Hey, Everybody, R-E-L.....Posted:Apr 29th, 2016 2:12 pm
OK, like most of you, my salivary glands began to work overtime as the first round moved into the early 20s. A run on wide receivers was beckoning, which meant Ted Thompson would likely have more options than Eddie Lacy has midday snacks.
I started to dream of Myles Jack plunked into the middle of the defense. Of course, in my dream, Jack's bones don't rub together at the knee every time he moves. I also dreamt that linebacker Reggie Ragland would fall into the Pack's hands and, while he may bring coverage concerns with him, he would have brought instant grit, toughness and an ideal inside linebacker on early downs, at the very least.
Maybe Ted would trade down. Maybe a team would freak out for a quarterback and allow Thompson to add a pick or two and slide down 8-10 picks and still get a defensive lineman he liked.
Or, he would do what he did. And it caused most of us to yawn (maybe a few of you said a naught word).
Sure, there were a million highly regarded defensive linemen on the board. But he had one he liked best. One he thought could step right in make us forget all about BJ Raji.
In Kenny Clark, Thompson saw a young (just 20 years old), talented, former wrestler who is strong enough and nimble enough to get into the backfield and stuff running backs. You could argue that finding a Raji replacement was a more critical need than inside linebacker, where Sam Barrington's return and Jake Ryan's development assure us that the cupboard is not completely bare. More on inside linebacker in a bit: I expect Thompson to find one tonight, preferably with his first pick.
The immediate reaction is: what, another UCLA guy? Great, that's four Bruins in the last three drafts The last couple Bruins picks haven't been very inspiring: Jonathan Franklin had to retire before he ever suited up and Datone Jones, another DL picked in the first round, is hoping to find new life at outside linebacker. OK, the jury is still out on Brett Hundley (early returns look promising).
Reaction #2: OK, if you're going to address the D-line, fine. But what about those 'Bama guys? Or Billings from Baylor, or Butler from La. Tech? Those are the guys we heard all the draft experts talking about.
When the Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn tabbed Clark as the pick in his mock draft yesterday, it should have prepared everyone. The guy is about as good as it gets in the nation when it comes to covering the draft. His top 100 picks are usually more spot on than anyone else's. He knew that Clark was Thompson's kind of player. One with tremendous upside, versatility and coachability.
His back story is also interesting--his father has been in prison since he was nine, serving 55 years for murder. There's a terrific story at espn.com, describing how inseparable father and son were before the fateful night. Clark's father has maintained his innocence from the start and the key witness who helped get him convicted has since recanted his testimony. The Clarks are hopeful he will be released soon. Clearly, this sad, tragic experience has caused Clark to grow up in a hurry and shaped who he has become.
So Clark will be needed to step right in and help the Pack's most decimated position, which will also be without Mike Pennel for the first quarter of the season. I expect Thompson to draft another lineman this weekend and bring in a couple more after the draft.
As for rounds two and three, I would be surprised, disappointed and aggravated if Thompson doesn't find an inside linebacker on Friday. My favorite is Temple's Tyler Matakevich, a four year starter and tackling machine. Other names to watch: Mizzou's Kentrell Brothers and Arizona's Scooby Wright (from Thompson's favorite conference).
The other Friday selection? I'd say it will likely be an offensive lineman or an outside linebacker...followed by tight end or running back.
Parting thoughts: deep breaths everyone. Let's look at the class as a whole after the weekend and remember that Thompson is pretty damn good at this. He's built a roster that's the envy of most organizations and his work on day three and after the draft is as good as anyone's.
Drafting Clark is a good start. Not a sexy start. But a solid, 'let's make sure we can stop the run and not allow teams to double team Mike Daniels all day' start. On to Day 2.