Packer fans are inundated with mock drafts this time of year because they are a great topic of discussion and make for an interesting debate.
Since we have no way of knowing who will be the best player available when the Packers select, what I attempted to do was create a mock draft with players that could help the Packers immediately along with fortifying their depth at many key positions. I also tried to factor in Ted Thompson’s history of finding small-school gems.
Although I have a feeling the Packers will trade some of their picks come draft day, I did not figure trades into my mock and have them using all 12 picks.
Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois, 6’4”, 261 lbs
Packer fans have been hoping for an upgrade at the outside linebacker spot opposite of Clay Matthews for the last two years, and this could be the year it finally happens.
A number of players that fit the Packers' need at outside linebacker could be available when they pick at No. 28. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, USC’s Nick Perry and Boise State’s Shea McClellin could all possibly be available when the Packers pick, but I chose to go with Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus.
Upshaw and Perry might be better suited for defensive end, while I tend to be a little wary of players (like McClellin) who were considered to be a third- or fourth-round selection after their senior year and are now considered first-round prospects.
Mercilus is not without red flags as well. The fact that Mericlus was a one-year wonder at Illinois will most certainly turn some teams off, but his production last year was outstanding.
Mercilus led the nation in sacks with 16 and forced nine fumbles. There might be an adjustment period, moving from defensive end to outside linebacker, but once it clicks for Mercilus, the Packers could have a very impressive pass-rushing tandem.
Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt, 5’11”, 192 lbs
Cornerback may not be an immediate need for the Packers, but with Charles Woodson turning 36 this year, the Packers need to look to the future. It also wouldn't hurt to have someone pushing Sam Shields for the nickel corner spot after his play took a step backward last season.
Hayward does not have elite size or speed, but he has excellent ball skills, picking off 15 passes during his college career. Despite his size, he is a willing tackler. Hayward has also been durable, starting every game for Vanderbilt over the last three years.
Mike Martin, DE/DT, Michigan, 6’1”, 306 lbs
Martin had an impressive Senior Bowl, displaying a strong bull rush and a great motor. Martin may not have the prototypical size for a 5-technique in a 3-4 system, but the Packers have selected players in the past who seem better suited to be 4-3 defensive tackles.
Martin relies too much on brute strength to rush the passer and needs to develop some more pass-rush moves, but he could contribute immediately to the Packers' defensive line rotation.
Tony Bergstrom, OT, Utah, 6’5”, 313 lbs
The Packers could use some depth along the offensive line, and Bergstrom could offer some flexibility with his ability to play right tackle or slide inside to guard. A three-year starter at right tackle, his athleticism would serve him well in the Packers' zone-blocking scheme.
His age might be a concern, as he turns 26 this year, but he would provide some insurance if T.J. Lang leaves in free agency after next season.
B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga, 6’3”, 233 lbs (supplemental pick)
Coleman has a strong arm and looks the part of an NFL quarterback, but he will need time to develop in the NFL. Coleman faced a fairly low level of competition at Chattanooga and even then struggled with accuracy, but his athletic ability and overall potential make him an intriguing developmental prospect.
The problem the Packers face in selecting a quarterback this early is that if Coleman can’t beat out Graham Harrell for the job of backing up Aaron Rodgers, do they carry three quarterbacks on the roster, or do they try to get Coleman to the practice squad and take the chance that another team could scoop him up?
Aaron Henry, FS, Wisconsin, 6’0”, 208 lbs (supplemental pick)
Hopefully, the Packers will have some idea as to Nick Collins' future in the NFL by draft day. Unfortunately for the Packers, and any other team in need of a safety, this is not a great year for the position.
Henry is a converted cornerback who started every game for the Badgers the past two seasons and had seven career interceptions while at Wisconsin. Not being invited to the combine may have hurt his draft stock a bit, but Henry should get a look in the middle rounds.
If Collins cannot continue his career, Henry could compete with Charlie Peprah, M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine for the starting free safety spot opposite of Morgan Burnett. If Collins can continue, the Packers will improve their depth at safety.
Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State, 6’2”, 304 lbs
It is highly likely the Packers will draft a center at some point in this draft to replace the 36-year-old Jeff Saturday, and what would make Saulsberry an excellent fit for the Packers is his versatility.
Saulsberry, who was a four-year starter at Mississippi State, started at right tackle, left guard, right guard and center. For the next year or two, Saulsberry could fill a similar role to the one held currently by Evan Dietrich-Smith, a backup at all the interior line spots along the offensive line, with the ability to become their starting center when Saturday decides to retire.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky, 5’7”, 205 lbs
I don’t think running back is a huge need for the Packers, but they may want to add some insurance if Alex Green experiences a setback in his recovery from a knee injury that ended his rookie season.
Rainey is a smaller back, but he was incredibly durable over his college career, never missing a game due to injury. He amassed over 4,500 rushing yards over his college career to go along with 34 touchdowns, and he was a true workhorse back the past two seasons, carrying the ball over 700 times.
Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon, 5’11”, 175 lbs (from Jets)
I know many Packer fans will scoff at the idea of selecting a player with character concerns, but Harris may be too talented to pass up if he is available in the last round. Harris was dismissed from Oregon because of a couple off-the-field issues, and his draft stock has tumbled because of it.
Harris was a playmaker during his brief time at Oregon, both on punt returns and as a cover corner, notching six interceptions his sophomore year. Surrounding Harris with the veteran leadership of players like Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams may be what he needs to get his career on the right track.
Markus Kuhn, DE/DT, North Carolina State, 6’5”, 299 lbs
Kuhn is a very strong and athletic defensive tackle who could move to defensive end in the Packers' 3-4 defense.
Although he played football in Germany before moving to the U.S., Kuhn is still very raw and would probably need some time to develop before he could make an impact, which, combined with his age (he will turn 26 before the season starts), might turn some teams off. But his strength and overall potential make him worth a flier in the later rounds.
Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack, 6’1”, 244 lbs (supplemental)
Loiseau was a standout at the East-West Shrine Game and could make an impact on special teams immediately for the Packers.
It may take him some time to see the field on defense, but Loiseau plays with an aggressiveness and intensity that the Packers' defense seems to lack at times.
Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech, 5’11”, 205 lbs (Supplemental)
The Packers seem rather stacked at the wide receiver position, but selecting one in the later rounds of the draft would not be out of the question.
Bedford is a good route-runner and has showed an ability to get open in college despite lacking elite size and speed. Any receiver the Packers select would most likely have a difficult time making the active roster but could get some time to develop on the practice squad.