Skill-position players Green Bay should target

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The NFL draft season is in its twilight hour, as teams will finally be gearing up to select their future franchise players. Tiresome mock drafts, awkward Draft interview questions and moneyball free-agent signings carried the offseason, rightfully; yet, holes still abound for some playoff-thirsty squads who came up short last year — like the Green Bay Packers — especially on the offensive side of the ball.

With Jordy Nelson gone, questions at running back and not enough depth behind newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham, the Pack will look to the draft for answers at the skill positions. This doesn’t imply, of course, that if these needs aren’t met on the first day, everyone in subsequent rounds is a scrub. Green Bay has struck success with late-round players in recent years, such as linebacker Blake Martinez, who was selected in the fourth round, former fifth-round safety Micah Hyde and fullback Aaron Ripkowski, who the Pack snagged in the sixth round.

This year, some of the biggest future assets for the Packers may come in the form of late-round picks (in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively) stemming from last month’s trade that moved quarterback DeShone Kizer to Green Bay and sent cornerback Damarious Randall to Cleveland. Perhaps another starter or, at least, needed depth can come from this swap. Below are a few skill-position players who may be miscalculated by other franchises, enough so to have the Green and Gold swoop in for a steal.

Running backs

 

Akrum Wadley, Iowa

Think of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Stevan Ridley or the Atlanta Falcons’ Tevin Coleman, when thinking of Wadley’s pro comparison. His slight frame of 194 pounds allows him to be nimble on his feet, as he can pull out a scissor-kicking hesitation like few others in this class. During both his junior and senior seasons, Wadley surpassed 300 receiving yards and 25 receptions, showing his capabilities as a pass-catcher, on top of being a workhorse running the ball. In his final collegiate game, the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College, Wadley was called on to return kicks. He finished the game with 171 yards on five returns. The skillset is there, and, even if he is to be a short-yardage all-purpose back, the Packers would be glad to steal him in the mid-to-later rounds.

 

John Kelly, Tennessee

After averaging 4.8 yards from scrimmage and putting up 1,077 total yards in his first season as a starter for the Volunteers — after backing up current reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Alvin Kamara in 2016 — it’s safe to say the 5-foot-9 Kelly has been overlooked by many pundits. Certainly, he can break out of a collapsing line, like his former teammate. When watching Kelly move laterally, realizing he can cancel out a defender with an imposing stiff arm, general managers should take note. He has the athletic arsenal to cement himself on an NFL roster for years to come, even though the Kamara comparisons seem like an embellishment, as of now.

 

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

A two-time National Champion at ‘Bama, Scarbrough led the Tide’s backfield as a bruiser, one who absorbed hits like a punching bag. Though he is often found running upright far too much, which is a trait found in the ‘Bama bloodlines, courtesy of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Derrick Henry, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Scarbrough uses his weight with precision. As it stands right now, it will take better footwork and durability on his part, in order to become an every-down back. Sure, the Pack haven’t had too much success with ground-and-pound backs, but maybe the 21-year-old with a lot of postseason experience can change that.

Wide receivers

 

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

Assuming the Pack don’t fall in love with Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley in the first round, and other teams don’t fall in love with Kirk enough to take him in the second round, perhaps something magical happens with the pick no. 76. Kirk is a capable slot receiver, due to his antsy feet, strong hands and good ball-carrying vision. Last year at A&M, Kirk posted 71 receptions for 919 yards and 10 touchdowns. His versatility was unquestioned elsewhere on the field, too, as he averaged 22.3 yards on kickoff returns and 19.1 yards on punt returns. If there are questions about their current return man, Trevor Davis, the Pack could put Kirk back there, while also holding down their present hole in the slot.

 

Javon Wims, Georgia

Whether or not one is a firm believer in Davante Adams leading the newfound receiving corps, it does not take much to realize that Jordy Nelson’s absence from this Packers team will linger all of 2018. Adams is consistent over the middle of the field, and has cured his butterfingers diagnose that plagued his game prior to 2017. However, Nelson was always the preferred deep threat for Aaron Rodgers, averaging at least 15 yards per reception in four separate seasons. This is what Wims could lend the Packers: a 6-foot-4 body that can win jump balls and proficiently catch back-shoulder throws. The former high-school basketball player won’t outrun too many members in the secondary, but his ball-hawking skills would make Rodgers salivate.

 

J’Mon Moore, Missouri

Yet another guy who warrants the ball far beyond the first-down marker, Moore can make a career for himself being, singly, a home-run menace. In both his junior and senior seasons, Moore averaged over 16 yards per reception, mostly due to his ability to swiftly beat corners off the line of scrimmage and his 38-inch vertical. He plants his feet well on comeback routes, and, though he doesn’t have top-tier speed, Moore can flat-out ball after the catch. One glaring problem is his focus (he had 18 drops and three fumbles, during his junior season), though he’s steadily improved on it. The former All-SEC wideout can bring a headstrong mentality and much-needed explosiveness to Green Bay’s offense. It helps that the Packers, who currently hold seven picks in the fifth round or later, hosted Moore a little over a week ago.

 

Tight Ends

 

Ian Thomas, Indiana

Lance Kendricks, who has the agility to make defenders miss downfield, is a respectable number-two tight end behind Graham. However, Graham has been tethered to the offensive line in recent seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, and it remains to be seen whether he will open up the offense, like he once did in New Orleans, or continue his indifferent blocking at the line. Enter Thomas, who has good speed in the open field and can use his physicality to drag defenders, nudge them off in run protection. Being someone who only played 11 total games in two seasons as a Hoosier, the injury-plagued Thomas’ and his subsequent inexperience could be a problem, but he could develop behind the two vets already at the position.

 

Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin

Probably the most-known player on this list of prospects for Packers fans, Fumagalli emerged as a reliable dual-threat for the Orange Bowl-winning Badgers last season. The 6-foot-6 tight end possesses a good set of hands that provides a good pass-catching radius, both of which bode well with his sharp footwork and above-average football intelligence. Though not a superb athlete, he can make do as a short-yardage receiver, as well as block when asked to. What is also noteworthy is that Fumagalli met with Green Bay tight ends coach Brian Angelichio at the NFL Scouting Combine.

 

Durham Smythe, Notre Dame

Not a stat-suffer, the former Fighting Irish giant proved salient in blocking schemes, sealing opposing ends with ease. He stands 6-foot-5, 257 pounds, with an explosive lower body when it comes to blocking. Because of some athletic shortcomings (he posted a 31-inch vertical jump at the Combine, to pair with a 4.81 40-yard dash), Smythe could likely be turn into career back-up, but his tenacity to grab first downs could prove vital for the Pack, a team that ranked 22 in passing first downs.

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