Initial 2020 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Matt LaFleur 2020 NFL Combine(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

With all that being said, here goes.

Round 1: Running Back Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what Landry said about Taylor at the combine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round 2: Wide Receiver Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jalen Reagor

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 206 pounds

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

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

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

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

This is what Landry said about Reagor at the combine:

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

Round 3: Center Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)

Tyler Biadasz

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 314 pounds

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

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

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

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

This is what Landry said about the former Badger:

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

Round 4: Linebacker Jacob Phillips (LSU)

Jacob Phillips

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 229 pounds

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

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

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

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

This is was Landry said about Phillips:

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

Round 5: Quarterback James Morgan (FIU)

James Morgan

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 229 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round 6: Offensive Tackle Charlie Heck (North Carolina)

Charlie Heck

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 311 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Cole

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 213 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

Round 6: Linebacker Carter Coughlin (Minnesota)

Carter Coughlin

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 236 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round 7: Defensive Tackle Benito Jones (Mississippi)

Benito Jones

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 316 pounds

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

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

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

This is what Landry about the former Rebel:

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

Round 7: Safety Josh Metellus (Michigan)

Josh Metellus

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 209 pounds

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

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

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

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

This is what Landry said about Metellus at the combine:

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

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

Clay Jr and Clay III After Super Bowl XLV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay and B.J. as rookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay forces fumble in Super Bowl XLV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Taylor Combine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Jones vs. Seahawks

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan was named NFL MVP in 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Gutekunst at the 2020 Combine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That running back could be Jonathan Taylor.

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

Rashan Gary

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

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

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

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

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

Landry also commented about both Gary and Savage.

First, his thoughts on Gary:

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

And now Savage:

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

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

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

Green Bay Packers: Being Too Conservative in Big Games Cost Both Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy

mike sherman and make mccarthy

Since the year 2000, there have only been three permanent head coaches for the Green Bay Packers. Those coaches are Mike Sherman (2000-2005), Mike McCarthy (2006-2018) and currently Matt LaFleur, who was recently hired.

Joe Philbin took over for McCarthy as interim head coach for the last four weeks of the 2018 season after McCarthy was fired and the team went 2-2.

The Packers have been pretty successful in the NFL over the last 19 years with Sherman and McCarthy holding down the fort as head coach.

Sherman was 57-39 in the regular season, with five postseason appearances during that time, which included four straight divisional titles.

However, Sherman was just 2-4 in the postseason, which included the first ever postseason loss in the state of Wisconsin by a Green Bay team.

McCarthy was 125-76-2 in the regular season, with nine appearances in the postseason, which including eight straight seasons at one point and also six NFC North divisional titles.

Although McCarthy and his Packers won Super Bowl XLV, he was just 1-3 in NFC title games and just 10-8 overall in the postseason. Plus, McCarthy was also 0-4 in overtime games in the postseason.

So, how does one read that?

I mean, think about it. In 19 years, the Packers were 184-117-2 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won 10 divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

I would think any franchise in the NFL, with the exception of the New England Patriots, would be thrilled with those results.

I bring up the Patriots for a reason. The head coach of the Patriots is Bill Belichick, who has been the head coach of the Pats since 2000. Which is exactly when Sherman took over in Green Bay.

In those 19 years, Belichick and the Pats have been 225-79 in the regular season. That also includes 16 appearances in the postseason and 16 AFC East titles, which includes 10 straight times now.

Overall, Belichick is now 28-10 in the postseason with his Patriots after the win on Sunday versus the Los Angles Chargers and have been to eight Super Bowls, winning five of them.

The Patriots will be making an astonishing ninth straight appearance in the AFC title game this upcoming Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now granted, Belichick has achieved that with Tom Brady as his quarterback.

That being said, Sherman and McCarthy had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to work with.

After the Patriots, there are very few teams who have been as successful as the Packers since 2000. The two that are in same area code are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.

Since 2000, the Steelers have been 197-105-1 in the regular season, went to the postseason 12 times, won nine divisional titles and two Super Bowls.

The Steelers have only had two head coaches since 2000. The first was Bill Cowher, who coached from 1992 through 2006 and now current head coach Mike Tomlin.

Since 2000, the Colts have been 190-114 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won nine divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

The Colts have been a bit more liberal with their head coaching changes since 2000, starting with Jim Mora (1998-2001), Tony Dungy (2002-2008), Jim Caldwell (2008-2011), Chuck Pagano (2012-2017) and current head coach Frank Reich who took over in 2018.

The common denominator there again is mostly due to the excellent quarterback play, as over that time Ben Roethlisberger had led the Steelers for the most part during that period, while Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have been under center for the Colts most of the time.

