Well, Christmas day in the NFL is almost here. Yes, the 2017 NFL draft is just a couple of days away.
In terms of the pre-draft evaluation of prospects, we have now seen the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl).
Plus the NFL Scouting Combine has taken place and so have the individual pro days. And now the midnight hour approaches for all 32 NFL teams, which includes the Green Bay Packers.
A lot has changed regarding the Green Bay roster since this draft evaluation process started. While all that was going on, I did three 7-round mock drafts for the Packers.
In terms of how the roster of the Packers has changed over the past several weeks, a number of players have left via free agency. This includes center/guard JC Tretter, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, defensive back Micah Hyde, who signed with the Buffalo Bills, outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who signed with the Carolina Panthers, right guard T.J. Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions, running back Eddie Lacy, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks, outside linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones who signed with the Minnesota Vikings and tight end Jared Cook, who signed with the Oakland Raiders.
In addition to those players, the Packers also released cornerback Sam Shields (failed physical-concussion) and running back James Starks.
The Packers have however, re-signed a number of their own players as either unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents. This list includes outside linebacker Nick Perry, offensive lineman Don Barclay, running back Christine Michael, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, outside linebacker Jordan Tripp, linebacker Joe Thomas, punter Jacob Schum, running back Don Jackson, wide receiver Geronimo Allison and fullback Joe Kerridge.
And believe it or not, general manager Ted Thompson has actually utilized free agency to bolster his roster. In fact, Thompson has signed four free agents, which is the most he has signed since 2006.
That list includes tight end Martellus Bennett (formerly of the New England Patriots), tight end Lance Kendricks (formerly of the Los Angeles Rams), cornerback Davon House (formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois (formerly of the Washington Redskins).
House was originally drafted by the Packers in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft and stayed with Green Bay through the 2014 season, before signing with the Jags in free agency.
The Packers signed Kendricks, House and Francois after each of them were released by their previous teams. That was the same manner in which the Packers had signed players like Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers in the past.
Thompson prefers to sign unrestricted free agents who were previously released by the former teams. Why? Because that way the signing won’t have any bearing on the compensatory draft formula for the following draft.
But when you sign an unrestricted free agent who is still with his current team (like with Bennett), that does factor into the compensatory formula.
Still, the Packers look to get a number of compensatory picks in the 2018 NFL draft, based on the seven free agents that they have lost this offseason, even with the signing of Bennett.
In this final mock draft, just like with the three previous ones, I am utilizing the expertise and insight from NFL scout Chris Landry from both our conversations and also information from his fine website.
I’ve had a pretty decent track record predicting some of the players that Thompson has actually selected in the draft over the past few years.
In my final 2013 NFL mock draft, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select defensive lineman Datone Jones in the first round. In my final 2014 NFL mock draft, I was also correct that the Packers would select wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. I also had the Packers taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round in an earlier mock that year, which is exactly what ended up happening.
In my final 2015 NFL mock draft, like a blind squirrel that finds an acorn, I was right about the Packers selecting both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan.
And finally last year in my final 2016 NFL mock draft, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select offensive lineman Kyle Murphy of Stanford in the draft.
The great information that I get from Landry certainly has helped me put together these mock drafts. Landry is definitely one of the best in the business in his field, plus he and Thompson go back over 30 years, when Landry was a scout for the Houston Oilers and Thompson was a linebacker on that team.
In this final mock draft, Landry will add a scouting summary about each player I select.
Okay, without any further adieu, here is my final 2017 NFL mock draft for the Packers.
Round 1: Linebacker T.J. Watt (Wisconsin)
Weight: 243 pounds
One big reason why the secondary of the Wisconsin Badgers had such an outstanding year in 2016 (except for the second half vs. Penn State in the B1G title game), was the play of the Front 7 of the Badgers.
Nobody was more prevalent in that regard than T.J. Watt. No. 42 had 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks in 2016, which garnered him second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Watt also had a great workout at the combine. He finished 12th among linebackers in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.69, plus the former Badger also had 21 reps on the bench press which placed him tied for eighth.
But in the other five workout categories, Watt was at or near the top in every one of those drills.
Watt finished second in the vertical jump with a leap of 37 inches. The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native was also tied for first in the broad jump with Jabrill Peppers of Michigan with a jump of 10’8″.
Watt finished second in the 3 cone drill with a time of 6.79. The former Badger also tied for first with Ben Gideon of Michigan in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.13. Finally, Watt finished first in the 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.20.
