Green Bay Packers: Don Barclay Has Yet Another Role on the Offensive Line

at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Yes, Packer Nation. He’s back. I’m talking about offensive lineman Don Barclay. Some fans couldn’t believe that the Green Bay Packers re-signed Barclay in 2016 and many had the same opinion three months ago when the Packers re-signed No. 67 yet again this year.

Why? Mostly because Barclay has been inconsistent with his play over the past few years. Which also includes giving up sacks at untimely moments.

On March 10, the Packers brought back Barclay and gave him a very modest contract. According to Over The Cap, Barclay will make just $775,000 in base salary and $250,000 in a prorated/workout bonuses, which makes his total cap number for 2017 just $1,025,000.

That’s not exactly a big investment for a guy who has been in the NFL and with the Packers since his rookie year in 2012.

Speaking of Barclay’s rookie year, I was at training camp that summer on a number of occasions and I wrote an article for Bleacher Report that said Barclay had a good chance to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

That is indeed what happened.

Barclay did not get off to a great start that training camp, but he settled in, as the Packers were using him primarily on the inside of the offensive line, after being a three-year starter at left tackle for West Virginia.

The Packers saw that Barclay’s lack of foot speed would be a detriment on playing tackle in the NFL, so that is why they moved him inside. It was there where Barclay displayed a tenacious style of play which impressed me and more importantly the coaching staff.

But because of injuries, Barclay also got reps at right tackle and that is the position he ended up playing as a rookie. In fact, Barclay played in all 16 games as a rookie, and started the last four games of the regular season at right tackle and two postseason games there as well.

Barclay showed a better than average ability as a run-blocker, but also struggled pass blocking versus edge rushers as a rookie.

In 2013, the plan was for Barclay to get more work inside at guard, plus get some reps at center as well. But when starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL on Family Night, Barclay was pressed to play right tackle again for the entire season.

Once again, Barclay struggled with edge rushers in 14 starts. But all in all, he did a somewhat decent job protecting the quarterback for the most part. The run blocking of Barclay was his again his biggest attribute.

In 2014, the plan was for Barclay to be sort of the Swiss Army Knife for the offensive line and play both inside and outside in reserve. But then he tore his ACL and missed the entire year.

The ACL injury definitely slowed Barclay down in 2015, as he really struggled at each of the offensive tackle positions, as the Packers were hit hard with injuries at that position that year.

No. 67 started five games for the Packers in 2015, four at right tackle and one at left tackle. In those games, Barclay gave up nine sacks and multiple pressures.

Don Barclay

The final straw came after his dismal pass-blocking performance in the Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals at left tackle, as the team gave up nine sacks as a team. The Packers never looked at Barclay again at either tackle position the rest of the season or the playoffs.

The most important player on the Packers is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s imperative that the team protects No. 12 with the best possible set of offensive tackles. That’s what the Packers have with Bulaga at right tackle and David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Both are among the best in the league at their respective positions

The Packers wanted to cover themselves in the 2016 NFL draft at that position, which is why they drafted two offensive tackles, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy.

During the 2016 season, Spriggs was considered the swing tackle, in case there was an injury to either Bulaga or Bakhtiari. Fortunately for the Packers, and for Rodgers, both Bulaga and Bakhtiari started all 16 games last year.

Barclay was going to be strictly used inside, at either guard or center if needed. That is where the Packers envisioned him back in his rookie season of 2012.

Unfortunately for Barclay, things didn’t go well for him when he started a game against the Washington Redskins last year when right guard T.J. Lang was unable to play. Barclay did not play well at all and was later pulled out of the game and Spriggs took his place.

It was later learned that Barclay had hurt his shoulder before the game.

But the Packers still brought him back in 2017. Why? Mostly because the Packers lost both Lang and center/guard JC Tretter to free agency.

The Packers also covered themselves some more after signing Barclay in early March, by signing veteran right guard Jahri Evans just before the draft and then drafting Kofi Amichia out of South Florida, who will play both guard and center for the Packers.

Like Barclay, Amichia was a starter at left tackle in college.

And based on the OTAs last week, it appears that Barclay is now the second string center, as he got that starter’s reps at center, as starting center Corey Linsley is rehabbing from ankle surgery.

And with the release of center Jacob Flores last week, Barclay now has a chance to prove him self once again with the Packers at that position.

Over his career, in which he has played 62 games over five years, including 24 starts, Barclay may not have impressed a lot of people in Packer Nation, but he is obviously respected and well liked by his teammates and his coaches.

That includes his position coach.

“He’s been in some really tough spots as a freshman, his rookie year and he came flying through,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Now he overcame a bad injury, flying through. This will be the second year off of (the torn ACL). I have all the confidence in the world in Donny Barclay. Donny is a pro’s pro. Love him.”

Barclay’s quarterback seconds that motion.

“Bringing Don back was a big thing for us,” Aaron Rodgers said. “He stepped into the backup center role and has done a fantastic job in the IPWs and now in the OTAs. He has really improved his game. You’re looking at a guy who has started at tackle for us, started at guard for us and now is in line to be our backup center. That’s fantastic. I give him a lot of credit. He’s had a great approach, he’s a great teammate and I think this is an important offseason for him to continue to show this team how valuable he is to it.”

The man who will make the final decision about who stays and who goes regarding the 2017 roster of the Packers, also likes the qualities of Barclay.

“Don Barclay has so many excellent attributes,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You look at someone who can play all five positions and has played tackle, guard and center in our system, so his versatility, his work ethic, he’s a great locker room guy. Most importantly he’s from Pittsburgh. That goes a long way around here.”

Yes, Barclay is definitely appreciated by his coaches and teammates for all he has endured and overcome so far in his time in Green Bay and the NFL.

Don Barclay at center

But nothing is a given in the NFL. Barclay will be pushed by Amichia for reps at backup center. Who ever performs the best will win that job. Both will not only get plenty of reps in the OTAs, but also in the preseason, a the Packers will be careful about the playing time allotted to Linsley once he returns from rehabbing his ankle injury.

Linsley likes what he sees so far from Barclay.

“Donny is always wanting to learn more about the position,” Linsley said. “This is his second year kind of playing it, although last year he filled in a lot at guard and not really center. So he’s kind of got his foundation set and he’s getting a lot better at different things. We have a great working relationship.”

We shall see what happens. But for now, Barclay is the Rodney Dangerfield of the offensive line to many in Packer Nation. As in, he gets no respect.

But to his coaches and teammates, Barclay gets plenty of admiration.