When one looks back on the demise of the Packers under Sherman and McCarthy, I can point to a postseason game that each of them should have won, but instead lost. The main reason was being too conservative.

For Sherman it happened in the 2003 postseason in a NFC Divisional Game versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers were 10-6 in 2003 and won the NFC North. The Packers had back to back 12-4 seasons going into 2003, but the team had a rough start to the season.

But after a strong second half, when the Packers won six out of seven games, including four straight to end the season, Green Bay lucked out and won the NFC North. I say lucked out, because it took a last-second touchdown pass in a game between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings to win the division.

Had the Vikings won that game, they, not the Packers, would be NFC North champs. But instead Josh McCown of the Cardinals threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole as time expired. The Cards won the game 33-28 at Sun Devil Stadium and the Vikings not only lost the game, but also a spot in the playoffs.

The Packers took that good karma and ran with it in their Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The Packers string of good luck continued, as an Al Harris 52-yard interception return for a touchdown beat Mike Holmgren and his Hawks 33-27 in OT.

That win led to the divisional game against the Eagles. The winner would be going to the NFC title game.

The Packers started fast in the game and led 14-0. The ground game of the Packers was especially effective as running back Ahman Green rushed for 156 yards in the game. The Packers were leading 17-14 late in the game when Sherman had a difficult decision to make.

ahman green vs. eagles in playoffs

It was fourth down and about a foot to go at the 40 of the Eagles. One more first down ends the game. It’s either go for it or punt.  To me, there was nothing to think about. Run for the first down and get ready for the NFC title game the next week.

Why? Well, not only had the Packers been running wild on the Eagles the whole game, they were also ranked third in the NFL in running the ball in 2003. Toting the rock was a big strength of the team.

Still, Sherman decided to punt. The punt went into the end zone and the ball was placed on the 20. The Packers had a net gain of 20 yards after that punt. Plus, Sherman was putting the game in the hands of a defense that was 17th in total defense in 2003 and was even worse in passing defense, as the team was ranked 23rd.

It all led to the 28-yard completion by Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell on the infamous fourth-and-26 play, which led to the game-tying field goal. The Packers later lost in OT, as the Eagles kicked another field goal after Brett Favre was picked off on a deep pass.

I don’t think that team ever got over that loss. Yes, the Packers went 10-6 in 2004 and won the NFC North again, but the team had a number of holes, due to the bad drafts and free agency miscues that Sherman had been part of, as he was also general manager at the time.

It all led to an embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in a 2004 NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field.

That led to Sherman being stripped of his GM duties, as Ted Thompson was hired for that position. It also led to the Packers driving into the ditch in 2005, as the team went 4-12 and Favre had the worst year of his career.

Shortly thereafter, Sherman was fired. I believe it all stemmed from the postseason game against the Eagles, where had Sherman been proactive instead of be reactive, the Packers probably win.

After Sherman was fired, Thompson hired McCarthy.

McCarthy had a great run as head coach, as I indicated earlier. But when he was one play away from getting his team into their second Super Bowl under him, he decided to play the conservative game, just like Sherman did.

The game I’m talking about is the 2014 NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Packers totally dominated that NFC title game for about 55 minutes, but a late meltdown in all phases of the game led to the most agonizing postseason loss in the history of the Packers, as they lost 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers had a number of opportunities where they could have basically ended the game with just one play.

For instance, safety Morgan Burnett went to the ground after an interception, when it looked like he had a good chance to run the pick back deep into Seattle territory (perhaps even a touchdown) which would have clinched the game.

aaron rodgers vs. the seahawks in the 2014 nfc title game

Still, even with that mistake, the Packers could have won on offense by just getting one more first down. Instead of allowing Rodgers, the MVP of the league in 2014 to throw the ball at least one time, head coach McCarthy instead had the Packers run it three straight times when getting a first down basically would have ended the game. The Packers didn’t get the needed first down.

It led to a Seattle touchdown after the ensuing punt.

Then came the onside kick debacle. Instead of blocking like he was supposed to do, so Jordy Nelson could catch the ball, Brandon Bostick tried to be a hero and catch the ball himself. He didn’t and the Seahawks recovered.

Seattle scored again and were now up by three points. The Packers had to drive down the field to tie the game with a Mason Crosby field goal. McCarthy had no choice but to allow Rodgers to throw the ball in that situation and No. 12 quickly got the Packers in field goal position.

The Packers did indeed tie the game but lost in overtime.

