2012 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers Top 5 Targets at No. 28
Every year the masterminds of NFL teams meet in the war room to put together a big board of potential prospects possibly available when they pick. Every team has specific players they target and hope will fall to them.
Ted Thompson, Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy spend countless hours behind closed doors waiting to see the draft unfold. It wouldn't be normal if certain prospects didn't fall a little further then expected, case in point, Aaron Rodgers, who plummeted from the possible number one pick all the way to Green Bay at 24.
This year is no different. The Packers hope that their targets are available. The Packers are undoubtedly looking for defense, defense, defense.
Here is my big board that I believe the Packers are targeting with the 28th overall pick.
1. OLB Courtney Upshaw (University of Alabama)
Weight: 265 lbs
The Packers are in desperate need of an outside linebacker opposite of Clay Matthews. Last season, teams were able to focus on Matthews and keep his totals down. With the lack of pass rush, opposing quarterbacks sat in the pocket and exploited the secondary.
Upshaw is the perfect fit. He has great size and incredible motor. He has great awareness and locates the ball very well. He has a good burst off the line and is an excellent tackler.
It's almost a certainty that the Packers would have to trade up to get Upshaw, which I see as a major possibility if he falls to the early 20s.
Trading up for an outside linebacker worked very well last time.
Mock Draft Selection Range: 13-20
NFL Comparison: Terrell Suggs
2. DE Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State University)
Weight: 300 lbs
The loss of Cullen Jenkins was a major cause of the disappearing act pulled by the Packers' defense this past season. The Packers arguably need a defensive end with rush ability more than outside linebacker.
Cox is an excellent run-stuffer with great explosion off the line; he forces linemen to lunge at him to keep their leverage.
Cox is a prototypical defensive end in the 3-4 because of his strength, speed and awareness. I believe that he would be much better suited playing the 5-tech in the 3-4 so he can freelance and get to the quarterback.
Mock Draft Selection Range: 9-28
NFL Comparison: Glenn Dorsey
3. LB Dont'a Hightower (University of Alabama)
Weight: 260 lbs
The Packers are reportedly "in love" with Hightower, Upshaw's teammate at Alabama. Hightower is an inside linebacker by trade but has the versatility to come off the edge at outside linebacker.
Although he may lack the explosion that typical outside linebackers possess, he is strong on the point of attack, and with some work, he could become a better pass defender.
The other factor with Hightower is that he could presumably take over in the middle in a year if A.J. Hawk has another rough year.
Mock Draft Selection Range: Mid-first round to early second round
NFL Comparison: Desmond Bishop
4. OLB Nick Perry (University of Southern California)
Weight: 270 lbs
Perry has stated that he would prefer to stay in the 4-3 with his hand on the ground, but he has no control over who drafts him, and I feel that he would be an excellent complement to Clay Matthews.
His speed and agility can explode backfields. The problem with Perry is that he can be too tunnel-minded on getting to the QB, allowing sneaky backs to get by him.
With his speed and athleticism, along with an impressive body of work, I feel he would fit in perfectly alongside Clay Matthews.
Mock Draft Selection Range: Mid-first round to late first round
NFL Comparison: Jerry Hughes
5. OLB Andre Branch (Clemson University)
Weight: 260 lbs
With excellent size, length and raw ability, I am getting more and more comfortable with this pick. What makes him an intriguing prospect for Green Bay is that he has a wide array of pass-rush moves, much like Clay Matthews.
Branch has violent hands capable of ripping off blocks; he contains well and has good, if not great, speed off the edge.
Mock Draft Selection Range: Late first round to mid-second round
NFL Comparison: Cliff Avril
You may be wondering why I left off certain players such as Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus and Dontari Poe. Though the draft is unpredictable, I doubt these players will fall far enough for Green Bay.
It's an exciting time of the year, and we are only 20 days away!
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