which is holding the clipboard and learning the offense, while watching a future Hall of Famer. But if there is an injury to Rodgers, the Packers will have their possible heir apparent ready to go.

I also wrote a recent story on Dillon, as he might be the best part of this draft class, at least initially. Teaming Dillon with Aaron Jones, plus occasionally subbing in Jamaal Williams, gives the Packers a potent running game. Which is one needs to have in the outside zone running scheme for the overall offense to be effective.

AJ Dillon

AJ Dillon

The Packers were 15th in the NFL in rushing last season. Adding a talent like Dillon should put the Packers in the top 10.

Another reason the running game of the Packers should be better is because of the selection of Deguara in the third round. I believe that LaFleur sees Deguara to be similar to fullback Kyle Juszczyk of the San Francisco 49ers. Juszczyk is both a punishing blocker and a very capable pass receiver. He is a big reason why the 49ers have the best running game in the NFC due to his prolific blocking. Again, the Niners also implement a outside zone running scheme under Kyle Shanahan.

Here is part of what Landry said about Deguara:

Packers selected Cincinnati TE Josiah Deguara with the No. 94 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cincinnati’s all-time leader in catches (92) by a tight end, Deguara (6’2/242) was actually invited to the Senior Bowl as a fullback due to his smaller stature. Good news is Bearcats OC Mike Denbrock, who simultaneously serves as the program’s tight ends coach, has a successful track record of producing NFL players at the position. Deguara has the try-hard that front offices crave, which allowed him to pry himself open for the second-highest target share (20%) in the nation at his position last year.

In terms of the rest of the draft class for the Packers, Landry will also give his assessment for each of the players.

Landry’s assessment on Kamal Martin who the Packers selected in Round 5:

Packers selected Minnesota LB Kamal Martin with the No. 175 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Martin (6’3/240) was a two-year starting weak-side linebacker at Minnesota who missed four games as a senior with a foot sprain and knee injury that also kept him out of the pre-draft process. He has the strength, size, and tenacity to play at the next level, but poor technique and vision led to below-average tackling numbers against the run. In coverage, Martin is likely too heavy-footed to reliably cover NFL players, which may force him into a strict special teams role. His aggressive playing style and ability to work through blocks are traits that should translate there.

Landry’s take on the three offensive linemen (Runyon, Hanson and Stepaniak) the Packers took in Round 6:

Packers selected Michigan OT Jon Runyan with the No. 192 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Son of Jon Runyan Sr., a 14-year pro who was once the highest-paid lineman in the NFL, the Wolverines’ left tackle was groomed in the sport and inherited his father’s trademark nastiness in bulldozing oncoming defenders in the run game. His versatility at both left and right tackle in college, as well as the few snaps he took in between at guard, should compensate for his subpar feet, length, and strength at the next level. Overall, Runyan (6’4/306) is an above-average athlete who projects best on the interior line but may be asked to compete at multiple positions in camp.

Jon Runyan

Jon Runyan Jr.

Packers selected Oregon C Jake Hanson with the No. 208 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Hanson (6’4/303) was a four-year starting center at Oregon who earned an All-Pac 12 honorable mention every season. His experience and competitiveness have him on the NFL’s radar, but he’s a well below-average athlete. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.50 seconds and lacked the strength to be put in one-on-one situations on tape. Hanson will compete for a final roster spot this offseason as a 23-year-old rookie. It’s clear the Packers made offensive line depth a priority over receiver depth in this draft.

Packers selected Indiana OT Simon Stepaniak with the No. 209 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. All 31 of Stepaniak’s (6’4/313) college starts came at guard, but the Packers announced him as a tackle. Stepaniak likely tumbled in the draft due to a Dec. 2019 torn ACL, though that was not his only injury in the Big 10. The owner of bruising size and strength, Stepaniak played with some real nastiness on the interior, but he gets tripped up by technique. 

Landry’s assessment of the selections of Scott and Garvin in Round 7:

Packers selected TCU DB Vernon Scott with the No. 236 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Scott (6’2/206) played four seasons at TCU, primarily lining up at safety, but he was well off the radar. As a senior, he mad 44 tackles across 10 games with one interception and eight pass deflections. He’ll need to show out on special teams to make the Packers final roster.

Packers selected Miami DE Jonathan Garvin with the No. 242 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Garvin (6’4/263) was a two-year starter at Miami who made 5.5 and 5.0 sacks as a sophomore and junior. Despite the average production, he declared for the NFL Draft early. He has Day 3 speed (4.82-second 40-yard dash) and will have to show more developmental traits to stick on the Packers’ roster.

To many in Packer Nation, the draft selections by the Packers in the 2020 NFL were somewhat confusing. But both LaFleur and Gutekunst have a plan and going 13-3 and advancing to the NFC title game in their first year together gives them some leeway.

Missing on certain players in the draft happens to all NFL teams. That is why utilizing free agency is so important to add to the weak areas of the team that the draft wasn’t able to address.

Gutekunst has proven over the last three offseasons that he is willing to utilize free agency quite often, which is similar to the man who hired him, Ron Wolf.

Time will tell how many more free agency moves that Gutekunst will make before the start of the 2020 NFL season. I definitely see at least a couple more though.

A Scout’s Take on the Round 1 Selection of Jordan Love by the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFL Draft

Jordan Love vs. LSU

In the 2005 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick in the first round. 15 years later, the Packers drafted the heir apparent to Rodgers, Jordan Love of Utah State, with the 26th pick of the 2020 NFL draft.

The Packers did have pick No. 30 in Round 1 on Thursday night, but then traded up with the Miami Dolphins to move up to pick No. 26. My first guess was that Green Bay traded up to select linebacker Patrick Queen of LSU. I was somewhat shocked when it was announced that the Packers instead took the 6’4″, 225-pound Love with the pick.

That being said, the Packers were among the teams that had virtual meeting with Love before the draft, so obviously there was some interest from general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur. There was a lot to like about Love and his play at Utah State, plus it was important to know he played under three different offensive coordinators in three years while he was an Aggie.

In those three years at Utah State, Love threw 60 touchdown passes versus 29 interceptions for 8,600 yards. Love also ran for 403 yards and nine touchdowns. Love’s best year at Utah State was in 2018 as a sophomore, as he threw 32 touchdown passes versus just six picks for 3,567 yards.

Before the draft, this is what NFL scout Chris Landry said about Love:

Utah State QB Jordan Love does have some Drew Lock in him.
Though immensely talented, Lock was a bit reckless in college and needed a bit of fine-tuning in the NFL in order to be a hit. Love (6’4/225) fills a similar role in this class. While he is nowhere near as sure a prospect as Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, or even Justin Herbert, the potential he assumes due to his arm talent, mobility, and daring mentality is enticing. Look out for some team to swing on Love in the mid to late first round, where many expected Lock to be drafted last year.

Landry was certainly correct about when Love would be drafted. After the Packers did indeed select Love, this was the take by the man (Landry) who once drafted Steve McNair:

The Packers surrendered the Nos. 30 and 136 picks to move up four spots for Aaron Rodgers’ heir apparent. Love fits the prototypical build of a first round quarterback — large, heaves with velocity, can maneuver around the pocket — but was very inconsistent at Utah State despite eclipsing 9,000 yards of total offense. He had a 32:6 TD:INT ratio as a redshirt sophomore before regressing to 20:17 in 2019. While Love worked with a weak supporting cast, blame should be placed on his shoulders, as he ranked 101st-overall in turnover-worthy play rate and 88th in Total QBR, finishing with a pedestrian 175 rushing yards from under center. Quarterback coaches and scouts are still unsurprisingly drawn to his ability to throw outside of structure and to all levels of the field. A polarizing prospect like Josh Allen or Daniel Jones, Love needs to rein in his wild side to be a franchise quarterback. He will benefit from holding Rodgers’ clipboard for multiple seasons, but it remains to be seen how Rodgers reacts to the provocation.

Final 2020 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst 2020 Combine III

Even though we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL draft will still take place starting three days from now on April 23. Which means I’ll be doing my final mock draft exercise for the Green Bay Packers, which I have been doing now for 20 years.

I first started doing my mock drafts when I was with Packer Report, and that continued with Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report (for three and a half years) and now my own site. Over the years, I have had a decent track record in correctly naming some players who the Packers did select in the various drafts.

Over the past several years, I have utilized the wisdom and insight of NFL scout Chris Landry and I basically use his positional draft boards and horizontal draft board to guide me through my selections for the Packers.

In the past, I have done a number of mock drafts each year, some starting shortly after the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl were over. I would then do another mock draft after the NFL Scouting Combine. This year will be different. I’m doing just two mock drafts and this will be my second and final one.

My first mock draft for the Packers in 2020 is right here.

Again, making use of the expertise of Landry is very helpful. I’m talking about a scout, who has also been a coach and an administrator, who has been to every NFL Scouting Combine since it’s inception in 1982.

That’s why I use his various draft boards to help steer me through my selections.

Besides using his draft boards to select any given player, I will also add comments which Chris has made about that particular player, whether at the combine or at other events like East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl practices.

It’s important to note that towards the end of a draft, teams look to improve the special team units on their team. That is what I have tried to do in this mock with my Round 7 selections.

I’m sure Packer Nation is hoping that general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting staff will have similar success in drafting like scout Jack Vainisi did in the 1950s, especially with the 1958 draft class which saw three future Pro Football Hall of Famers come to Green Bay.

Based on the two-year track record of Gutekunst running the draft for the Packers, one should expect some trades. I expect Gutekunst to use some of his late-round extra draft picks (five total picks in Round 6 and Round 7) to try and move up in the middle rounds of the draft.

But for this mock draft, there will be no trades.

Okay, the Packers on the clock.

Round 1: Running Back Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Jonathan Taylor in the Rose Bowl

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 pounds

Almost seven weeks ago, I wrote a piece about why drafting Jonathan Taylor was a decent possibility for the Green Bay Packers. I still feel the same way today, perhaps even stronger.

In fact, I also had the Packers taking Taylor with pick No. 30 in my first mock draft three weeks ago.

When he played for the Wisconsin Badgers, Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards (plus scored 50 touchdowns) and averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season. Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

This is what Landry said about Taylor at the combine:

Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans (more on him below) or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.

The Packers under head coach Matt LaFleur run the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin. This bodes well for Taylor picking up the offense quickly.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

There is one other reason that the Packers will have Taylor on their radar. A number of players are due to become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The list includes left tackle David Bakhtiari, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who are the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs on the team.

The Packers need to try and cover themselves at each one of those positions in the draft, although I do expect the team to do extensions for Bakhtiari and Clark for sure.

Doing an extension for Linsley is questionable, as is the case for King and Williams. I believe the Packers will also extend Jones, but that he won’t be a priority.

That’s why drafting Taylor is a growing possibility for the Packers.

Round 2: Defensive Lineman Raekwon Davis (Alabama)

Raekwon Davis

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 311 pounds

The calling card of Raekwon Davis has been his run-stopping ability on the defensive line at the University of Alabama. Which is not to say, Davis can’t get after the quarterback, as he did have 8.5 sacks when he was a sophomore for the Crimson Tide and he was named first-team All-SEC.

The production for Davis fell off a bit as a junior, but as a senior was named second-team All-SEC.

