5 Defensive Linemen Green Bay Packers Should Target in 2014 NFL Draft
In 2014, the defensive line of the Green Bay Packers will have a new look. For one thing, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson are all unrestricted free agents. It wouldn't be surprising if all four players were not on the team next year.
That being said, I expect the Packers to bring back either Raji or Pickett to help bolster the nose tackle position for the three-man front the Packers use in their base 3-4 defensive scheme.
That player would be joined with Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd and Jerel Worthy on the defensive line.
The 2014 NFL draft would add the remaining piece or pieces to the line.
I would expect the Packers to draft a nose tackle, especially if the 34-year-old Pickett re-signs with the team.
In terms of the defensive ends that the Packers would consider in the upcoming draft, I would expect that the Packers will be looking for players with a height of 6'4" or taller and a playing weight close to 300 pounds.
That is the prototypical size of a defensive end in the 3-4 defense.
Using all of that for my criteria, I'm listing five players that the Packers should definitely consider in the 2014 NFL draft.
Ra' Shede Hageman (Minnesota)
Weight: 318 pounds
There is a lot to like about Hageman. The first thing that stands out is his size and strength. But Hageman is not only big and strong, he's also able to dominate at times, especially in stopping the run.
Hageman will have a lot of general managers, scouts and personnel people checking him out this week at the Senior Bowl.
This past season, Hageman was named to the All-Big Ten First Team by both the coaches and the media, after he had 34 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, eight passes batted down, one interception and two sacks.
Because of his size, even if he isn't able to get to the quarterback while pass-rushing, he has the wingspan to knock down passing attempts, as evidenced by his eight passes batted down this past season.
As an added bonus, Hageman could also line up as nose tackle because of his run-stuffing prowess, although he is better suited as a defensive end in the 3-4 defense.
Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Weight: 312 pounds
Stephon Tuitt was named to the FBS All-Independent First Team by the media, after he had 49 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, one interception for a touchdown and one forced fumble this past season for Notre Dame.
Tuitt had hernia surgery between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and although he had a nice season this past year, he wasn't as good as he was the year before. In 2012 he had 47 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles (one for a touchdown), one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and one blocked kick.
Tuitt has excellent size and can rush the passer better than Ra' Shede Hageman can.
The former Fighting Irish star looks to be a late first round pick or an early second round pick at this point during the draft process.
Louis Nix (Notre Dame)
Weight: 345 pounds
Louis Nix has the size to play the nose tackle position effectively in the NFL. He also has the stats to prove it, based on his play for Notre Dame in college, especially his junior season when the Fighting Irish played in the BCS National Championship Game.
That year, Nix had 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, five passes batted and one forced fumble.
The 2013 season didn't turn out as well, as Nix had a season-ending knee injury. Before the injury, Nix had 27 tackles, two tackles for a loss and two passes batted down.
In his three-year career at Notre Dame, Nix had 122 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, eight passes batted down and one forced fumble.
There is a decent chance Nix will be around when the Packers have the 21st selection in the first round, as he is expected to be a middle-to-late first round selection in the 2014 NFL draft.
Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina)
Weight: 298 pounds
When people talk about the defensive line of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the name you hear the most is Jadeveon Clowney, who played defensive end. But the guy who was the best player on the defensive line for Steve Spurrier's defense in 2013 was defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.
People noticed too. Quarles was named to the 2013 First-Team All-America squad by the Sporting News and the 2013 Second-Team All-American squad by the Associated Press. In addition to that, Quarles was named to the 2013 All-SEC First Team by both the coaches and the media.
Quarles had a breakout year in 2013, as he had 39 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Overall in his career, Quarles had 105 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks.
Quarles looks to be an excellent fit as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, or as one of the two defensive linemen used by the Packers when they go to their nickel and dime looks on passing downs.
Quarles definitely needs to become a better run-defender, as Wisconsin ran at both him and Clowney with equal success in the 2014 Capital One Bowl.
At this point of the draft process, Quarles looks to be selected in either the second or third round.
Deandre Coleman (Cal)
Weight: 315 pounds
In my second mock draft for the Packers last week, I had the Packers taking Deandre Coleman from Cal in the fifth round.
Coleman was named to the 2013 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention team by the coaches, after he had 39 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks this past season.
In his career as a Golden Bear, Coleman had 123 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss and six sacks.
Coleman has the size a 3-4 team is looking for at defensive end, and he is someone who can be selected on either the second or third day of the draft.
Coleman can improve his draft stock this week, as he is also playing in the Senior Bowl.