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.

Green Bay Packers: A Scout’s Take on Running Back AJ Dillon

AJ Dillon

In both of the mock drafts I did on the Green Bay Packers for the 2020 NFL draft, I had the team taking Jonathan Taylor in the first round. The Packers instead shocked many in the pro football world by selecting quarterback Jordan Love.

The Packers did take a running back in the second round when they selected AJ Dillon out of Boston College.

The reason I had Green Bay taking a running back early in the draft was how important the running game is in the overall success for the offensive strategy which the Packers utilize under head coach Matt LaFleur. I’m talking about the outside zone running scheme.

Yes, I know that the Packers have Aaron Jones, who had a fantastic year in 2019. Plus the Packers have a decent compliment to Jones in Jamaal Williams. Still, the Packers were ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing. Plus, both Jones and Williams are slated to become free agents after the 2020 season. Add to that, LaFleur told the media that he wanted to add a third running back to the mix via the draft.

If the outside zone scheme is really effective, the passing game will be that much better. And that will make quarterback Aaron Rodgers a happy camper, as the play-action passing game will really open up.

For instance, while LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, the team used the outside zone scheme as Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. The running game flourished due to the two-headed monster formed by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. In addition to that, so did the success of quarterback Matt Ryan, who was the NFL MVP in 2016.

In 2017, LaFleur became the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams and he had to fix an offense which really struggled the year before.

In seven starts as a rookie in 2016, Jared Goff was 0-7 as a starter and had just five TD passes versus seven interceptions for 1,089 yards. That adds up to a paltry passer rating of 63.6.

But in 2017, under the guidance of LaFleur, Goff really took off, as he was 11-4 as a starter, plus threw 28 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 3,804 yards. Goff’s passer rating improved to a very nice 100.4 level.

Not only did LaFleur get Goff on the right track, but the Rams started using the skills of talented running back Todd Gurley much better in 2017 by using the outside zone running scheme.

In 2015, Gurley was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, but in 2016, things went south for the former Georgia Bulldog. In his second season, Gurley only rushed for 885 yards and his yards-per-carry average went down by over a yard and a half, as he only averaged 3.2 yards per rush.

But in 2017 under LaFleur, Gurley had a monster year, as he was named Offensive Player of the Year. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards (4.7 average) and 13 TDs, plus caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores.

In 2018, when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, the offense struggled early, as quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered an elbow injury which would linger all season long.

Tennessee didn’t flash statistically under LaFleur (25th in total offense and 27th in scoring), but he figured out the best way to run his offense down the stretch. It led to five straight wins before the Titans were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts in the final game of the season, in a game which would see the winner get into the playoffs.

Knowing that he had an ailing Mariota dealing with elbow issues, LaFleur leaned on the running game for the last quarter of the 2018 season. Running back Derrick Henry became a force, as he rushed for 585 yards and seven touchdowns in four games to end the season.

Henry carried that momentum into 2019, as he was dominant, both in the regular season and postseason. In addition to that, look at how effective Ryan Tannehill was at quarterback for the Titans.

Which takes me to the selection of Dillon in the second round by the Packers on Friday night. If there is any running back that Dillon can be compared to, it’s Henry.

Like Henry was at Alabama, Dillon was a force at Boston College. In three years with the Eagles, Dillon rushed for 4,382 yards (5.2 yards per carry average) and scored 38 touchdowns.

Dillon was named first-team All-ACC three times at Boston College, plus was named third-team All-American in 2019.

NFL scout Chris Landry also named Dillon to his All-ACC squad, as well as naming him to the third-team on his All-American team.

Landry said this about Dillon before he did drills at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Boston College RB AJ Dillon is a feature runner with power, strength and underrated burst. Dillon measured in at 247 pounds for the combine, making him the heaviest back in Indianapolis. He finished out his Eagles career having taken 845 carries (including 300 or more carries in 2017 and 2019).
Dillon measured in at 6-foot 3/8 inches and 247 pounds and was actually down three pounds from his last listed weight at Boston College, but regardless, he weighed in as the heaviest running back in Indianapolis. Those 247 pounds, by the by, made for an identical match to Derrick Henry’s combine measurement. Dillon would obviously love for his pro career to unfold like that of King Henry and will look to impress in athletic testing this weekend, but keep in mind that Henry’s athleticism at such a weight is an outlier, not the norm.

Landry then said this about Dillon after his workout at the combine:

RB AJ Dillon recorded a vertical jump of 41 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine. We hesitate to invoke the name Derrick Henry when it comes to Dillon, but when it comes to a back performing in tests at size, the 6-foot, 247-pound Dillon (same weight as the Titans back) was putting in slightly better marks than those of King Henry on Friday. His 41-inch vertical jump was the best jump of any running back in Indianapolis — and four inches better than Henry’s 2016 jump — and his 4.53-second 40-yard dash just barely bettered Henry’s 4.54-second rumble from a few years back, while his broad jump went for 10-foot-11, one inch better than Henry’s. He was a clear winner from the day, at least in terms of some of the less agility-centered tests.

The bottom line is that the Packers can now utilize a running back like Dillon in short yardage situations, which was a problem for the team in 2019. Dillon is the type of back who can not only get you a first down in those situations, but also take it to the house.

The 6’0″, 247-pound Dillon is also the perfect type of back to lean on when Lambeau Field truly becomes the frozen tundra in December and January.

Dillon would be the thunder in the Green Bay backfield, while Jones would be the Lightning. Williams will have a role as well, to keep everyone fresh.