But stopping the run is what he does best and in four years at Alabama, Davis had 175 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

The Packers need someone to help to disrupt the opponents run game, even with the talented Kenny Clark on the defensive line. The Packers were ranked just 23rd in run defense last year and were thoroughly embarrassed trying to stop the run in the 2019 NFC title game.

Stopping the running game starts in the trenches.

Landry said this about Davis prior to the Citrus Bowl:

Davis is a true senior and two-year starter who can line up on the inside in a base four-man front or at defensive end in a base three three-man front. He’s a powerful run-defender with the length and upper-body strength to stack blockers, locate the ball and shed in time to make the play. He’s not as effective rushing the passer, but pushes the pocket and has enough quickness to get better.

Round 3: Wide/Slot Receiver Antonio Gibson (Memphis)

Antonio Gibson

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 228 pounds

The Packers certainly have some dangerous weapons on offense for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to utilize. Running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams come to mind.

The offense would become a lot more potent with the addition of players like Jonathan Taylor and slot receiver Antonio Gibson. Not to mention faster, as both Taylor and Gibson ran a 4.39 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Packers need someone at receiver to take some the emphasis away from Adams. Young players like Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown and Jake Kumerow all have upside. The addition of Devin Funchess will definitely help.

But production from the slot receiver for the Packers stuck out like a sore thumb all year long for the Packers in 2019.

This is where a great athlete like Gibson can step in. Last year at Memphis, Gibson caught 38 passes for 735 yards (19.3 average) and eight touchdowns. In addition, Gibson ran for 369 more yards and four scores. Think jet sweep (like Deebo Samuel) with a guy like Gibson when he’s not catching the ball.

Plus, even though the Packers have a talented return man in Tyler Ervin, Gibson also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2019 for the Tigers.

Landry said this about Gibson at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Memphis WR/RB Antonio Gibson ran an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.40 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Gibson (6’0/228) and Devin Duvernay are currently tied with the fastest unofficial 40-yard dash times among wide receivers at the combine. The Memphis speedster is a position-versatile dynamo who could see work at both running back and receiver in the pros.

Landry also said this about Gibson at the Senior Bowl:

The fact Gibson was even at the Senior Bowl speaks volumes as he was not on the scouting radar before the season began. He’s a receiver in a running backs body.

Round 4: Offensive Tackle Alex Taylor (South Carolina State)

Alex Taylor

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 308 pounds

Even though left tackle David Bakhtiari will eventually get a contract extension before he reaches free agency in 2021 and the Packers signed Rick Wagner in free agency to replace right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who also left via free agency, the Packers need to add some offensive tackle talent in this draft.

Alex Taylor of South Carolina is an intriguing prospect. Taylor is huge, as he goes 6’8″ and is north of 300 pounds. Add to that, he has a massive 36 inch wingspan. You wouldn’t think a guy that big could run very fast, but Taylor ran a 5.09 in the 40 at the combine.

Taylor has started 22 consecutive games for South Carolina State at right tackle and was third-team all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as a junior and third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-MEAC honors as a senior.

While Taylor is learning the NFL ropes, the Packers could also re-sign offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to add to the offensive tackle depth chart, as Veldheer played very well in the absence of Bulaga in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks last postseason.

Landry said this about Taylor at the Senior Bowl:

Alex Taylor has arguably the most upside of any player in the Senior Bowl. His frame and length would be top in the NFL. However he lacks technical refinement, and is a ways away from being a competent NFL protector. Taylor got better over the week, but his lack of refinement was obvious. Taylor could be a top tackle in the NFL. I just wonder if he’ll ever meet that ceiling.

Round 5: Cornerback Dane Jackson (Pittsburgh)

Dane Jackson

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 187 pounds

The Packers have two pretty good starting cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. The third cornerback who the Packers used a lot last year is free agent Tramon Williams.

Williams could be an option to come back, as he played pretty well for someone who recently turned 37. King has two issues in terms of his future. One, he has been injury prone in his career. Two, he will be a free agent in 2021. And who knows if he’ll be back, as David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones will be much bigger priorities in terms of doing contract extensions.

Which leads to me to the selection of Dane Jackson of Pittsburgh. Jackson played four years with the Panthers and played in 46 games. In that time, Jackson had 149 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, four interceptions (one for a touchdown), 39 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.

Jackson was honorable mention All-ACC as a junior and second-team All-ACC as a senior.

Jackson ran a 4.57 in the 40 at the combine, but his ball awareness makes him look much faster on tape.

This is what Landry said about Jackson at the Senior Bowl:

Dane Jackson was one of the best defensive backs in Mobile. I wasn’t too aware of his tape coming in but his physicality and athleticism in coverage during drills had me excited to see the traits on his tape. It was a great week for Jackson, capped off by being voted the best DB on the South squad by his teammates.

Round 6: Linebacker Chris Orr (Wisconsin)

Chris Orr

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 228 pounds

With Blake Martinez leaving the Packers via free agency and even with the signing of Christian Kirksey, the Packers are still looking for help at inside linebacker. Yes, Oren Burks could come on and be the guy, but after two years of little or no contributions, don’t hold your breath.

There is also a chance that the Packers might bring back Clay Matthews III to play at inside linebacker.

Which takes me to Chris Orr of the Wisconsin Badgers. Orr played in the same type of defensive scheme that the Packers utilize under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, as Jim Leonhard (who played under Pettine in the NFL) runs a similar 3-4 defense for the Badgers.

Orr has sort of flown under the radar in this draft, which is surprising to me. Especially based on what he did his senior year for the Badgers and the great workout he had on his pro day.

In 2019, Orr had 78 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, five passes defended, one recovered fumble and two forced fumbles. Orr played four years for the Badgers and had a great career in Madison overall, which included two interceptions, including one for a 78-yard touchdown.

Because of his great season in 2019, Orr was named second-team All-Big Ten at inside linebacker.

Or didn’t receive an invite from the combine for some ridiculous reason, and all he did was run a 4.65 in the 40 to add to his great stat line.

This is what Landry said about Orr after his pro day workout in Madison:

Wisconsin LB Chris Orr ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the school’s pro day. Orr additionally logged 20 reps on the bench press to go with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9-foot-2 before taking part in on-field drills. While the linebacker did not receive an invitation to the combine, some corners of the evaluating community are quite high on Orr.

Round 6: Quarterback Nate Stanley (Iowa)

Nate Stanley

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 235 pounds

I do expect the Packers to select a quarterback in this draft. It might be early if the right QB is on the board, but more than likely, I see the one taken later in the draft.

Which takes me to Menomonie, Wisconsin native Nate Stanley, who played for the University of Iowa and started for three years.

In his career with the Hawkeyes, Stanley threw 68 touchdown passes versus 23 interceptions for 8,297 yards.

Stanley was also a sparkling 3-0 in bowl games he started.

While he is certainly not a real mobile quarterback, he also is not a statue and he can move around the pocket. Stanley also has a rocket for an arm.

Landry said this about Stanley prior to the Holiday Bowl:

Nate Stanley is 2-0 in bowl games (now 3-0). He was just okay against Boston College in the win Pinstripe Bowl win two years ago – throwing for 99 yards and a score – and last season he kept his cool against the tremendous Mississippi State defense hitting 68% of his passes for 214 yards and three scores with a pick. He doesn’t have to bomb away against the Trojans, and he only threw 14 touchdown passes on the year, but he’s the senior veteran who won’t make the big mistake.

Round 6: Offensive Lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Michigan)

Jon Runyan

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 306 pounds

Chris Landry knows a little about the Runyan bloodline, as he was part of the front office of the Houston Oilers when they drafted Jon Runyon Sr. in 1996.

Like his father did, Jon Runyon Jr. played at Michigan and had a very nice career. In fact, in both 2018 and 2019, Runyan was named first-team All-Big Ten at offensive tackle.

Although he was solid as a tackle in college, his best position in the NFL might be at guard as you will see with the comments of Landry.

Landry said this about Runyan at Day 2 of the East-West Shrine practices:

I was impressed with Jon Runyan on a number of occasions today. The former Michigan tackle has lined up at guard the past two days and looks like a natural at the position.

Landry said this about Runyon on Day 3 of the practices in St. Petersburg:

On the offensive line, Jon Runyan had another solid day and seems to be improving with each practice.

Round 7: Linebacker/Safety Khaleke Hudson (Michigan)

Khaleke Hudson

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 224 pounds

Khaleke Hudson is one of those tweeners. He’s basically one of those hybrids who can play both safety and linebacker. That versatility put together a great career for Hudson at the University of Michigan.

In four years with the Wolverines, Hudson had 225 total tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions, 14 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Hudson had a great senior year for the Wolverines, as he had 102 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks, three pass breakups and also a blocked kick.

Hudson ran a 4.56 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 30 reps on the bench press.

Landry said this about Hudson at the Senior Bowl:

Hudson’s Senior Bowl week has been outstanding. He weighed in with good numbers and his week never came down from there. He flew around in coverage and kept making plays in every drill. For a stud athlete coming from a pretty big school, the lack of buzz coming into Mobile was pretty surprising. But, it’s safe to say he’ll have plenty of it leaving Mobile.

Landry also talked about Hudson playing both safety and linebacker:

Michigan DB/LB Khaleke Hudson is a safety who converted to linebacker. He moves very well but is engulfed vs size and is not a big asset in coverage. His best skill set is his toughness and awareness. I like him as a sub package situational player and he can excel on special teams.

Round 7: Tight End Stephen Sullivan (LSU)

Stephen Sullivan

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 248 pounds

When one thinks about the 2019 national champion LSU Tigers, most people will recall that the son of Randy Moss played tight end most of the time. I’m talking about Thaddeus Moss. Moss had a nice year catching the ball from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, as he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four scores.

But like all great teams in the SEC, all positions have fantastic depth, which was the case for the Tigers at tight end. The backup to Moss was Stephen Sullivan, who definitely is not a slouch, plus he did start two games in 2019.

In his three-year career at LSU, Sullivan had 46 receptions for 712 yards and three touchdowns.

Sullivan converted to tight end in 2019 after playing wide receiver for the Tigers in 2017 and 2018.

Besides having great size for a tight end, Sullivan ran a 4.66 in the 40 at the combine.

Landry said this about Sullivan at the Senior Bowl:

LSU TE/WR Stephen Sullivan caught the ball smoothly and moved exceptionally well for his dimensions” during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice week. Sullivan also run-blocked well during the week. He has a chance to stick on a roster as a mid-late round pick.

Initial 2020 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Matt LaFleur 2020 NFL Combine(1)

Even though we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL draft will still take place starting a little over three weeks from now on April 23. Which means I’ll be doing my annual mock draft exercise for the Green Bay Packers, which I have been doing now for 20 years.

I first started doing my mock drafts when I was with Packer Report, and that continued with Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report (for three and a half years) and now my own site. Over the years, I have had a decent track record in correctly naming some players who the Packers did select in the various drafts.

Over the past several years, I have utilized the wisdom and insight of NFL scout Chris Landry and I basically use his positional draft boards and horizontal draft board to guide me through my selections for the Packers.

In the past, I have done a number of mock drafts each year, some starting shortly after the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl were over. I would then do another mock draft after the NFL Scouting Combine. This year will be different. I don’t expect to do more than two mock drafts and this will be my first.

