The Green Bay Packers brass will head to Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine with the opportunity to get up close and personal with prospects. GM Ted Thompson heads one of the best scouting staffs in the league for the Packers.
Heading into the combine, the Packers will look to find out numerous things about certain prospects, positions and the draft class as a whole. Without any glaring needs, the Packers have some great flexibility in the draft. That should mean they have plenty of work to cover all the bases at the combine.
The biggest thing the Packers hope to learn during the combine is just how deep is this draft class. While the lack of depth at the quarterback position is getting a ton of coverage, the rest of the class is incredibly deep, especially on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Packers could use depth for both units next season.
The Packers are in a good situation with a young team and don't have any glaring holes. This should allow them to be flexible throughout the draft, including with their first pick. If the Packers like the depth of the class, they could trade out of the first round and look to gather many playmakers on the second day of the draft.
This evaluation will help the Packers shape the overall approach the Packers take heading into the draft.
By releasing Charles Woodson, the Packers created a need at the safety position. Morgan Burnett has been solid in his first two years in the league and the Packers need a consistent player to pair with him. M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian showed some talent last season, but neither showed that they constant produce. The Packers could definitely use an upgrade at the position.
Fortunately for the Packers, this draft class is incredibly deep with safety talent. The Packers can definitely add playmaker in the defensive secondary somewhere in the draft. The biggest question for the Packers is where they feel comfortable taking a safety.
In the first round, players like Jonathan Cyprien, Kenny Vaccaro and Matt Elam could tempt the Packers if they are available. The Packers could also wait and grab a solid safety in the second or third rounds depending on how they view the class. The combine will be a big chance to assess the quality and value of the position.
After having almost too much talent at the wide receiver position, the Packers should be in the market for another receiver. Donald Driver's retirement and Greg Jennings' likely departure in free agency would create a lack of depth despite still having top talent. The combine will give them a close look at the wide receivers to find the best value and fit.
James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb offer the Packers a top receiving group, but beyond those three, they are largely unproven with Jeremy Ross and Jarrett Boykin. The Packers are in a position to grab a receiver wherever they find value.
In the first round, the Packers could have a shot at Keenan Allen or DeAndre Hopkins. They will need to use the combine to interview the players and see if they warrant a first-round selection. With GM Ted Thompson, the Packers haven't had much trouble finding talented receivers outside of the first round. That could be the case again for the Packers.
The Packers could use an upgrade at the inside linebacker position should they choose to part ways with the overpaid A.J. Hawk. Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith should be back from injury, but Brad Jones is a restricted free agent. At the combine, the Packers will get a chance to interview some linebackers with off-the-field troubles.
Alec Ogletree was arrested this month for DUI and could see his draft stock drop following the arrest. Manti Te'o's off-field issues with his Catfish situation were well-documented in the media. Both players have plenty of questions to answer during their interviews with teams.
While they come with baggage, both players have talent to offer an NFL team. Ogletree is the more talented of the two and should be drafted above Te'o. The Packers may not even be interested in taking an inside linebacker in the draft, but it's possible depending on the status of Hawk.
Tight end could be a position of need in the future and the Packers could look to make sure it's not for years to come with Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert. Eifert could help the Packers make Jermichael Finley expendable and rid them of his expensive price tag in the near future.
Eifert may not even make it to the Packers as he's been pegged as anywhere from pick 19 to the second round. Grabbing a tight end in Round 1 would be seen a luxury pick, but the Packers haven't shied away from selecting the best player available.
Eifert is the best pass-catching tight end in the class and improved his blocking during his season season. He would seemingly fit in with the Packers' pass-friendly attack. He would need to continue improving his blocking and physicality, but the Packers could get a great player in Eifert.
After a hamstring injury, Eddie Lacy won't work out at the combine. The Packers need to figure out the status of Lacy's health and determine whether or not he's worth following prior to the draft. His physical running style would be a great fit for the Packers.
Lacy's status for his pro day is definitely something to watch. If he can work out at that time, expect the Packers to be paying close attention. If he's still bothered by the hamstring injury, his stock could drop based on not giving teams a chance to watch him work out.
The Packers got some solid production out of DuJuan Harris at the end of last season, but could look to add more talent to the position. They've struggled running the ball the past few seasons, but with better backs and devotion to the running game, they could have success.
Another player that has been frequently pegged to the Packers in mock drafts, the Packers likely hope to get a better idea of Barrett Jones. The player has been given anywhere from a Round 1 value to day two value. His combine performance, measurables and interviews should give the Packers a final opinion of Jones and where he should be drafted.
Jones is an intriguing prospect because of his ability to play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line. This ability makes him attractive because of the depth and options it would give the Packers. Evan Dietrich-Smith looks to be the center of the future, but Jones could be in play if the Packers aren't sold on Dietrich-Smith.
The Packers have lacked consistent pressure from their defensive line since Cullen Jenkins left following the 2010 season. The Packers have tried to use draft picks and free agency to find a player to mesh with B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett to replicate the success of the 2010 unit.
This draft class has a ton of talent at defensive tackle, but the majority of the good value players should be off the board by the 26th pick. The Packers could be in play to trade up should they fall in love with a prospect with a mid-Round 1 grade. It all depends how the Packers value the position and whether or not they see it as the missing piece to their defense.
Some players that could tempt the Packers into trading up in Round 1 include Sheldon Richardson, Sharrif Floyd, John Jenkins and Dion Jordan. The Packers are unlikely to trade up, but Thompson's shown he's willing to do so if there's a player he loves.
Many of the Packers' offensive line woes have come from the right tackle position. Marshall Newhouse gave up a ton of pressure and made things uncomfortable for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers can't afford to let their franchise quarterback take that much pressure again and risk injury.
The Packers have Derek Sherrod coming back from a 2011 leg injury, but should look to add another player to the mix. If the Packers have some good evaluations and interviews with tackles at the combine, they could use a high-round pick on the position and open up competition for training camp.
D.J. Fluker is the likeliest pick for the Packers if they intend to use a first-round pick on the position. Fluker's strength and size would give him a great chance to come in and produce for the Packers right away providing an upgrade over Newhouse.
The Packers will want to take a long, hard look at Montee Ball. The former Wisconsin running back had an incredibly successful career at Camp Randall, but the amount of carries he had over his career are certainly worrisome. The Packers need to evaluate Ball and see if he would be worth drafting somewhere on the second day of the draft.
As mentioned previously, the Packers could definitely benefit from some fresh talent at the running back position. DuJuan Harris should get plenty of carries, but with his small size, his workload may not be too large. Adding Ball could help the Packers actually have a formidable rushing attack in 2013.
Ball is certainly a player to watch with a careful eye.