Green Bay Packers: A Scout’s Take on Rookie Offensive Lineman Kofi Amichia

Kofi Amichia

Kofi Amichia

The Green Bay Packers lost a couple of key members of their offensive line in free agency, as center/ guard JC Tretter signed with the Cleveland Browns and right guard T. J. Lang signed with the Detroit Lions.

Tretter had done a good job as a starting center when called upon, plus had also helped out at guard and also at left tackle in the 2015 postseason. Lang was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 and was one of the better guards in the NFL when healthy.

The health of both Tretter and Lang was a key concern of the Packers, as Tretter had been sidelined twice for long stretches with leg/knee injuries, while Lang has been playing hurt (shoulder/foot/hip) for a couple of years now.

So with both Tretter and Lang now gone, the Packers had to fill the void in both free agency and the draft. First, the Packers re-signed Don Barclay, not so much to be a starter, but to be a key reserve for almost every position along the offensive line.

It was also announced by head coach Mike McCarthy that offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, who was drafted in 2016, would be competing at both right guard and right tackle in OTAs and training camp.

Then on the eve of the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers signed guard Jahri Evans, formerly of the New Orleans Saints. Evans was once one of the very best guards in the NFL, as he was named to six Pro Bowl teams and was named first-team All-Pro four times.

After being released by both the Saints and the Seattle Seahawks before the 2016 season, Evans returned to New Orleans and played solidly in all 16 games after dropping some weight.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the one-year contract is worth $2.25 million, with a $1.15 million base salary, a $200,000 signing bonus, $50,000 per game in roster bonuses ($800,000 total), $100,000 in workout bonuses and $225,000 in likely to be earned incentives.

Then on the third day of the draft, the Packers selected offensive lineman Kofi Amichia of South Florida. Seeing as I live in the Tampa area, I had a chance to view many of the USF football games. And from what I saw from Amichia, I was impressed.

The 6’4″, 304-pound Amichia started two games at right tackle in 2014 before starting 26 straight games at left tackle in 2015 and 2016.

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

In the NFL, it is expected that Amichia will move inside and play guard and center.

I wanted to get a scouting perspective on Amichia from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

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

When I talked to Landry, I first mentioned what a great pro day workout Amichia had at USF, as he ran the 40 in 4.99, did 32 reps in the bench press drill, had a vertical jump of 33½ inches and a broad jump of 9 feet 6 inches.

I also mentioned that Amichia had scored a 31 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.

Landry was impressed with the selection of Amichia by the Packers.

“He’s very quick. He really understands blocking angles,” Landry said. “He is very smart. He needs to get a little stronger in the upper-body. I like him at center even more than guard.

“I think he’s got position versatility and it’s really good that he can play both spots. A really good value, as they normally do in Green Bay, getting good value in the sixth round. I thought it was a really nice pick for them.”

General manager Ted Thompson has done very well in the middle and late rounds of the draft in selecting good offensive lineman, as Landry eluded to.

For example, the Packers picked Lang (2009), Josh Sitton (2008) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (2013) in the fourth round, while center Corey Linsley (2014) was selected in the fifth round.

They key in selecting a player like Amichia is his versatility. Instead of picking both a guard and a center in the recent draft, the Packers now have a player who can play both.

Time will tell how things will shape up on the offensive line in 2017 for the Packers, but by adding a player like Amichia, they have a player who can provide flexibility along the line in a number of positions.

Being athletic, quick and smart won’t hurt Amichia’s cause either.

The 2016 Green Bay Packers: The Depth at Offensive Tackle is Much Better

Jason Spriggs

Jason Spriggs

In looking back at the 2015 Green Bay Packers, one position stood out like a sore thumb in terms of lack of depth. That would be the offensive tackle position.

The situation at offensive tackle reared it’s ugly head when the Packers played the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale two days after Christmas last season.

Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury. That meant that Don Barclay replaced Bakhtiari at left tackle and Josh Walker took over for Bulaga at right tackle.

Both played like they were swinging gates trying to stop oncoming pass rushers, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

The bottom line is that the Packers did not have a true swing tackle on the offensive line last season. Yes, Barclay had started 18 games at right tackle in 2012 and 2013, but that was before he tore his ACL in 2014.

Even before that injury, Barclay showed that he didn’t have the quick feet necessary to stop edge rushers. That is what the Packers realized when they first signed Barclay as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia in 2012.

The Packers immediately moved Barclay inside to guard, as he was a better than average run blocker. It wasn’t until the Packers had injuries at the tackle position that Barclay moved outside to tackle, as he had played the position in college.

General manager Ted Thompson certainly addressed the shortcomings at offensive tackle in the 2016 NFL draft.

In the second round, the Packers traded up and selected offensive tackle Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. NFL scout Chris Landry had Spriggs ranked 32nd of his horizontal draft board, just one spot behind Taylor Decker of Ohio State.

Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.

The 6-foot-51/2, 305-pound Spriggs impressed Landry at the Senior Bowl. Landry put out this report on Spriggs after his impressive week in Mobile, Alabama:

OT Jason Spriggs of Indiana, consistently stood out as one of the most effective pass protectors at the Senior Bowl. The former tight end is big and strong, yet agile and light-footed enough to seal off the edge on opposing pass rushers.

Kyle Murphy

Kyle Murphy   Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the sixth round, with the 200th selection in the draft, the Packers picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford.

The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Landry had Murphy ranked at No. 97 on his horizontal draft board, but the former Stanford star lasted until pick No. 200. That’s what I call excellent value. This is what Landry said about Murphy in his scouting report:

A former five-star recruit, Murphy was named to the All- Pac-12 first team in 2015. He was a third-team All American. He is a solid football player who does everything very well. He had 34 career starts at Stanford, including all 27 his junior and senior seasons. He can get off the ball quickly, has explosiveness on contact, gets movement with run blocks and gets and keeps good position in pass protection. He plays with a natural bend and can anchor. Murphy is athletic enough to pull and play in space. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger.

In training camp so far and through the first two preseason games, neither Spriggs or Murphy have disappointed, although both have had their ups and downs.

Spriggs has played a ton a snaps in both preseason games and looked very solid in the game versus the Cleveland Browns at left tackle. Against the Oakland Raiders and defensive end Khalil Mack in the second quarter, Spriggs had some issues.

Mack is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. Perhaps only J.J. Watt is better. Spriggs allowed Mack to have four hurries and one sack. After Mack left the game, Spriggs still struggled at times, but he never stopped competing and had some nice moments as well.

Murphy didn’t play against Cleveland in the first preseason game due to a concussion issue, but he stood out with his fine play at right tackle against the Raiders.