Again, making use of the expertise of Landry is very helpful. I’m talking about a scout, who has also been a coach and an administrator, who has been to every NFL Scouting Combine since it’s inception in 1982.

Besides using his draft boards to select any given player, I will also add comments which Chris has made about that particular player, whether at the combine or at other events like East-West Shrine or Senior Bowl practices.

With all that being said, here goes.

Round 1: Running Back Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 pounds

Almost four weeks ago, I wrote a piece about why drafting Jonathan Taylor was a decent possibility for the Green Bay Packers. I still feel the same way today, perhaps even stronger.

When he played for the Wisconsin Badgers, Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards (plus scored 50 touchdowns) and averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season. Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

This is what Landry said about Taylor at the combine:

Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans (more on him below) or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.

The Packers under head coach Matt LaFleur run the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin. This bodes well for Taylor picking up the offense quickly.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

There is one other reason that the Packers will have Taylor on their radar. A number of players are due to become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The list includes left tackle David Bakhtiari, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who are the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs on the team.

The Packers need to cover themselves at each one of those positions in the draft, although I do expect the team to do extensions for Bakhtiari and Clark for sure. Please check out Tom Silverstein’s fine article regarding this situation.

Doing an extension for Linsley is questionable, as is the case for King and Williams. I believe the Packers will also extend Jones, but that he won’t be a priority.

That’s why drafting Taylor is a growing possibility for the Packers.

Round 2: Wide Receiver Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jalen Reagor

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 206 pounds

In looking at Jalen Reagor of TCU, his skill-set reminds me of Randall Cobb, who spent eight years with the Packers catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.

In three years at TCU, Reagor caught 148 passes for 2,248 yards (15.2 yards-per-catch average) and 22 touchdowns.

Like Cobb did with the Packers, Reagor also return punts and kickoffs and last year the former Horned Frog returned two punts for touchdowns.

In terms of the passing offense of the Packers, Reagor would help fill the void that was missing for the most part all of the 2019 season. That is, getting substantial production from the slot receiver spot.

This is what Landry said about Reagor at the combine:

TCU WR Jalen Reagor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Reagor (5’11/206) outright crushed his jumps earlier on Thursday, logging a 42-inch vertical jump and 138-inch broad jump, both close to the top marks at his position in this year’s class. His 40-yard dash was not nearly as impressive, especially given that Reagor reportedly ran the sprint in 4.29 seconds hand-timed during his collegiate career with the Horned Frogs. We wouldn’t overreact to the 4.47s mark he ran on Thursday, but at the very least, it’s not ideal.

Round 3: Center Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)

Tyler Biadasz

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 314 pounds

As I previously noted earlier, there is a decent chance that the Packers will not be bringing back starting center Corey Linsley in 2021. If Linsley does leave, the Packers could move left guard Elgton Jenkins to center and plug in a new left guard or they might select a player like Tyler Biadasz of Wisconsin to fill the void at center.

Biadasz makes a lot of sense, as the Badgers utilize the same outside zone running scheme that the Packers employ.

The former Amherst, Wisconsin native started all 41 games at center that he played in at Wisconsin through his junior year. He opened some eyes with his play as well. In 2017, Biadasz was a Freshman All-American and was named third-team All-Big Ten. In 2018, Biadasz was named first-team All-Big Ten.

And in 2019, Biadasz was named first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten, as well as winning the Remington Trophy and being a finalist for the Outland Trophy.

This is what Landry said about the former Badger:

Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz is a rock solid center prospect in this years draft. His pass protection, while not the strength of his game is better than amateur scouts suggests. He understands angles, leverage and has excellent quickness to replace hands and strength to turn defenders.

Round 4: Linebacker Jacob Phillips (LSU)

Jacob Phillips

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 229 pounds

In his three-year career as a LSU Tiger, Jacob Phillips made 218 tackles, 13.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

In 2018, Phillips played alongside of Devin White (now of the Tampa Bay Bucs) for LSU. Talk about a dynamic duo. In 2019, Phillips played next to Patrick Queen, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, just like White was in 2019.

As this was Queen’s first season as a starter for LSU, Phillips took over the inside linebacker leadership role for the Tigers in 2019, as the team eventually won the national title.

His leadership did not go unnoticed by the defensive staff at LSU either. Phillips was described to me as being long and athletic and that he takes coaching well. Also that he runs well and is physical. Good body control in pass coverage. Always is looking to get better.

This is was Landry said about Phillips:

Former LSU Tigers may make up a large share of the top 100 picks this year, thanks to guys like Phillips. He ran a bit faster than expected (4.66 40) and was explosive in the jumps (39-inch vertical, 10-6 broad). His junior-year tape exhibited good athleticism, which meant there was no surprise when he was able to quickly step over pads and fluidly change directions in the field workout. Phillips was a big part of a pretty strong performance by the inside linebacker group on Saturday.

Round 5: Quarterback James Morgan (FIU)

James Morgan

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 229 pounds

James Morgan of FIU is a very interesting story from a Wisconsin perspective. Morgan played his high school football at Ashwaubenon High School, which is basically right in the backyard of Green Bay and Lambeau Field.

Morgan wore No. 4 in youth football to honor Brett Favre, but in high school and in college, has moved on to No. 12 to honor Aaron Rodgers.

Morgan started his collegiate career at Bowling Green before transferring to Florida International University (FIU). His combined stats at both locations are pretty good, as he has thrown 65 touchdown passes versus 34 interceptions for 8,654 yards. In his last two seasons at FIU, Morgan threw 40 touchdown passes compared to just 12 picks.

The Packers and many NFL teams have shown interest in Morgan throughout the scouting process. Some have said that Morgan might be drafted as early as Day 2 of the draft, but Landry does not believe that will happen.

Here is what Landry said about Morgan during the East-West Shrine week practices, as he saw a lot of things he liked :

James Morgan entered Shrine week largely overshadowed by more highly-heralded signal callers, but the FIU passer acquitted himself quite nicely in the three practices. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback displayed a big league arm, remarkable poise, and delivered the ball with touch and accuracy. Morgan also impressed from a mental processing standpoint. He may have been the most consistent quarterback on either side this week, and with many evaluators on hand, I thought he really helped himself.

All that being said, Landry also said this about Morgan, as he threw some cold water on Morgan’s NFL possibilities:

Morgan completed just 57.2% of his passes as a result of poor footwork and release point. He also doesn’t move well outside the pocket and I struggle to see him as even a developmental type prospect.

Round 6: Offensive Tackle Charlie Heck (North Carolina)

Charlie Heck

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 311 pounds

Charlie Heck is the son of Andy Heck, who was a first-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 1989 NFL draft and had a long NFL career.

Charlie has started 35 games for the Tarheels in three season, plus played in eight games as a reserve as a freshman. From the perspective of the Packers, they have to be interested in a versatile offensive tackle like Heck because he has played both right and left tackle.

In his junior year, Heck started 12 games at right tackle and then started 12 games his senior year at left tackle.

This is what Landry said about Heck going into the 2020 NFL draft:

North Carolina T Charlie Heck is a run first right tackle type that will have to grow and develop as a pass protector. While Heck is not a spectacular athlete — testing in the 38th SPARQ percentile of NFL offensive linemen — he comes to the draft well-seasoned after starting 35 games with the Tar Heels.

Round 6: Defensive Back Brian Cole II (Mississippi State)

Brian Cole

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 213 pounds

You know what they say about defensive backs in the NFL. You never can have enough in this pass-happy league. Which is why a player like Brian Cole II of Mississippi State would be an excellent player for the Packers in the draft, seeing as he played against some of the finest receivers in the country in the SEC.

The Saginaw, Michigan native started his collegiate career at Michigan before transferring to Mississippi State. In the last two years as a Bulldog, Cole had 78 tackles, 10.5 tackles for losses and three sacks. Cole also had two picks, two fumbles recovered and one forced fumble.

Cole has good size and speed and has the ability to play near the line of scrimmage in running situations, plus can cover backs and tight ends in pass coverage. Cole is versatile enough to play either safety or cornerback.

This is what Landry said about the former Bulldog at the combine:

Mississippi State DB Brian Cole ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Cole (6’2/213) is considered a potential “box” safety — or possibly a nickel — and this is a pretty solid time for a player of that skill set. He was a productive member of the Mississippi State defense.

Round 6: Linebacker Carter Coughlin (Minnesota)

Carter Coughlin

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 236 pounds

With the loss of outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell to free agency, the Packers will be looking to fortify the depth at that position, even if they were able to bring back someone like Clay Matthews III, who would mostly play inside anyway.

That is why selecting someone like Carter Coughlin from Minnesota would help that situation. Coughlin had a very productive career as a Golden Gopher, as he had 158 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles.

As a sophomore, Coughlin was named honorable mention All-Big Ten, second-team All-Big Ten as a junior and then second-team All-Big Ten again as a senior.

Coughlin ran a 4.57 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a 36 inch vertical jump.

This is what Landry said about the future of Coughlin in the NFL:

Minnesota EDGE Carter Coughlin posted 15.0 TFL and 9.5 sacks in 2018, and 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks in 2019. He plays with good quickness and speed off the edge and once he learns better hand usage can become an effective situation rusher in addition to being an ace special teamer.

Round 7: Defensive Tackle Benito Jones (Mississippi)

Benito Jones

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 316 pounds

Even with the talented Kenny Clark on the defensive line and having a tackling machine like Blake Martinez behind him, the Packers struggled stopping the run in 2019. The Packers were ranked just 23rd in run defense last year and were thoroughly embarrassed trying to stop the run in the 2019 NFC title game.

This is where drafting someone like Benito Jones makes sense. Jones is your typical run-stuffing nose tackle, who also has some pass-rushing ability. In four years at Ole Miss, Jones had 132 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Jones was named second-team ALL-SEC in 2019.

This is what Landry about the former Rebel:

Ole Miss NT Benito Jones (6’1/316) is a former five-star recruit who led Ole Miss with 10 TFL and recorded 5.5 sacks on his way to receiving second-team All-SEC honors. Though he lacks prototype length for an interior lineman, Jones was a disruptive force displaying impressive strength at the point of attack. He plays with solid leverage and uses his hands well to shed blocks.

Round 7: Safety Josh Metellus (Michigan)

Josh Metellus

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 209 pounds

As I mentioned earlier, you can never have enough defensive backs on your team, plus one is always looking to improve the quality of special teams. That is why you normally see a lot of linebackers and defensive backs taken late in any given draft by teams.

Which takes us to safety Josh Metellus of Michigan. The former Florida native is strong and fast, plus is versatile. In his career as a Wolverine, Metellus had 186 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, one sack, five interceptions (one for a touchdown), 14 passes defended, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

As a sophomore, Metellus was named honorable mention All-Big Ten, then was named second-team All-Big Ten as a strong safety/rover and was once again named honorable mention All-Big Ten as a senior.

Metellus is an excellent downhill tackler and shows great awareness in pass coverage.

This is what Landry said about Metellus at the combine:

Michigan S Josh Metellus ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Metellus ranked 11th among the “true” safeties who ran in the event, and he also had a solid vertical jump at 36.5 inches, and a respectable 124-inch broad jump. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound defender also was among the top defensive backs with 20 bench press reps.

