Previewing What the Packers Will Be Looking for at the Scouting Combine
The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine will be a great opportunity for the Green Bay Packers to see some of the best draft prospects available in this year's draft. In fact, with so many holes on the roster for Green Bay to fill in the draft, there might not be a more important event this offseason.
There are a handful of players and positions that Green Bay will certainly be looking at during the combine. For example, the safety position is a huge need on the roster, so don't be surprised if the Packers spend extra time with them.
However, there's plenty more than just the safeties that the Packers will be looking at, and today we'll preview players, positions and specific traits that Green Bay will be intrigued by during the NFL Scouting Combine.
This is easily the most important thing that the Green Bay Packers should be looking for at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
The 2013 defense lacked any type of playmakers at all of the positions. Their 11 interceptions as a team were the fourth-fewest for any team in the NFL. Simply put, the Packers need some new defensive playmakers for the upcoming season.
The biggest need is obviously in the secondary, specifically at the safety position (more on this a little later). However, the defensive line and linebacker corps could both use players who know how to create turnovers and make impact plays.
Guys like Louisville safety Calvin Pryor and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald would be ideal pickups for Green Bay, but the Packers can't afford to stop at just the big-name players.
They need to look at defensive playmakers who'll be available throughout the draft in an attempt to improve their atrocious defense from last year.
No one would argue with you if you said that safety was the weakest position for the 2013 Green Bay Packers. Anyone with even half a good eye who watched Green Bay play last year could have seen just how weak the safeties were.
The two biggest names at safety are Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. Unfortunately, both players could be gone before the Packers get a chance to select them with their first-round pick. That means they'll likely have to look elsewhere to solve their safety issues.
A few names that Green Bay should be looking at are USC's Dion Bailey, Washington State's Deone Bucannon, Vanderbilt's Kenny Ladler and North Illinois' Jimmie Ward. All these safeties will likely be available after the first round and would be instant upgrades in the Packers secondary.
The Packers are almost guaranteed to draft at least one safety in this year's draft, so looking closely at safeties needs to happen at the combine.
Ra'Shede Hageman, Defensive Tackle
One of the more popular names in early mock drafts for the Green Bay Packers to select is Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. His athleticism and playmaking abilities are what make him such a unique prospect in this year's draft.
Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive line coach Jeff Phelps had this to say according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
He’s a very aggressive human being, Gophers defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said. He’s really a freak of nature. He’s every bit 6-6, 300-plus pounds and really can run like a deer. He does some things that are unbelievable and I think he’ll really wow some people at the combine.
The words that should stick out in that description of Hageman are the words "freak of nature." That's exactly what the Packers need on their defensive line, and it's been years and years since they had one.
If Hageman displays the abilities that make him a "freak of nature" at the combine, then the Packers would be foolish to pass on him in the first round if he's available.
C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker
While it's unlikely that inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will fall to the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the draft, that doesn't mean it's impossible. We've seen highly touted linebackers drop before, especially with former Alabama linebackers like Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw.
Now Mosley is in a different class as a prospect than those two players, but there's still a chance he slides when the draft rolls around. Simply put, the Packers need to take a close look at Mosley at the combine.
Mosley has everything Green Bay could want in an inside linebacker. He's athletic, he's got fantastic instincts, and he can make plays against both the run and the pass. As an overall prospect, there may not be one in this year's draft as complete and NFL-ready as Mosley.
Despite inside linebacker not being the biggest need for the Packers, if a player like Mosley falls to them, then it's an easy decision to draft him. That's how good Mosley is.
The Green Bay Packers will likely be looking to draft a tight end in this year's draft. Even if they do re-sign either Jermichael Finley or Andrew Quarless, they'll likely want to bring in a little more talent at the tight end position.
Now the probability of them drafting a tight end early in the draft isn't very high, so that means Green Bay needs to look at late-round prospects. One player who could be extremely intriguing is former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla.
Lyerla is one of the more athletic prospects in the draft and should really excel during the NFL Scouting Combine. His off-field struggles will likely keep him from going in the early rounds, so he could end up being a steal for the Packers if he checks out mentally.
While finding a tight end certainly isn't the biggest need, if a late-round prospect like Lyerla puts on a show at the combine, then the Packers need to be thinking hard about drafting him.
Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker
While inside linebacker C.J. Mosley would have to be drafted in the first round, the Green Bay Packers could probably wait until the second or third round to draft Wisconsin's Chris Borland.
What makes Borland such a unique player is his incredible IQ and understanding of the game of football. He always seems to find himself around the football and is constantly making positive plays for his team.
While he doesn't have incredible athleticism, Borland should still test well throughout the NFL Scouting Combine. However, a poor showing at the combine could actually be a good thing for the Packers.
That would likely drop Borland down draft boards to where the Packers could add him as late as the third round. Adding Borland would instantly make the Packers defense better, and getting him in the third round could end up being the steal of the draft.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2013 season for the Green Bay Packers was their return game. Cornerback Micah Hyde was decent, but the Packers desperately need to add a special teams weapon in the draft.
A player like Kent State's Dri Archer would be the ideal player for Green Bay to add to its roster. He's an absolute burner who is a legitimate threat to score every single time he touches the football. He should be one of the fastest players at this year's combine.
Archer also has the versatility to be an intriguing weapon in the Packers offense. He can play wide receiver or running back and would open up the playbook in Green Bay if the Packers drafted him.
It's likely that Archer will be available in the later rounds of the draft. If that happens, the Packers should draft him in a heartbeat.
Late-Round Quarterback Prospects
The only way the Green Bay Packers won't be drafting a quarterback is if they re-sign Matt Flynn this offseason. However, if they enter the draft with only Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien on the roster, then they'll need to add a third quarterback.
They won't need one until the later rounds in the draft, so that can cut out a good chunk of the quarterbacks at this year's combine. A few names that the Packers could potentially be interested in are Jeff Mathews from Cornell, Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech and Keith Wenning of Ball State.
Of those three, Mathews is the most intriguing due to his size (6'4", 225 lbs) and arm strength. While he's never gone up against elite competition, he still has the tools to turn into a solid No. 3 quarterback for Green Bay.
Don't be surprised if the Packers fall in love with one of the late-round quarterbacks at the combine that they can then target when the draft rolls around.