Ironically in the 2018 season, at the very same field late in the game facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, McCarthy decided to punt. Yes, the Packers had one timeout left and there was 4:02 left on the clock. But guess what? Green Bay never got the ball back.

The reason was pretty obvious to anyone watching the game in the second half. Because of injuries on their defensive line, the Packers could not stop the running game of the Seahawks. And they didn’t stop them after the McCarthy decided to punt either.

17 days later, McCarthy was fired after the loss to the Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Now I know what some will say. The Packers did get back into the postseason in 2015 and 2016 after that brutal loss in Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game.

But in 2015, the Packers had to go in as a Wild Card with a 10-6 record, as the team was flat down the stretch and lost the final game of the season to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field which enabled the Vikings to win the NFC North title.

Then after defeating the Washington Redskins in a NFC Wild Card game at FedEx Field, the Packers had a chance to steal a win in the NFC Divisional round against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Packers were trailing 20-13 with 55 seconds left in the game. They were facing a fourth-and-20 from their own four. Somehow, Rodgers miraculously was able to complete a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Janis, which put the ball at the Arizona 36.

Janis and fellow backup wide receiver Jared Abbrederis were only in the game because of injuries to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson was out for the year with an ACL injury he suffered in the preseason.

It came down to five seconds to go from the Arizona 41. Rodgers once again pulled out another miracle as hit Janis in the end zone for a Hail Mary touchdown.

Earlier in the drive, color commentator Cris Collinsworth said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers went for two if they scored a touchdown. I was thinking the same thing.

The Packers were an injury depleted team. They had just shocked the Cardinals with a late touchdown with no time left. On a drive that went 96 yards in 55 seconds. Arizona was wobbling. But alas, McCarthy decided to kick the extra point and tie the game.

Of course, the Cardinals scored on the opening drive of OT and the Packers lost 26-20.

In 2017, the Packers had to win their last six games of the season which won them the NFC North with a 10-6 record. The team also won two postseason games before they were blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game 44-21 at the Georgia Dome.

The Packers were never able to regain their swagger under McCarthy, as they team went 7-9 in 2017, as Rodgers missed several games again with another broken collarbone and were 4-7-1 when McCarthy was fired in 2018.

Bottom line, both Sherman and McCarthy had nice runs in Green Bay. But both could have been even more successful had they been willing to put their foot on the throat of their opponents in key moments to win the game.

The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. Was Lombardi a conservative head coach? Hardly. He blamed himself for the only postseason loss (against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game) he ever suffered by going for it on a couple of fourth and short situations and being stopped in Philadelphia territory at Franklin Field.

The Packers lost that game 17-13, as fullback Jim Taylor was tackled at the Philadelphia 8-yardline as time ran out. The Packers needed a touchdown to win the game instead of a field goal that Lombardi could have kicked earlier in the game.

Plus there is the legendary “Ice Bowl” game, also known as the 1967 NFL Championship game. That classic game came down to the Packers having just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and trailing 17-14.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Lombardi could have brought in Don Chandler to kick a short field goal to tie the game then, but he decided to go for it and instead went for the touchdown. It worked out perfectly, as quarterback Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh (with help from center Ken Bowman) and No. 15 tumbled happily into the end zone for the winning score.

The Lombardi of current times is Belichick, based on what he done over the past 19 years. Like Lombardi, Belichick is a confident coach and will try to end the game on his terms.  And also like Lombardi did, Belichick trusts his players to get the job done when the situation calls for it.

Now did all the gambles that Lombardi and Belichick utilized work? No. But many more times than not they did. And together the two coaches won 10 NFL titles.

As a head coach, sometimes the situation calls for trusting your players in big moments in big games. Sherman and McCarthy did not in key situations and it ending up costing them. First in the deflating the spirit of their teams, which led to them eventually losing their jobs further down the road.

Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur has the Attributes to be a Successful Head Coach

matt lafleur

I’m sure many in Packer Nation asked the same question when it was announced that the Green Bay Packers had hired Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach.

Who the hell is Matt LaFleur?

The 39 year-old LaFleur was definitely an under the radar selection by president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Packers, but when one takes a closer look at the background of LaFleur and peels back the onion a bit, there is a lot to like.

First off, LaFleur has worked under some great offensive minds in the NFL. LaFleur has been an assistant under head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans, head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan of the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams before running the offense of the Tennessee Titans in 2018 as offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Vrabel.

At Houston, LaFleur was offensive quality control coach and then was the quarterbacks coach at Washington and Atlanta. In Los Angeles, his title was offensive coordinator, but McVay called the plays. When he became the OC in Tennessee, LaFleur was able to call the plays himself.

