Tomorrow is the big day.
Today, and the five days prior, we've examined possible picks for the Packers at No. 28. The goal of this preview was to correctly identify Green Bay's first-round pick with one of the six suggestions.
The six players that have been profiled included a trio of linebackers—Shea McClellin, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, a potential replacement for Nick Collins—Harrison Smith, the top center in the draft, and Peter Konz and today's post will focus on a versatile defensive lineman—Connecticut's Kendall Reyes.
While Shea McClellin seems like a perfect fit as the bookend to Clay Matthews in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, I'm skeptical that he'll still be on the board when Green Bay is on the clock. As pressing a need as outside linebacker is, the Packers' needs on the defensive line may be just as urgent.
There are several defensive linemen who could be of interest to Green Bay at the end of the first round.
Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe will almost certainly be off the board, but borderline first-round prospects like Reyes, Devon Still, Jerel Worthy and perhaps even Derek Wolfe could draw Ted Thompson's interest at No. 28.
When Cullen Jenkins left Green Bay last offseason to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers lost their best interior pass rusher.
In the Packers' nickel package, Jenkins played alongside B.J. Raji as the two down linemen in the 2-4-5 alignment. While it's a rarity in itself for a nose tackle to stay on the field on passing downs, Raji was forced to play even more without Jenkins in the fold. With Jenkins in Philadelphia, Raji and the rest of the Packers' defense struggled mightily.
In an attempt to partially fill the void left by Cullen Jenkins last offseason, Green Bay signed veteran defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove a month ago. As a pass rusher, Hargrove is an upgrade over the rest of the Packers' defensive line, but it seems unlikely that his role would extend to anything more than a spot in Green Bay's sub-packages.
So, the way things stand, it would be logical to think Ted Thompson would consider using the 28th pick on a defensive end.
Among first-round caliber defensive linemen who could be available at the end of round one, I believe the most natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end is Kendall Reyes.
Looking at other teams that run a 3-4 scheme, it's apparent that teams prefer their defensive linemen to be cut out of a precise "cookie-cutter" mold. With the exception of Jay Ratliff in Dallas, 3-4 nose tackles are typically wide-bodied space eaters, while defensive ends are usually between 6'3" and 6'5" and weigh approximately 300 pounds.
Of course, there are always exceptions. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett have both seen time at defensive end despite both players standing about 6'1" and weighing around 330 pounds.
At 6'4" and 300 pounds, Reyes has the typical build for the position.
Passing the "eye test" for a 3-4 defensive end, Reyes showed off his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine by running the forty-yard dash in 4.95 seconds and putting up 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc. echoes the assessment that Kendall Reyes fits ideally into a 3-4 scheme, "At 6-foot-4 and 299 pounds, Reyes is the prototypical 5-technique in a base three-man front. In addition to his frame he has the arm length (33.3-inches) and upper-body strength to lock out and control blockers, making him an effective two-gap run defender at end."
Every year, prospects get pushed up the draft board due to supreme athletic ability. Reyes not only passed all the tests at the "Underwear Olympics," he also "has it all together" between the ears. A team captain at Connecticut, Reyes is exactly the type of "high character" player that Ted Thompson loves to have in the locker room.
Reyes could be selected by one of several defensive-line needy teams picking late in Round one, or he could come off the board early in round two.
Whether he's one of the first 32 selections or not, Reyes will bring his strong work ethic and scheme versatility to wherever he ends up.
If a "can't miss" guy doesn't fall into Green Bay's lap at 28, the Packers will likely consider a safe player, and person, like Kendall Reyes.