Pre-NFL Scouting Combine 7-Round Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers
The 2014 NFL draft process is definitely moving along. A number of the prospects had an opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl last month.
The next step in the draft process is the NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held next week in Indianapolis.
After that, each prospect will get one last opportunity to impress the general managers, personnel people and scouts at their pro day.
I'm using the same philosophy in this mock draft. I'm selecting players who fit a need for the Green Bay Packers and also have the ability to succeed in the offensive and defensive schemes run by the team.
Round 1: Defensive End Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Weight: 322 pounds
Stephon Tuitt has the prototypical size that one is looking for at defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Add to that the fact that he is very productive as well.
In his last two years at Notre Dame, Tuitt had 96 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 19.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception for a touchdown.
The Packers need that type of production on their defensive line, and Tuitt would be a very solid bookend to Datone Jones at defensive end.
Tuitt has the size, strength and quickness to be a difference-maker for the Packers, whether in the base 3-4 scheme or in the nickel or dime defenses the Packers run under Dom Capers.
Round 2: Outside Linebacker Trent Murphy (Stanford)
Weight: 261 pounds
I had another chance to talk with scout Chris Landry last week on The Steve Duemig Show. I asked him specifically about Trent Murphy, and Chris had nothing but great things to say about the former Stanford star.
Landry hasn't put out his final grades yet on prospects for the 2014 NFL draft, but for now, he has Murphy with either a first- or a second-round grade.
The reasons are obvious. In his last three years playing with the Cardinal, Murphy had 158 tackles, 51.5 tackles for a loss, 31.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns).
What is not to like? Murphy would be a perfect bookend to Clay Matthews at outside linebacker.
Speaking of Murphy and Matthews, general manager Ted Thompson may need to do what he did in the 2009 NFL draft when he selected No. 52 late in the first round. That is, he may have to trade up to get Murphy, because odds are that he won't be around by the time the Packers make their second-round selection (pick No. 53).
Round 3: Safety Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
Weight: 205 pounds
When it came to playing excellent defense the past couple of years in college football, Stanford didn't have to take a backseat to anybody. The reason? The defense had multiple playmakers, which helped get the team to two straight Rose Bowls.
One of those playmakers was safety Ed Reynolds.
In 2012, Reynolds had 47 tackles, nine passes defensed and six interceptions (three returned for touchdowns). Those are statistics that one might expect from someone like Charles Woodson or Nick Collins when they were in their prime.
Last year, Reynolds upped his tackle total to 86, had four passes defensed and one interception.
Bottom line, Reynolds is a good tackler against the run, plus he has the instincts and the quickness to make plays in the secondary. The Packers desperately need that type of play at the safety position right now.
Round 4: Inside Linebacker Max Bullough (Michigan State)
Weight: 245 pounds
Linebacker Max Bullough had a great career at Michigan State, but it ended on a bad note, as he did not compete in the Rose Bowl due to a suspension for violating team rules. Still, he was very productive when he played, and he was one of the reasons that the Spartans had such a dominant defense at times.
Over the last three seasons, Bullough had 276 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Bullough played in the East-West Shrine Game, and WalterFootball.com reported that Bullough had talked to the Packers there.
The Packers need a thumper at inside linebacker who can stop the run, and that is what Bullough does best. In addition, he showed better-than-expected coverage skills at one of the East-West Shrine Game practices I attended.
Round 5: Offensive Lineman Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt)
Weight: 290 pounds
Wesley Johnson is the type of offensive lineman that the Packers like because of his versatility. Johnson played center, guard and tackle over his career at Vanderbilt.
Johnson played left tackle this past season for Vandy, but his ability to play inside is an added plus. Johnson was a four-year starter and was named to the All-SEC first team by the coaches in 2013.
Johnson also played at the East-West Shrine Game.
The former Commodore needs to add some weight and get stronger once he gets to the NFL, but he has the tools to succeed.
The Packers have questions at offensive tackle, as veteran Bryan Bulaga has missed a year-and-a-half of games now with hip and knee injuries. If Bulaga is healthy in 2014, he and David Bakhtiari should be solid as starters.
But the depth behind them is another story. Don Barclay can obviously play right tackle, but he still has issues with edge-rushers and is probably better off on the inside of the line.
Former first-round pick Derek Sherrod is still a question mark because he is still attempting to come back from the horrific leg injury he suffered late in the 2011 season. Don't expect to see Marshall Newhouse back in 2014, as his play has gotten continuously worse over the past couple of years.
Round 6: Tight End Jordan Najvar (Baylor)
Weight: 260 pounds
Ted Thompson was once again at the East-West Shrine Game practices this year. Even though the talent there is not up to par with the players at the Senior Bowl, there is always some nice players on hand for people like Thompson to look at.
Case in point, Thompson saw a defensive back by the name of Micah Hyde of Iowa there last year. Thompson ended up drafting Hyde in the fifth round in 2013, and Hyde had a pretty nice rookie season with lot of playing time.
Another player that showed some ability this year at the East-West Shrine Game practices was tight end Jordan Najvar of Baylor. The former Bear showed some very nice athletic ability by stretching the seam down the field on some receptions.
At Baylor, Najvar did not get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball, as he only had 35 catches in his career for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
Najvar transferred to Baylor from Stanford. That should tell you something right there, as Stanford always recruits high-caliber tight ends to its program.
Round 7: Fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn)
Weight: 256 pounds
In 2013, the Green Bay Packers became a top-10 running team in the NFL, as the Packers finished seventh in the league in rushing. That was mostly due to the breakout rookie season of running back Eddie Lacy, who ended up winning the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
It was the first time since 2004 that the Packers were in the top 10 in rushing, and the production by Lacy was a big reason why. No. 27 had 1,178 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
Now, the Packers will always be a dynamic passing team behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but I expect the running game to continue to be a big part of the offense.
That is why the Packers would be interested in drafting Jay Prosch, who was the best blocking fullback in the nation last year at Auburn.
The Packers are one of the few teams that still utilize the fullback position, and Prosch would be a nice heir apparent to John Kuhn, should the Packers re-sign the veteran fullback, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
Prosch can dominate in run blocking, which should help open up some huge holes for Lacy and the other running backs.
Prosch can also catch the ball, as he had a 19-yard average on five receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. In short-yardage situations, Prosch can be used like Kuhn to run the ball, as he had 38 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
An added plus is that Prosch is a very good player on special teams, and that is an area in which the Packers need to improve on in 2014.