Let’s look at the success that players who have been tutored by LaFleur have done.

In 2012, while he was the QBs coach of the Redskins, quarterback Robert Griffin III was the rage of the NFL and became the Offensive Rookie of the Year, as he threw 20 touchdown passes, compared to just five picks for 3,200 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 102.4.

RGIII also ran for 815 yards and seven more scores.

In Atlanta, again as QB coach, quarterback Matt Ryan became the NFL MVP in 2016, as he threw 38 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,944 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 117.1.

Ryan just carved the defense of the Packers apart during the 2016 regular season as he threw three TD passes without an interception for 288 yards and a passer rating of 129. 5, as the Falcons squeezed by the Pack 33-32. But that was nothing compared to what Ryan did to the defense of the Packers in the 2016 NFL title game.

Ryan threw four TD passes, without a pick once again, for 392 yards and a passer rating of 139.4, as the Dirty Birds blew out the Packers 44-21.

matt lafleur and matt ryan

As offensive coordinator of the Rams in 2017, his number one priority was to get second-year quarterback Jared Goff to the next level after a very tough rookie year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, based on the excellent work that LaFleur has done in both the passing and running game, not to mention the coaches he has developed under, it’s no wonder why the Packers made him their new head coach.

The Mike McCarthy tenure had run it’s course and although he and then general manager Ted Thompson had a lot of success over several years, it was time to turn the page. Which is what Murphy did after the brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on December 2nd.

In addition to all that, reports say that LaFleur is inclined to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and perhaps even keep other coaches as well, including Joe Philbin, who was interim head coach after the firing of McCarthy.

To me, that is good news. As was the report that quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave his blessing to the hiring of LaFleur. That is key.

When McCarthy was hired in 2006, his first priority was to get quarterback Brett Favre back to playing a MVP level again. That’s because is 2005, Favre had his worse season ever, as he threw 20 touchdown passes versus a whopping 29 interception for 3,881 yards. That added up to a very mediocre passer rating of 70.9.

Favre improved in 2006 and then really took off in his last season in Green Bay in 2007, as he threw 28 TD passes versus 15 picks for 4,155 yards. No. 4’s passer rating improved to 95.7 and the Packers made it to the NFC title game.

LaFleur has a similar situation with Rodgers, although not near as much work as McCarthy had to do with Favre.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

Most quarterbacks in the NFL would have loved to have the stats Rodgers had in 2018. No. 12 threw 25 touchdown passes versus just two picks for 4,442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 97.6, which isn’t too far from his career passer rating mark of 103.1, which is tops in NFL history.

Still, something wasn’t right. First, there was an obvious disconnect between Rodgers and McCarthy. Plus, the completion percentage for Rodgers was just 62.3 percent, which is two points lower than his career average. Adding to that, Rodgers threw away more passes than he has ever done in his career and his accuracy was off at times. Sometimes missing low and other times high.

Some of that can be blamed on the sprained knee Rodgers suffered in the first game of the season against the Chicago Bears, but the two-time NFL MVP gutted it out and played in all 16 games.

Speaking of Green Bay quarterbacks, back in 2014, LaFleur was the QBs coach at Notre Dame. Which means he has a good read on the skills of backup quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was with the Fighting Irish then.

It’s important that LaFleur can aid in the development of Kizer and to find out whether or not he is a viable backup QB to Rodgers.

The bottom line is that I believe the hiring of LaFleur as head coach by Murphy and Gutekunst was excellent. LaFleur has proven that he can help make quarterbacks and running backs play much better.

The key now for LaFleur is to put together the best possible coaching staff he can. Keeping Pettine and possibly Philbin are two good moves in my opinion.

Adding an excellent special teams coach will also be paramount to the success of the teams LaFleur will put together in Green Bay.

But just like Vince Lombardi in 1959, Mike Holmgren in 1992 and McCarthy in 2006, I have a feeling that the hiring of LaFleur will yield similar success.

Packer Nation will get to meet LaFleur tomorrow, as he will be introduced as the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

 

Green Bay Packers: David Bakhtiari is Deserving of his 2018 AP All-Pro Status

david bakhtiari at jets

On Friday, left tackle David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers was named first-team AP All-Pro. This is the third straight year that Bakhtiari was named to the AP All-Pro team, but in both 2016 and 2017, he was named to the second team.

The honor given to Bakhtiari is rightly deserved, although you wouldn’t know it based on the fact that he was not even named to the Pro Bowl this year. No. 69 was named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2016.