Murphy was matched most of the second quarter matched against Bruce Irvin, the former Seahawk, who had 25 sacks in four seasons in Seattle.  While Spriggs was struggling against Mack, Murphy handled Irvin with relative ease.

Like Spriggs, Murphy received plenty of snaps as well. Both rookies are getting some nice experience this preseason. More importantly, it also looks like both of them have the capability to come in at a moment’s notice to play at a solid level if either Bakhtiari or Bulaga go out with an injury.

There is some even better news on the offensive line front. Barclay is playing very solidly at both guard and center. A lot of people were shocked that the Packers re-signed Barclay to a one-year deal when he was an unrestricted free agent. This was after giving up nine sacks in just five starts at tackle last season.

I tried to explain why the Packers did that in an article I wrote about Barclay in April. The main reason I thought Green Bay brought him back was to move him back inside to guard.

<> at Ford Field on November 28, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Don Barclay

The Packers did do just that, plus gave him several snaps at center backing up JC Tretter, as starting center Corey Linsley has been out with a hamstring injury. Barclay had been given limited reps at center earlier in his career in Green Bay, so playing center wasn’t foreign to him.

It looks like Barclay has resurrected his career this training camp, as he is moving around much better two years removed from his ACL injury.

Tretter has also been exceptional as the starting center while Linsley has been out.

If the Packers keep just nine offensive linemen this season, I believe that the nine linemen will be Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Linsley, T.J. Lang, Bulaga, Tretter, Spriggs, Murphy and Barclay. If they keep 10 linemen, Lane Taylor would probably be the next guy in.

If it comes down to one job between Barclay and Taylor, Barclay has played much better this preseason, plus can play multiple positions, while Taylor is strictly a guard.

The bottom line is that the Packers have the offensive weapons to be really special this year in terms of being productive and putting up points.

But as Landry has reminded me a number of times, the offensive line has to it’s job.

Back in July, Landry had this take on the offensive line, when I asked him how productive Aaron Rodgers will be in 2016.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

So far, there has been some definite headway with the offensive line this preseason. The depth on the line is definitely a work in progress, but the Packers have to be thrilled with the overall play of  Spriggs, Murphy, Barclay and Tretter. That all adds up to holding down the fort effectively if injuries do occur with the starters.

A Scout’s Take on Aaron Rodgers and the Offense of the Green Bay Packers in 2016

Aaron vs. the Chiefs

Something was definitely amiss for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense for the Green Bay Packers in 2015. The Packers were uncharacteristically ranked just 23rd in total offense under head coach Mike McCarthy.

That was sort of an anomaly, as the Packers had been ranked in the top 10 in total offense in eight of the nine years McCarthy had coached the team prior to last season.

More shocking than that, was the fact that the Packers were ranked just 25th in passing offense. The Packers were never out of the top 10 in that category since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006.

Rodgers did not have a typical season in 2015, at least based on the high bar he had set for himself previous to last season. Before 2015, No. 12 had put together six consecutive years of having a passer rating of over 100.

In fact, if one looks at the production of Rodgers from 2009-2014, it was truly remarkable. Even in the 2013 season, when Rodgers missed seven games due to a fractured clavicle, he was on his way to another fabulous season, which would have averaged out to 30 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,508 yards over 16 games.

Based on that number and adding it together with the other years from 2009 through last season, Rodgers has averaged 35 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,364 over the six seasons going into 2015. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 108.6.

If one was just looking at the stat sheet on Rodgers in 2015, at first glance, everything would appear to be normal. Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks last year. That is very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.

But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.

The yards passing for the 2015 season is one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards last season, which is the lowest of his career, based on a full season.

In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.

The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, Rodgers passer rating was just 92.8, which is the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.

Just to compare, the career passer rating for Rodgers is 104.1, which is the top mark in NFL history (based on 1,500 pass attempts).

Rodgers also averaged just 6.7 yards gained per pass attempt in 2015. Once again, that was the lowest mark of his starting career by a wide margin. Rodgers had never been below the 7.5 mark before this season.

Rodgers also averaged just 11 yards per pass completion this season, which is also a career low.

The big plays were also missing for Rodgers and the Packers on offense in 2015. No. 12 was tied for 25th in the NFL with just six completions of 40-plus yards.

There were a number of reasons for why Rodgers and the Green Bay offense struggled.

Jordy Nelson vs. the Pats

It all started when wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in the preseason. No. 87 was the deep threat for Rodgers in the offense of the Packers and also his most trusted receiver.

Because of the injury to Nelson, the Packers re-signed James Jones to help bolster the loss of Nelson. Although Jones had a decent season for the Packers in 2015 (50-890-8), the receiving corp as a whole had a very disappointing season.

Randall Cobb struggled to make an impact as the lead receiver of the Packers most of the 2015 season, as he had 79 catches for just 829 yards and six touchdowns.

But as disappointing as those numbers are, no one has been more disappointing than second-year receiver Davante Adams. Yes, No. 17 struggled with ankle problems for a number of games. But that doesn’t excuse all the dropped passes and the lack of production.

Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 and one touchdown.

To be fair, the receiving corp as a whole have had injury issues. Nelson tore his ACL. Cobb hurt his shoulder in the preseason. Adams had the ankle injury. Jones had some hamstring issues.

Another key injury occurred when rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery sprained his ankle versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 6.

Montgomery was never able to return from that injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season.

That injury turned out to be a turning point, as the Packers were 6-0 at that juncture of the season. No. 88 was just starting to find his niche in the offense of the Packers too.

The Packers used the 6’0″, 216-pound Montgomery out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. He was a useful weapon for Rodgers to have, as he created a lot of his yardage after the catch because of his running back size dimensions. That is also why he was such a good return man as well.

The Packers went 4-6 after that injury to Montgomery.

Besides the passing game issues, the running game was also inconsistent.

Eddie Lacy had the worst season of his three-year career, as he rushed for just 758 yards and three touchdowns, plus caught just 20 passes. This was after averaging 1,159 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns his first two years in the NFL. No. 27 also averaged 19 more receptions per season the two previous years.

James Starks had some nice moments in 2015, as he and Lacy were a tandem again, but he also fumbled four times while he gained 601 yards.

If you add together the inconsistent passing game and the inconsistent running game in 2015, it all adds up to bad play on the offensive line of the Packers.

The Packers were nicked up by injuries all season long on the line. No position was spared. Adding to those woes, the team was really hurt by a lack of depth at the offensive tackle position. That situation raised it’s ugly head in the regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, when both starters, left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were out of the game.

Don Barclay

The result? Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

Going into the 2016 season, the Rodgers and the Packers will be getting Nelson and Montgomery back at wide receiver. Plus, the Packers are also exited about the showing that both third-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis had this past postseason. The Packers also drafted another wide receiver/kick returner in the draft, when they selected Trevor Davis of California.

