The 2017 NFL draft is about a month and a half away, as it will take place in Philadelphia and will start on April 27 and last through April 29.
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).
We also recently had the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis which lasted from February 28 though March 6.
The only thing left for the prospects to help improve their draft value is the various pro days for the players, which will be viewed by the the scouts, coaches and front office-types who will be in attendance.
Sometimes, a player’s draft value will be severely compromised during a workout, which is what happened last week for cornerback Sidney Jones at the pro day at Washington. Jones suffered a torn Achilles tendon Saturday during the workout.
Jones was projected to be a first round selection as well.
Anyway, it’s been a little over a month since I did my initial 7-round mock draft for the Green Bay Packers.
A number of things have changed since then for the Packers, as free agency has really affected the look of the roster up until this point.
The Packers have seen a number of their players move on from the team in free agency. The list 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 (the team which originally drafted Peppers), right guard T.J. Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions on Sunday and finally running back Eddie Lacy, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday.
In addition, tight end Jared Cook will not be returning to the team either, as the Packers bolstered that position by signing Martellus Bennett (New England Patriots) and Lance Kendricks (Los Angeles Rams) via free agency.
The Packers also re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry, as well as reserve offensive lineman Don Barclay. The team also brought back restricted free agent Jayrone Elliott, who signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract on Monday night according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
In addition to that, the Packers also brought back cornerback Davon House on Tuesday in another free agent acquisition. House played the past two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Packers originally drafted House in 2011 and he stayed with the team through 2014 before leaving for Jacksonville via free agency in 2015.
The free agency frenzy is not over, as I expect the Packers to re-sign more of their own players, as well a couple of other players from other teams.
In terms of other unrestricted free agents on the Packers, you still have defensive end/outside linebacker Datone Jones (visiting the Vikings on Monday), running back Christine Michael and longsnapper Brett Goode, who are all unsigned at this time. I expect both Jones and Goode to re-up with the Packers.
Then you also have restricted free agent linebacker Jordan Tripp, who was not tendered an offer.
Plus there are the exclusive rights free agents. The list includes punter Jacob Schum (signed his exclusive rights contract), inside linebacker Joe Thomas (received tender offer), defensive lineman Christian Ringo (received tender offer), wide receiver Geronimo Allison (received tender offer), running back Don Jackson (received tender offer), running back John Crockett (did not receive tender offer) and fullback Joe Kerridge (received tender offer).
Getting back to the draft. In my first mock draft, I had the Packers selecting outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round. I still feel like that the drafting of Watt definitely has a real chance to happen (Watt met with the Packers at the combine), but for this mock draft, I will be selecting different players in each round.
But just like I did in my first mock draft, I selected players who I believe would fit in well with the Packers. Not just because of the schemes the team runs on offense and defense, but also how the player can help the special teams units, which were ranked 29th in the NFL in 2016. My buddy Rick Gosselin does a fantastic job of evaluating and ranking the special teams units for all 32 teams in the NFL each and every year.
One of the reasons I’ve had a decent track record over the years in my mock drafts for the Packers is because I utilize the expertise and insight from NFL scout Chris Landry.
Landry will comment on each and every player I select in each mock draft I do.
Okay, enough of that, let’s take a look at my post-combine mock draft for the Packers in 2017.
Round 1: Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
Weight: 197 pounds
Marlon Humphrey was a two-year starter at Alabama, where he had 81 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, five interceptions (one for a score) and three forced fumbles.
Humphrey was a Freshman All-SEC in 2015, as the Alabama won the national championship.
Humphrey played in a number of different coverage schemes with the Crimson Tide and he used his track-star speed and athleticism to his advantage. Humphrey is also a very aggressive tackler both in the secondary and in playing the run.
Humphrey recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. His three-cone drill time of 6.75 seconds was among the best of his position group.
Speaking of the combine, just like they did with Watt, the Packers also met with Humphrey.
The cornerback position for the Packers definitely needs to fortified in the draft and also in free agency. Humphrey would also add much needed speed in the secondary of the Packers.