Pro Football Focus also rated him the best offensive tackle in the NFL in 2018. Here is what Austin Gayle of PFF wrote about Bakhtiari:

Bakhtiari is in a league of his own when it comes to pass protection. He was the only offensive tackle with at least 350 pass-block snaps to earn a pass-blocking grade above 86.8 in 2018, allowing just 28 total pressures across his 737 pass-blocking snaps.

PFF also ranks Bakhtiari high in his run-blocking as well.

Since 2013, which was Bakhtiari’s rookie year, the former Colorado Buffalo has started 90 out of a possible 96 games (94 percent). Bakhtiari has played hurt as well, as he has gone out on the field with ankle, knee and hamstring injuries.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to feel very fortunate to have such a capable pass-blocker protecting his blind side.

That is not always the case at right tackle for Rodgers. The reason? Bryan Bulaga is often injured and not able to play. Bulaga is a very capable right tackle when healthy, but that’s the problem. When healthy are the two key words.

Since 2010, Bulaga has started 95 of a possible 140 games (68 percent). Over the past two years, No. 75 has only been able to start in 23 of the 32 games because of injury issues, plus left a number of those games he has started because he aggravated the injury or suffered a new one.

That has caused some issues, because the Packers have no quality depth at offensive tackle. Jason Spriggs has proven that every time he has come in to play either right tackle or left tackle (when Bakhtaiari was out).

Spriggs is way too inconsistent and has now played three years in the NFL. In my opinion, the Packers should do what they did with Mike Wahle after he showed he could not play offensive tackle. Move Spriggs to guard. It worked out very well for Wahle and what do the Packers have to lose with Spriggs, who is going into the last year of his rookie contract?

Plus there is this. Bulaga is slated to make $8.3 million in 2019. That’s a lot of money for a guy who is often injured.

jonah williams

Jonah Williams of Alabama.

In my opinion, the Packers need to use the draft and free agency to help out their quality depth issues on the offensive line. Mostly at tackle, but also a guard. If I were general manager Brian Gutekunst, I would draft an offensive tackle early in the draft and also one a bit later in the draft.

I would also draft a guard in the draft.

I know the Packers have other positional issues like at edge rusher, safety and tight end, but the health of the face of the franchise (Rodgers) is at stake here.

I’ll be putting out my draft work soon, but just looking at the draft board as I see it now, the Packers should jump at the chance to select Jonah Williams of Alabama if he is still available at pick No. 12 in Round 1, when Green Bay has it’s first of two selections in that round.

NFL scout Chris Landry has Williams rated as the No. 5 player on his overall draft board.

The bottom line is that then GM Ted Thompson tried to address the lack of quality depth at offensive tackle in the 2016 NFL draft when he drafted Spriggs and Kyle Murphy. That has not panned out.

It’s time to finally fix a problem that has been festering for years now.

At least the Packers know that they have the best left tackle in the NFL in Bakhtiari. Now it’s time to get him some quality help on the other side and also someone who will be on the field each and every game.

The Hourglass is Running Out on Mike McCarthy’s Tenure in Green Bay

Mike McCarthy in Seattle

When one looks at the track record of Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Green Bay Packers over close to 13 seasons, there is a lot to like.

Things like having a 125-75-2 record in the regular season, which equates to a .624 winning percentage. That includes six NFC North titles.

Plus there is the fact that the Packers have been to the postseason nine times under his watch, including eight seasons in a row. But even though his team won Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy has not fared as well in the postseason overall, as he is just 10-8.

Included in that were three losses in the NFC title game, two of which were lost in overtime. In addition to that, McCarthy’s teams have lost two other postseason games in overtime.

That’s four overtime losses in the postseason.

Just imagine what McCarthy’s record might be in the postseason if his teams got a break or two in those games. Instead of 10-8, McCarthy’s record in the postseason might be much better and might include another Vince Lombardi Trophy or two.

But sometimes you have to create your own breaks. And that’s where some of us take issue with McCarthy’s tactics over the years in big games. Like being too conservative.

I’ll give you two examples and they both happened in the same stadium (CenturyLink Field) when the Packers played the Seattle Seahawks.

The first example is the 2014 NFC championship game. The Packers dominated the game for 55 minutes, but a breakdown on offense, defense and special teams in the last five minutes led to an agonizing 28-22 loss in overtime.

At one point the Packers were basically one more first down away from putting the game away. So what plays did McCarthy call in that instance? Three straight running plays. This with the 2014 NFL MVP (Aaron Rodgers) as your quarterback.

Then on Thursday night with the Packers down 27-24 with 4:02 to go in the game and the Packers facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, with just one timeout, McCarthy decided to punt, again with Rodgers as his QB.

