10 NFL Combine Prospects That the Green Bay Packers Must Closely Watch
The NFL Scouting Combine is an event like no other.
One bad drill or one bad answer to a reporter's question can send a prospect's draft stock tumbling.
Fans watch potential stars bob and weave through cones and jump up and down, all in the name of trying to get drafted into the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers, as a team, have been built primarily through the draft. The Packers usually have a full presence at the combine that includes GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy. Thompson has found many hidden gems in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, and due diligence at the combine is a big part of that.
With the roster needing a slight reloading, Thompson and McCarthy will be busy in Indianapolis. It's anyone's guess as to what Thompson will do the weekend of the NFL Draft, but it's always fun and enlightening to try and play GM.
Here are 10 prospects the Packers should watch during the combine.
Note: Some of these players could be first-round selections, while others could go in later rounds. We have chosen to focus on players the Packers should watch to make immediate improvement on their roster so please keep that in mind before commenting.
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame; TE
Eifert may not make it to the Packers in the first couple rounds, but the Packers still need to look at him.
With the future of Jermichael Finley as the starting tight end in doubt, the Packers need to add a tight end to the roster, hopefully one that can become the impact player Finley never really developed into.
Areas to watch during the combine with Eifert are straight-line speed and pass catching drills. Finley has had issues hanging onto the ball, so the Packers will want to make sure Eifert can be an upgrade in that area.
It also remains to be seen how Eifert will do as a blocker.
Barrett Jones, Alabama; C
Many early mock drafts have Jones going to the Packers in Round 1, but his stock has slipped lately.
He will need a good showing in the combine if he wants to climb back into first-round pick discussions.
Jones has slipped into Round 2 mainly due to being injured late in the season. The tight end was watching from the sideline, foot in a boot, during the Crimson Tide's trip to the BCS National Championship game. There are also concerns about his overall strength and ability to move defenders immediately after the snap.
He's got strong fundamentals though, and if the Packers want to beef up the offensive line, then Jones could be a good pick. His bench press score will be the number to watch if the Packers are serious about adding him in April.
Alec Ogletree, Georgia; LB
The Packers need an upgrade at the inside linebacker position.
Even with a healthy Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the status of A.J. Hawk is up in the air, thanks to his high salary and performance that doesn't match the dollar amount.
The issues with Ogletree are mainly off the field.
The Packers are not known to take character risks in the name of talent. With Ogletree being suspended the first four games of 2012 due to a failed drug test and now dealing with DUI arrest to boot, he seems like one player the Packers will pass on.
They still need to due their homework on him however.
If Ogletree is sincere and expresses remorse in his press conference at the combine, then he could be worth a selection. There is not enough going on in Green Bay to lure Ogletree into trouble, and time under the tutelage of McCarthy and Thompson could get his personal life going back in the right direction.
Matt Elam, Florida; SS
With the release of Charles Woodson, the Packers are in the market for a safety.
Morgan Burnett has improved but been inconsistent, and it remains to be seen how much Jerron McMillian can contribute.
The Packers need a hard hitting safety, and Elam could be the one they've been looking for ever since Nick Collins went down with a neck injury.
Elam is a very physical player whose tendency to lead with the shoulder will translate well into the new "safer" NFL, but a shoulder-first mentality can also lead to some bad misses in the open field.
It will be interesting to see if he can wrap up players in the NFL without going for the KO.
Since he is 5'10", he is not exactly the ideal size for an NFL safety. His vertical jump will be the drill to watch at the combine. Any agility drill will be also be important if he wants to make a good impression on teams.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin; RB
The Packers are still in need of a running back, despite the promising late-season performance of DuJuan
The Packers have not drafted a Wisconsin Badger in a long time, but many seem to think that Ball could be make the move from Madison to Green Bay. Harris.
Green Bay could make a move in free agency, but the draft will likely be the route the Packers will take to upgrade their running game,
Ball put on a lot of mileage in Madison, so his durability could be of some concern, but that can't be measured at the combine.