Expect to see the running game of the Packers to get much better in 2020, which will also help the effectiveness of Rodgers at quarterback. In terms of who No. 12 will throw to in 2020 besides Davante Adams, I’ll hold off on that discussion in another story.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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.”

The New Mexico Lobos vs. the Wisconsin Badgers: Kevin Cosgrove Comes Home

 

CossyThe game between the New Mexico Lobos and the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Kevin Cosgrove.

Cosgrove is currently the defensive coordinator for the Lobos, but he also spent 14 years (1990 through 2003) on the coaching staff under Barry Alvarez, where he was initially a linebackers coach before becoming defensive coordinator in 1995.

I was at the very first game Cosgrove became the D-coordinator. It was in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl at Tampa Stadium.

Cos and I were good buddies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh back in the day, plus I lived in the Tampa Bay area. It was a given that I would be at the game between the Badgers and the Duke Blue Devils.

Because of my friendship with Cosgrove, I was able to see the Badgers work out at Tampa Stadium in practice a day before the game. Then for the actual game, a couple of buddies and myself sat next to the coaches wives, which included Cosgrove’s wife Shelly.

The Badgers won the game 34-20. It was after the game in which I had one of the fondest memories I have ever had. We went to the Westin Tampa Harbour Island (where the Badgers stayed) after the game.

I distinctly remember smoking a victory cigar with a number of the coaches (including Alvarez and Cosgrove) overlooking the Hillsborough River from the balcony.

Before Alvarez and his initial coaching staff came to Wisconsin, the Badgers were 1-5 in bowl games, plus the football program was on a downward slide.

When I talked to Cosgrove about the state of the program then, he heaped praise on Alvarez on what he was able to accomplish, as Barry built a program that won 118 games in his 16-year tenure.

“Just seeing where the program was when he took over. Attendance was down. Interest in the Badgers was nil,” Cosgrove said. “I think the Badgers averaged 30,000 fans a game the year before we got there. But we gradually pumped it up until it became sell out after sell out. But naturally that first Rose Bowl (in 1994) was something special. The thrill of getting there, when you consider all the things we had to do to build that program.”

The Badgers are currently 15-14 in Bowl games in their history and are one of the best football programs in the country under head coach Paul Chryst, as Alvarez is now the athletic director. But the ongoing success of the program goes back to the job Alvarez and his coaching staff did in the 1990s.

The Badgers won back to back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000 when Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator. The defenses that Cos coached those two years were a big reason why.

In 1998, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense. In 1999, they were ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

In 2002 and 2003, Cosgrove coached current Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard when he played for the Badgers at safety. Leonhard had a combined 18 interceptions those two seasons, plus was named All-Big Ten and All-American both years.

After Cosgrove left Wisconsin after the 2003 season (the Badgers were 6-2 in bowl games under Alvarez at that point), he has been defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Minnesota, Akron and now New Mexico.

The New Mexico football program has been resuscitated under head coach Bob Davie, much like the Wisconsin football program was under Alvarez and his initial coaching staff which included Cosgrove.

In 2015, the Lobos went to their first bowl game since 2007. The Lobos went 7-6 that season and then went 9-4 in 2006 before winning the New Mexico Bowl.

New Mexico had a tough year in 2017 (3-9), but are off to a 1-0 start in 2018 as they get ready to face the Badgers. The Lobos have added a number of top football programs to their schedule in the future, which also includes Notre Dame (2019), USC (2020), Texas A&M (2021) and LSU (2022).

I talked to NFL scout Chris Landry about the New Mexico football program and he was impressed with the job Cosgrove has done.

Cos at New Mexico

“It’s a good program,” Landry said. “They’ve done a good job. Kevin is an outstanding coach.”

Indeed, Cosgrove is an outstanding coach and that’s why Alvarez hired him in 1990 and kept him on for 14 years, which includes nine years as defensive coordinator.

Now Cos gets to coach for the opposing team at Camp Randall for just the second time since he left Wisconsin. The first time was in 2010 when he was the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers lost 41-23 that day, mostly because the talent on Wisconsin far outweighed that of Minnesota.

New Mexico also can’t match the talent level of the Badgers, but you can count on one thing for sure.

Cosgrove will have his defense ready to play against an offense which put up 491 yards against Western Kentucky last week.

That might not add up to a victory, but it will be yet another step forward in building up the football program at New Mexico.

Reviewing the 2018 NFL Draft of the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst as GM

The 2018 NFL draft for the Green Bay Packers is now over. How would I view the draft for the Pack overall? I have a number of thoughts. In conjunction with my opinion, I’m going to use the scouting insights of NFL scout Chris Landry.

Much like in the 2015 NFL draft which was run by then general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers focused on the cornerback position in the first two rounds. In that regard, I think new general manager Brian Gutekunst did quite well, especially based on the pre-draft scouting report by Landry.

Landry had both Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson rated with a 6.4 grade, which classifies as an early second-round value. Both players were on his horizontal draft board (best players regardless of position). Alexander was ranked No. 37, while Jackson was ranked No. 30. Jackson was ranked third, while Alexander was ranked fourth on Landry’s cornerback draft board.

I had the Packers taking Jackson in the second round in my third mock draft.

Green Bay desperately needed to upgrade the talent and youth at the cornerback position in this draft and they did just that. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has to be happy with these selections.

Later in this article, you will see Landry’s breakdown on the selections of both Alexander and Jackson, as well as all the other selections that the Packers made in the draft.