In addition to that performance at the combine, Watt also met with the Packers.
Like his brother J.J., who turned 28-years-old on March 22, T.J. first started out as a tight end in college and then became a talented late-bloomer on defense with the Badgers. The comparisons are striking.
Bottom line, if the Packers do select Watt and if he comes anywhere close to the production of his brother J.J. in the NFL, the team would have to be ecstatic.
With the losses of both Peppers and Jones in free agency, plus with the injury issues with Clay Matthews the past couple of years, the Packers need to add some talent at outside linebacker/edge rusher. The Packers like the upside of Kyler Fackrell, who the Packers drafted last year, but you can never have enough pass rushers in today’s pass-happy NFL.
I know that the Watt to Green Bay bandwagon has been growing for weeks now, but I had the Packers taking Watt in the first round in my first mock draft way back on February 10.
Here is a summary scouting report on Watt by Landry:
“A one-year starter at Wisconsin, Watt made the switch to defense in 2015 and became a starter in 2016, standing up as an outside linebacker in the Badgers’ 3-4 base scheme – his 11.5 sacks as a junior ranks fifth-best in a single season in school history. Although he doesn’t play with elite twitch in his hips, Watt’s initial quickness and play speed pop off the screen, using his violent hands and long arms to work off contact. His aggressiveness is a double-edged sword, leading to both positive and negative plays, but his determination, work habits and competitive drive mirror his older brother and will win over a NFL coaching staff. As long as the medicals check out, Watt projects as a starting rush end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.”
Round 2: Cornerback Fabian Moreau (UCLA)
Weight: 194 pounds
In terms of the draft, the Packers are catching a break in 2017, as the cornerback position is one of the deeper ones in this draft. That’s why they can select the best player on their board in the first round and still get a talented cornerback later on.
Case in point is Fabian Moreau of UCLA. Just prior to the 2015 season, head coach Jim Mora, Jr. said that Moraeu was a first-round talent. Unfortunately for Moreau, he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot early in the season which ended his year.
But in 2016, Moreau bounced back, as he had 10 pass breakups and two interceptions, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Before his foot injury, Moreau flashed his talent as a Bruin, as he was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2014, with 53 tackles, three for loss, one interception and eight passes defensed.
In 2013, Moraeu was also named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Similar to Sam Shields, he started out on offense in college, as Moreau was a running back initially, but switched to defense.
Moreau looked fantastic at the East-West Shrine Game and also met with the Packers there.
At the combine, Moreau ran a blistering 4.35 in the 40, plus did well in the vertical jump (38 inches), the broad jump (136 inches) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.45 seconds).
Moreau did suffer a torn pectoral at UCLA’s pro day, but is expected to be ready to go by training camp.
The Packers need some more talent and speed at the cornerback position. Moreau provides both.
Here is a summary scouting report on Moreau by Landry:
“A three-year starter at UCLA, Moreau played mostly left cornerback in press-man and off coverage for the Bruins with some experience inside vs. the slot. Transitioning from offense, he didn’t see meaningful snaps at the cornerback position until the 2013 season and his inexperience shows at times with spotty ball awareness and anticipation. But he is patient and coordinated in press with the balanced movements to attach himself to receivers, making it tough for them to create much separation. Although he might never be a playmaker at the position, Moreau has the athleticism and football character to develop into a reliable NFL press-man starter – possible first rounder prior to his pec injury, now likely a second round projection.”
Round 3: Running Back Marlon Mack (South Florida)
Weight: 213 pounds
Marlon Mack was a three-year starter at South Florida, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of those years. In his career as a Bull, Mack rushed for 3,609 yards (6.2 average) and 32 touchdowns.
Mack was also a threat in the passing game as well, as he hauled in 65 passes for 498 yards and another score during his time at USF.
Mack led the All-American Athletic Conference in rushing as a freshman and a sophomore and was named first-team All-AAC in each of his three seasons at USF.
Mack has an explosive burst when running the ball and is very shifty. Has the ability to run away from tacklers, as six of his 15 touchdowns in 2016 went for 43-plus yards.
At the combine, Mack ran a 4.50 40 and excelled in the broad jump with a mark of 125 inches.
Right now, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery as a sure thing at running back. And that is just a year after taking on that position full-time after being a wide receiver his first year with the Packers.
Although the Packers did re-sign Christine Michael as a free agent, he is not certain to make the final roster due to his mental mistakes.
