Top Five Candidates for the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 Pick in the Draft

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIFebruary 4, 2012

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 22:  Defensive lineman Vinny Curry #99 of the Marshall Thundering Herd lines up against the Houston Cougars at Robertson Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers are looking for a couple things in the 2012 NFL Draft to help improve their roster heading into next year.

First, they could definitely use some help rushing the passer. They need to find a DE that can rush the passer in a 3-4 scheme and also a pass-rushing OLB to complement Clay Matthews

Other needs for the Packers are safety, cornerback, and maybe some more offensive line help. However, it makes the most sense for the Packers to draft a pass-rushing defensive player in the first round because that is their most glaring weakness.

Here are the top five players the Packers should be looking to draft this year:

Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

Whitney Mercilus had the most sacks in the country in 2011 for the Fighting Illini. He's a ferocious bull rusher and he is also developing some nice moves off the ball to get to the quarterback.

Mercilus would be a great option for the Packers, as he would fill the OLB spot opposite Clay Matthews and give the Packers one of the best linebacking corps in the league.  

Mercilus played DE in college, but he has the size and talent to learn to rush the passer standing up in the NFL. If he's available at 28 the Packers have to take him.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Whitney Mercilus #85 of the Illinois Fighting Illini rushes against Jack Mewhort #74 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jona
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Melvin Ingram would play OLB opposite Clay Matthews if the Packers used their first pick on him, and he would be an instant upgrade over Erik Walden. Ingram is very versatile, and that would be very key in the Dom Capers's 3-4 scheme.

He would be really good against the run and would provide a boost to the Packers' pass rush. He would really benefit from the Clay Matthews double teams, and he could do a lot of damage in the opposing team's backfield. 

Nick Perry, USC

If Perry can add a few more moves to his arsenal as a pass rusher, he could turn out to be a really good edge rusher in the NFL. He's got the talent and the speed to do it, and he would be one of the favorites for NFL Rookie of the Year if his partner in crime was Clay Matthews. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: John White #15 of the Utah Utes catches a pass in front of Nick Perry #8 of the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Perry is not the best at stopping the run, but neither was Clay Matthews when he was drafted. Perry could work at it once he got to the NFL, and he could turn out to be solid at stopping the run just like Matthews is now.

Perry might not fall to pick 28 but there's always a chance, and if Ted Thompson likes him enough he could possibly trade up to get him.

Vinny Curry, Marshall

Vinny Curry would be a really good pick by the Packers. He's a great pass rusher and gives a ton of effort to get to the quarterback. He has tremendous closing speed and quickness coming off the ball, which makes him a good rusher and good against the run.

He was also a good tackler in college with his NFL-caliber length and strength. He is great off the field, too. He is good with the media and is looked up to by younger players in the locker room. The Packers could fall in love with Curry and decide to draft him in the first round to help out this Packers' defense.

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17:  Quarterback Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies runs with the ball as linebacker Zach Brown #47 of the North Carolina Tar Heels chases at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Zach Brown, North Carolina

Brown is a raw pass-rushing talent out of college. He has the tools and the speed to be a good rusher, but he doesn't have the the best technique as a pass rusher quite yet.

However, he does have a lot of talent and speed, which could help him be coached up to be a great outside linebacker for the Packers. He could develop into a guy that could complement Clay Matthews well, and he is also a solid run defender. He could be more explosive and aggressive in the run game, but that could come with time in the NFL.

Brown is an unlikely option for the Packers because of the other options out there, but he would not be a bad choice for Green Bay if that's what they were left with.

In conclusion, the Packers should definitely look to draft an elite pass rushing talent in the first round this year. They need to get that guy to help out Clay Matthews because if they don't, they could be looking at another early playoff exit next year.


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