4 Best Options for the Packers' First-Round Pick
It has been obvious for months now that the Packers need to improve their pass-rushing. They were ranked 27th in sacks and let quarterbacks like Eli Manning torch them for huge games.
The defense took a big hit with the loss of Nick Collins, and with his future still up the air, the Packers have some holes that desperately need to be filled.
1. Whitney Mercilus
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As mentioned before, the Packers struggled getting to the quarterback last season. Most likely Ted Thompson will be looking for an outside linebacker to play opposite of Clay Matthews.
The best option would be to get Whitney Mercilus. The Illinois linebacker has similarities to Matthews that will make him a dangerous NFL player.
He has a quick burst off the line which enables him to become an excellent edge-rusher. His 40-yard dash at the combine was 4.63 seconds, which is almost identical to Matthews time. The similarities don't end there.
Mercilus has a repertoire of moves that help him get rid of blockers. His moves gives him the ability to get lineman off balance and he can use his strength to finish moves.
The combination of these two players on the outside will pose as a serious threat for offenses and significantly improve the Packers front line.
If still available, Mercilus should be the Packers' first option as their 28th pick.
2. Courtney Upshaw
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After witnessing the suffocating defense the Crimson Tide had last season, it will be hard to pass on any player from who played on that team. However, that seems to be the case with Courtney Upshaw.
Upshaw is a highly talented linebacker who was highly ranked on draft boards before a shaky performance at the combine. With his draft status lowering, he may just fall into the hands of the Packers. He is not much different than Mercilus and would work well with Green Bay's defense.
He is a touch slower than Mercilus but makes up for it with more strength. Upshaw weighed 273 lbs at the combine which was about 15 pounds higher than expected. However, the extra weight seems to be all muscle as his body looks NFL conditioned.
3. Harrison Smith
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The safety from Notre Dame has risen up draft boards since his excellent performance at the Senior Bowl as well as the combine. The Packers should have interest in Smith with Collins' future still up in the air.
Collins was a big part of the Packers number one ranked scoring defense in 2010, and his absence was noticeable last season. If no decision is made by the draft, the safety position is a necessity in the draft. However, if Collins announces he can play, the Packers should still get a safety for precautionary measures.
Smith is a great safety and can compete with Morgan Burnett for a starting spot if Collins does comeback. He is quick for a safety and is has great instincts on the field. His football IQ is very high, and he makes very little mistakes.
The Notre Dame safety will be a great addition for the Packers and help cover receivers that safety Charlie Peprah had trouble with last season.
Also, Smith has great hands and can help create more turnovers for Green Bay who led the league in interceptions last season.
4. Fletcher Cox
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Another need on the front line is at defensive end. The lack of a pass-rush from the linebackers is partly due to the ineffective play of the defensive lineman. Consensus has been that the Packers will draft an outside linebacker in round one and a defensive end in round two.
However, Green Bay has to consider drafting a defensive end in the first round. Cox has great strength which was proven at the combine. Dontari Poe stole the show for defensive tackles, but Cox had arguably the next best combine at his position.
His 40-time was 4.73 seconds which shows his great speed for a defensive lineman. He is great at applying pressure up the middle and beating offensive lineman at one-on-one coverage.
Cox is somewhat unpredictable in terms of where he will be drafted. On nfl.com, he has been projected going ninth all the way down to 31st.
The Packers no doubt want to address their issue of outside linebacker in the first round. However, if players they want are taken they should fill another hole on the team and get a linebacker in a later round.
If they can get one of these four players the Packers should consider their first round a success.