As you know, it’s ridiculous to grade a team’s draft class just hours after the final pick is made. That’s why I’ve waited three whole days to weigh in. Let some time go by, let things marinate a bit. Gain a little perspective.
All kidding aside, I like what Ted Thompson and his staff accomplished. They ended up with two more picks than they started with and added ten guys in what was considered an unusually deep draft class. Leading up to the draft, we heard how deep it was for defensive backs and running backs–two obvious need spots for the Pack and the team used half of its picks on those two positions. Their biggest need was on the back end of the defense and it appears they have plugged the holes left by the departures of Sam Shields and Micah Hyde.
All right, let’s start at the top. The trade out of 29 made a lot of sense, especially considering they apparently were not enamored with JJ Watt there, as has been reported. They were happy to move back to the top of round two, and reportedly went to sleep that night debating between running back Dalvin Cook and corner Kevin King.
If you listened to “In the Zone” Saturday morning, you know I had been drooling over the prospect of Cook joining the Pack’s backfield. With that QB, that line and those receiving weapons, Cook could have made an explosive impact on the offense. With the amount of points this offense could put up, it may not matter how improved the defense is. Of course, Cook came with baggage: off field problems beginning six years ago, three shoulder surgeries and a propensity to fumble.
King, on the other hand, is a baggage-free traveler. He represents everything the Packers’ secondary is lacking: size (6’3″) and speed (4.41). Barring injury, he will be penciled in to a starting spot on the outside and if he looks up to the challenge during camp, will likely get tossed into the fire early, with matchups against the likes of Julio Jones, AJ Green and Dez in the first five weeks. Pre-draft, I was hoping the Pack might take his Huskie teammate, Sidney Jones at the bottom of the second–he went in the middle of that round. Jones may have more upside long-term, but his Achilles injury puts his rookie season in doubt and the Pack needs immediate help.
With their second pick in the round the Packers selected a guy none of us has ever heard of (except for Larry, of course, who’s been trumpeting Jones for months–sorry, Larry, couldn’t resist). At first blush, I scratched my head a bit. I knew there were no pass rushers left that warranted a pick there, but I thought they might be in love with a running back like Kamara or even another corner.
After watching highlights and listening to the talking heads, I understood the pick to be what it was: an immediate replacement for Micah Hyde and a possible successor to Morgan Burnett, who will be a free agent after this season.
King and Jones are here to take over for Shields and Hyde and give the Pack’s secondary precisely what it lacked: much better size and speed to match up with today’s NFL offenses. They will both be expected to step right in and make immediate contributions.
Selecting defensive tackle Montravious Adams was one of those cliche value picks, a guy with all of the measurable you’re looking for at that spot. He’s a guy who broke through this past season after two disappointing years. If the light bulb finally came on, he could be just what the doctor ordered for a team that suddenly has some nice depth at an important position (though his comparisons to Jerel Worthy are a bit troublesome).
If Adams looks like the real deal, he’ll have a shot to join Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark as mainstays on the line. Leroy Guion is running out of chances and the other guys are still finding their way (Lowry, Ringo and Price).
Saturday morning the Packers were on the clock again (kind of fun to be on the clock to open two days of the draft, wasn’t it?) and running back or pass rusher seemed to be the choice. With all three picks on the defensive side so far, I thought they might grab the former Sooner bruiser Perine, though there were a number of pretty good running backs still on the board.
The Biegel pick had to have most of you loyal readers jumping for joy. I don’t watch a lot of Badger games, so I wasn’t that dialed in on what kind of talent he had. His abilities aside, it’s awesome to see a Wisconsin Rapids kid who was named for Vince Lombardi, born into a family of diehard Packer fans join his favorite team. I’m guessing the Pro Shop will sell thousands of Biegel 45 jerseys–second only to #12.
Biegel will get the opportunity to leapfrog past Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell on the depth chart and if he’s the real deal, might allow Dom Capers to move Clay Matthews all over the field. Once again, Thompson pretty much avoided the inside linebacker position in the draft, so Matthews could prove to very valuable there, when needed.
Six picks to go for Thompson and his staff and it was time to grab some offensive players. I would never have believed he would take all offensive guys the rest of the way, with five of them being skill position players. The talker, of course, was the fact that three running backs were picked–first time the team has done that since ’74 (Barty Smith, Don Woods and Eric Torkelson). Did you know that in the 15th round of that draft the Pack picked a tackle from Pitt named Dave Wannstedt? He never saw the field.
By waiting so long to address the position, Thompson figured if he took three of them, there was a chance that two would show enough to better than what the team currently had behind Ty Montgomery. Monday’s release of Don Jackson and Christine Michael let the rookies know that the opportunity is there for two of them to make the team. Let the competition begin. Jamaal Williams, from BYU, looks like the best bet to have a chance at significant carries, but Aaron Jones was also very productive at UTEP and projects as more of a third down guy, so he could get a chance to contribute right away. The seventh rounder, Devante Mays, is the longest shot, but will be motivated to beat one of the other guys out.
It was a surprise to me that the Pack selected two wide receivers. It tells me that the three guys at the bottom of the depth chart: Janis, Allison and Davis will all have to prove they deserve a roster spot in 2017. Janis has earned his stripes on special teams, but as a fourth year guy, his time might be running out. Allison might face a suspension after a pot arrest and Davis needs to make a jump in year two.
Of the two new receivers, the 7th round pick, Malachi Dupre from LSU is the most intriguing. He was projected as a third or fourth rounder–he lacked production in college because LSU couldn’t throw the ball, electing to hand off to Leonard Fournette most of the time. He’s 6’2″ with great hands and decent speed. With solid coaching and a real live QB throwing him the ball, he may project more upside than the three incumbents I mentioned earlier.
The Deangelo Yancey pick in the fifth round was, to me, the worst pick of the draft and I’m not just saying that because he went to Purdon’t, I mean, Purdue. He was projected to be a seventh rounder or priority free agent, because he has a hard time getting open off press coverage and his hands are not great. He has size and decent speed and will get a shot on the outside, where the team needs some speed, but I would think Davis has a better shot than Yancey to stick.
I thought Thompson would pick two offensive linemen in this draft, but the draft eve signing of veteran guard Jahri Evans allowed him to get away with just one. South Florida’s Kofi Amichia was a tackle in college, who will move inside and learn how to play guard. Watching Evans, a four-time all pro, should help him learn the ropes. He was a first team all-AAC pick at left tackle, so he’s got some talent and could be in line to take over at right guard in 2018.
Following the draft, the Pack added 15 free agents and if history is our guide, several will have a good chance to make the team. Looking at the list, I give these guys the best shot: OLB Johnathan Calvin, Mississippi St, OL Geoff Gray, Manitoba, Adam Pankey, G, West Virginia and punter Justin Vogel, from Miami, who will challenge Jason Schum.
So overall, the Pack looks bigger and faster in the secondary, they have a familiar pass rusher who has a chance to take Julius Peppers’ snaps and a handful of running backs to complement Montgomery. If King, Jones and Biegel can become playmakers on defense and one of the running backs pops, this draft will deserve the letter grade that most analysts have already assigned them, A-/B+.