I also saw that he Packers definitely got bigger and faster at the wide receiver position with the three players they selected. J’Mon Moore of Missouri is 6’3″, weighs 207 pounds and ran a 4.48 in the 40 at his pro day. Marquez Valdes-Scantling of USF is 6’4″, weighs 206 pounds and ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Equanimeous St. Brown is 6’5″, weighs 214 pounds and ran a 4.48 in the 40 at the combine.

Landry had both Moore and Brown ranked on his horizontal board, which ranks players from first to fourth-round value. Landry has Brown ranked No. 86 and has the former Fighting Irish star graded with a 5.9 mark, which means a third-round value. Landry had Moore ranked No. 129 and has the former Tiger star graded with a 5.5 mark, which means a fourth-round value.

I had the Packers taking Brown in my first mock draft.

Valdes-Scantling was not on Landry’s horizontal board and was graded with a 5.4 mark, which means fifth to sixth-round value.

The Packers had a lot of question marks at wide receiver prior to the draft. For one, the team released Jordy Nelson. Secondly, the best wide receiver on the team, Davante Adams, who the Packers signed to a four-year $58.75 extension in late December, is coming off a season with multiple concussions. Finally, Randall Cobb is is in the final year of his four-year $40 deal, one which he has not exactly lived up to.

Adding Moore, Valdes-Scantling and Brown gives the Packers a lot of options at the wide receiver position, as well as speed and size as I mentioned earlier.

I’m sure quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t unhappy with the selections of these big and talented receivers. Nor was head coach Mike McCarthy.

In the third round the Packers picked linebacker Oren Burks. While I would have preferred adding an edge rusher at that point of the draft, the Packers have been trying to find a cover-linebacker for years now in the pass-happy league that they play in. It appears that Burks can fill that role.

Landry did not have Burks ranked in his horizontal draft board, but did have the former Vandy star graded with a 5.4 mark, which means a fifth to sixth-round value. Obviously the Packers graded Burks differently.

I liked the selection of offensive lineman Cole Madison in Round 5. I had the Packers taking Madison in my second mock draft. Landry had Madison ranked No. 9 on his guard draft board, although Madison played right tackle throughout his career at Washington State. Landry also had Madison ranked No. 158 on his horizontal draft board with a 5.5 grade which means fourth-round value.

And believe it or not, I had no problem with the Packers selecting punter JK Scott of Alabama in Round 5. Landry has Scott ranked as the second-best punter on his specialists board and gave the former Crimson Tide star a 5.4 grade, which means fifth to sixth-round value. It’s not a good omen for current Green Bay punter Justin Vogel that the Packers initially assigned Scott the same No. 8 that Vogel wears.

I also had no problem with two (DE James Looney of Cal and OLB Kendall Donnerson of Southeast Missouri State) of the three players that the Packers picked in Round 7. I do have a problem with one of them, long snapper Hunter Bradley of Mississippi State. More on Bradley in a moment.

Landry gave Looney a 5.4 grade, which means fifth to sixth-round value. Landry did not  have Donnerson listed on his horizontal or linebackers draft board, but as you will see on his evaluation below, he definitely believes Donnerson has some definite upside.

In terms of selecting Bradley, I’m still scratching my head. I can’t recall the Packers ever drafting a long snapper before. Green Bay has drafted players who played different positions and who could also long snap, but never just a long snapper. I saw some players on the draft board at the time Green Bay picked Bradley who could have helped the Packers more in other areas.

The selections of both Scott and Bradley tell me that the Packers are making a concerted effort to improve the special teams units of coach Ron Zook. Both Scott and Bradley would have to really mess up the bed in training camp to not make the team.

Overall, the big problem that I had with this draft with the Packers was not addressing the pass-rushing issues (except for Donnerson in Round 7) that the team has. It’s great to improve the secondary and to draft a cover-linebacker like the Packers did in this draft, but if an opposing quarterback has too much time to pass, he’ll eventually find an open receiver.

Again, just look at last season. The Packers were tied for 17th in the NFL in sacks last season with 37. That is almost 20 sacks behind the NFL leader, the Steelers, who had 56.

The lack of a potent pass rush by the Packers led to the secondary being exposed last season. Green Bay was ranked second-worst in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating, as the season average was 102.0.

Not only that, the Packers also allowed opposing QBs to complete 67.8 percent of their passes. The Pack also allowed 30 touchdown passes and only had 11 picks. The defense also allowed 55 completions of 20 yards or better.

The secondary will be better with Alexander and Jackson, that is for sure. Burks should be a solid cover-LB. But where will the pass rush come from? Yes, the Packers still have Clay Matthews (7.5 sacks in 14 games) and Nick Perry (seven sacks in 12 games) at OLB. Plus, the team added DE Muhammad Wilkerson. And maybe players like Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel will become the pass rushers like they were in college at OLB. But all of those players, minus Wilkerson, did not exactly light the world on fire last year with pass pressure for the Packers.

I was also shocked that the Packers did not select one player from Wisconsin. They may have wanted to add a Badger or two, but were unable to due to another team selecting that player before the Packers had a chance to. I do know the Packers were very interested in tight end Troy Fumagalli, who was selected by the Denver Broncos in Round 5.

Finally, Gutekunst put the Packers in a great position in the 2019 NFL draft by acquiring a first round pick from the New Orleans Saints.

Below is Landry’s breakdown of all the selections that the Packers made in the 2018 NFL draft.