The 6’1″, 189-pound Davis really opened some eyes due to his great performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

At the combine, Davis ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash (third-best among receivers), plus leaped an outstanding 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. Davis also did an outstanding job in all of the drills, especially catching and tracking the football. When the Packers worked out Davis themselves, he was timed in the mid-4.3 range in the 40.

The Packers also added a seam-stretching tight end in free agency, when they added Jared Cook, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tennessee Titans. The 6’4″, 235-pound Cook ran a 4.50 40-yards dash at the 2009 combine. In his career, Cook has 73 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Packers also added some depth for the offensive tackle position, as they traded up in the second round to select Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.

In the sixth round, the Packers selected picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford. The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Based on what they did in the offseason, the Packers seem to be in a much better place in terms of how effective the offense will be in 2016. Rodgers should also be able to be the same type of quarterback he was before last season.

I wanted to get an opinion about that situation from the person who runs this website, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to speak with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Todd Wright.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

Recapping Day 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Jerry announcing the pick

According to NFL scout Chris Landry, the Green Bay Packers did quite well for themselves on the first two days of the 2016 NFL draft. I wrote an article about that on Saturday before Day 3 of the draft.

I had a chance to talk with legendary guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers a couple of hours before the draft began on the final day of the draft. Kramer was in Green Bay, along with former Packers great Dave Robinson, to announce the selections that the team made in the 4th and 5th rounds of the draft in Vince Lombardi’s “office” in the Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field.

Kramer asked me if I had any insight about what the Packers might do on Day 3. The first thing I told Jerry was that I expected the Packers to select an inside linebacker. I also said that I thought the Packers would add one more offensive lineman and one more defensive lineman.

I said that football games are won in the trenches more times than not. Nobody knows this better than No. 64. After all, Kramer was part of five NFL championship teams in Green Bay, plus was named as the only guard on the NFL’s 50th anniversary first-team.

In the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Dallas Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.

But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.

Bart Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.

Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.

Kramer was also a huge part of the signature play of the Lombardi Packers. The play was the power sweep. The opposing defenses knew the play was coming, but there was little they could do about it.

Kramer, along with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, would pull either left or right and create gaping holes for the running backs, as they would venture out in the open field and knock over linebackers and defensive backs.

A lot of the games that the Packers won in those days were won because of the stellar play at the line of scrimmage, by both the offensive and defensive lines of the Packers.

That is also why defensive end Willie Davis, defensive tackle Henry Jordan, center Jim Ringo and offensive tackle Forrest Gregg are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is absolutely no question that Kramer deserves to have a place in Canton besides his teammates.

It’s true that players like Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood and Robinson received most of the headlines on those great Green Bay teams, but it was the play inside the trenches which created the opportunities for a lot of those big moments.

Back to the draft. It was somewhat coincidental that the first player who the Packers drafted in Round 4 was inside linebacker Blake Martinez of Stanford. Kramer did a splendid job in announcing the 131st pick of the draft, which was a compensatory pick for Green Bay.

Blake Martinez

Blake Martinez of Stanford

Martinez was certainly the best option the Packers had in selecting an inside linebacker at that point of the draft, especially after Joe Schobert of Wisconsin and Joshua Perry of Ohio State had been picked earlier in the 4th round.

The 6’2″, 237-pound Martinez had been a two-year starter for the Cardinal. In those two years, Martinez had 243 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 12 passes defended and had five picks.

In 2014, Martinez was named honorable mention in the Pac-12 at linebacker, while in 2015 was named first-team All-Pac-12.

Landry said this about Martinez in part of his scouting report on the former Stanford star:

Quick reacting and instinctive, he finds the ball. Physical at the point of attack. Good hand use, able to stack at the point. Good ability to shed blocks. Solid tackler. Reads pass well, gets depth with his drops. Keeps good position, has good receiver awareness.

Martinez ran a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash as the NFL Scouting Combine, but he improved that mark to 4.67 at his pro day.

With the second compensatory pick the Packers had in Round 4, the 137th pick of the draft, Green Bay selected defensive end Dean Lowry of Northwestern. Kramer also announced that pick for the Packers.

The 6’6″, 296-pound Lowry had a very solid career for the Wildcats as a three-year starter. In his career at Northwestern, Lowry had 134 tackles, 31.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks, 21 passes deflected, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Dean Lowry

Dean Lowry of Northwestern

Lowry has the prototypical size desired to play defensive end in the 3-4 defensive scheme that the Packers utilize. Lowry was also named second-team All-Big Ten in 2015.

At the combine, Lowry ran a 4.87 40-yard dash, plus had 30 reps in the bench press drill.

This is part of the scouting report Landry did on Lowry:

Very good height with the frame to get to 295+. High motor. Quick to key and diagnose. Has strength and power at the point. Good hand use, can shed. Takes good pursuit angles. Flashes as a pass rusher. Top competitor. Might not have the best natural tools, but he gives you everything he has. He is instinctive and technique-sound. Is best suited to play defensive end in a three-man front.

In the 5th round, the Packers selected wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis of California with the 163rd pick of the draft. Robinson announced the selection.

The 6’1″, 189-pound Davis really opened some eyes due to his great performance at the combine.

Trevor Davis

Trevor Davis of Cal

At the combine, Davis ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash (third-best among receivers), plus leaped an outstanding 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. Davis also did an outstanding job in all of the drills, especially catching and tracking the football.

When the Packers worked out Davis themselves, he was timed in the mid-4.3 range in the 40.

Davis originally played at Hawaii in 2011 and 2012 and had 45 catches for 601 yards. He then transferred to Cal and redshirted in the 2013 season.

In 23 games including 11 starts with the Bears in 2014 and 2015, Davis had 1,071 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on 64 catches. He also had 1,110 return yards on 45 kick returns. He also returned punts as well, as he had 115 yards on 14 returns.

The Packers are always looking for more big play options, especially if the player can help quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense.

“Any time you can get a weapon in the fifth round, you have to try and do that,” said Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf. “He was still sitting there on the board and we were fortunate enough to pick him.”

Wolf also talked about how the Packers may utilize Davis offensively.

“He ran a lot of bubble screens there for Cal and took some pretty big hits in there. And pretty good after the catch as well,” said Wolf. “A lot of the guys we’ve had in the past have been returners in college and those guys are always better at the YAC, and that’s something that we look for.”

In the sixth round, with the 200th selection in the draft, the Packers picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford. I had the Packers selecting Murphy in my final mock draft, but I had the team taking him earlier in the draft.