Green Bay Packers: Will Clay Matthews III Come Back to Titletown?

Clay Jr and Clay III After Super Bowl XLV

Author Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Well, Clay Matthews III might just prove Wolfe wrong for the second year in a row.

In 2019, even though Matthews wanted to remain in Green Bay and finish his career as a Packer, the team never gave Matthews a chance to stay in Titletown. Matthews was an unrestricted free agent and was willing to take less money to stay with the Pack, but that opportunity never materialized, as general manager Brian Gutekunst and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine thought they were set at outside linebacker with the signings of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency.

Plus the team also had Kyler Fackrell, who had led the team in sacks in 2018 with 10.5.

So, Matthews went home to his old stomping grounds in southern California, as he signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent. Matthews grew up in that region and played his college football at USC.

Matthews had a very nice year for the Rams, even though he missed three games due to a broken jaw. Still, No. 52 had 37 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles as a right outside linebacker.

And after the somewhat shocking release of Matthews by the Rams yesterday, there is a chance that Matthews could once again return to his first NFL home in Green Bay. But there will be other suitors as well, as Matthews was contacted by 14 NFL teams after his release by the Rams.

The situation has changed quite a bit for the Packers now at the linebacker position in terms of Matthews coming back to Titletown. The Packers have seen three linebackers leave the team in free agency, as Fackrell (New York Giants), Blake Martinez (New York Giants) and B.J. Goodson (Cleveland Browns) all moved on.

The Packers did sign free agent Christian Kirksey to handle one of the inside linebacker positions. But that still leaves a possible spot open for another ILB, although Oren Burks may be given an opportunity there, along with second-year ILB’s Tyler Summers and Curtis Bolton.

Matthews played very well at ILB in 2014 and 2015 when the Packers moved him there to shore up the run defense. Matthews was recognized for his efforts, as he went to the Pro Bowl in both of those seasons.

Matthews has the talent and versatility to move inside or outside depending on the situation. But it’s good to know that No. 52 has a great track record in either situation.

Matthews was originally drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft by then general manager Ted Thompson. Matthews was the second of two first round picks by Green Bay that year, as the team selected defensive tackle B.J. Raji with pick No. 9 and then Matthews with pick No. 26.

Clay and B.J. as rookies

The defense of the Packers became one of the best in the NFL in 2009 with the additions of Raji and Matthews, as Green Bay was ranked No. 2 in total defense that season after being ranked No. 20 in 2008. Matthews went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, as he had 10 sacks.

In 2010, the Packers once again had a great defense, as they were ranked No. 5 in total defense. Matthews was a big reason why. Once again, No. 52 went to the Pro Bowl and was also named AP first-team All-Pro.

In his 10-year career as a Packer, Matthews had 482 total tackles, a franchise record 83.5 sacks, 40 passes defended, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 15 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (one returned for a score).

That type of production led Matthews to be honored with six overall Pro Bowl berths, as well as being named AP first-team All-Pro once and AP second-team All-Pro once.

Matthews was also a terror in the postseason. In 15 games, No. 52 had 53 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

No forced fumble was bigger than the one he helped to cause in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 postseason. Matthews forced Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to fumble on the first snap of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV, with help from defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

Pittsburgh was driving for a potential go-ahead score at the Packers’ 33-yard line until Matthews’ helmet dislodged the football, popping it into the air.

Clay forces fumble in Super Bowl XLV

The Packers took advantage of that turnover with a touchdown drive and went on to win 31-25 and the team’s fourth Super Bowl prize, aptly named the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Matthews has great lineage, as he is the son of Clay Matthews Jr., who I believe rightfully deserves a bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Much like Jerry Kramer, when he was finally recognized in 2018.

The Matthews family has cast a large net over the NFL throughout the years, starting with Clay Matthews Sr., who played with the San Francisco 49ers for four years. Clay Sr. started his career with the Niners in 1950, then served two years as a paratrooper during the Korean War for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and then came back and played with the 49ers from 1953 through 1955.

After that, his son’s Bruce and Clay Jr. both had terrific careers in the NFL.

Bruce was inducted into the Hall of Fame after a great career with the Houston Oilers for 14 years and then with the Tennessee Titans for five years after the team moved to Nashville.

Clay Jr. certainly deserves the same honor after 19 great years with the Browns and Falcons.

Plus there are Clay Sr.’s grandsons. There is Clay III, plus there is his brother Casey, who played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. In addition, there are Bruce’s sons, one being Kevin, who played with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers and also Jake, who still plays with the Atlanta Falcons.

Bottom line, time will tell, but it would be ideal if Matthews returned to Green Bay to finish his career, which is what he wanted to do all along. He fills a need, still plays fast, plus is very productive.

Let’s also not forget that the Packers were ranked just 18th in total defense least year and just 23rd in run defense, plus were embarrassed in the 2019 NFC title game trying to stop the run.

And just like he did in 2014 and 2015, Matthews can help shore up that issue at inside linebacker.

If Matthews did return, that would mean that there would be just four players on the Packers who were also on the Super Bowl XLV team. The other three are Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby and Tramon Williams.

Williams left the Packers for three years before he returned home. It’s only been one year for Matthews, but returning to his original NFL home in Green Bay would certainly be apropos.

Green Bay Packers: Why Drafting Jonathan Taylor with Pick No. 30 is a Possibility

Jonathan Taylor Combine

There is absolutely no doubt that Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badgers was one of the greatest running backs in the history of college football. Taylor is sixth on the all-time rushing yards leaders list and would have passed everyone in front of him had he played his senior year in Madison.

No. 1 on the list is former Badger Ron Dayne, who rushed for 7,125 yards in four seasons with the Badgers. No. 33 also was able to win the Doak Walker Award and the Heisman Trophy his last season with Wisconsin in 1999.

When Taylor announced that he was moving on to play in the NFL shortly after the Rose Bowl, No. 23 had accumulated 6,174 yards rushing (and 50 touchdowns) and had averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season.

Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football  history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Although Taylor never won the Heisman Trophy, he did win back-to-back Doak Walker Awards in 2018 and 2019.

Had Taylor played in 2020 with the Badgers, it was virtually certain (unless he was injured) that he would have been the all-time rushing leader in college football history and by a wide margin.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Ball security has to be the number one item that Taylor has to improve on. That being said, in his junior year, a number of the fumbles occurred while the Badgers were running the Wildcat offense and also when Taylor was fighting for extra yards.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

NFL scout Chris Landry noted this about Taylor’s performance at the combine:

“Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.”

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

In terms of of the 2020 NFL draft, I believe it’s a real possibility that the Green Bay Packers might select Taylor at pick No. 30 in Round No. 1.

Why?

There are several reasons. For one, head coach Matt LaFleur runs the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

Being put in space is something the Packers do on third down with running back Aaron Jones, who is coming off a great 2019 season. Besides rushing for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns, Jones showed off his great receiving skills last season, as he had 49 catches for 474 yards and three scores.

Both Jones and fellow running back Jamaal Williams are slated to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2020 season.

That being said, there is a mutual interest in extending the contract of Jones, as the Packers were slated to meet with the agent of Jones last week to talk about getting a new deal done for No. 33 as he enters his final contract year.

So, why would the Packers draft another running back, especially in Round 1?

All one has to do is look at the running game of the San Francisco 49ers which is three-deep (and at times four-deep) in terms of quality depth. LaFleur basically learned the outside zone scheme from working with the current coach of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan.

LaFleur and the Packers learned a painful lesson in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, as the Niners ran for a whopping 285 yards, with 220 yards coming from running back Rasheem Mostert, as the 49ers beat the Packers 37-20.

San Francisco was second in the NFL in rushing with 2,305 yards in 2019 and had three running backs who ran for at least 540 yards last season. Mostert ran for 772 yards, while Matt Breida ran for 623 yards and Tevin Coleman rushed for 544 yards.

And when there were some injury issues, a fourth running back, Jeff Wilson, ran for 125 yards. Add to that, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was also utilized on end around plays and jet sweeps, as he rushed for 159 yards.

The Packers were 15th in the NFL in rushing last year, but by adding a weapon like Taylor would surely enhance the running game.

Plus, let’s not forget that Jones was shut down in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to knee injuries.

Aaron Jones vs. Seahawks

Williams is a solid back, especially on third down due to his pass-blocking ability and his receiving skills, but he is not the game-breaker that Jones is or Taylor is.

Plus by adding the former Badger, both Jones and Taylor can be utilized at the same time. For instance, Jones could be utilized in the passing or running game like the Niners use Samuel in the slot, while Taylor is in the backfield.

Improving the running game will also help quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the passing game, as play-action passes have a much better rate of success, plus defenses will put more players in the box to stop the run, which opens up deep passing lanes.

Just take a look at the 2016 Atlanta Falcons when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator and LaFleur was the quarterback coach.

The Dirty Birds had a great running back combination with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The two rushed for almost 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Matt Ryan threw 38 touchdown passes versus just seven interceptions for 4,944 yards.

Ryan was named NFL MVP in 2016.

The Packers go into the 2020 NFL draft with 10 picks overall.  The Packers have a first-round pick, second-round pick, third-round pick, fourth-round pick, fifth-round pick, three sixth-round picks and two seventh-round picks.

The Packers have a number of needs going into the draft. The two most glaring needs are at wide receiver and at inside linebacker.

The Packers need to find a bookend to Davante Adams at receiver. Fortunately for the Packers, the 2020 wide receiver class in the draft is one of the deepest in several years. The Packers can select a very good receiver in Round 2 because of the depth in this class.

By the way, Adams was a second-round pick by the Packers in 2014.

The Packers are most likely moving on from Blake Martinez at inside linebacker, as he is an unrestricted free agent. No. 50 is a tackling machine no doubt, but his lack of speed hurts him when he chases down running backs on the edge, as well as in pass coverage.

Both positions can be improved before the draft because general manager Brian Gutekunst is not afraid to go after players he targets in free agency.

All one has to do is look at the haul Gutekunst made in 2019, when he signed safety Adrian Amos, linebacker Preston Smith, linebacker Za’Darius Smith and guard Billy Turner.

Brian Gutekunst at the 2020 Combine

Gutekunst is reportedly interested in a couple of players who could definitely help the Packers. One is tight end Austin Hooper of the Falcons, while the other is inside linebacker Joe Schobert of the Cleveland Browns. Schobert hails from Waukesha, Wisconsin and also played his college football for the Badgers in Madison.

If Jimmy Graham is cut by the Packers, it would free up an additional $8 million in salary cap space. That money could be utilized to help sign Hooper, who had his rookie year when LaFleur was the QB coach in Atlanta.

In the past two years with the Falcons, the 6-4, 254-pound Hooper has caught 146 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The 6-1, 245-pound Schobert made a number of big plays for the Browns defensively, as he had two sacks, four interceptions, 13 passes broken up and two forced fumbles in 2019. Schobert plays the pass much better than Martinez, plus also is a tackling machine against the run, as in 2017, Schobert tied with Martinez and Buffalo’s Preston Brown for the NFL lead in tackles with 144.

There is also speculation that the Packers might be interested in bringing back slot receiver Randall Cobb. The former Kentucky Wildcat played with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, after spending eight years in Green Bay.