Round 1: Cornerback Jaire Alexander (Louisville)

Jaire Alexander II

Green Bay gave up the No. 27, No. 76 and No. 186 picks to move up nine spots. The Packers are also receiving a seventh-rounder (pick No. 248). Alexander (5’10/196) converted from wide receiver and broke out for five interceptions as a sophomore in 2016 before missing all but six games as a junior with a broken hand and recurring knee injuries. Alexander had a 28.6% completion rate and a 19.9 passer rating allowed in 2017, lowest among draft-eligible corners. A twitchy athlete with ballhawking flashes and sticky man-cover skills, Alexander blazed 4.38 in Indy and destroyed agility drills. His lone weakness on tape came in run support, where Alexander needs to improve as a tackler. Long term, Alexander offers high-end No. 2 or low-end No. 1 cornerback upside.

Round 2: Cornerback Josh Jackson (Iowa)

at Camp Randall Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jackson (6’0/196) dabbled at wideout his first two years as a Hawkeye before breaking out to lead the nation in interceptions (8) and pass breakups (26) as a 2017 redshirt junior cornerback, earning first-team All-American and Big Ten DB of the Year. Jackson had an anemic 32.2 passer rating allowed in 2017. Although Jackson lacks blazing straight-line speed (4.54), he tested as a top-five SPARQ athlete in this cornerback class and offers field-flipping ball skills. Most scouts thought Jackson would be better in zone than man coverage. The Packers just doubled up at the position after taking Jaire Alexander in round one.

Round 3: Linebacker Oren Burks (Vanderbilt)

Oren Burks

Burks (6’3/233) was a four-year starter in the Commodores’ back seven, initially manning safety, moving to “star” (linebacker/safety hybrid) as a junior, and settling in at inside linebacker as a senior, all told recording 15.5 career tackles for loss and five interceptions. Burks’ stock soared at the Combine, testing as a 95th -percentile athlete with 4.59 speed and a quick three-cone time (6.82). Burks once would have been labeled a “tweener,” but the value of his style of play and versatility has grown in a pass-heavier NFL. He’s a sleeper to become a Mark Barron-level defender.

Round 4: Wide Receiver J’Mon Moore Missouri

J'Mon Moore

Moore (6’3/207) was a three-year starter for the Tigers, graduating with a 158/2,477/21 career receiving line at 15.7 yards per catch. Moore had 391 of his 2017 receiving yards on 20-plus-yard catches, third most in the SEC. An 85th-percentile SPARQ athlete with 4.49 (Pro Day) speed and a 38-inch vertical, Moore’s pre-draft concerns were rawness and off-field concerns, but he is every bit an NFL-caliber wide receiver on game tape.

Round 5: Offensive Lineman Cole Madison (Washington State)

Cole Madison II

Madison (6’5/308) made 47 starts at right tackle on the Cougars’ offensive line, earning second-team All-Pac 12 as a senior and ranking fifth among Pac 12 offensive tackles in pass-blocking efficiency rating (97.7). Just a 14th-percentile SPARQ athlete, Madison was a quality college starter who will likely struggle in the pros. He would do well to carve out a Sam Young-like swing tackle career.

Round 5: Punter JK Scott (Alabama)

JK Scott

Scott (6’6/208) punted for the Crimson Tide all four years, graduating at the school’s all-time leader in gross average (45.6). Scott dropped 50% of his 2017 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and doubled as Alabama’s kickoff specialist. Scott showed enough versatility, leg strength, and accuracy in the SEC that he has a shot to become a long-term NFL solution at punter.

Round 6: Wide Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (USF)

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Valdes-Scantling (6’4/206) transferred from NC State to USF for his final two seasons, where he logged a 75/1,294/11 career receiving line and averaged 17.3 yards per reception. Valdes-Scantling padded his resume with a 4.37 forty and 10-foot-4 broad jump in Indy. Valdes-Scantling’s sheer size and speed give him Devery Henderson-like potential, but his ball skills and route running are both well below average on tape. Valdes-Scantling is a one-trick pony, and isn’t great at the one trick.

Round 6: Wide Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)

Equanimeous St. Brown II

Brown (6’5/214) turned pro after starting two years for the Irish, logging a 92/1,484/16.1/13 career receiving line, and regressing from 961 yards and nine TDs with DeShone Kizer as a sophomore to 515/4 as a junior in a much worse passing attack. St. Brown blazed 4.48 at the Combine and showed he’s been in the weight room with 20 bench-press reps. A height-weight-speed projection with Jekyll & Hyde game tape, St. Brown offers No. 1 wideout traits with some Dorial Green-Beckham-like moments mixed in. He’s a classic boom-bust pick.

Round 7: Defensive End James Looney (California)

James Looney

Looney was a Shrine game invite and is an upfield disruptor. At Cal he often created instant penetration after jumping the snap, creating plays for loss. Looney then went to the NFL Combine at produced an athletic profile in the 93rd percentile, which is outstanding. Looney finished his collegiate career with seven sacks.

Round 7: Long Snapper Hunter Bradley (Mississippi State)

Hunter Bradley

Bradley is the first snapper of longer than normal snaps to be selected this year. Being a seventh-round pick makes it likely Bradley snaps the snaps longer than other snaps for the Packers this season.

Round 7: Outside Linebacker Kendall Donnerson (Southeast Missouri State)

Kendall Donnerson

Donnerson (6’2/248) was a two-year starter at SEMO, earning first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference as a senior with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Donnerson put himself on the map with a monster Pro Day workout, running 4.44 with a 40-inch vertical and 7.03 three-cone time. Donnerson is a developmental project, but he offers pass-rush upside based on his H/W/S combo.

 

Final 2018 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst as GM

We are now just one night away from the 2018 NFL draft in Dallas. Every NFL team has it’s draft board set up now.