Landry said this about Humphrey before the national championship game between Clemson and Alabama: “Humphrey steps into the role as Alabama’s lockdown cornerback this season. He’s physical against the run, and he has legitimate track speed.”
Round 2: 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.
Landry said this about Pocic after a Senior Bowl practice: “LSU C Ethan Pocic was up and down today. On one particular snap he was beaten by UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes with a swim move. On the next, snap he was able to thwart Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson on a speed move inside. Pocic showed the type of adjusting that you like to see after a mistake and looks to take coaching very receptively.”
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. With the loss of Lacy in free agency, don’t be surprised if the Packers don’t sign a veteran free agent running back themselves.
Drafting a running back will be a focus of the Packers in the draft and Mack would be an excellent addition. I saw him play many times and Mack is the real deal.
Landry said this about Mack prior to the Birmingham Bowl when USF played South Carolina: “Mack will go down a year or two from now as the steadiest offensive player in Bull history. He’s been a reliable workhorse from the moment he stepped foot on campus, working between the tackles and powering through defenders for additional. The consistency of Mack, who rushed for at least 100 yards in all but three of the games he played in 2015, allowed young QB Quinton Flowers to develop incrementally, without having to overextend himself in the early stages of his career.”
Round 4: Linebacker Vince Biegel (Wisconsin)
Weight: 246 pounds
Vince Biegel was the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in high school (172 tackles, 21 sacks). That took Biegel to Madison where he was a four-year starter at Wisconsin and was named team captain his senior year. In his career as a Badger, Biegel had 131 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles.
Biegel was named third-team All-Big Ten in 2015 and also second-team All-Big Ten in 2016.
Biegel has excellent quickness around the edge and can diagnose blocks when he dips inside to find the football. Biegel also has nice run-pass recognition and is solid in the running game. Has also shown decent cover skills. The former Badger plays with a tenacious edge and his motor never stops running.
Biegel was solid in all the drills at the combine and ran a 4.67 in the 40.
At the outside linebacker position, the Packers lost Peppers in free agency and have seen Clay Matthews and Perry miss playing time due to injuries. The team did re-sign Perry and Elliott to bolster the depth. Re-signing Jones is still a possibility, plus the Packers also like the upside of Kyler Fackrell. Still, more quality depth is need at the position, as the Dom Capers 3-4 scheme is based on putting pressure on the quarterback.
Landry said this about Biegel after a Senior Bowl practice: “Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel was hyper aggressive. He is an impressive athlete who needs his athleticism to be honed a bit. Biegel was working tight ends in 1-on-1s and he made a couple of solid plays in coverage. Pass rushing versus tackles was rough today for Biegel, but he’s aggressive and athletic nonetheless. He might be suited to move to an off ball spot.”
Round 5: Cornerback Shaquill Griffin (Central Florida)
Weight: 194 pounds
Griffin played four years at UCF and started the last two years. In his career with the Knights, Griffin had 113 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, six interceptions (two for touchdowns), 27 passes defended and one fumble recovery.
Griffin played at UCF with his twin brother Shaquem, who only has one hand. Both brothers had big years in 2016, with Shaquem winning the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year award as a hybrid defensive back/linebacker, while Shaquill was named second-team All-AAC at cornerback.
Shaquill has excellent size, speed and strength for a cornerback. He has the physical ability to succeed in press coverage, plus match receivers stride for stride after their release. Is also an aggressive run defender.
Griffin had a very good combine, as he excelled in a number of drills, which included running a 4.38 in the 40 and having a vertical leap of 38.5 inches.
The Packers need to add speed and physicality to the cornerback position and Griffin can deliver in both areas.
Landry said this about Griffin before the Auto Nation Cure Bowl game between UCF and Arkansas State: “UCF boasts a growing history for developing next-level defensive backs. Griffin has a chance to be the next Knight to play on Sundays. He laid the ground floor in 2015 by starting 11 games, two at safety and nine at corner, and posting 50 tackles, two interceptions and a Knight-high 13 pass breakups.”