That will be an interesting dynamic regarding Cobb, if indeed the Packers are interested in bringing him back. In Dallas, he could be reunited with head coach Mike McCarthy, while if he comes back to Green Bay, he would be back with many of his closest friends, including Rodgers.

Cobb had a good year for the Cowboys in 2019 playing mostly slot receiver, as he had 55 receptions for 828 yards and three touchdowns.

Time will tell what Gutekunst will do in free agency this year, but one thing is for sure, he looks a lot more like Ron Wolf when he headed the front office of the Packers than the man who proceeded him at GM, Ted Thompson.

Wolf utilized free agency freely, while Thompson rarely dipped his toes into those types of transactions. And when he did, it was usually after a player was cut by his former team (see Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers) or by signing undrafted rookie or street free agents.

If Gutekunst can help the team via free agency before the draft, then the Packers don’t have to focus on need as much in Round 1, as opposed to selecting the best player available.

Taylor might just be the best player available at pick No. 30 on the draft board of the Packers, especially knowing what an impact he would have with the Green Bay outside zone running scheme. Not to mention adding another home run threat to the offensive backfield and adding quality depth behind Jones.

When Round 1 of the 2020 NFL draft takes place on April 23rd, don’t be shocked if the Packers select another stud running back to make their outside zone running scheme even more dangerous.

That running back could be Jonathan Taylor.

Wisconsin is Currently Going Through a Great Era in Pro Sports

LOGO

2019 was a pretty good year for the state of Wisconsin in terms of professional sports.

The Milwaukee Bucks, who had a 60-22 record, made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before they were beaten by the eventual NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.

The Milwaukee Brewers, who were 89-73, made it to the MLB postseason for the second consecutive year, before they were beaten by the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card round.

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North with a 13-3 record in 2019, plus made it all the way to the 2019 NFC Championship Game before they were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers, who then lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

All in all, I would say that pro sports in Wisconsin was pretty, pretty good in 2019.

In fact, only once before in the history of professional sports in Wisconsin, have the Bucks, Brewers and Packers all played in the postseason at the same time. That was in 1982.

Sidney Moncrief

In the 1981-82 season, the Bucks won the NBA Central Division under head coach Don Nelson with a 55-27 record. The Bucks later lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bucks were a very balanced team that had seven players average double digits in points per game. They were Sidney Moncrief (19.8 ppg), Marques Johnson (16.5 ppg), Brian Winters (15.9 ppg), Bob Lanier (13.5 ppg), Mickey Johnson (12.9 ppg), Quinn Buckner (12.9 ppg) and Junior Bridgeman (12.5 ppg).

The Brewers made it to the postseason for the second year in a row after narrowly winning the AL East with a 95-67 record behind the leadership of manager Harvey Kuenn. Not to mention the play of MVP shortstop Robin Yount and Cy Young award winner Pete Vuckovich.

Seeing as I was covering the Brewers back in those days, really made this is fantastic experience for me personally.

In the final series of the 1982 season, Milwaukee went into Baltimore with a three-game lead with four games to play.

Milwaukee made Brewer Nation very nervous, as the Brewers lost the first three games of the series. That meant the winner on Sunday would win the AL East. That game pitted Jim Palmer versus Don Sutton, who the Brewers had traded for late in the 1982 season.

Once again it was No. 19 who led the way. Yount was three for four, scored four runs and had two homers, as the Brew Crew won 10-2.

Robin Yount in 1982 postseason

That meant the Brewers would be facing the California Angels in the ALCS. Just to be even more dramatic, the Brewers lost the first two games of a best-of-five series in Anaheim. But the Brewers stormed back to win the next three in Milwaukee to earn a trip to their first World Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Brewers dominated Game 1 in St. Louis, as they blew away the Cards 10-0. Paul Molitor had five hits, while Yount had four. Mike Caldwell pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout.

The season-ending arm injury that Rollie Fingers suffered in September hurt the Brewers in the rest of the series. If the Brewers had the services of No. 34, the Brewers probably win the series. Milwaukee lost late leads in both Game 2 and Game 7. Bottom line, the Cardinals won it all, with ex-Brewer Darrell Porter winning the series MVP.

The Packers made it to the postseason in 1982 for the first time since 1972, when the team finished 5-3-1 in a strike-shortened season behind head coach Bart Starr.

Green Bay was ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Lynn Dickey had a dynamic wide receiver tandem to work with in James Lofton and John Jefferson, plus had a very productive tight end to pass to as well in Paul Coffman.

The Packers also had two talented running backs in Eddie Lee Ivory and Gerry Ellis.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers were ranked 11th in total defense. Linebacker John Anderson led the Packers in interceptions with three, while Ezra Johnson led the team in sacks (5.5).

James Lofton and John Jefferson

In the 1982 NFC playoffs, the Packers won their first postseason game at Lambeau Field since the “Ice Bowl” game in 1967 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 41-16, as Jefferson caught two touchdown passes, while Lofton had one.

The following week the Packers lost to the Dallas Cowboys 37-26 at Texas Stadium.

In 2020, things look promising again for the Bucks, Brewers and Packers.

The Bucks are having a record-setting year and now have a 47-8 record. Milwaukee has a chance to better the record of the 1970-71 team which had a 66-16 record and won the NBA title.

The current Bucks team is led by 2018-19 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who looks like he will win his second straight MVP. The “Greek Freak” is averaging 30 points per game and has had 40 double-doubles (points and rebounds) this year. In addition to that, No. 34 has also had four triple-doubles (points, rebounds and assists).

The Bucks have a very balanced team under head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks lead the NBA in scoring by averaging 119.7 points per game, plus lead the NBA in rebounding as well, as Milwaukee averages 51.8 rebounds per game.

There is plenty of talent on the Bucks even when Antetokounmpo is on the bench or doesn’t play. I’m talking about players such as Kris Middleton (20.9 ppg), Eric Bledsoe (15.7 ppg), Brook Lopez (10.8 ppg), George Hill (9.6 ppg), Donte DiVincenzo (9.2), Wesley Matthews (7.5 ppg) and Ersan IIyasova (7.3 ppg).

The Bucks also have a very deep bench and can play the matchup game with players like Kyle Korver (6.4 ppg), Robin Lopez (5.3 ppg), Sterling Brown (5.2 ppg), Pat Connaughton (4.8 ppg) and have recently added Marvin Williams (4.5 ppg) to their roster.

Giannis II

I like the chances of the Bucks to bring back their second NBA title to Milwaukee in 49 years.

The Brewers have had a number of roster changes going into the 2020 season, but the team still will be led by Christian Yelich, who narrowly missed winning his second straight NL MVP award in 2019. No. 22 probably would have won it if not for a knee injury which ended his season in early September.

The Brewers also have one of the best managers in the game in Craig Counsell, plus have a general manager in David Stearns who has one of the sharpest eyes in searching for talent in MLB.

While the Brewers saw players like Mike Moustaskas, Yasmani Grandal, Zach Davies, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz. Jordan Lyles, Eric Thames, Jimmy Nelson, Junior Guerra and Travis Shaw all leave the team via trade or free agency, the Brew Crew has added some very intriguing talent to the team the same way.

The starting rotation of the Brewers has three new additions going into the 2020 season, as LHP Brett Anderson (free agency), LHP Eric Lauer (trade) and RHP Josh Lindblom (free agency) will get every opportunity to hold down a starting role for the pitching staff.

RHP Brandon Woodruff is the No. 1 starter on the staff, while RHP Adrian Hauser or RHP Freddie Peralta look to be the fifth starter.

In terms of the relief pitching, LHP Josh Hader will welcome the addition of RHP Corey Knebel, who missed all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. When he is right, Knebel is sometimes unhittable and he and Hader would be a great one-two combination late in the game.

The rest of the bullpen will have LHP Brent Suter, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Ray Black, RHP David Phelps, RHP Devin Williams and RHP Corbin Burnes, who is hoping for a season like he had in 2018 and not the nightmare year he had in 2019.

The catching corp lost Grandal, but the Brewers did sign slugger Omar Narvaez (22 homers in 2019 for Seattle) to team with Manny Piña.

The infield in 2020 will have unbelievable depth and very versatile players manning down the positions. The only everyday starter looks to be 2B Keston Hiura.

At 1B, Ryan Braun looks to get some time playing there along with Justin Smoak, who is a switch-hitter.

At the SS position, Counsell has a number of options. Orlando Arcia will have to beat off the competition if he wants to remain a starter, as the Brewers traded for a young talented player in Luis Urias, plus have veterans like Eric Sogard and Brock Holt who they signed in free agency to play there as well.

At 3B, Holt, Sogard and Urias can all play the hot corner, plus the Brewers also have Jedd Gyorko and Ryan Healy to get some opportunity there as well.

In terms of playing the matchup game, both Holt and Sogard hit from the left side of the plate.

Christian Yelich II

The outfield situation will change up somewhat in 2020, as Braun will not get as much playing time out there, as the Brewers signed Avisail Garcia in free agency to get the majority of time in the outfield, along with Yelich and CF Lorenzo Cain.

Ben Gamel will come off the bench like he did in 2019, plus Holt can also play the corner outfield positions. Corey Ray will get an opportunity to make the roster, plus the Brewers brought back Keon Broxton, who can play any outfield position with defensive prowess, plus has some nice pop in his bat.

The NL Central looks to be the best division in the National league this year, as the Cincinnati Reds look much improved, plus the St. Louis Cardinals are always tough. One can’t sleep on the Chicago Cubs either, even without manager Joe Madden.

Time will tell what the Brewers will do in 2020 with all their new additions, but I wouldn’t put it past Counsell and Stearns to go to the postseason for a third consecutive year.

The Packers have some holes to fill, even with the 13-3 record they had in 2019. We will find out what moves the team will make this offseason, as free agency begins in March, plus the NFL draft will take place starting on April 23.

Speaking of the NFL draft, I’ll be doing my first mock draft after the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is over.

Currently, the Packers have almost $24 million in cap space going into free agency. General manager Brian Gutekunst will have a number of options available to him, but he wants to hold off on any decisions until the combine is over and the CBA situation is settled.

On offense, the Packers need to add another bookend to Davante Adams at wide receiver, plus need to shore up the situation at right tackle. Both Bryan Bulaga and Jared Veldheer are free agents. The Packers would be very happy to re-sign both of them if at all possible, plus add another RT in the draft.

Even with the great season running back Aaron Jones had in 2019 (1,558 total yards and 19 touchdowns), both he and Jamaal Williams will be free agents after the 2020 season. The Packers are aware of that heading into the draft, which is why they will most likely select another RB, perhaps early in the draft.

Aaron Jones vs. Seahawks

And even with Aaron Rodgers having another nice season in 2019 (26 TD passes, four interceptions and 4,002 passing yards), the Packers are aware of No. 12’s injury history, plus they know he is 36 and not getting any younger.

The Packers like backup QB Tim Boyle, but if the right QB is there for the taking in the draft, I could see Gutekunst selecting that player early in the draft. Plus, I would not be shocked if the Packers took at look at free agent QB Marcus Mariota, who played under head coach Matt LaFleur in Tennessee when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator there in 2018.