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.

Plus, each team has tried to utilize free agency to lessen the need at certain positions in the draft.

The Green Bay Packers under new general manager Brian Gutekunst certainly did, as he added players like tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and cornerback Tramon Williams to the team.

The Packers also re-signed cornerback Davon House.

But with the good, comes the bad. The Packers also had to release wide receiver Jordy Nelson, which opens up a need at that position in the draft.

In this, my final mock draft, I am once again using the expertise of NFL scout Chris Landry. As I work through my thought process in selecting players for the Packers, I will utilize Landry’s horizontal draft board (best players regardless of position) and also his various positional draft boards.

Since my association with Landry began several years ago, I have had a decent track record in correctly picking some of the players who the Packers have picked. Yes, getting guidance from a very good NFL scout helps, but sometimes it’s a case of a blind squirrel finding an acorn.

No matter, the Packers have 12 picks in this draft. That includes their own in each of the seven rounds of the draft, plus four compensatory picks (one in fourth round, two in the fifth round and one in the sixth round) and another pick in the seventh round due to a trade with Buffalo.

Plus, because of a trade with the Cleveland Browns to acquire quarterback DeShone Kizer (for cornerback Damarious Randall), the Packers also switched picks with the Browns in the fourth and fifth rounds, which means that the Packers pick first in each round.

On Friday night, the second round pick of the Packers will be announced by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer.

In my last mock draft, I surmised that another trade might be forthcoming between the Packers and the Browns on draft day. I sincerely believe that is a very good possibility. It may not occur in the manner in which I think it might, but I see John Dorsey having more than one conversation with Gutekunst in the draft to talk about some maneuvering.

And it might not be the Packers trading up in that scenario, but instead trading back.

We shall see.

One of the other things that I see happening is the possibility of adding some former Wisconsin Badgers to the Packers this year.

And I’m not saying that because I’m a homer for the Badgers. It’s because of the relationship between new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine of the Packers and the defensive coordinator of the Badgers, Jim Leonhard.

I wrote about this possibility back in February. I said this in the piece:

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

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

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

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

Leonhard was basically the coach on the field as Pettine put out his defense. Not only that, but Leonhard put out one of the very best defenses in the FBS last season with the Badgers and a number of his former defensive players will be available in this upcoming draft.

Leonhard basically runs the same type of defensive schemes at Wisconsin that Pettine has used with his various teams in the NFL. That is why I believe you will see a Badger or two on the Packers next season. Maybe even more than that, as you will see in the draft below.

Okay, enough of the hot air, it’s time for my final mock draft.

Round 1: Outside Linebacker Marcus Davenport (University of Texas-San Antonio)

Marcus Davenport IV

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 264 pounds

I have had the Packers picking Marcus Davenport of UTSA with pick No. 14 for three consecutive mock drafts now. In my first mock draft, I had the Packers selecting Harold Landry, who is similar to Davenport in a number of ways, but is smaller.

On his horizontal draft board (best overall players), Landry ranks Davenport at No. 7, so if Davenport is still available at No. 14, the Packers would have to feel fortunate.

Landry also has Davenport ranked No. 2 on his defensive end draft board, behind only Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State.

The only way I could see the Packers not taking Davenport if he still was on the board, is if someone like defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama or guard Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame fell to that point of the draft.

In Green Bay, Davenport would be a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, similar to the role Julius Peppers had when he was a Packer. The Packers desperately need to invigorate their pass rush, which will undoubtedly help the secondary have more success. Davenport would make a big impact in that regard.

In four years at UTSA, Davenport improved over each of those seasons and had 185 total tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 21.5 sacks, eight passes defended, two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and six forced fumbles.

At the Senior Bowl practices, Davenport struggled at times, but he played well in the game itself, with a sack and a scoop-and-score fumble recovery.

At the combine, Davenport put on quite a show, when he ran a 4.58 40, which is remarkable for a man his size.

This is the scouting report Landry put out on Davenport:

Very raw but an explosive and long pass rusher who can play in a two or three point stance. Love his first step quickness and shows an ability to transfer speed to power. At this point is a first move pass rusher only but will technique development should be a force as a pass rusher in the league. I like his effort and play strength against the run but will need to improve his upper body strength for that to translate as well to the NFL level. He will also have to transition to playing more effectively from a 3-point stance as he loses leverage getting too high. I love his length and body frame. Built like a player I drafted years back in Jevon Kearse but long levered like Jadeveon Clowney. Has the quickness to drop but lacks coverage understanding and instincts. Love his edge and closing speed along with his motor. Best edge speed rusher in this draft with lots of upside.

Round 2: Cornerback Anthony Averett (Alabama)

Anthony Averett

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 183 pounds

Landry has Anthony Averett of Alabama listed eighth on his cornerback draft board, but gives him the same grade as Isaiah Oliver of Colorado (fifth), Donte’ Jackson of LSU (sixth) and Carlton Davis of Auburn (seventh).

Averett of started 27 games in his junior and senior seasons with the Crimson Tide. In those two seasons, he had 96 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception, 16 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

In his junior year, Averett was named the team’s defensive MVP in their national semifinal win over Washington (eight tackles, one sack and one forced fumble).

Averett has been part of a very talented and deep Alabama defensive backfield in his years in Tuscaloosa.

One of the things that stands out among a number of the defensive backs at Alabama is the great speed that some of them have. Averett is no different, as he ran a 4.36 in the 40 at the combine.

In high school in New Jersey, Averett won state titles in the 55-meter dash and the high jump.

