5 Players the Packers Could Target in the First Round
Despite finishing last season at 15-1 and shattering numerous records, the Green Bay Packers still came up short as the defending champions.
Many of their flaws had been masked by their all-time great passing game lead by MVP Aaron Rodgers. However, if the Packers want to get back on track to winning a second Super Bowl in three years, they'll need to make some improvements.
Green Bay's most obvious needs are on defense, particularly the pass rush. Ted Thompson finally went out and signed a couple free agents to address some needs for once, bringing in defensive end Anthony Hargrove and five-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday.
With the outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews still vacant, it is safe to say that position will also be a priority.
Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois
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If Whitney Mercilus is still on the board for the 28th pick, he would be a steal for the Packers.
At 6'3", 261 lbs, Mercilus would be a nice addition opposite Clay Matthews and would help provide some much needed pass rush for a team that only had 29 sacks last season.
Currently, Mercilus is projected by many mock drafts to go 18th overall to the rival Chicago Bears. If he somehow drops past the Bears at 18, he could slip to to the Packers later in the first round.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
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Projected to go to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 21 overall, Stephon Gilmore could be a nice addition to a secondary that gave up the most passing yards in NFL history last season. Gilmore has been touted as a smart and mature player, the type of traits the Packers tend to prefer over pure talent.
He could very well fall to the Packers later in the first round, but even if he does the team may decide to stick to getting a pass-rusher and focus on a cornerback in the later rounds of the draft.
Adnre Branch, DE, Clemson
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Andre Branch is a very versatile player that could fit the Packers nicely.
He has a big enough frame to add some weight and play defensive end in Green Bay's three-man front, as well as provide some much needed pass rush at that position. If needed, he could also play outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews.
This pick might be a bit of a reach given that Branch is projected to go 44th overall to the Miami Dolphins in Round 2. However, if no other top pass-rushers are left when the Packers are picking, it may still be a better move than drafting a player at a position of much less need.
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
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Peter Konz is considered by most experts to be the best center in this year's draft and he very well could be available when the Packers are on the clock.
After signing Jeff Saturday, the Packers don't need to draft a starter for this year or even next year, but being that Saturday is 36 years old, they will need one sometime in the near future.
I'm sure the Packers would love to get a guy like Peter Konz in the draft, but I'm also sure that they would still prefer to get someone on defense in the first round.
Nick Perry, OLB, USC
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Finally, we come to the player that is being projected to go to Green Bay with the 28th pick in the draft. Nick Perry is a natural pass-rusher that could provide the edge they need to get their defense back on track. Pairing him with Clay Matthews (who also starred at USC) could be a very good tandem if Perry can contribute from the start.
If I had to bet money on who Green Bay's first-round selection will be in the upcoming draft, it would be Nick Perry.