Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The Green Bay Packers have a handful of needs they'll need to address during the 2014 draft. After a season that didn't go quite as planned, especially on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers might not have the luxury of drafting the best player available instead of drafting for need.
When you look over the entire roster in Green Bay there are four positions that need to take priority over others. Those positions are safety, defensive end, defensive tackle and tight end.
What we're going to do today is look at the best fits for each of these needs for the Packers. We'll look at one player who could be drafted in the earlier rounds and another player who would be available in the later rounds that would also fill the need at the position.
Tight End: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
With tight ends Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless free agents this year, the Green Bay Packers could potentially be in the market for a tight end in this year's draft. A weapon like Texas Tech's Jace Amaro would be a great fit in either the first or second round.
With Amaro's athleticism, he is a similar target to Finley. However, Amaro has much better hands than Finley ever did and his ability to make plays after the catch could really be something for the Packers offense.
The only real issue with Amaro is his lack of experience as an actual tight end. At Texas Tech Amaro played more slot receiver and had little experience blocking in that offense. While he'd certainly be an offensive weapon, he may only be able to play a limited amount of snaps due to his inexperience as an all-around tight end.
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com also brings up the fact that Amaro has "some maturity and attitude questions that will need to be addressed". However, if Green Bay feels that Amaro's positives outweigh any negatives, he could be quite the addition to an already potent offense.
Tight End: Colt Lyerla, Oregon
The Green Bay Packers have generally stayed away from players who have checkered pasts, but Colt Lyerla might have enough upside to buck that trend.
Measuring 6-foot-4 and weighing 246 pounds with speed reportedly in the 4.5-second range (in the 40-yard dash), Lyerla is one of the hybrid tight-end-types that are currently taking the NFL by storm. He has the speed to blow past defenders on vertical routes and displays the short-area quickness and burst to run away from linebackers out of breaks. Additionally, Lyerla is an overpowering athlete capable of muscling smaller defensive backs at the top of routes to create separation. Factor in his strong hands and wide catching radius, and Lyerla is the kind of threat offensive coordinators love to feature in the game plan, especially on third down or in the red zone.
That's an incredible amount of praise for the former Oregon tight end. However, it'll be hard to look over Lyerla's dismissal from his team this past season and the arrest for drug charges that followed.
It's unlikely that Lyerla will be drafted anytime before the third day of this year's draft. As long as the Packers feel confident that he's overcome his difficult past, Lyerla could end up being the steal of the 2014 draft.
Defensive End: Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Defensive end could become a huge position of need if the Green Bay Packers don't re-sign players like B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly. However, even if those players are brought back, the Packers could still use a boost a this unit.
While Stephon Tuitt had a rather unimpressive junior season at Notre Dame, his upside will almost certainly make him an early-round pick this year. What ultimately makes him such an intriguing prospect is his elite athletic ability.
Tuitt can make an impact against both the run and the pass. At 6'6" and 312 pounds, Tuitt uses his quickness and size to fill run lanes in the ground game and get past offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback.
Unfortunately, Tuitt has yet to prove he can be an impact player on a consistent basis. That's what could ultimately drop him out of the first round and into the second round.
Should Tuitt be available when the Packers select in round two, it'd sure be hard to pass on his potential.
Defensive End: Aaron Lynch, South Florida
What ultimately makes Aaron Lynch such a polarizing prospect is his extremely high ceiling. In Lynch we're talking about a player who could eventually become one of the most dominant linemen in the league.
Unfortunately, Lynch's floor is also unbelievably low. After sitting out the 2012 season due to his transfer from Notre Dame to South Florida, Lynch never got back to his dominant form he displayed in 2011 as a freshman for the Fighting Irish.
In fact, Lynch was so disappointing this past season that CBS Sports currently has Lynch projected to go in the sixth round of this year' draft. Based on potential alone, Lynch should be drafted in the first round.
As inconsistent as Lynch has been this year, he'd still be worth spending a late-round pick on for the Green Bay Packers due to his high upside. One thing that's certain is that they could definitely use Lynch's athleticism and pass-rushing skills on their defensive line.
Defensive Tackle: Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
At 6'6" and 311 pounds, Ra'Shede Hageman is an absolute freak of nature defensive tackle. He's so naturally quick and nimble that he is almost unstoppable at times.
Hageman's biggest threat is pressuring the quarterback in the passing game. While Hageman can also help in slowing down the run, it simply isn't won't be his forte when he enters the NFL.
Following a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, it's unlikely that Hageman will fall out of the first round in the draft. Mike Smith, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, had this to say about Hageman (h/t Chase Goodbread of NFL.com):
Any team, whether you're playing a 3-4 or a 4-3, I think he's got the skill set to play in both of those schemes, Smith said. I've been impressed with his athleticism at his size. ... He's done himself well.
There is no doubt hat Hageman would bring instant improvement to the play of the Green Bay Packers defensive line from day one. He's one of the safer picks in this year's draft and could definitely be a top target of the Packers once the draft rolls around.
Defensive Tackle: Deandre Coleman, California
The one thing that Deandre Coleman can do really well right now is stop the run. He's 6'5" and 315 pounds behemoth of a man that can be used to plug up the middle of the field.
Unfortunately, Coleman doesn't bring much else to the field at this point in his career. That's the main reason why he'll likely be available later in the draft.
However, a run-stuffing defensive tackle is exactly what the Green Bay Packers need. They were absolutely horrid against the run last year, having the sixth-worst run defense according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Adding a player like Coleman who could provide an instant service on the defense would be a great pickup in the later rounds of the draft.
Safety: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
There is no doubt that safety is the biggest positional need heading into the offseason for the Green Bay Packers. The play of this position last year was just absolutely horrid.
The top safety in the draft, and the top dream pick for the Packers, is Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. What makes Clinton-Dix a premier prospect in this year's draft is the fact that he's a complete player right now.
He's a big-hitting safety who has the ability to make plays against both the run and the pass. His instincts are off the charts and he's the type of player who can come in right away and completely change the face of a defense.
The only issue with Clinton-Dix is that it's quite possible he won't be available as late in the first round as the Packers are drafting. However, if he is available, it'd be a no-brainer pick for Green Bay.
Safety: Dion Bailey, USC
While Dion Bailey isn't technically a "late-round" prospect, he's currently projected to go in the fourth round of the draft according to CBS Sports. If the Green Bay Packers decide to pass on a safety in the earl rounds of the draft, a player like Bailey makes sense for a number of reasons.
For starters, Bailey has fantastic instincts in the run game. He can dissect a play almost instantly and has the strength to shed blockers in order to make a play. This skill ultimately comes from playing outside linebacker for some time while at USC.
Another skill that Bailey has that should be attractive to the Packers is his ability to make plays on the ball. He recorded 11 receptions over the course of his career at USC despite only playing one full season as a safety.
Bailey's lack of experience at his NFL position is what will ultimately cause him to be available in day two or three of the draft. He's yet to prove that he can be an impact player on a consistent basis.
Adding a player with Bailey's potential in the later rounds could be a wise move for Green Bay. While this team has missed on mid-round prospects with high upsides in recent years, Bailey looks ready to contribute early on in his NFL career.