The Packers need to get faster at cornerback. Not only that, but they need to be more physical when they take on opposing wide receivers and running backs. Averett can help out in both cases.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Averett:

Excellent coverage technique with speed and agility. He does a nice job in press and nice job in “off”. I like his skill set once he improves his strength. Quick burst out of his pedal combined with good long speed. Effective re-routing receivers off the line of scrimmage and plays the ball well in the air. He is quick to fill vs the run and is an outstanding special teams player.

Round 3: Wide Receiver Dante Pettis (Washington)

Dante Pettis II

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 192 pounds

The Packers would love to see a talent like Dante Pettis of Washington available in the third round when it is their time to pick. Landry has Pettis rated No. 46 on his horizontal draft board and No. 4 on his wide receiver draft boards. Other scouts do not have Pettis rated this high.

Pettis is a multi-talented player, who is not only an excellent receiver, but also a very good punt returner.

In four years as a Husky, Pettis had 163 receptions for 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns. In addition to that, Pettis returned 90 punts for 1,274 yards and had a whopping nine touchdowns.

During a pro day-style workout, Pettis ran a 4.45 in the 40, had a 36-inch vertical jump, had a 127-inch broad jump and did a 6.72-second run through the three-cone drill.

Pettis comes from a very athletic family, as his father is Gary Pettis, a five-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder, when he played major league baseball.

The Packers need to add another threat at wide receiver after losing Nelson, plus they would be able to add a very dangerous put returner as well.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Pettis:

Shows explosive acceleration to separate from zone or man. Smooth releasing off line of scrimmage and possesses outstanding run after catch skills. Has elite return skills that will get him on the field early while he learns the nuances of route tree. His hands and catching radius are good, quickness exceptional and plays with good instincts. Lean frame that needs to add bulk and will need to improve his fight for ball in traffic.

Round 4: Cornerback Tony Brown (Alabama)

Tony Brown II

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

Landry has Tony Brown rated at No. 9 on his cornerback draft board and No. 94 on his horizontal draft board, which is essentially a late third-round grade. Other scouts have Brown rated in the same approximate area, while others have Brown rated lower.

When you look at the statistics, Brown of doesn’t stick out to you, sort of like his teammate Averett. One reason was because he was part of a very talented defensive backfield. Plus, he was a part-time starter and who also filled the role of the nickelback.

In his career with the Crimson Tide, Brown had 86 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, three interceptions (including one in the 2018 CFP National Championship Game), five passes defended and one forced fumble.

But there is a lot more to like about Brown. For one, he is very fast, again just like Averett. Brown ran a 4.35 at the combine, plus he earned first team All-America honors in track and field in the spring of 2015 in the 4×400 meter relay .

Brown is also a stalwart on special teams and is a very good tackler in run support.

Bad tackling and a lack of speed have become issues in the Green Bay secondary, plus it’s always a plus to improve special teams, which is why Brown would be a great value here.

This is what Landry said about Brown in his scouting report:

A one-year starter at Alabama, Brown was featured at the “Star” position on the Alabama depth chart as a nickel defender and the first defensive back off the bench. He lined up primarily inside when the Tide had three cornerbacks on the field, occasionally moving outside, playing both press and zone coverages. Brown has blur speed and adequate size/length to match up with any type of receiver and make plays on special teams coverages. While he has the wheels for a starting cornerback, he often plays out of control and his inefficient lower body mechanics are an issue mid-transition. His poor ball production (eight passes defended, three interceptions) shows on tape, lacking the instincts to turn, locate and make plays on the football downfield. Overall, Brown has the body type and raw speed that belong in the NFL, but he has relied on his natural gifts to get the job done much of his life and needs to buy into honing his technique (and adapting a professional approach) if he has any chance in the NFL.

Round 4 (compensatory): Offensive Tackle Jamarco Jones (Ohio State)

Jamarco Jones

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 299 pounds

Landry has offensive tackle Jamarco Jones of Ohio State ranked No. 125 on his horizontal draft board and No. 12 on his offensive tackle board.

Jones learned behind Taylor Decker his first two years as a Buckeye. Jones still played in 23 games though and was used quite a bit as the sixth offensive lineman for the team.

But once he became a starter, Jones earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as the starting left tackle for the Bucks in 2016.

Then in 2017, Jones was named first-team all-conference honors as a senior, starting all 14 games at left tackle for the Big Ten Champion Buckeyes.

The Packers need to add solid depth at offensive tackle, mostly due to all the injuries the team has had at that position. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has certainly had his share of injuries (hip, knee and ankle) over the years. When healthy, No. 75 is one of the best right tackles in the NFL, but once again in 2017, the injury curse struck, as Bulaga tore his ACL in Week 5, which cost him the rest of the season.

Bulaga has missed 43 games due to injury in his eight years with the Packers.

The backups to Bulaga and left tackle David Bahktiaria (one of the best in the NFL) didn’t fare much better. Jason Spriggs (knee) and Kyle Murphy (left foot) only played in 10 games combined in 2017 due to injuries.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Jones:

Athletic feet in pass pro to reset and react to movement…wide base with efficient pace to his slide…rarely beaten by edge speed alone…quick to answer counter moves…looks comfortable at the second level and sustains in space…drops his hips and runs his feet to create movement in the run game…
Ties up defenders, but doesn’t overwhelm anyone…core strength issues at the point of attack…doesn’t have pop in his punch to shock or redirect rushers…long legs, high cut and locked hips…rushers take advantage of his leaning and overeager pass-sets…hard outside shuffle and late to protect vs. inside moves…struggles to retrace his steps…late cutting off the linebacker at the second level…inconsistent angles on reach blocks…hand placement is improved, but he is more novice than expert in this area…defaults to grabbing once rushers gain an inch. Jones isn’t a dominating blocker, but he gets in the way and finds ways to keep his man occupied, projecting as a down-the-road starter once his technique and functional strength improve.