On defense, the Packers have to get the Front 7 of their defense better in playing the run, plus the linebacker speed has to improve in pass coverage. Which is why I would not be surprised if the Packers do not re-sign Blake Martinez. No. 50 has been a tackling machine, there is no doubt about that, but his lack of speed has hurt him, both in stopping the run and covering receivers.

I could see Gutekunst adding a faster free agent linebacker to play on the inside to replace Martinez, plus add another linebacker or two in the draft.

The addition of the “Smith Brothers” was huge for the defense of the Packers in 2019, as both La’Darius and Preston had big years. Gutekunst will try and add some more talent like that to the D via free agency, although it depends on the player and his price tag.

The Packers also know the cornerback Kevin King will also be a free agent after the 2020 season, plus are aware of his shoulder issues since he came into the NFL, so I would expect the Packers to draft a CB in the draft for sure.

One never knows what will occur for a NFL team in terms of injuries, but if the Packers stay as injury-free as they were for most of the 2019 season, I like LaFleur’s team to get to the postseason again in 2020.

Bottom line, no matter what, 2020 will be an exciting year for professional sports teams in Wisconsin and if it’s anywhere near what happened in 2019 and 1982, fans from the Badger state will be quite pleased.

Plus, in addition to that, the professional teams in Wisconsin all have fabulous venues to play in front of their fans. The Bucks have Fiserv Forum, the Brewers have Miller Park (American Family Field in 2021) and the Packers have Lambeau Field.

All the better for viewing sports in the postseason.

A Scout’s Take on the Two Round 1 Picks by the Green Bay Packers in the 2019 NFL Draft

Rashan Gary

One thing is sure, general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers has shown that is he no Ted Thompson in terms of both drafting and using free agency. Gutekunst has a flare for gambling and he proved that again last night when he selected DE/OLB Rashan Gary of Michigan with pick No. 12 in Round 1 and then traded up from No. 30 to No. 21 later in the round to select safety Darnell Savage Jr. of Maryland on the first night of the 2019 NFL draft.

You know defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is happy. Especially after Gutekunst signed edge rusher Preston Smith (formerly of the Washington Redskins), edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens) and safety Adrian Amos (formerly of the Chicago Bears) all on the same day in free agency. Talk about being 180 degrees different from Thompson, who rarely dipped his toes into the free agency water.

This is what veteran NFL scout Chris Landry wrote about the the selections of Gary and Savage.

Packers selected Michigan DL Rashan Gary with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Gary (6’4/277) turned pro after making 21 starts for the Wolverines, underwhelming as 2016’s No. 1 overall high school recruit with 10.5 career sacks and 24 tackles for loss but still earning first-team All-Big Ten from the conference’s coaches as a sophomore and junior. A known athletic freak, Gary predictably destroyed the Combine with 4.58 speed and 96th-percentile SPARQ results but bombed the Wonderlic Test (9). A boom-bust prospect whose production never matched his measurables, Gary must expand his pass-rush repertoire beyond bull rushes to avoid maxing out as another Solomon Thomas.

Packers traded up to select Maryland S/CB Darnell Savage with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Seattle received two fourth-round picks and No. 30 overall in this deal. Savage (5’11/198) made 37 starts in the Terrapins’ secondary, logging nine career tackles for loss with 30 pass breakups and eight interceptions and earning second-team All-Big Ten as a senior. Savage helped himself with 86th-percentile SPARQ results at the Combine, including 4.36 speed and a 39 ½-inch vertical. A late riser as coaches became more involved in the process, Savage was commonly discussed as a cornerback or slot defender conversion before the draft. He will play free safety in Green Bay, bookending Adrian Amos.

Landry also commented about both Gary and Savage.

First, his thoughts on Gary:

“Rashan Gary at 12. Listen, Rashan was No. 11 on my board. So he is right where he ought to be. Let me say this. If they can get him turned in the right direction, you are talking about one of the top three or four players in this draft. The problem has been consistency. The motor. And that’s why he slipped a little.”

And now Savage:

“The Packers get Darnell Savage. Listen, he’s one of these fast-rising guys. I’m not as high on him as other people are. They like him. So did the Colts by the way. They moved up to get him. Could they have gotten him where they were (No. 30)? I had some safeties rated higher than him. But that’s the direction they went.”

Day 1 (Round 1) in draft was definitely slanted for the defense of the Packers.

Day 2 (Rounds 2 & 3) in the draft will almost assuredly help the Green Bay offense. That will certainly make new head coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers happy.

Final 2019 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur and Mark Murphy at PC

The 2019 NFL draft is now just two days away and will take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The Green Bay Packers, behind general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting team, surely have their draft board set.

As a matter of fact, Gutekunst told the media on Monday that he closed the draft room door. “I wouldn’t imagine there’d be a whole lot of changes between now and Thursday,” said the man who replaced Ted Thompson as GM of the Packers last year.

The scouting team has done it’s work, as they have scouted the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl), the NFL Scouting Combine and finally the pro days.

Gutekunst, who along with Mark Murphy, the President and CEO of the Packers, hired Matt LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy as the new head coach of the Packers back in January.

The draft is one way to help LaFleur succeed. But for that to happen, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to get back to the way he played when he was twice named NFL MVP, not to mention winning Super Bowl XLV, when he was MVP of that game. I expect the Packers to utilize the draft to get Rodgers some help.

Just like the way Gutekunst used free agency to help out Mike Pettine’s defense.

Gutekunst shocked just about everyone in Packer Nation when he signed four free agents in one day back in March, when he signed edge rusher Preston Smith (formerly of the Washington Redskins), edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens), safety Adrian Amos (formerly of the Chicago Bears) and offensive lineman Billy Turner (formerly of the Denver Broncos).

The men called Smith will certainly help improve the pass rush of the Packers, while Amos will help out at safety, a position that was continuously being exploited by opponents of the Packers.

Turner adds real depth and talent on the offensive line of the Packers and has played both guard and tackle in his career thus far in the NFL. In addition to that, the Packers also now have Cole Madison back in the fold, after he missed his entire rookie year due to some personal issues.

Madison started 47 games at right tackle for Washington State, but is also seen as a player, who like Turner, can move inside to guard and play very effectively in the NFL.

Both Turner and Madison seem like perfect fits in LaFleur’s outside zone running scheme.

I did my first mock draft a little over a month ago. Since then, the Packers have lost both Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb to free agency. Unfortunately, that is life in the NFL, especially when the production doesn’t match the salary allocated to the player who leaves.

Throughout the years, like a blind squirrel who finds an acorn, I have had decent success with my selections in my mock drafts and a lot of that is due to the relationship I have struck with NFL scout Chris Landry.

I am using the draft analysis and grades of Landry to guide me through this mock draft.

As I mentioned in my first mock draft, as you look through my draft selections, especially the ones later in the draft, please note that I am trying to address the special teams issues which have plagued the Packers recently and are now trying to improve with new coaches.

In this mock draft, you will note that I am again drafting three players who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft.

That being said, here is my second and final 2019 NFL mock draft for the Packers.

Round 1: Tight End T.J. Hockenson (Iowa)

T.J. Hockenson II

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 251 pounds

As we get closer to the 2019 NFL draft, it appears that if the Green Bay Packers want one of the top two tight ends in this particular draft, they will most likely have to pick that player at selection No. 12, which is the first of two picks that the Packers have in Round 1. The two tight ends who I am talking about are T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom played at Iowa.

Hockenson had a breakout season in 2018 with the Hawkeyes, as he hauled in 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Iowa had a dynamic duo at tight end last season with both Hockenson and Fant (39-517-7).

Overall in his career at Iowa, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. Hockenson also had a rushing TD.

In terms of his draft status, Hockenson has a higher rating from most scouts than Fant going into the upcoming draft, as he is a much better blocker.

This is what Chris Landry said about Hockenson at the Senior Bowl.

“Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson is an excellent receiver and a unusually great blocker coming out of college. He is more advanced than 2018 breakout tight end George Kittle at the same stage.”

The Packers certainly need additional help at the tight end position, as Jimmy Graham is nearing the end of his career, as is Marcedes Lewis (who was re-signed). The Packers also have Robert Tonyan.

Hockenson would help in two big areas. One as a productive pass-catching receiver, plus would tremendously help with his run-blocking in the outside zone scheme which Matt LaFleur will be utilizing in 2019.

If Hockenson is off the board at No. 12, I would expect the Packers to select Fant, because he won’t be there at No. 30. If by chance both are gone, then the Packers might select someone like edge rusher Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, who I had the Packers taking in my first mock draft or an offensive lineman, perhaps a player like Jonah Williams of Alabama or Jawaan Taylor of Florida.

Round 1: Wide Receiver A.J. Brown (Mississippi)

A.J. Brown

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 226 pounds

Wide receiver Arthur “A.J.” Brown had a great three-year career at Mississippi, as he was twice named first-team All-SEC when he played with the Rebels.

The Rebels had quite a passing attack with Brown on one side and D.K. Metcalf on the other. Metcalf also looks to be selected in Round 1 in this year’s draft.

In his career, Brown had 189 receptions for 2,984 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his last two years at Ole Miss, Brown averaged 80 catches for 1,280 yards and 8.5 TDs.

Brown can play both outside and inside, but I see him more as a slot receiver with the Packers. Brown has great body control, plus can change direction quickly and runs extremely well after the catch. Also has great separation skills.

At the combine, Brown ran a 4.49 in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches.

Chris Landry said this about the talented wide receiver.

“Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown will be a quality NFL WR who can work outside and in the slot. Brown (6’0/226) has plenty of experience inside, but he also played on the perimeter in the second half of 2018 and he did well in those reps as well. He is an efficient route runner and is both competitive and tough with natural hands.”

Round 2: Offensive Tackle Kaleb McGary (Washington)

Kaleb McGary

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 317 pounds

Kaleb McGary was a four-year starter at right tackle for the Washington Huskies. Not only that, but McGary was named All-Pac-12 there in both 2017 and 2018.

McGary has the strength and agility which has made him a very good run blocker throughout his career at Washington. Those attributes will come in handy in the outside zone blocking scheme which will be utilized by new head coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers.

The former star of the Huskies is not a bad pass blocker either based on the honors he has received in the Pac-12, but his ability to run block is his biggest strength.

McGary is also mentally tough, as he and his family have gone through some difficult times recently.

Chris Landry said this about McGary after watching film of him at the Senior Bowl.

“Kaleb McGary was impressive when studying senior bowl practice tape. He was a stalwart for the Washington offensive line in his four seasons as a starter. He could potentially step in right away and help someone and should go no later than mid second round.”

The Packers desperately need a right tackle to come in and play well, as Bryan Bulaga has often been injured playing at that position. Since 2012, Bulaga has missed 40 games due to injury, plus has had to leave a number of games early due to an injury.

I believe McGary can be the guy to step in for Bulaga.

Round 3: Safety Juan Thornhill (Virginia)

Juan Thornhill

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 205 pounds

The draft stock of safety Juan Thornhill of Virginia is definitely starting to rise, so if the Packers were able to select Thornhill in Round 3 they would have to be quite pleased.

Thornhill was a three-year starter at Virginia, as he had 208 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 26 passes defended and one forced fumble. In 2017, Thornhill was third-team All-ACC and in 2018 was first-team All-ACC.

Thornhill would be just what the Packers need, a pure free safety who can play center field.