The Packers never got the ball back, as the Packers were having big issues stopping the run in the second half of the game, plus defensive lineman Mike Daniels was out of the game with an ankle injury and fellow D-lineman Kenny Clark had also limped off with an injury.

So what was McCarthy’s explanation?

“We have the injuries to Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, so yeah, it was definitely a consideration there,” McCarthy said. “But with the one timeout and the ability to stop the clock at the two-minute [warning], we played the numbers.”

That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.

Which is why the now 4-5-1 Packers might not make the postseason for the second straight year. Which also places McCarthy is the hot seat of being perhaps fired.

I hear from a lot of fans that McCarthy was fortunate that he had Brett Favre and Rodgers playing quarterback for him during most of his tenure. Plus, when Rodgers was hurt last year, the team didn’t fare very well with Brett Hundley at quarterback.

That is true, but at least McCarthy was smart enough to bring back Matt Flynn in 2013 when Rodgers was out with a similar injury. That helped the Packers achieve their third straight NFC North title.

But now things look much worse. It certainly appears that McCarthy and Rodgers are not on the same page in terms of the play calling on offense.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

Plus, now McCarthy doesn’t have Ted Thompson as his GM anymore. That job now belongs to Brian Gutekunst. But even with a new general manager, the decision to keep or fire McCarthy lies with team president Mark Murphy.

On Friday, McCarthy talked to the media about his job status.

“That’s the job,” McCarthy said. “That’s the way this business has gone. I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coach.

“We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”

But McCarthy also realizes that things are different in today’s NFL, especially now that people can get information off the social media.

“I don’t think you can tune (criticism) out,” McCarthy said. “That’s the old days. That’s when you had newspapers. But I think today’s world, everything is accessible, everything is instant. I’m sure (Packers players are) all aware.”

McCarthy has been down this road before with his team, both in 2013 (when the Packers need a strong push from Flynn at the end of the season) and in 2016 (when the Packers need to win the last six games of the season to win the NFC North and make the playoffs).

Green Bay almost certainly has to run the table again with six straight wins in 2018 for the team to perhaps win the NFC North or get in as a Wild Card.

The odds of that don’t seem too good, especially knowing the team is 0-5 on the road.

There is growing speculation that McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is short. An article by Mike Silver of NFL.com illustrates that.

In the article, Silver uses a couple of quotes about McCarthy’s decision to punt late in the game.

Defensive back Tramon Williams of the Packers shared his thoughts on that subject.

“I want to go for it,” Williams said. “I want to play to win. We’ve got Aaron Rodgers. We (should) play to win — period. We don’t want to put it in anybody else’s hands. We’ve got the best quarterback in the league. We’ve got to put it in his hands and let him do what he does.”

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of the Seahawks was very happy with McCarthy’s decision.

“Oh my God,” Norton said after the game. “I was like, ‘Please! Punt! Punt! Punt!’ ”

Time will tell how this will all play out, but unless things change pretty drastically, the Packers will most likely will have a new head coach in 2019.

Green Bay Packers: GM Brian Gutekunst is Having a Nice Rookie Year

Brian Gutekunst at OTA

Brian Gutekunst via packers.com.

In his first term as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Brian Gutekunst is having a pretty good rookie season. Or offseason, depending how you look at it.

The additions that Gutekunst has made to the roster up until now has been quite unlike what we have seen from Ted Thompson over the past 13 years, when he held the same job title.

Let’s take a look at the roster moves that Gutekunst has made since he became GM.

The first acquisition that Gutekunst made was when he traded defensive back Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer. Plus the Packers and Browns swapped picks in the fourth and fifth rounds in the 2018 NFL draft.

The move was made for two reasons. Randall had basically worn out his welcome in Green Bay, both with his inconsistent performances and his attitude. The addition of Kizer says a lot about how the team feels about the overall performance of Brett Hundley in 2017, as he took over for Aaron Rodgers after No. 12 fractured his collarbone in Week 6.

Hundley was 3-6 as a starter and he threw nine touchdown passes compared to 12 interceptions for 1,853 yards. No. 7’s passer rating was just 70.9.

Hundley was also sacked 29 times, as he had difficulty moving around the pocket and going through his reads.

Hundley did run for 270 yards and two scores, but he just couldn’t lead the Packers down the field consistently enough due to his passing deficiencies.

The 6’4″, 235-pound Kizer will push Hundley in 2018 for the backup job behind Rodgers. My money is on Kizer winning that battle.