Kyle Murphy

Kyle Murphy of Stanford

The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Landry had Murphy ranked at No. 97 on his horizontal draft board, but the former Stanford star lasted until to pick No. 200. That’s what I call excellent value. This is what Landry said about Murphy in his scouting report:

A former five-star recruit, Murphy was named to the All- Pac-12 first team in 2015. He was a third-team All American. He is a solid football player who does everything very well. He had 34 career starts at Stanford, including all 27 his junior and senior seasons. He can get off the ball quickly, has explosiveness on contact, gets movement with run blocks and gets and keeps good position in pass protection. He plays with a natural bend and can anchor. Murphy is athletic enough to pull and play in space. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger.

Bottom line, it sure appears that Ted Thompson and company did another fine job on Day 3 of the 2016 NFL draft in adding some talent to the team that Mike McCarthy and his staff will coach in 2016 and beyond.

Final 7-Round 2016 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine

Yes, Christmas in late April is right around the corner. We are just three days from the 2016 NFL draft, which begins on April 28 and runs through April 30.

By now, Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers have put together their draft board. NFL scout Chris Landry always says that if teams set up their draft board properly, it will guide you through the entire draft.

Landry feels that Thompson and the Packers are one of the best in the NFL at setting up their board.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, when it comes to all the NFL draft material I put out, I rely heavily on the insight and information I receive from Landry via our conversations and also the data I get from his fine website.

Through my conversations with Landry and by gaining key data from his website, I have had some success throughout the years doing mock drafts for the Packers. For instance, I was correct in my projection that both both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan would be selected by the Packers in my final mock draft last year.

This will be my final mock draft before the festivities begin on Thursday night. In my first mock draft, I had the Packers selecting tight end Hunter Henry of Arkansas in the first round. However, after the signing of free agent tight end Jared Cook, I believe the Packers will definitely look to shore up at another position in the first round.

That is not to say that the Packers still won’t be looking to select another tight end later in the draft.

In my second mock draft, I had the Packers selecting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama. That is still a very distinct possibility, especially with the Packers looking to move Clay Matthews back to the outside at linebacker.

In my third mock draft, I had the Packers taking defensive lineman Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech. That also is a good possibility, because veteran B.J. Raji is taking a hiatus from football in 2016.

But enough of looking back, it’s time for my final 2016 NFL mock draft for the Packers.

Round 1: Linebacker Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

Reggie Ragland

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 247 pounds

The Packers will have a number of options in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL draft, but if linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama is still on the board at pick No. 27, the Packers should definitely consider taking him. Landry sees Ragland as the best inside linebacker in the draft.

“Well, I think Reggie Ragland is a better version of C.J. Mosley,” Landry told me last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “He’s got great range. I do think he’s a three-down linebacker. I think he can do a lot in blitz looks as well. He’s going to be an outstanding player.”

Alabama was ranked third in total defense and first in rushing defense in the FBS. Ragland was a big reason why.

In the past two seasons with the Crimson Tide, Ragland had 197 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups, one interception, four sacks and three forced fumbles.

Ragland is a downhill, physical linebacker at the point of attack on the inside on running downs, plus can blitz well, both from the inside and outside on passing downs. He also had a good week at the Senior Bowl, as he also showed solid coverage skills.

At the combine, Ragland ran a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash.

Plus, adding to all that, Ragland thinks he will become a member of the Packers, per this story by Chase Goodbread of 24/7 Sports.

“I did meet with them, and they talked to me about that they needed a linebacker on the inside,” said Ragland. “And if they had the opportunity, I think they would. But I’m not sure. It all depends when draft day comes.”

Round 2: Defensive Lineman Chris Jones (Mississippi State)

at Davis Wade Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Starkville, Mississippi.

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 310

Defensive lineman Chris Jones of Mississippi State is an intriguing prospect who has excellent size and natural power.

Jones is strong in his hands and upper body and he utilizes those assets to shed blockers. Jones also has quick feet. He has the ability to collapse the pocket rushing the passer, as he had 34 quarterback pressures in his career.

Jones is also solid stopping the run, as he has the agility to scrape down line of scrimmage and look for the ball carrier.

In his career with the Bulldogs, Jones had 94 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks.

Even with his great size and talent, Jones has not played up to his expectations, as he was former 5-star recruit coming into college.

This is where working under a defensive line coach like Mike Trgovac will really help him. Trgovac will make sure that the fire is always lit under Jones. As will his defensive linemate Mike Daniels.

Like they did with Ragland, the Packers have already met with Jones.

Jones is better suited to play the 5- technique (defensive end), but can also play the 3-technique (nose tackle).

The Packers need to add some help on their defensive line, especially with B.J. Raji taking a hiatus from football in 2016. Add to that, Mike Pennel is suspended for the first four games of the regular season due to violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The good news for the Packers regarding their defensive line is that the team re-signed Letroy Guion in free agency, plus Josh Boyd will be back this season after spending the 2015 season on injured reserve. In addition to that, the Packers really like the upside of Christian Ringo, who spent the 2015 season on the team’s practice squad.

Round 3: Offensive Tackle Kyle Murphy (Stanford)

Kyle Murphy

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 305 pounds

Stanford runs a pro-style offense and they run a very good mixture of plays in both the passing game and the running game. The offense was very successful, as once again the Cardinal won the Pac-12 conference and the Rose Bowl.

Kyle Murphy was a big reason why. Murphy played left tackle in 2015, plus played right tackle in 2014.

Murphy was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014.

Murphy is very consistent with his blocking in the running game, plus is also steady with his pass blocking.

The Packers desperately need some quality depth and a swing tackle at offensive tackle. Although he was re-signed (most likely to compete at guard), Don Barclay is certainly not the answer at the tackle position. Barclay gave up nine sacks just by himself in 2015, playing in place of both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari when both were injured.

Bulaga has been injury prone his entire career in Green Bay, while Bakhtiari had both knee and ankle injuries which hampered him almost all of the 2015 season.

The Packers need a quality replacement on hand if either go down due to injury. Murphy can fill that role, plus has the ability to move inside as well if needed.

Round 4: Linebacker Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame)

Jaylon Smith

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 223 pounds

Before his devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl versus Ohio State, Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame was considered the best linebacker in the country.

Dr. Dan Cooper, the surgeon who performed the procedure on Smith’s knee reconstruction, is optimistic that Smith will fully recover. That being said, right now Smith can neither raise his foot nor swing it out to the side, and it is not a given he gets those abilities back.

That is why he will most likely slip to the third day of the draft.

Landry talked to me about Smith’s medical status.