Round 5: Center/Guard Will Clapp (LSU)

Will Clapp II

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 314 pounds

Landry gave Will Clapp of LSU a late fourth-round grade, which mean the Packers would have a nice opportunity to grab him with the first pick of the fifth round.

Clapp is also ranked No. 5 on Landry’s center draft board. The former Tiger can also play guard, which is a big plus. That means he can be the backup center to Corey Linsley in Green Bay, plus can possibly start right away at right guard.

In three years at LSU, Clapp shined at both center and guard. He started all 13 games at center in 2017, which got him first-team All-SEC notice. In 2016, Clapp was named first-team all-conference at left guard in 11 games.  As a redshirt freshman, Clapp started all 12 games (11 at right guard, one at left guard) for the Tigers. The New Orleans native received multiple freshman All-American accolades honors from various outlets.

At the combine, Clapp had 25 reps in the bench press drill.

Living in the Baton Rouge area, Landry knows all about the LSU players. Here is his scouting report on the former Tiger, in which he pulls no punches about Clapp:

Tough, smart kid who’s limited skill set shows up on tape repeatedly. He is a below average athlete lacking upper body strength, limiting his ability at the point of attack. He doesn’t see or feel defensive pressure often losing leverage. He has some versatility but does nothing consistently well. His overall lack of balance and body control limits him.

Even with that somewhat scathing report by Landry, Clapp has earned first-team All-SEC honors for two years in a row at both center and guard. The kid must be doing something right.

Round 5 (compensatory): Tight End Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)

Troy Fumagalli II

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 248 pounds

Landry has Troy Fumagalli of Wisconsin rated at No. 154 on his horizontal draft board (late fourth round) and No. 6 on his tight end draft board.

In four years as a Badger, Fumagalli had 135 receptions for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns. After the 2017 season, in which he had 38 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns, No. 81 was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. In addition to that, Fumagalli won the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in the Big Ten.

In 2016, Fumagalli was named second-team All-Big Ten, plus was named Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP, as he caught six throws for 83 yards and a touchdown in the 24-16 victory over Western Michigan.

It’s important to note that Fumagalli has only nine fingers, as he lost the index finger on his left hand at birth. Still, Fumagalli estimated that he dropped only one pass per season as a Badger.

Right now, the Packers only have two tight ends on their roster with NFL experience. Graham and Lance Kendricks (another former Badger).

This is Landry’s scouting report on Fumagalli:

Productive player. Like his release and route running skills. Good hands. Adjusts well to ball and will compete in crowd. Works to block and decent RAC skills. Frame needs development. Narrow based as blocker. One speed runner lacking burst and vertical speed. Nifty H back type who needs to develop strength to play effectively as Y. Like his ability in short passing game and as receiver but not an explosive flex player.

Round 5 (compensatory): Wide Receiver Daurice Fountain (Iowa)

Daurice Fountain II

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 210 pounds

Daurice Fountain’s hometown is Madison, Wisconsin, where he went to James Madison Memorial High School, where he was named first-team All-State at wide receiver.

In four seasons at Northern Iowa, Fountain caught 150 passes for 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Landry said this about Fountain after he was named Offensive MVP in the East-West Shrine Game, as he had three receptions for 61 yards (20.3 average).

Speed was not an issue for Fountain, and neither was catching the ball. Fountain caught the ball very well, except he was doing it at full speed, down the field and running past defenders. I was also impressed by his feistiness and willingness to compete. He leaves Shrine week with a draft grade a full round higher than the one he arrived with in St. Petersburg.

Landry also said this about Fountain in his scouting report:

Good length and leaping skills who can adjust to ball with good ball tracking skills. strong acceleration out of his plant. gains proper route depth. lacks strength–struggles vs jam. Doesn’t know how to properly stem his routes. Although he is far from a finished product, Fountain has an intriguing blend of play speed, body control and quick hands to pluck the ball away from his body. To survive in the NFL, he needs to be more physical to the football and improve his play strength.

Round 6: Linebacker Jack Cichy (Wisconsin)

Jack Cichy II

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 234 pounds

Landry has Jack Cichy of Wisconsin ranked No. 32 on his linebacker draft board and has given him a seventh-round to priority free agent grade.

This grade has everything to do with Cichy’s injury history and not his playing ability.

In 2016, Cichy was playing at a very high level when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle which ended his season. Up until that point, Landry called Cichy the best player on the Badgers that season, even though the Badgers also had a player by the name of T.J. Watt on their defense.

Cichy couldn’t play in 2017 because of a torn ACL.

In 19 games as a sophomore and junior, Cichy had 120 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, six passes defended and two forced fumbles.

“Three-Sack Jack” made a name for himself in the 2015 Holiday Bowl, when he had consecutive sacks on three straight plays, as Wisconsin beat USC 23-21.

Cichy can play inside or outside in the 3-4 scheme, but has been more effective inside.

If healthy, Cichy would be an outstanding partner at inside linebacker with Blake Martinez, who had an outstanding 2017 season for the Packers.

Cichy only did the bench press drill (18 reps) at the combine, but looked very good at the Wisconsin pro day, as he ran a 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle, which would have placed him fourth among linebackers at the combine. Plus, Cichy ran 6.88-second three-cone drill, which would have placed him fifth among linebackers.