The former Cavalier impressed at the combine, as he ran a 4.42 in the 40 and had an explosive vertical jump of 44 inches.

Chris Landry said this about Thornhill back in March.

“Virginia S Juan Thornhill was impressive for the Cavaliers in 2018, and his stock has risen after his strong testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the size and cover skills that we look for at the NFL level in today’s game. He is skilled enough to play inside over a slot and can cover well enough outside to play some corner looks.”

Round 4: Running Back Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)

Trayveon Williams

Height: 5’8″

Weight: 206 pounds

Running back Trayveon Williams of Texas A&M may be a bit on the short side, but he is not small. In fact, he plays like a much larger RB. In addition to that, he has all the abilities that one wants in a three-down back, as he runs extremely well, catches the ball reliably and blocks very efficiently too.

Add to that, Williams is a great character guy who works well with coaches and teammates.

In his three-year career as an Aggie, Williams ran for 3,615 yards (6.0 average) and 34 touchdowns. Williams also caught 66 passes for 561 yards and another score.

In 2019, Williams was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American, as he ran for 1,524 rushing yards, plus scored 15 times on 252 carries (6.1 average). He also caught 27 passes for 278 yards (10.3 average) and a touchdown.

At the combine, Williams ran a 4.51 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Williams prior to the Texas A&M vs. LSU game.

“RB Trayveon Williams ran for more than 100 yards last week for the third straight game as he amassed 167 on 20 carries with two touchdowns against UAB. Williams has 1,326 yards rushing this year, the most in the SEC and averages 6.1 yards per carry.”

Round 4: Outside Linebacker Justin Hollins (Oregon)

Justin Hollins

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 248 pounds

Even with the additions of Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, the Packers will still be looking for some more edge rushing help in this draft. And in the fourth round, they would be able to find a real gem if they were able to select Justin Hollins of Oregon.

Hollins played on the other side of OLB Jalen Jenks, who is the better known of the two. But once the Ducks switched their defense into a 3-4 scheme from a 4-3 look, Hollins really flourished.

Hollins started out as a defensive end in 2016, but switched to OLB in 2017 and 2018. In those two years, Hollins had 123 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), six passes defended. one fumble recovery and seven forced fumbles.

Hollins was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2018, as he had 64 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, seven pass breakups, and five forced fumbles (tied for second in the FBS).

Hollins wowed at the combine, as he ran a 4.5 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Hollins back in October.

“A defensive playmaker, Hollins has been making big plays all year long, leading the Ducks with four sacks and creating three forced fumbles this season. He was out of position in the Ducks 4-3 scheme and looks much more comfortable playing outside linebacker in their 3-4 system. The one-time track star ran a 10.88 in the 100-yard meters during junior high school.”

Round 5: Defensive Lineman Daniel Wise (Kansas)

Daniel Wise

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 281 pounds

The Packers have drafted a defensive lineman in every draft since 1996 and this year I expect them to do the same. Especially knowing that this is the last year in the contract of Mike Daniels.

A guy who impressed me and others during the East-West Shrine Game week here in nearby St. Pete was Daniel Wise of Kansas.

Wise, like Daniels, plays until he hears the whistle and sometimes past it. He plays the run very well and flashes as a pass rusher from time to time.

Wise was All-Big 12 in both 2017 and 2018, as he combined for 87 total tackles, had 28 tackles for a loss, had 10 sacks and had two forced fumbles.

Chris Landry said this about Wise after watching him all week at the East-West Shrine Game.

“Wise was used all along the defensive front at Kansas, but his skill set is maximized as a three-technique which became evident at Shrine practices. His quickness, play strength, hand technique and motor are optimized in a penetration-style role where he was unblockable in both 1v1s and team drills. He leaves St. Pete with plenty of positive buzz after dominating the week from start to finish.”

No matter whether the Packers select Wise or another defensive lineman, the team is still interested in bringing back free agent DE Muhammad Wilkerson.

Round 6: Linebacker Cole Holcomb (North Carolina)

Cole Holcomb

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 235 pounds

If there was ever a definition of a tackling machine, linebacker Cole Holcomb of North Carolina would deserve consideration.

In the last three seasons that Holcomb played for the Tarheels at LB, he averaged 104 tackles per season. Holcomb also looked the part in pass coverage, plus forced four fumbles.

At his pro day, Holcomb was off the charts, as he ran a 4.48 in the 40.

Holcomb would be a natural stud on special teams, plus would add a nice piece of depth at the ILB position.

Chris Landry said this about Holcomb in late October prior to the North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech game when Holcomb had 22 tackles.

“LB Cole Holcomb was the defensive leader at Virginia with 13 tackles, a season high for the senior and former walk-on. Holcomb has a team-high 59 tackles for the season with 5.5 for losses and figures to be a busy man against Georgia Tech’s option game.”

Round 6: Cornerback Derrek Thomas (Baylor)

Derrek Thomas

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 189 pounds

Similar to former Packer CB Sam Shields, Derrek Thomas switched positions in college from wide receiver to cornerback. Thomas started college at Temple before moving to Baylor for the 2018 season along with his former coach Matt Rhule.

Thomas had one pick and seven pass breakups for the Bears in 2018 in 11 starts.

Thomas is still raw, as he is still learning how to play the CB position. But the size, athleticism and speed are all there, as Thomas ran a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.

The NFL doesn’t have a lot of 6’3″ CBs who can run a 4.4.

Chris Landry said this about Thomas last month.

“Baylor CB Derrek Thomas doesn’t impress on tape but he did test well with a 4.44 second 40-yard dash while measuring in at 6-foot-3, 189-pounds. Thomas has just 14 career collegiate starts, and though he doesn’t break down well in coverage or as a tackler, his athletic traits give him a late round chance.”

With good coaching, Thomas has the size and speed to help out eventually in the secondary, plus can be a real fixture on special teams if his tackling skills improve. Shields was not a good tackler initially either, but he learned to improve that facet of his game.

Round 7: Outside Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (Wisconsin)

Andrew Van Ginkel

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 241 pounds

Although outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel of the Wisconsin Badgers certainly wasn’t near the classification of former Badger T.J. Watt (who Ted Thompson should have drafted in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL draft) or even Vince Biegel (who Thompson did draft in Round 4 of that same 2017 NFL draft), No. 17 definitely had his moments on the field for the Badgers.

Van Ginkel had a solid two-year career at Wisconsin after transferring from Iowa Western Community College. In 2017 and 2018, Van Ginkel had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), five passes defended, one fumble recovery and four forced fumbles.

In 2018, Van Ginkel was named third-team All-Big Ten.

Besides being productive at outside linebacker for the Badgers, Van Ginkel’s play on special teams stood out.

At the combine, Van Ginkel put up nice numbers, as he had a 38 inch vertical jump and ran the 20-yards shuttle in 4.14 seconds. At the Wisconsin pro day, Van Ginkel ran a 4.56 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Van Ginkel prior to the Wisconsin-Minnesota game late in the 2018 season.

“LB Andrew Van Ginkel is coming off a 10-tackle showing. All 10 were solo tackles. When healthy, his hustle and long reach combined with T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly give the Badgers a strong linebacking core.”

Initial 2019 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Matt LaFleur 2019 NFL Combine

The 2019 NFL draft is about five weeks away. Every NFL team, including the Green Bay Packers, have pretty much put together their draft board.

This is because of all the hard work that the scouts and those in the front office have done, as they have scouted the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl), the NFL Scouting Combine and finally the pro days, which are still ongoing.

The Packers are going into the upcoming draft with a new head (Matt LaFleur), as well as a general manager (Brian Gutekunst) who has only been on the job for a little over a year.

Things certainly aren’t the same in Green Bay like they were when Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy were the tandem at general manager and head coach. The two had a nice run together, as McCarthy had a record of 121-70-1 while Thompson was his GM.

That record included six NFC North titles and nine playoff appearances.

But even though his team won Super Bowl XLV, the Packers under McCarthy did not fare as well in the postseason overall, as he was just 10-8, which included four overtime losses.

And during that tenure, Thompson mostly built the team through the draft and rarely dipped his toes into the free agency waters.  He did strike gold with both Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers, but both were signed after they were cut from their previous teams.

Thompson hardly ever signed a UFA (unrestricted free agent). In fact, from 2010 through 2017, Thompson signed just four UFAs.

That certainly wasn’t the case last year in the first year under Gutekunst as GM, as he signed two UFAs, tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive back Tramon Williams. Plus he also signed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (after he was cut by the New York Jets).

Wilkerson signed a one-year deal last year and is now a UFA and speculation seems to indicate that he will return to Green Bay.

If people thought Gutekunst was aggressive last year, that was nothing compared to what he did a few days ago.

Gutekunst signed four UFAs in one day last week when he signed edge rusher Preston Smith (formerly of the Washington Redskins), edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens), safety Adrian Amos (formerly of the Chicago Bears) and offensive lineman Billy Turner (formerly of the Denver Broncos).

To say the least, Packer Nation was abuzz.

The Packers did release outside linebacker Nick Perry and inside linebacker Jake Ryan is now headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent.

The odds of seeing Clay Matthews back as a Packer appear to be slim, and if he did return he would be slotted as an inside linebacker for the most part. Wide receiver Randall Cobb also looks to be gone, unless he agrees to a much smaller contract.

Speaking of Cobb, he is currently visiting the Dallas Cowboys as I write this. Plus, former Packer Jordy Nelson, who was released by the Oakland Raiders last week, is currently visiting the Seattle Seahawks.

I still expect Aaron Rodgers to improve on his performance last year, which was hindered by a knee injury in Game 1 that affected his mobility for several weeks, not to mention his disconnect with McCarthy in terms of how to run the offense.

I definitely see things improving for Rodgers under LaFleur.

In terms of doing my first mock draft at this somewhat late stage, I have been working on a book project with Jerry Kramer, and that is where most of my time allotment has gone. I have been doing mock drafts for the Packers for almost two decades now and normally I do at least four each year. This year there will be just two.

I have had decent success with my selections throughout the years and a lot of it is due to the relationship I have struck with NFL scout Chris Landry.

As you look through my draft selections, especially later in the draft, please note that I am trying to address the special teams issues that the Packers have had recently and are now trying to improve with new coaches.

In this year’s draft, like a blind squirrel, I certainly hope that I can find some acorns with my picks.

With that, it’s time for my first mock draft for the Pack in 2019.

Round 1: Edge Rusher Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)

Montez Sweat

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 260 pounds

Montez Sweat put together two fantastic years at Mississippi State, as he earned two straight All-SEC honors, as he had a combined 101 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, 22.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

In his final year as a Bulldog, Sweat was also named second-team All-American by the Associated press.

Sweat received high praise at the Senior Bowl, which included this comment from Chris Landry.

“With 22 sacks over the last two seasons in the SEC, Sweat can be of assistance early as he demonstrates incredible vision, length, power, hand usage and a variety of counters to win as a pass rusher. He has been unblockable this week.”

Sweat also helped himself at the combine, as he ran 4.41 in the forty, plus did the 20-yard shuttle in 4.29 seconds.

The Packers helped themselves in free agency by bringing in the Smith boys to add to their pass rush, plus they have Kyler Fackrell, who had a breakout season last year (10.5 sacks).