“Let me remind people,” Landry said. “There is not a better player in this draft than Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame.

“You are talking about a guy who could be the first pick or the second pick or third pick of the draft if he was healthy. If you are in a position, maybe like Bob’s Packers or somebody like that, I mean you are talking about an elite player.

“You would have to redshirt him, as he’s not going to play next year. But if you are willing to do that and be comfortable enough as an organization to do it, and then medically do you feel good, with the the doctors being comfortable saying that this guy is going to be fine in a year, it’s just going to take time, he is well worth the wait.”

Like they have done with both Ragland and Jones, the Packers also had a meeting with Smith prior to the draft.

Smith had a fantastic three-year career in South Bend, as he had 284 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Before his injury, Smith ran a 4.44 in the 40.

Round 4 (compensatory):Running Back Kenyan Drake (Alabama)

Kenyan Drake

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 210 pounds

By adding running back Kenyan Drake, the Packers will add  a very talented running back, who is not only pretty good toting the rock, but also is a big threat catching the football. Drake is also an outstanding kick returner.

In addition, the Pack will be adding another back from Alabama, which is where Eddie Lacy hails from. Drake played second fiddle to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry at running back for the Crimson Tide, but was very effective when he got his opportunities.

Drake ran for 1,495 yards (6.4 average)  and 18 touchdowns in his career at Alabama, plus had 46 receptions for 570 yards (12.4  average) and four more scores.

Drake showed his kick returner prowess in the national title game versus Clemson, when he returned a kick for 95 yards and a score late in the game.

Drake showed of his speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, when he ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.

Drake would be the heir apparent to James Starks as a compliment to Lacy, as No. 44 came back to the Packers on just a two-year deal after he tested the free agency market.

The Packers expect Lacy to come back with a vengeance in 2016 after a disappointing 2015 season. No. 27 was obviously carrying too much weight this past season, but has become much leaner thanks to working out with Tony Horton and utilizing his P90X workout.

The Packers expect Lacy top look more like the player he was in 2013 and 2014, when he averaged 1,159 yards rushing (4.4 average) and 10 touchdowns. Lacy also averaged 38.5 catches per season and two more scores in those two years.

I anticipate Lacy to have another big year in 2016, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. At that point, I believe the Packers would re-sign Lacy and that Drake would be an excellent partner to pair with No. 27 at running back into the future.

Round 4 (compensatory): Linebacker Jatavis Brown (Akron)

Jatavis Brown

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 222 pounds

Jatavis Brown of Akron was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, which was the same honor cornerback Quinten Rollins of the Packers received in 2014 when he played for Miami (Ohio).

Brown had a fantastic season in 2015 for the Zips, as he 116 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles.

Brown led the way on the Akron defense which was third in the country versus the rush.

With the addition of Brown, the Packers will definitely be adding some speed to their defense. On his pro day, Brown was phenomenal, as he showed off his strength and speed. He had an outstanding 33 reps in the bench press, plus ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash.

I asked Landry if Brown’s performance on his pro day had him moving up his draft board.

“Yeah, I do,” Landry said. “I did a little more work on him which you’ll see in the scouting reports that I’m working through. His [Brown’s] workout caused me to do a little more work.

“He’s not moving up a whole lot, but I think he has some value. I still think he’s a guy that may go maybe as high as the third, but certainly he deserves to be in the fourth round, the 5.5 group. He’s at the top of my 5.4 group now, with Dadi Nicolas of Virginia Tech.”

Round 5: Tight End Tanner McEvoy (Wisconsin)

Tanner McEvoy

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 230 pounds

Tanner McEvoy was used like a Swiss army knife by Wisconsin. The 6’6″, 230-pound McEvoy played quarterback, safety and wide receiver for the Badgers. In three years with the team, McEvoy showed how athletic he was at these positions.

At quarterback, he wasn’t a great passer, as he had just five touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 709 yards. But when it came to running the football as a QB, he was very dangerous. McEvoy ran for 706 yards on just 82 carries (8.6 average) for eight touchdowns.

McEvoy got to play some wide receiver at Wisconsin in 2015, and he had 10 catches for 109 yards. The reason his stats were so low was because he was a starting safety for the Badgers, as he had six interceptions, which was second in the Big 10 and sixth nationally.

Most scouts think McEvoy would be better suited to play tight end in the NFL due to his size and athleticism. Those attributes would also be a big reason why he would also excel on special teams.

Chris Landry had this to say about McEvoy:

“He [McEvoy] is an athletic guy,” Landry said. “I think he can play tight end. He’s a project. I think he’s more of a later-round guy. But I do have him and I’ve done a lot of work on him this spring.

“I do think he does have some value later in the draft. I’ve got him as a fifth-round guy and I’ll update my boards in a little bit. I’ve got a 5.4 grade on him and I think he and a couple other kids, like the [Darion] Griswold kid from Arkansas State, have a lot of ability.

“They’ve [Wisconsin] done a really good job with tight ends in the past. They understand blocking, which is important. He’s not a guy who is going to be a great receiver, but I think he can develop into more of a polished receiver and understand blocking.”

Like the Badgers did, the Packers can utilize McEvoy in a number of ways. Besides being a special teams stalwart, McEvoy can be groomed at tight end (even with the recent signing of Jared Cook), plus can help out on defense at times.

McEvoy would also be an intriguing prospect to play linebacker on passing downs, where he could cover running backs and tight ends. He has the size, speed, hands and track record to excel there.

Round 6: Offensive Lineman Nick Ritcher (Richmond)

Nick Ritcher

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 305 pounds

Nick Ritcher was the best player on the offensive line for one of the best football programs in the FCS at Richmond.

Ritcher certainly has the quick feet to play the offensive tackle position in the NFL, but he might be a better fit to play inside when it’s all said and done.

Nick’s dad Jim was a 16-year NFL veteran, who played with the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. Jim mostly played center in the NFL.

The Packers need to add to their depth and talent on the offensive line, at both guard and tackle. Both left guard Josh Sitton and right guard T.J. Lang played through injury issues in 2015 and both will be unrestricted free agents in 2017.

Ritcher definitely has the lineage and ability to add some talent to the Pack’s offensive line, no matter the position.

Round 7: Quarterback Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech)

Jeff Driskel

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 234 pounds

With the loss of quarterback Scott Tolzien via free agency, the Packers will be looking for a third quarterback to play behind starter Aaron Rodgers and backup Brett Hundley.

Hundley was truly fantastic in his chance to shine in the 2015 preseason for the Packers. All told, Hundley posted a passer rating of 129.7 based on 45 completions on 65 attempts for 630 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception last summer.

