Aaron Donald is a player the Green Bay Packers need to be watching at this year's Senior Bowl.
There are only a handful of positions that the Packers should really be interested in scouting at the Senior Bowl. For example, Green Bay is pretty well set at running back and wide receiver, so unless a player absolutely wows them they can turn their attention to more important positions and bigger needs.
Here's a look at the 2014 Senior Bowl scouting guide for the Packers including positions and players that should be intriguing to them.
This is easily the biggest position of need for the Packers and one they should be scouting rather heavily at the Senior Bowl. Phil Savage, who is the executive director of the Senior Bowl, had this to say about the safeties in this year's event, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
"It's a position that may not be top shelf in terms of first round or maybe even second-round type players," said former NFL general manager Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl. "But I think there are some prospects in this game that will absolutely show the skill set needed to play at the next level."
While it's absolutely true that there isn't elite talent like Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix at the Senior Bowl this year, the Packers may be drafting too late in the first round to grab Clinton-Dix anyway. Instead, they may look for a prospect after the first round who can come in and start right away.
One name that the Packers might want to become familiar with is Kenny Ladler from Vanderbilt. Green Bay has had success in recent drafts with Vanderbilt players (cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Sean Richardson), and Ladler has the playmaking abilities that this team missed in the secondary this season.
Bleacher Report's Jeff Risdon felt that Ladler was a winner this week:
Came away impressed again with Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler. Count him a winner this week. #SeniorBowl— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 22, 2014
Another name that keeps popping up during practice is Washington State's Deone Bucannon. In fact, Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety, said that Bucannon is a player to keep an eye on:
Keep an eye on Washington State SS Deone Bucannon. Has size (6-1, 216), will close on the ball with some speed & he wants to compete.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 21, 2014
If there is one thing that is certain from this group of safeties at the Senior Bowl, it's that the Packers may feel more comfortable passing on a safety in the first round after seeing guys like Ladler and Bucannon practice against top competition.
The second biggest need for Green Bay is to shore up its defensive line, and the player to do that might just be Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald.
Donald has been outstanding during practices, and it hasn't gone unnoticed on NFL teams. Vic Ketchman of Packers.com points to one specific moment where Donald proved he's an elite prospect:
Donald, a smallish defensive tackle who swept every major defensive honor in college football this past season, authored a Fisher-like moment in the North practice when Donald pancaked Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, a man five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Donald.
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey was also high on praise concerning Donald:
The top defensive lineman of the day was Aaron Donald (DL Pittsburgh), who can probably play either 3-Tech in a 4-3 defense or 5-Tech in a 3-4 defense at the next level. At times, he was unstoppable against both single- and double-teams.
Donald has likely done enough during practices to move himself into first-round consideration. The Packers might be in perfect position to grab Donald in the first round before addressing other needs after the first day.
Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker, Wisconsin
Much like Donald, Borland has used the Senior Bowl practices to prove that size doesn't matter. At only 5'11" and 246 points, Borland lacks the ideal size for an inside linebacker.
However, his playmaking ability and his instincts are literally off the charts. In fact, Borland has been so impressive that he's drawing comparisons to future Hall of Fame linebacker Zach Thomas:
Some scouts wary of height, but keep hearing "Zach Thomas" when you mention Chris Borland here. Including Falcons HC Mike Smith just now.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) January 22, 2014
Matt Miller, lead NFL draft writer for Bleacher Report, also had high praise for Borland after watching him practice for a few days:
Liked Chris Borland a lot heading into the week. Still do. His instincts are amazing.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
Simply put, what Borland brings to the field in terms of intensity and intangibles might be exactly what the Packers defense needs.
While quarterback may not be the biggest of needs for the Packers in the draft, there are still a handful of prospects who they should be keeping an eye on.
One quarterback in particular is Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech. Here's what one team had to say about Thomas via Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
A quote on Logan Thomas from team source: "I can teach a guy to throw. I can't teach him to be 6'5", 250 and fast."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
The big thing here is that Thomas is far from being a polished and finished prospect. He certainly has the size and look of an NFL quarterback, but the problems that are keeping him from being an elite player are legit.
Just look at what Joe Klatt from Fox Sports had to say about Thomas:
1) There is buzz for 6'5 Logan Thomas QB #VT but he is more Jamarcus Russell & Josh Freeman than Newton or Foles— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 22, 2014
The reason that Thomas could ultimately be a good fit for Green Bay is because of his potential. Sure, it's possible that a team will take a chance on him in the early rounds, but if Thomas begins to fall over draft weekend, then the Packers may be wise to take a chance on him as their quarterback of the future.