Packers Draft Recap: Size Does MatterPosted:May 1st, 2016 3:11 pm
My thought process going into this draft was threefold: 1) expecting the Pack to fortify its front seven; 2) an eye on addressing the offensive line (with four of the top six linemen set to hit free agency in 2017); 3) adding some skill position depth, particularly at RB and TE. Well, two out of three ain't bad.
In the end, Ted Thompson and his staff stocked both lines first and foremost, adding a couple of linebackers and a wide receiver who could take over kick return duties.
Let's break it down:
Two to count on: Super Bowl contenders like the Packers (currently the third favorite in Vegas to win it all) don't depend on the draft for a lot of immediate contributions. But two players will be counted on to step on the field and become immediate playmakers. First round pick Kenny Clark will be asked to assume the role of BJ Raji, anchoring the nose tackle spot and helping the Pack improve against the run. Though just 20, he seems mature beyond his years and seems to be up to the challenge.
Just like last year, Thompson waited until his first pick on the third day to address inside linebacker. I would have liked to see them identify a more highly regarded, athletic guy and use a day two selection at this position, but Thompson coveted his tackle and traded three picks to go up nine spots to get him (more on this in a moment). In drafting Stanford's Blake Martinez, Thompson and his army of scouts hope they found a guy who can step into the middle of the Pack's nickel coverage and become the unit's QB, tackling anything in his path, and covering running backs and tight ends. That might be a lot to ask--I still think the Pack will identify an available veteran in the coming months to compete for playing time inside.
The rare trade-up: Armed with three fourth round picks, Thompson was prepared to move up if he identified a guy he really wanted. I figured he might move up in the third round to grab a guy. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect him to trade three picks to move up nine spots in the second. But in doing so, he likely sniped the Pack's two biggest rivals, who undoubtedly were hoping Indiana's athletic, talented Jason Spriggs would be there when they picked. If all goes as we hope, Spriggs won't see the field in 2016, but will be a likely starter somewhere on the line in 2017.
We all saw what happened when one of the Pack's tackles got injured last year. Disaster--until they tried JC Tretter, who managed things adequately. With Tretter, Bakhtiari, Sitton and Lang in their final contract years, the Pack needed to prepare for a changing of the guard on the line. Spriggs will be ready to step in where ever he's called. It was an unusual move for Thompson, but one I believe we will all be very happy with, once Spriggs takes the field.
Thompson went back to the well with his final pick, grabbing his second Stanford guy, and fourth Pac 12 selection, tackle Kyle Murphy. He may end up moving inside, if that's where the free agency holes appear. At the very least, he provides depth at an invaluable position group and was smart and productive in college.
With his second compensatory pick at the end of the fourth, Thompson added another defensive lineman in former Northwestern Wildcat Dean Lowry, who has the measurables the Pack has lacked at DE since they brought in Dom Capers. With the defections and suspensions on the line, Lowry has a chance to contribute immediately, if he's up to the challenge.
What's a Kyler Fackrell? None of us likely had an idea what this was until Thompson selected him in the third round. We found out he's a tall (6'5") outside linebacker who played four years in the 3-4 at Utah State. We also learned he'll turn 25 during the season, so he should be seasoned and ready to play with the big boys, despite playing for a smaller program. Reviews from scouts were positive and he joins a group that might look a lot different next year, with Peppers and Perry possibly playing in their final seasons for the Pack.
Ted just can't resist wide receivers: Has he ever gone through a draft without nabbing one? With six receivers returning from last season, the competition will be fierce for Cal's Trevor Davis to make the team, but he adds an element most of the others lack: speed. The Pack clocked him in the mid 4.3s, and he ran 4.41 at the combine. He started out at Hawaii, before joining Jared Goff and company at Cal and quickly became a legit kick returner and reliable receiver. We all remember how injury plagued this unit was a year ago, so adding one more makes some sense. If the other six are healthy at camp, he'll have to stand out to make the team, though his special teams ability might earn him a spot.
The Pack added 17 undrafted guys immediately after the draft ended and we all know that if recent history is a clue, a few of these guys will make the final roster. A few that I'll be keeping an eye on: tight end David Grinnage. Thompson passed on this position in the draft, so the former NC State tight end should get a long look. He seems like a Richard Rodgers type--more bulk and less seam-bending ability. The Jared Cook signing lessened the need here, but Grinnage has a chance to stick.
The Pack added two running backs: Nevada's Don Jackson and Troy's Brandon Burns. Neither seem like the change of pace, third down receiving back the Packers need and I wouldn't be surprised if the Pack looks for a guy like that between now and training camp.
With Thompson ignoring the secondary this year, he signed four corners after the draft. The most intriguing to me is Northern Iowa's Makinton Dorleant, a Maryland transfer who had a big time career at UNI. There was a lot of post-draft competition for this guy but he clearly saw the path that fellow corners Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Ladarius Gunter have taken. At least one of the four has a real shot to replace Hayward and possibly the suspended Goodson.
All in all, a satisfying, if unspectacular draft for the Pack. If Clark and Martinez turn into capable starters and the defense takes a step forward after a promising year in 2015, the draft will be a resounding success, regardless of when Spriggs and the others are ready to contribute.