Round 5 (compensatory): Defensive Lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (UCLA)
Weight: 305 pounds
Eddie Vanderdoes was a five-star recruit coming into UCLA, but injuries have hampered his time in Westwood. Out of the gate though, Vanderdoes showed the ability he showed in high school, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 and also received Freshman All-American honors.
Vanderdoes followed that season by being named honorable mention again his sophomore year, as he had 50 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
But the former Bruin star tore his ACL his junior year after playing exceptionally well versus Virginia in the season opener. Vanderdoes came back his senior year and was given honorable mention status for the third time in his career at UCLA.
In his career, Vanderdoes had 122 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
Vanderdoes showed off his athletic ability at the combine, as the big man ran a 4.99 in the 40.
Ted Thompson likes selecting defensive linemen out of UCLA, as he drafted Datone Jones in 2013 and Kenny Clark last year. Vanderdoes would add some quality depth to the defensive line, plus would offset the loss of Letron Guion, who will miss the first four games of the 2017 season due to a PED violation.
Landry said this about Vanderdoes after a Senior Bowl practice: “Vanderdoes played exceptionally well today in all areas. He beat opponents with quickness, power and intensity. From the snap he’s tough to stop as he showed a great first step, power in his lower body and he worked his hands incredibly well. Even when it looked like Vanderdoes was outmatched, he won the down.”
Round 6: Linebacker Ben Boulware (Clemson)
Weight: 238 pounds
Ben Boulware started his career at Clemson as a special teams demon, before becoming a starter at linebacker the past two seasons. Besides being team captain of the eventual national champion Tigers in 2016, Boulware led by example with his fiery play, as he was named first-team All-ACC both in 2015 and this past season.
In his career at Clemson, Boulware had 261 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles.
Like Biegel, Boulware is a natural leader and never stops playing hard until he hears the whistle. Boulware is compact, but is fast to the football. He seems to have the knack for making a big play. Boulware has also shown some nice ability in pass coverage. No matter what, you are going to get a terror on special teams.
The biggest area in which Boulware can help the Packers immediately is on special teams, which really need help. Boulware will also push Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas for playing time at inside linebacker.
Landry said this about Boulware after a Senior Bowl practice: “Boulware is not a great athlete but he is a terrific football player. Best in the box, he’s instinctive, shows great anticipation and fires up the field. He’s also nasty and wraps up tackling. He struggles moving outside the numbers and in reverse.”
Round 7: Offensive Tackle Jonathan McLaughlin (Virginia Tech)
Weight: 293 pounds
Jonathan McLaughlin started all four years at Virginia Tech and started 49 games overall. In his freshman year, McLaughlin started all 13 games and was named second-team freshman All-American by College Football News.
In his career as a Hokie, McLaughlin started 26 games as a left tackle and 23 games at right tackle. In 2016, McLaughlin was named third-team All-ACC at right tackle.
McLaughlin has a good wingspan and has quick feet, but needs to become more consistent. He shows good power in blocking for the run game.
McLaughlin is better suited for zone-blocking scheme, and has the physical attributes which could see him move inside to guard in the NFL.
With the Packers losing both Tretter and Lang to free agency, there is a good chance that one of their draft picks from last season, either Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy, would move inside from the offensive tackle position to play right guard. Because of that, it would be wise to draft a player who has experience at both tackle positions, plus one never knows when the injury bug will bite Bryan Bulaga at right tackle.
Prior to the East-West Shrine Game, McLaughlin met with the Packers. As did two other players who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft, cornerback Fabian Moreau and running back Joe Williams.
Landry said this about McLaughlin after an East-West Shrine Game practice: “McLaughlin displayed strength in his legs when getting into his pass set, as he was hard to move in one-on-one drills and had a great base. He has a lot of length in his arms and legs and uses it well. McLaughlin could stand to improve his quickness in his feet. McLaughlin had a very good day of practice. He was quicker today and was strong in the 11-on-11 period. He is able to stay low through his blocks and has a strong drive in his run blocks.”