Ball is a good all-purpose back that would serve the Packers well, as a traditional back and in the screen game. Ball's presence could help Randall Cobb, whose play out of the backfield caught some teams off guard.
For the combine, Ball's 40-time will be interesting to watch.
He's got more power than raw speed, but his ability to pick up speed in the open field will be crucial to his success in the NFL.
Margus Hunt, SMU; DE
The Packers were eaten alive by Adrian Peterson in both their regular season games against the Minnesota Vikings, and if they don't want to become a footnote on another Peterson march to the record books, then the Packers need to upgrade their defensive line, especially with Ryan Pickett getting older.
Hunt showed at SMU that he can close in quickly on a ball carrier and hit them hard too.
Thanks to his build, he is able to close ground quickly on running backs and also blocked a ridiculous seven kicks in his first season.
The problem with Hunt is that he is inconsistent and has been described by many as a "boom or bust" draft pick.
Are the Packers willing to take a chance on him?
His performance at the combine will go a long way towards answering that question.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame; LB
Before anyone starts commenting about how this idea is crazy, just think about it.
Selecting Te'o could be a very good move by the Packers.
Ignore the debacle about his so-called girlfriend for a moment, one of the most bizarre and overrated stories surrounding any NFL Draft prospect in quite some time.
What Te'o brings to the table is similar to what the Packers were looking for in 2009 when they drafted Clay Matthews.
Te'o is a tremendously instinctive player and is usually very quick to diagnose a play. He may not have straight-line speed, but as an inside linebacker, he would not be a primary pass rusher. His pass coverage skills may need some work and is something the Packers should watch for at the combine.
How Te'o handles the circus that will be his combine press conference will be crucial.
If he can handle that like a pro, then he should be able to take whatever the NFL throws his way.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama; RB
While Ball would be a good pick for the Packers, so too would be Eddie Lacy.
He's a powerful back who runs with purpose and has the ability to break tackles by keeping his legs moving. Lacy does not give up without a fight and has deceptive athleticism, including a big leap that could catch defenses off guard.
What the Packers will be looking for from Lacy in the combine is the aforementioned vertical leap as well as his pass catching abilities.
With the Green Bay offense built around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, any Packers featured back will have to be able to not only catch the ball but also turn and make it up the field.
Lacy could be that player.
John Jenkins, Georgia; DT
B.J. Raji has played an inordinate amount of snaps for a nose tackle, and if the Packers want to improve their defensive line, then they'll need to take some pressure off of the big man.
Enter John Jenkins.
He's incredibly quick off the ball and has the ability to blow up plays before they've even begun to develop. Jenkins is tough to move at the line and could pair with Raji to create a formidable defensive front, one even Adrian Peterson would have difficulty penetrating.
Thanks to his size, Jenkins could be worked into a two-man rotation with Raji. Jenkins can wear down quickly and can have trouble generating an interior pass rush, but his versatility alone makes him a worthy selection of the Packers.
But first, they will need to see how he does in agility drills and keep a keen eye on his endurance to see if he can be a first-round selection.
Caleb Sturgis, Florida; K
It should surprise no one that the Green Bay Packers are possibly (likely) in the market for a new placekicker.
Incumbent Mason Crosby had a pathetic 2012, converting only 63.6 percent of his field goals during the regular season. While the Packers somehow stuck with Crosby, it's a near given that the team will, at the very least, bring in some training camp competition for him, if not his outright replacement.
Sturgis would be a great pick for the Packers.
He has a strong leg and is accurate. They will need to find out whether or not he's be comfortable kicking in cold weather.
Kicking in Florida and kicking in Wisconsin are two different things.
It remains to be seen how Sturgis would do in the howling winds at Lambeau Field, and the controlled environment at the combine won't go far in answering that question. However, he can give a good indication of his desire to do it in interviews.
Sturgis grew up in Florida, so the occasional sub-zero Wisconsin climate would be an adjustment for him.
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