Just a few days after the trade to pick up Kizer, Gutekunst really got busy. He first released wide receiver Jody Nelson, who was definitely a fan favorite in Green Bay. NFL scout Chris Landry told me that Nelson looked visibly slower in 2017, which was two years removed from a torn ACL in the 2015 preseason.

The release of Nelson cleared $10.2 million in cap space.

After the release of Nelson, the Packers signed tight end Jimmy Graham of the Seattle Seahawks to a three-year contract worth $30 million, with $22 million paid out during the first two years of the deal.

Graham will be a big red zone weapon for Rodgers to utilize, as well as someone who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field. Rodgers has taken advantage of that situation before in the past in Green Bay with other tight ends like Jermichael Finley and Jared Cook.

In his eight-year career in the NFL, Graham has 556 receptions for 6,800 yards and 69 touchdowns.

The 6’7″, 265-pound Graham has also been named to five Pro Bowl squads and was also named first-team All-Pro in 2013 by AP.

Jimmy Graham as a Packer

Jimmy Graham

Shortly after inking Graham to a deal, Gutekunst signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, formerly of the New York Jets.

Wilkerson had played the first two years of his career with the Jets under the new defensive coordinator of the Packers, Mike Pettine.

The 6’4″, 315-pound Wilkerson signed a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives, according to Tom Pellissero of NFL Network.

In his entire seven-year career with the Jets, Wilkerson had 405 tackles, 44.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (for a touchdown).

Wilkerson will make the defensive line of the Packers a very formidable force, along with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Not long after signing Graham and Wilkerson, Gutekunst brought back a former Packer, as he signed cornerback Tramon Williams, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals. Williams also played under Pettine in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns when Pettine was the head coach there.

Williams, along with the re-signing of Davon House, will definitely help in tutoring the young cornerbacks on the Green Bay roster. The youth and depth at the CB position grew even larger because of the 2018 NFL draft of the Packers.

Before the Packers made their first selection in Round 1, the team traded back from pick No. 15 to pick No. 27 with the New Orleans Saints. The trade netted the Packers a first-round pick in 2019 from the Saints.

When the draft was over, the Packers had used their first two selections on cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson), drafted a cover linebacker (Oren Burks), added three big and fast wide receivers (J’Mon Moore, Marquez Vlaldes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown), selected an offensive tackle who will most likely play guard (Cole Madison), added some talent to special teams (punter JK Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley) and added some late help to the pass rush (defensive end James Looney and outside linebacker Kendall Donnerson).

Gutekunst also added a number of undrafted rookie free agents to the roster, some of whom have a real opportunity to make the team. Center Austin Davis of Duke is one such player.

While the Packers certainly addressed a number of needs in the 2018 NFL draft, I thought there were three areas of concern which weren’t focused on.

Those areas were adding depth at the offensive tackle position, adding a run-blocking tight end and adding more help to the pass rush much sooner in the draft.

As it turns out, Gutekunst addressed two of those areas in free agency after the draft, as he added offensive lineman Byron Bell and tight end Marcedes Lewis.

The 6’5″, 320-pound Bell has made 74 starts in his NFL career, as he has played with the Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. Bell, who is 29, has started at both offensive tackle positions, as well as at left guard.

The addition helps specifically at right tackle, as Bryan Bulaga is coming back from his second ACL tear and has been injury prone most of his NFL career. No. 75 has missed 43 games due to injury in his eight years with the Packers.

In addition to that, his backups (Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy) have also had injury issues.

The 6’6″, 267-pound Lewis is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. The Packers had two seam-stretching tight ends in Graham and Lance Kendricks, but neither is known for their blocking abilities. Lewis can block with the best of them and is also a threat in the passing game as well.

Lewis, was the first round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006 and has caught 375 passes for 4,502 yards and 33 touchdowns. Lewis was also a Pro Bowl selection in 2010.

Marcedes Lewis

Marcedes Lewis

In terms of how the pass rush for the Packers will improve in 2018, I still have concerns, but a recent article by Pete Dougherty of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin eased that matter somewhat.

I was concerned about Green Bay’s lack of a pass rush going into the draft. In 2017, the Packers were ranked 22nd in total defense, plus were only tied for 17th in sacks with 37. That lack of pass-pressure led to Green Bay being ranked 23rd in pass defense in the NFL and 31st in the opposing QB’s passer rating.

The Packers allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks for 3,789 yards. That adds up to allowing a ridiculous passer rating of 102.0 for the opposing quarterbacks. Ouch.

Now Green Bay did add some nice talent to the cornerback position in the draft, plus also added a cover linebacker, but if an opposing quarterback has too much time to find an open receiver, he will eventually find one.