Although Landry graded Cichy low because of his medical issues, you can see in his scouting report that he feels “Three-Sack Jack” can be special when healthy:

A two-year starter at Wisconsin, Cichy moved from outside to inside linebacker as a sophomore and was a budding star in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme before two devastating injuries. Over the last two seasons (28 games), Cichy has appeared in only seven games and hasn’t played a snap since October 2016. When healthy, Cichy competes with a quick trigger and shows off his impressive blend of athleticism and smarts. He fits all the stereotypes of a former walk-on with his non-stop hustle and enormous chip on his shoulder and his football character will instantly endear him to NFL teams. Overall, Cichy is a loose athlete with outstanding instincts, toughness and finishing skills to be a starting NFL linebacker, but his draft projection will be reliant on the medical examinations.

Round 6 (compensatory): Running Back Justin Jackson (Northwestern)

Justin Jackson II

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 193 pounds

In four seasons at Northwestern, Jackson rushed for 5,440 yards and 41 touchdowns, plus caught 122 passes for 858 yards and another score.

Jackson was named honorable mention All-Big Ten his freshman year as a Wildcat, plus was named second-team All-Big Ten in his three remaining years at Northwestern.

Jackson also played in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game, where he rushed for 39 yards in just seven carries. Jackson also caught five passes for 17 yards.

Jackson ran a 4.52 in the 40 at the combine, plus did 13 reps on the bench press, jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 122 inches in the broad jump, ran 6.81 seconds in the 3 cone drill, ran 4.07 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and ran 11.06 in the 60-yard shuttle.

The Packers invigorated their running attack last season, as two rookies (Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones) stood out. The other rookie who was drafted last season, Devante Mays, did not fare well when given limited opportunities (two fumbles).

Ty Montgomery has been too injury prone, both at running back and wide receiver. I see Montgomery being used primarily as a receiver in 2018.

Adding a back like Jackson make sense, because he not only adds to the depth at RB, but also because he is made for the type of offense that the Packers run.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Jackson:

Lacks the size for a power back and the speed of a smaller back. I do like his run skills—vision, patience, anticipation and short area quickness. He is a very durable player but needs to improve his skills in the passing game. Back end roster guys who can stick due to toughness and run skills but limited athletically to be anything more.

Round 7: Safety Natrell Jamerson (Wisconsin)

Natrell Jamerson III

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

I know what some of you are thinking. Another Badger? But what is there not to like about a player like Natrell Jamerson late in the draft?

Jamerson really helped himself with a solid senior season at Wisconsin, as the safety had 51 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 10 passes defended.

Jamerson also has experience at cornerback as well, as he played there as a sophomore and as a junior.

The secondary of the Packers was a mess in 2017. The safeties did not exactly stand out either. Morgan Burnett left via free agency. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took a definite step back with his play last season and rookie Josh Jones missed way too many assignments. Kentrell Brice has not exactly shined when given the opportunity to play either.

Landry said this about Jamerson after the opening day of practice at the East-West Shrine Game:

Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson had an impressive opening day. In the team scrimmage, he flew across the field to track down an interception in front of a receiver and cornerback. It was a very nice play as Jamerson showed speed and an ability to track the ball. Jamerson (6-0, 198) is a versatile athlete who could end up really helping himself this week.

Jamerson was named Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, as he scooped up a fumble and ran it back 68 yards for a touchdown.

At the combine, Jamerson ran a 4.40 in the 40 and had 25 reps in the bench press.

Here is Landry’s scouting report on Jamerson:

A one-year starter at Wisconsin, Jamerson moved from wideout to cornerback early in 2015 and made a seamless transition to free safety in 2017, handling centerfield duties as the last line of defense. He wasn’t a playmaker who leaped off the film, but he wasn’t out of position either with the speed and want-to for the safety position. Jamerson is comfortable covering slot receivers with the coordinated lower body to stay on top of routes. There are no questions about his weight room strength, but his lack of size shows up on tape vs. both the run and pass. Overall, Jamerson has the secondary versatility to earn a spot at the back-end of a NFL roster, especially with his presence as a gunner on special teams.

Round 7 (compensatory): Outside Linebacker Darius Jackson (Jacksonville State)

Darius Jackson II

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 242 pounds

Landry ranked Darius Jackson of Jacksonville State 35th on his linebacker draft board and like Cichy, gave him a seventh-round to priority free agent value.

No matter the grade, the talent is definitely there. Jackson won the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.

In those two seasons combined, Jackson had 103 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks.

Jackson only ran a 4.87 40 at the combine. But at his pro day, Jackson was better in almost all of the drills he did at the combine, including the 40, as he ran a 4.76.

Still, Jackson is another player who can certainly rush the passer and if nothing else would be a dynamic addition to special teams.

Here is the scouting report on Jackson by Landry:

A three-year starter at Jacksonville State, Jackson was an ideal fit as the hybrid “Bandit” pass rusher in the Gamecocks versatile front, rushing standing up and with his hand on the ground. He (and his classic neckroll) lived in the opponent’s backfield and is the school’s all-time leader in sacks, tackles for loss and negative yardage, earning OVC Defensive Player of the Year honors his junior and senior seasons. He is a quick player in everything he does, but is more of a face-up rusher than natural bender, which will limit the ways he can attack the pocket in the NFL. Overall, Jackson is a fierce competitor and relies on his relentless energy, but his hand placement and timing are the keys to unlocking his pass rush skills in the NFL – late-round developmental prospect.