The Green Bay Packers have their second losing season in as many years and have a brand-new coach to show for it. With him come new offensive position preferences and skills. NFL free agency doesn’t start for another couple months (March 13 at 4 PM New York Time) so I won’t be considering any possible additions through that route, even though I fully expect Gute to make some moves. I will try and plug great players into the biggest holes on the roster currently.
Round 1 Pick 12: Clelin Ferrell EDGE Clemson
The Packers managed to finish 6th in total sack percentage without a true presence at the edge position, due to Pettine being able to scheme up pressures. Also taking into account that Matthews is likely to be over paid in free agency by a team looking for a shiny name to add (Raiders) I don’t see the Packers retaining his services. Even if Matthews were to be retained, he is no longer that runner up defensive player of the year that he was robbed of in 2010.
Ferrell was discussed as a top 15 pick last year before he, along with the rest of the stud Clemson defensive line, decided to return to college for another shot at the national championship, which they successfully achieved. This made Ferrell apart of 3 national title teams, 2 of which he started for, bringing a winning mentality with him to Green Bay.
On the measurements side he stands 6’5” and 260 pounds according to Clemson’s team website. On film he looks it, moving fast and bullish. He is also the most impressive player on a stacked defensive line, making him less of a “is he a product or cause” prospect. Even though he is known mainly as a pass rusher he shows he is more than willing to get his nose dirty on run defense. Making him more likely to see the field often with defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine, preferring his players to be able to do their responsibilities on every down efficiently (see. Josh Jones).
Round 1 Pick 32(Trade with Saints): Dalton Risner OG or OT Kansas State
The reason I have him at guard or tackle comes down to the question of Bryan Bulaga. If the Packers choose to retain the often injured right tackle for the last year of his contract, then Risner can start immediately at guard and if Bulaga happens to get hurt throughout the year, Risner can play tackle in a pinch, a position he started at for more than 20 games at Kansas State. Which would make right tackle less of a need this year and the ability to focus on other positions in the draft and free agency.
This alone isn’t the only reason I prefer Risner. For one, he’s regarded as the best pass blocking guard in the draft. With a 30-million-dollar quarterback on the wrong side of 30 that has also been injured significantly the past two seasons, it must be a priority to keep him upright. Second, he is a big man at 6’5” and 300+ that has been on the Outland watch list (best college football interior lineman) twice in his career. A transition from tackle to guard is also a move the Packers like to have their guards make in the NFL.
Round 2 Pick 44: TJ Hockenson Iowa
I love Iowa players. That’s all. They just come to the league and do their job. The last tight end prospect to come out of Iowa with a similar comparison to Hockenson was George Kittle and he broke the receiving record for tight ends in his second year in the league. In all honesty Kittle and Hockenson do compare favorably. Both are 6’ 5”, above 145, demon run blockers and have the ability to compete in the pass game but needed to develop in as route runners. Kittle plays in the Kyle Shannahan offense, a offense that new Packers head coach just happened to get his start in and still runs a similar west coast offense.I’m not saying Hockenson is the second coming of Kittle but upside is important and Kittle was drafted in the 5th round based off that alone. Hockenson is a better prospect right now compared to college Kittle.
I’ll add since typing up this article and having it reviewed by my fellow CCC writers, Hockenson has been mocked to us in the 1st with the 12th pick. I don’t agree with this as he isn’t completely polished as a receiver. If you take a player that early in the first, he must be a plug and play player right away. Which is why I would say he has to be a second-round prospect unless he goes to the combine and completely blows every other tight end prospect out of the water.
Round 3 Pick 76: S Juan Thornhill Virginia
I’ve seen some fans saying safety is our biggest need and even if I were to agree, there are no first-round safeties I like enough to draft over Risner or Ferrell. Including top billed safety prospect Deionte Thompson out of Alabama, who looked average against Clemson and a little too much like a Haha Clinton-Dix in my opinion. Also, it comes down to which spot to upgrade strong safety or free safety. The Packers do have Josh Jones on the roster, even if it did take him being the only healthy body left for him to see the field, giving him another year to prove to Pettine he can be counted on to do his job could be beneficial.
With that it’s time to see why I like Juan Thornhill for the Packers. He has good play speed, and that mixed with his considerably high IQ for the game, often puts him in the right place to make a play. He has college experience at both corner and safety, but he hasn’t had a lot of time to develop his instincts at the safety position where he better projects to the NFL. If Williams is still at the free safety spot next year, then Thornhill has an opportunity to play sparingly for a few weeks to get a better handle on the playbook before eventually being able to kick Williams back to corner.
Overall, this was my first mock draft of the year and as the Draft gets closer, I will more than likely change picks and add more rounds. It’s still early in the process, but if the draft was tomorrow, I’m fairly confident in these first 3 rounds and the prospects I selected.