That’s why one or maybe even two rookie running backs could make the Green Bay roster in 2017.
Mack would be a great one-two combination with Montgomery at running back.
Here is a summary scouting report on Mack by Landry:
“A three-year starter at South Florida, Mack was consistently productive for the Bulls with three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, averaging 6.2 yards per rush over his career – leaves USF with 14 program records. He is at his best on stretch and outsize zone designed runs, using his sudden acceleration and controlled feet to bounce between open spaces and race downfield. Mack doesn’t have ideal build, power or patience as an inside runner and is quick to freelance and break runs outside. But that is where he is best on tape, using his instant speed to get east-west and burst outside the hashes. Mack isn’t built to take steady punishment as a feature NFL runner, but he projects as a dynamic scatback – his NFL playing time trajectory will depend on his development as a blocker, receiver and fumbler.”
Round 4: Center/Guard Ethan Pocic (LSU)
Weight: 310 pounds
Ethan Pocic started 37 games on the offensive line at LSU, 27 at center, nine at right guard and one at left tackle. That bodes well for Pocic about possibly playing for the Packers, as versatility is one of the attributes that Green Bay looks for with offensive linemen.
Pocic was second-team All-SEC in 2015 and first-team All-SEC in 2016, when he also received multiple second and third-team All-American honors.
Pocic knows how to keep his hands inside while pass-blocking and also has nice lateral movement to pick up blitzers or stunts. Even with his size, Pocic has the ability to get to the second-level with ease.
The former Tiger is also athletic enough to be very effective on sweeps and screens.
With the Packers losing both JC Tretter and T.J. Lang in free agency, selecting a player like Pocic who can help out at both center and guard makes a lot of sense.
Here is a summary scouting report on Pocic by Landry:
“Three-year starter who earned Third Team All-American honors in 2016, making 11 starts at center and one at right tackle. Named Second Team All-SEC in 2015 after starting all 12 games at center. Started nine games at right guard in 2014, making three appearances at center when starter Elliott Porter was injured. Started once at center as a true freshman in place of Porter. Stays square, keeps his head on a swivel and effectively seals defenders from the action. Works to bend his knees, has enough strength to turn defenders from the action and is quick out to the second level. Effective with the shotgun snap. Terrific leader on the offensive line. There are a variety of opinions on Pocic as to his next-level potential and the position he’ll play. I see his best spot as OG where he can thrive in a running game that operates in space, but his lack of power will produce some extremely challenging matchups for him at times.”
Round 5: Cornerback Brendan Langley (Lamar)
Weight: 201 pounds
Brendan Langley was originally recruited by Georgia as top 25 cornerback nationally. Played both cornerback and wide receiver for the Bulldogs before transferring to Lamar (FCS) his junior year.
In 2015, Langley had 21 tackles, one interception (for an 86-yard touchdown) and had 11 pass breakups. Langley also played some receiver that year as well, as he had four receptions for 51 yards and a score.
Langley broke out in 2016, as Southland Conference coaches voted him first-team all-conference as a cornerback and punt returner as a senior.
Langley intercepted six passes (tied for third nationally) last season, broke up seven passes and scored twice on punt returns.
Langley also played in the 2017 Senior Bowl.
At the combine, Langley ran a 4.43 in the 40, plus led all cornerbacks with 22 reps in the bench press and was second in the 60-yard shuttle (11.19 seconds).
Like Moreau, Langley adds speed to the cornerback position, plus will also add some much needed help on special teams, both on the return units and the coverage units.
Here is a summary scouting report on Langley by Landry:
“A one-year starter at Lamar, Langley was more of an athlete than football player most of his career, but showed promising development as a senior boundary corner, lining up primarily in press-man and zone coverages. After he was bounced between offense and defense at Georgia and struggled to see the field, he moved on to the FCS-level and often looked like the fastest player on the field – finished his two-year career at Lamar with four touchdowns (two punt returns, one receiving and one interception return). Langley is raw as blue steak with undeveloped cover technique and route recognition, but his size, athleticism and receiver-like skills are foundation traits for a patient team who can cultivate his talent – mid-round developmental target who can eventually earn a roster spot.”
Round 5 (compensatory): Defensive Lineman DeAngelo Brown (Louisville)
Weight: 312 pounds
In four years at Louisville, DeAngelo Brown had 107 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Brown was third-team All-ACC in 2016, plus earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine game.