That happened far too often to the Packers in 2017.

Which was the primary reason Dom Capers was fired as defensive coordinator and replaced by Mike Pettine.

The track record of Pettine as a defensive coordinator is very good. In five years as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, four with the New York Jets under head coach Rex Ryan and one with the Buffalo Bills, Pettine always coordinated a top 10 defense.

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

And when the Packers added Wilkerson in free agency to reunite with Pettine, that may have shed some light on where the Packers expect to field an effective pass rush.

Dougherty noted in his story about where the pass rush for the Packers might be coming from, via a quote from Pettine himself.

“People talk about the exterior pass rush,” Pettine said after a recent Packers OTA practice, “but I think the interior pass rush is as important or maybe potentially more important.”

That is what Wilkerson can add with his 44.5 career sacks on the defensive line. Combine that with Mike Daniels (27 career sacks) and Kenny Clark (4.5 sacks in 2017), you might just have a very good inside avenue to disrupt the passing prowess of an opposing quarterback.

The Packers also have enough depth in the defensive line to keep everyone fresh with players like Montravius Adams and Dean Lowry. Plus, the Packers added Looney in the draft and signed two intriguing undrafted rookie defensive line prospects in Tyler Lancaster of Northwestern and Conor Sheehy of Wisconsin.

As Dougherty writes in his story, the defensive scheme that has been put together by Pettine has always relied on inside pass pressure. And that is a big strength of the Packers with Wilkerson, Daniels and Clark.

“If I’m an offense, it’s a lot easier to handle guys off the edges via formation or chipping or doubles,” Pettine said. “Inside, usually somebody’s getting— one guy, maybe two — are getting one-on-ones. Those guys have to win. If you can be dominant inside, I think that just has a ripple effect throughout your defense when you’re speeding up that quarterback’s clock because you have guys winning inside or at least pushing the pocket.”

In Pettine’s four seasons with the Jets (2009-12), he never had an outside rusher with more than eight sacks, but he did got of lot of pressure and sacks from his inside linebackers and defensive linemen.

Based on what Pettine’s defenses has done in the past, it appears that the key is to get as many one-on-ones up the middle as he can.

“It’s paramount that you have guys that can win inside,” Pettine said.

Mike Pettine as a Packer DC

Mike Pettine via packers.com.

But the guys on the outside have to help out as well. Clay Matthews (80 career sacks and 7.5 sacks in 2017) and Nick Perry (30.5 career sacks and 18 sacks the past two seasons) have shown in the past that they can be very good pass rushers. The problem with Matthews and Perry is keeping them on the field, as both have had injury issues throughout their respective careers.

That’s why young outside linebackers like Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert have to step up their game in 2018.

But the bottom line is that Gutekunst has upgraded the team in a number of areas,  both in the draft and also in the liberal use of free agency, bringing in the likes of Graham, Wilkerson, Williams, Bell and Lewis.

The trade to acquire Kizer at quarterback also appears to be an upgrade.

The use of free agency was rare back in the days of Thompson, but when he dipped his pan in the free agency waters, he sometimes found gold, which was the case with both Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers.

Gutekunst was on Thompson’s scouting staff when both of those signings took place and they were obviously a lesson learned. That is not to say all of the free agency signings Gutekunst has made so far in 2018 will yield similar results, but all of the players he has signed have shown talent at times in the past, as four of the free agents he has signed have played in the Pro Bowl.

Add to the fact that the Packers have also made a number of coaching changes under head coach Mike McCarthy, with the biggest one being Pettine as the new defensive coordinator, the Packers appear to be a much better team in 2018, compared to last season.

Gutekunst has definitely aided that effort with the approach he has taken to add more talent to the Green Bay roster.

So far, so good, for the rookie.

Reviewing the 2018 NFL Draft of the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst as GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round 1: Cornerback Jaire Alexander (Louisville)

Jaire Alexander II

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

Round 2: Cornerback Josh Jackson (Iowa)

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

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

Round 3: Linebacker Oren Burks (Vanderbilt)

Oren Burks

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

Round 4: Wide Receiver J’Mon Moore Missouri

J'Mon Moore

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

Round 5: Offensive Lineman Cole Madison (Washington State)

Cole Madison II

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

Round 5: Punter JK Scott (Alabama)

JK Scott

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

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

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

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

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

Equanimeous St. Brown II

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

Round 7: Defensive End James Looney (California)

James Looney

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

Round 7: Long Snapper Hunter Bradley (Mississippi State)

Hunter Bradley

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

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

Kendall Donnerson

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