It would be nice if the third quarterback has a strong arm and good mobility, just like Rodgers and Hundley have.

Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech has those attributes. Driskel played in the Senior Bowl this year and he threw a late touchdown pass off his back foot late in the game.

Driskel played most of his collegiate career with the Florida Gators before transferring to Louisiana Tech. In his career with both Florida and Louisiana Tech, Driskel threw 50 touchdown passes versus 28 picks for 7,437 yards.

Driskel also rushed for 972 yards and had 14 touchdowns.

In his one and only year at La Tech, Driskel threw 27 touchdowns passes versus eight interceptions for 4,026 yards.

Initial 7-Round 2016 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson 2015 NFL Scouting Combine

In terms of the 2016 NFL draft, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl) are now over. Those games gave us a chance to look at the many prospects for the upcoming draft.

The actual 2016 NFL draft will start on April 28 and last through April 30. Before then, there are still a couple more steps in which prospects can help themselves in terms of their draft stock.

The NFL Scouting Combine starts on February 23 and after that we will have the various pro days for the players in the draft to try and impress the scouts, coaches and front office-types who will be in attendance.

I will be doing four or five mock drafts before the actual draft. As I noted in the recent story I just wrote about tight end Hunter Henry of Arkansas, I’ve had a pretty good track record predicting some of the players that Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers have actually selected in the draft over the years.

For instance, last year I was correct in my projection that both both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan would be selected in my final mock draft last year.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve become a real student of the NFL draft and it’s great to have built an association like I’ve established with NFL scout Chris Landry.

Landry is one of the best in the business and his insight and knowledge really help me out, as I look at the prospects that I feel would be good fits for the Packers.

The Packers currently have picks in all seven rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, plus are expected to receive two compensatory picks for the losses of Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency.

I’m estimating that those losses will garner the Packers a compensatory pick in the fourth round and also one in the fifth round.

So, without further adieu, here is my first 2016 NFL mock draft for the Packers, also utilizing the compensatory picks.

Round 1: Tight End Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Hunter HenryHeight: 6’6″

Weight: 255 pounds

The Packers have the 27th selection in the first round of this year’s draft. At this point, I’m guessing that all four of the top offensive tackles in the draft will already have been taken at this point of the draft. I’m thinking the same will hold true regarding inside linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama.

Therefore, if tight end Hunter Henry is still on the board, I’m taking him. Why? The Packers need an additional tight end who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field, similar to what Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots and Greg Olsen of the Panthers can do. That will also open things up for the wide receivers on the Packers.

Think about the Keith Jackson/Mark Chmura combination in 1995 and 1996, when you consider the duo of Henry and Richard Rodgers.

Henry was named to the 2015 AP first team All-American team, as well as being named to the first team All-SEC squad. Henry also won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.

In 2015, Henry had 51 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns. In his first two years at Arkansas, Henry had 65 receptions for 922 yards and six touchdowns.

Hunter is definitely the best tight end in this draft, plus he can run-block. Just ask NFL scout Chis Landry:

“I’ve liked Hunter Henry since he stepped on at Arkansas as a true freshman,” Landry said. “I thought he was one of the best tight ends in the country then. He’s very athletic in the modern day game of football where you can play the wide-flex and put him out.

“He’s outstanding in the passing game and he is really good in the running game, because you have to be in the run-scheme that Bret Bielema has. I like him an awful lot. I think he’s good. I think the kid [Austin Hooper] from Stanford is a good player. The kid from Ohio State has had a really good week here, Nick Vannett, who I think is a really good player as well, so keep an eye out on him.

“But I would definitely put Hunter Henry at the top of this group. I think you can get him later in the first round, simply because tight ends tend to move down a little bit, but it wouldn’t shock me if someone in the teens reached for him. He’s that good.”

Round 2: Linebacker Scooby Wright III (Arizona)

Scooby WrightHeight: 6’1″

Weight: 246 pounds

Scooby Wright of Arizona took the college football world by storm in 2014, as the sophomore had one of the better seasons put together by a linebacker in recent memory.

That season, Wright had 164 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, one fumble recovery and five forced fumbles. That led to Wright getting a number of awards, including the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Vince Lombardi Award. Wright was also a consensus All-American.

In 2015, Wright was hobbled by injuries to both his knee and his foot. He missed most of the regular season, but was back for the New Mexico Bowl, where he had 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks, as the Wildcats beat the New Mexico Lobos 45-37.

The Packers need an inside linebacker who is adept at stopping the run at the line of scrimmage or behind it. Wright is that type of player. With the addition of Wright, the Packers can move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker, while the other inside linebacker spot would be filled by either Jake Ryan or Sam Barrington. Joe Thomas has been playing at the position on passing downs.

I also talked with Chris Landry about Wright and he’s very impressed.

“Scooby Wright is really an outstanding player,” Landry said. “He’s very instinctive. He’s a lot like Zach Thomas, who played for Texas Tech years ago and played with the Dolphins.

“Very good tackler. Fills the holes versus the run very hard. Also has the ability to get to his landmarks in coverage. He’s always in position.

“Some guys are what we call “glute” players. They really do a good job of diagnosing things on the field and being a coach on the field. That’s what Scooby Wright is. I think he’s going to translate very well in that regard on the pro level.”

Round 3: Offensive Tackle Kyle Murphy (Stanford)

Kyle MurphyHeight: 6’7″

Weight: 298 pounds

Stanford runs a pro-style offense and they run a very good mixture of plays in both the passing game and the running game. The offense was very successful, as once again the Cardinal won the Pac-12 conference and the Rose Bowl.

Kyle Murphy was a big reason why. Murphy played left tackle in 2015, plus played right tackle in 2014.

Murphy was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014.

Murphy is a very solid blocker in the running game, plus is steadily improving in terms of his pass blocking.

The Packers desperately need some quality depth at the offensive tackle position. Don Barclay is certainly not the answer. Barclay gave up nine sacks just by himself in 2015, playing in place of both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari when both were injured.

Bulaga has been injury prone his entire career in Green Bay, while Bakhtiari had both knee and ankle injuries which hampered him almost all of the 2015 season.

The Packers need a quality replacement on hand if either go down due to injury. Murphy can fill that role.

Round 4: Linebacker Joe Schobert (Wisconsin)

Joe SchobertHeight: 6’2″

Weight: 236 pounds

The outside linebacker position is in a flux situation right now with the Packers. While it does appear that the Packers will move Clay Matthews back to the position in 2016, there are a number of questions that still need to be answered.