The Packers would be fortunate if Sweat is on the board when the Packers get their first pick in Round 1 at No. 12, but if he is, adding a dynamic pass-rusher like Sweat would really make the pass rush of the Packers an extremely scary one to scheme against.

*** Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Sunday (March 17th) that Sweat has a pre-existing heart condition that was revealed during the NFL Scouting Combine medical checks. Rapoport also reported that the doctors deemed this a “low-risk” situation, which is why Sweat was able to work out at the combine.

Round 1: Tight End T.J. Hockenson (Iowa)

T.J. Hockenson

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 251 pounds

T.J Hockenson had a breakout season in 2018 with the Iowa Hawkeyes, as he hauled in 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns. The Hawkeyes had a dynamic duo at tight end last season with both Hockenson and Noah Fant (39-517-7).

Overall in his career at Iowa, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. Hockenson also had a rushing TD.

In terms of his draft status, Hockenson has a higher rating then Fant going into the upcoming draft, as he is a much better blocker. Both have a chance to be selected in the first round.

Some mock drafts have Hockenson and Fant going somewhat early in Round 1, but just looking at team needs in the NFL, I believe there is a chance that one or both will be there when the Packers have their second choice in the first round at No. 30.

This is what Chris Landry said about Hockenson at the Senior Bowl.

“Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson is an excellent receiver and a unusually great blocker coming out of college. He is more advanced than 2018 breakout tight end George Kittle at the same stage.”

The Packers need additional help at the tight end position, as Jimmy Graham is nearing the end of his career, as is Marcedes Lewis (who was recently re-signed). The Packers also have Robert Tonyan.

Hockenson would help in two big areas. One as a productive pass-catching receiver, plus would tremendously help with his run-blocking in the outside zone scheme which Matt LaFleur will be utilizing in 2019.

Round 2: Offensive Tackle Kaleb McGary (Washington)

Kaleb McGary

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 317 pounds

Kaleb McGary was a four-year starter at right tackle for the Washington Huskies. Not only that, but McGary was named All-Pac-12 there in both 2017 and 2018.

McGary has the strength and agility which has made him a very good run blocker throughout his career at Washington. Those attributes will come in handy in the outside zone blocking scheme which will be utilized by new head coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers.

The former star of the Huskies is not a bad pass blocker either based on the honors he has received in the Pac-12, but his ability to run block is his biggest strength.

McGary is also mentally tough, as he and his family have gone through some difficult times recently.

Chris Landry said this about McGary after watching film of him at the Senior Bowl.

“Kaleb McGary was impressive when studying senior bowl practice tape. He was a stalwart for the Washington offensive line in his four seasons as a starter. He could potentially step in right away and help someone and should go no later than mid second round.”

The Packers desperately need a right tackle to come in and play well, as Bryan Bulaga has often been injured playing at that position. Since 2012, Bulaga has missed 40 games due to injury, plus has had to leave a number of games early due to an injury.

I believe McGary can be the guy to step in for Bulaga.

Round 3: Running Back Miles Sanders (Penn State)

Miles Sanders

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 211 pounds

Running back Miles Sanders had big shoes at Penn State last season, trying to replace Saquon Barkley. But Sanders did a fine job, as he rushed for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns, plus caught 24 passes for 139 more yards.

Up until last year, Sanders had to play second fiddle to Barkley for a couple of years, but shined when he had the opportunity, as he rushed for 375 yards and three touchdowns, plus caught eight passes for 54 yards and another score.

Because of his performance in 2018, Sanders was named second-team All-Big Ten, plus was named the Most Valuable Offensive Player by Penn State.

Sanders is a low-mileage running back coming into the NFL, plus has the patience, instincts and quick feet to run to daylight.

Sanders performed well at the combine by running a 4.49 in the 40 and also did the 20-yard shuttle in 4.19 seconds.

Chris Landry said this about Sanders after checking out some film of the former Nittany Lion.

“Penn State RB Miles Sanders caught 24 passes, and his ability as a receiver is one of the main reasons why Sanders impresses on film. He has light feet light feet to dart through creases.”

Round 4: Offensive Lineman Michael Deiter (Wisconsin)

Michael Deiter

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 309 pounds

The Packers would be very pleased if Michael Deiter would still be on the board when Green Bay has it’s first pick in Round 4. It could happen too, as Deiter was not that impressive at either the Senior Bowl or the combine.

Still, the film does not lie when scouts like Chris Landry look at what Deiter did at Wisconsin over four years. For one thing, Deiter was versatile, as he played all the positions on the offensive line…center, tackle and guard.

As a sophomore in 2016, Deiter was named Honorable Mention in the Big Ten when he played center and left guard. In 2017, when Deiter played left tackle, he was named first-team All-Big Ten. And as a senior in 2018, Deiter was once again named first-team All-Big Ten, this time at left guard. No. 63 was also named second-team All-American.

Landry said this about Deiter during the course of the 2018 season.

“A four-year starter, Deiter has double-digit starts each at left tackle, left guard and center. His experience (he has played 95% of his team’s snaps during his career, according to PFF) and versatility only enhances his draft stock. Deiter isn’t likely to wow at the combine but he possesses the skill-set to be an immediate plug-and-play starter at the next level.”

Round 4: Linebacker Germaine Pratt (North Carolina State)

Germaine Pratt

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 240 pounds

In his first season as a starter at North Carolina State as a linebacker in 2018, Germaine Pratt turned in quite a performance. Pratt had 104 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, six sacks, three passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbled. That led to Pratt being named first-team All-ACC.

While he wasn’t a starter in his first three years with the Wolfpack, Pratt received plenty of playing time. Over those three years, Pratt had 131 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four interceptions, six passes defended, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

At the combine, Pratt ran a 4.57 in the 40.

The Packers need help at the inside linebacker position. Blake Martinez is a very solid starter at one of the ILB spots, but now with the release of Antonio Morrison by the Packers and with Jake Ryan signing with the Jaguars, the depth at the position is very low.

If the season started today, second-year linebacker Oren Burks would start alongside of Martinez. There is also the slight possibility that the Packers could re-sign Clay Matthews.

Pratt has the speed and coverage ability to play on third down, covering either running backs or tight ends.

Chris Landry said this about Pratt at the end of the 2018 college season.

“In his first season as a starter, Pratt led the Wolfpack with 104 tackles, 10 1/2 tackles for loss and six sacks this past season. He also had two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups. He ranked second in the ACC with 9.45 tackles per game and was named All-ACC.”

Round 5: Safety Mike Edwards (Kentucky)

Mike Edwards

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 205

Although the Packers signed Adrian Amos a few days ago in free agency, they are still looking for more depth at the safety position. Because of that, Green Bay would be thrilled to be able to select safety Mike Edwards of Kentucky, as not only is he a ball hawk, but also a sure tackler.

In his career as a Wildcat, Edwards had 317 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 10 interceptions (two for touchdowns), 23 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

In 2016, Edwards led all SEC defensive backs with 100 tackles. In 2017, Edwards almost hit the century mark again in tackles with 96.

Chris Landry said this about Edwards heading into the 2018 season.

“The defense as a whole didn’t come up with enough big plays or game-changing moments – especially over the second half of last year – but Edwards did his part, having to make way too many stops from the secondary. He led the team with 96 tackles with a sack and a team-leading four picks. He’s not huge, but he’ll do whatever is needed – it would be nice if he didn’t need to do so much.”

Round 6: Wide Receiver Penny Hart (Georgia State)

Penny Hart

Height: 5’8″

Weight: 180 pounds

The Packers are looking for someone to become their prime slot receiver in 2019, and if they draft Penny Hart of Georgia State, they may have found their man.

And because of his great week at the Senior Bowl, the Packers may have to go earlier than the sixth round to select Hart.

In his career at Georgia State, Hart had 203 receptions for 2,960 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hart also excelled as a return man, as he returned kickoff and punts for Georgia State and had a punt return for a TD in 2018.

Although Hart is small at 5’8″ and 180 pounds, he is also very quick and makes sudden cuts to get away from defenders.

Hart was not invited to the combine to work out, but is believed to be able to run the 40 at around 4.4.

Chris Landry said this about Hart after watching him at the Senior Bowl.

“Nobody went from as unknown to as intriguing as Penny Hart, who eviscerated defensive backs for three straight days during practices.”

Round 6: Cornerback Corey Ballentine (Washburn)

Corey Ballentine

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 196 pounds

Corey Ballantine of Washburn sort of flew under the radar of some scouts because he played Division II college football. But he certainly got noticed eventually because of the way he dominated the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for two years.

Ballentine was named first team All-MIAA in both 2017 and 2018 at cornerback, plus was a dangerous return man.

In 2017, Ballentine had 54 tackles and seven pass breakups on the year. He also ranked fifth in Division II by averaging 30.6 yards per kick return.  In 2018, Ballentine was not as successful returning kicks, but he still was a stud on special teams with three blocked kicks and was still a first-team All-MIAA defender (50 tackles, three tackles for loss, three picks, four passed defended, two forced fumbles).

Chris Landry said this about Ballentine midway through the 2018 college football season.

“There’s an old saying that, “If you’re good enough, the NFL will find you.” While D-II football is rarely recognized for producing professional prospects, there’s a flashy cornerback at Washburn University that is drawing plenty of NFL eyeballs. Senior CB Corey Ballentine (5-11, 204, 4.45, #1), brings great speed and athleticism to the position but has also excelled as a special teams demon, averaging 26.5 yards per kick return over the past two seasons. He also has three blocked kicks this season and led the Ichabods in special teams tackles (10) as a sophomore. A dual-sport collegiate star, Ballentine runs track at Washburn, a sport he has played since the fourth grade and has contributed to his phenomenal conditioning. He made the switch from safety, where he did a tremendous job playing in the box, to cornerback, which seems to be a more natural fit and allows him to use his athleticism. A solid tackler, Ballentine plays physical and persevered through difficult times as a freshman, when he contemplated quitting football. Praised by his coaches for being smart and humble, the NFL will be happy that he decided to stick it through and now he’s in line to be rewarded for all of his hard work over the past four years.”

Round 7: Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (Wisconsin)

Andrew Van Ginkel

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 241 pounds

Although outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel of the Wisconsin Badgers certainly wasn’t near the classification of former Badger T.J. Watt (who Ted Thompson should have drafted in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL draft) or even Vince Biegel (who Thompson did draft in Round 4 of that same 2017 NFL draft), No. 17 definitely had his moments on the field for the Badgers.

Van Ginkel had a solid two-year career at Wisconsin after transferring from Iowa Western Community College. In 2017 and 2018, Van Ginkel had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), five passes defended, one fumble recovery and four forced fumbles.

In 2018, Van Ginkel was named third-team All-Big Ten.

Besides being productive at outside linebacker for the Badgers, Van Ginkel’s play on special teams stood out.

At the combine, Van Ginkel put up nice numbers, as he had a 38 inch vertical jump and ran the 20-yards shuttle in 4.14 seconds. At the Wisconsin pro day, Van Ginkel ran a 4.56 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Van Ginkel prior to the Wisconsin-Minnesota game late in the 2018 season.

“LB Andrew Van Ginkel is coming off a 10-tackle showing. All 10 were solo tackles. When healthy, his hustle and long reach combined with T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly give the Badgers a strong linebacking core.”