The former Cardinal is an immovable object and eats up multiple blockers, which would be his job in Green Bay on early downs and in short yardage situations. Letroy Guion is running out of chances to stay in the NFL, and Brown would be a solid replacement in terms of stopping the run.
Brown showed his strength at Louisville’s pro day, as he had 36 reps on the bench press. That performance would have topped anyone at the combine.
Here is a summary scouting report on Brown by Landry:
“A two-year starter at Louisville, Brown started every game at right defensive end in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 base scheme, making his living on the interior. He is a double-team magnet and unselfishly takes on multiple blockers to help keep his teammates clean. Brown has the brute strength to reset the line of scrimmage and squeeze through openings to make stops in the backfield, leading the Cardinals with 13.0 tackles for loss as a senior. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and needs to improve his technical skill to be more efficient with his hands. Overall, Brown is a power-packed gap plugger and has NFL starting potential as a nose tackle in both even and odd fronts.”
Round 6: Running Back Joe Williams (Utah)
Weight: 210 pounds
There were a lot of solid performances by prospects during the East-West Shrine Game week, one of which came from running back Joe Williams of Utah. Williams is part of a running back class that is also exceptionally deep in 2017.
That’s why you could still get a quality back like Williams in the sixth round or later of the upcoming draft. Williams had a phenomenal back half of the 2016 season for the Utes in 2016. This was after a slow start to the season and the thought of retiring from football.
But starting in the seventh game of the season for Utah, when the Utes played Oregon State, Williams went on a run that would have put him in the Heisman discussion had this performance been year round.
In six games to end the season, with opponents like Washington and Colorado on the Pac-12 schedule, Williams rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns. Then in the the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana, Williams rushed for 222 yards and another score, plus caught a pass for 56 more yards.
Williams also met with the Packers at the East-West Shrine Game.
At the combine, Williams ran a 4.41 in the 40 and finished second among running backs in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.19 seconds.
Williams has had some definite off the field issues, but nothing like the incident which involved Joe Mixon. Based on the way he finished the 2016 season and also with his performance in the bowl game for Utah, not to mention how he looked in St. Petersburg for the East-West Shrine Game, NFL teams are hoping that he has finally seen the light.
In training camp with the Packers, it would probably come down to Williams competing with Michael for the third running back position behind Montgomery and Mack. I also see the Packers signing a couple undrafted rookie free agents at running back to add to the competition.
This is where being above average on special teams can earn you a roster spot.
Here is a summary scouting report on Williams from Landry:
“A one-year starter at Utah, Williams played football at four different programs since high school and didn’t truly show his potential until the final seven games of the 2016 season, rushing for 1,332 yards over that stretch. He has home run speed and explosive gears to gash defenses once he spurts through holes, running with better toughness than expected. Williams doesn’t have a pro body and his lack of play strength is evident, also creating doubt due to ball security and durability issues. His considerable baggage is the main issue after his abrupt retirement as a senior, abandoning his teammates and creating concerns about his commitment to the game. Williams has the pure speed and athleticism that is NFL worthy, but a leopard doesn’t change his spots and his questionable character will push him down draft boards or off them altogether.”
Round 7: Linebacker Eric Wilson (Cincinnati)
Weight: 230 pounds
Eric Wilson first played at Northwestern, before transferring to Cincinnati. In three years with the Bearcats, Wilson had 261 tackles, 14. 5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, four passes defended, seven fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and six forced fumbles.
Wilson was named All-AAC in both 2015 and 2016.
At his pro day, Wilson had an outstanding performance, as he ran a 4.53 in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.
The Packers had Wilson in for a private workout.
I see Wilson playing primarily on special teams, where the 29th-ranked Packers need plenty of help. In addition, because of his tackling prowess and speed, he will also push for playing time at inside linebacker, competing with Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas.
Here is a summary scouting report on Wilson by Landry:
“A former three-star recruit, Wilson started his career at Northwestern before deciding to transfer to Cincinnati in search of more playing time. After sitting out the 2013 season and spending 2014 as a reserve, he became the starting WILL linebacker in 2015 and led the Bearcats in tackles his junior and senior seasons, posting 100+ tackles and earning All-AAC honors both years. Wilson is a magnet to the football with efficient lateral quicks to mirror the run at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t hesitate downhill, but is hyper-focused on the ball and late to locate blockers through his peripherals, getting popped backwards. Wilson displays lower body explosion in his tackles attempts, but his stiff hips encumber his ability to redirect, break down and finish tackles in the open field.”