The first question is whether or not Julius Peppers will return in 2016. My guess is that No. 56  and his 10.5 sacks in 2015 will return. But both Mike Neal and Nick Perry will both be unrestricted free agents in March. I can’t see the Packers bringing both of them back.

Both Neal and Perry played well for the Packers down the stretch and in the postseason. It will be a tough decision as to who to keep. The Packers also have players like Jayrone Elliott and Andy Mulumba in reserve. Of the two, Elliott has more upside.

But more depth is needed at the position, especially if you could add a player who can make big plays. Joe Schobert of the Wisconsin Badgers can do that.

In the past two seasons, playing on one of the better defenses in college football, Schobert had 130 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, an interception, two fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles.

In 2015, Schobert was named as a first team All-American, as well as being named first team All-Big Ten. Schobert was also named Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, plus won the Jack Lambert Trophy.

I also talked to Chris Landry about Schobert.

“The Badger [speaking of Schobert] is a really good pass rusher,” Landry said. “He’s got good pursuit skills. I think he’s an outstanding player.”

Round 4 (compensatory): Running Back Josh Ferguson (Illinois)

Josh Ferguson.jpgHeight: 5’10”

Weight: 200 pounds

Head coach Mike McCarthy laid down the gauntlet recently for Eddie Lacy when he announced that No. 27 has to get in better shape heading into the 2016 season. The Packers want Lacy to lose 30 pounds. When Lacy was at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, he weighed in at 231 pounds. That was good enough for the Packers to draft him. It also tells me that Lacy was probably playing at a weight of something north of 260 pounds in 2015.

Reportedly, Lacy has reached out to Tony Horton, the creator of the P90x workout. We shall see whether or not that alliance, if it should happen, will get Lacy back to the weight he was in 2013, when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

James Starks had a decent year filling in for Lacy at running back and based on reports I’ve read, it looks as though he will return to the Packers, even though he will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

The Packers also have John Crockett on the roster to add depth to the position. While Lacy and Starks are pretty good receivers out of the backfield, especially Starks on screen plays, the Packers could use a player who could really fill that role.

To me, that player is Josh Ferguson of Illinois, who had a real good week at the East-West Shrine Game, which is played right down the road (St. Petersburg, Florida) so to speak from where I live.

Ferguson looked very quick in the practices that week, and is a natural catching the football.

In his career at Illinois, Ferguson rushed for 2,586 yards and 18 touchdowns, plus caught 168 passes for 1,507 yards and eight touchdowns.

Ferguson also has experience in returning kickoffs.

Round 5: Defensive Tackle Matt Ioannidis (Temple)

Matt IoannidisHeight: 6’4″

Weight: 295 pounds

One of the players who really improved his stock at the Senior Bowl was defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis of Temple.

Depending on what the Packers do on the defensive line this offseason, a player like Ioannidis could add some quality depth.

Both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion will be unrestricted free agents this March. Raji was having a very nice season in 2015, when a groin injury slowed him down. Guion missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension, then started slow, but came on down the stretch late in the season and in the postseason.

I would not be surprised if the Packers bring them both back. The cap hit for the two of them combined in 2015 was just over $4 million combined ($4,235,000).

The Packers also re-signed their best player on the defensive line, Mike Daniels, to a long term deal. Datone Jones had his best season for the Packers in 2015, plus the Packers also like the progress that Mike Pennel made this past season.

In addition to that, Josh Boyd spent the season on injured reserve, while rookie Christian Ringo impressed on the practice squad.

Still, you can never have too many quality players mixing it up in the trenches.

Ioannidis is more of a run stuffer, but can also rush the passer on occasion. In his career at Temple, Ioannidis had 112 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, deflected eight passes, had one fumble recovery and had two forced fumbles.

Round 5 (compensatory): Cornerback Taveze Calhoun (Mississippi State)

Taveze CalhounHeight: 6’1″

Weight: 185 pounds

The Packers will most likely lose Casey Hayward to free agency this offseason, but the team should still be in good shape depth-wise at the cornerback position. The Packers will still have Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Micah Hyde, Demetri Goodson and LaDarius Gunter.

That being said, the NFL is a pass-happy league, and one can never have enough cornerbacks.

In college football, no conference has faster receivers than the SEC conference, which is where Taveze Calhoun of Mississippi State played.

Calhoun was another player who showed off his skills at the East-West Shrine Game practices.

Calhoun also played on one of the better defenses in the SEC and he was part of a great tandem at cornerback, along with Will Redmond.

In his career with the Bulldogs, Calhoun had 154 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 21 passes defended, six interceptions, one fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.

Round 6: Offensive Tackle Alex Lewis (Nebraska)

Alex LewisHeight: 6’6″

Weight: 290 pounds

Alex Lewis of Nebraska was yet another player who stood out at the East-West Shrine Game practices.

Lewis first played his college ball at Colorado before transferring to Nebraska. Lewis was the team captain for the Huskers in 2015. His dad Bill was a former All-American center for the Huskers in the 1980s.

Lewis was named to the second team All-Big Ten squad in 2015 and was named honorable mention in 2014 by both the coaches and the media.

As I said with the earlier selection of Kyle Murphy, the Packers need to add some quality depth at the offensive tackle position. The Packers found themselves without both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari in one game this season versus the Arizona Cardinals. The results were not pretty. In fact, they were downright ugly.

Round 7: Quarterback Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech)

Jeff DriskelHeight: 6’4″

Weight: 234 pounds

There is a reasonable chance that backup quarterback Scott Tolzien will be leaving the Packers this offseason, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in March. As we saw numerous times in 2015 with a number of teams in the NFL, the quarterback play was absolutely brutal at times. Tolzien will look to get a shot as a starter with one of those teams in 2016.

Third string quarterback Brett Hundley was truly fantastic in his chance to shine in the 2015 preseason for the Packers. All told, Hundley posted a passer rating of 129.7 based on 45 completions on 65 attempts for 630 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception last summer.

If Tolzien leaves, Hundley will step up to be come the main backup to Aaron Rodgers. That means the Packers will be looking to develop another young quarterback on their roster.

It would be nice if the quarterback has a strong arm and good mobility, just like Rodgers and Hundley have.

Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech has those attributes. Driskel played in the Senior Bowl this year and he threw a late touchdown pass off his back foot late in the game.

Driskel played most of his collegiate career with the Florida Gators before transferring to Louisiana Tech. In his career with both Florida and Louisiana Tech, Driskel threw 50 touchdown passes versus 28 picks for 7,437 yards.

Driskel also rushed for 972 yards and had 14 touchdowns.

In his one and only year at La Tech, Driskel threw 27 touchdowns passes versus eight interceptions for 4,026 yards.