Under Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers have proved to be an organization that places more value in film and game performance than measurables at the combine; nevertheless, their Round 1 big board continues to come into focus as we gather more information about their potential prospects.
This big board takes talent, need and projected draft positioning into consideration—it's not likely the Packers will select a tight end or a cornerback in the first round over a safety, defensive lineman or linebacker, but there's no doubt Thompson is tracking players at each of these positions.
Meanwhile, it's not worthwhile to include quarterbacks or running backs on Green Bay's Round 1 big board, no matter how talented some of the prospects may be.
As for players seemingly locked to be selected in the top 10, there are no guarantees in the draft, as each year shows. The Packers will consider the top players at each position until they're taken off the board on May 8.
Below is Green Bay's updated first-round big board post-combine.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (FS)
The combine only reinforced what we already knew about Alabama's Clinton-Dix: that he's fast (40-time of 4.58 seconds) and fluid in his movements. He's not as hard of a hitter as fellow first-round prospect Calvin Pryor, but he's a playmaker who tied for the lead in the SEC in 2012 with five interceptions.
Clinton-Dix will be one of the highest players on the Packers' board, and Thompson will appreciate Clinton-Dix's experience in a pro-style scheme and his ability to play within it rather than roam.
Calvin Pryor (FS)
The most physical safety in the draft, Pryor may also be the most complete safety. The Packers need a ball hawk more than a hard-hitting safety, and Pryor's desire, as he told reporters during NFL Network's combine broadcast, to be part of a "greedy" defense that goes for the big hit isn't in the style of Green Bay's scheme. He also didn't play a much man coverage at Louisville, which the Packers will need.
However, there's no denying his physicality and the explosive nature of his tackling.
C.J. Mosley (LB)
Mosley has solidified his position as the best inside linebacker prospect in this year's class, but he might be the third linebacker off the board after Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr.
If he's available at No. 21, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers pick him up. Though his size (6'2", 238 pounds) has been questioned by some, it hasn't hindered his ability to prove he has the instincts, technique and drive to be an exceptional player at the pro level. He supplements his athletic gifts with leadership qualities and football smarts.
Mosley didn't run the 40 at the combine, and the main area in which the Packers need to improve on the inside is speed. But if Mosley is on the board at No. 21, Thompson would be hard-pressed to pass up the value there.
Ra'Shede Hageman (DT)
It's not a surprise that Hageman was a top performer in the bench press. His 32 reps were good for third among defensive linemen. His impressive size (6'6", 310 pounds) has always been his biggest upside, and he's built to be an instant starter in Green Bay's scheme. He could be a great five-technique in the Packers scheme.
But physical prowess isn't everything, and the film reveals some potential issues in Hageman's game—including, at times, aimlessness. The Packers will be very aware that Hageman could fail to reach his potential in the NFL. But his upside may be too difficult to overlook.
Louis Nix III (DT)
With up to four defensive linemen departing in free agency this offseason in B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson, the Packers will be taking a close look at the first-round defensive tackle prospects, and nose tackle Louis Nix is at the top of many people's rankings, including NFL.com's Mike Mayock (pre-combine) and CBSSports.com (post-combine).
If Green Bay's two experienced nose tackles, Raji and Pickett, walk in free agency, Nix fulfills both a value pick and a need for Green Bay. He's a great size for a nose (6'2", 331 pounds) but still demonstrates a nice burst off the snap. He's a two-gapper whose weight could be an asset or become a problem down the road if not maintained, but after showing up at the combine 23 pounds lighter, he's proved that he's able to manage it.
Is it worrisome that he had to attempt the broad jump five times before he could stick the landing? No. He is 331 pounds, after all. He could be the young anchor this defense needs.
Khalil Mack (LB)
Mack walked away from the combine with nearly guaranteed top-10 status, but that doesn't mean the Packers won't be tracking him in case he takes a tumble, as such surprises in the first round are not uncommon. Mack had a strong showing at the combine, finishing fourth among all linebackers in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.65 seconds. He was also a top performer in the vertical jump, coming in second among linebackers.
Could the Packers use a first-round inside linebacker more than a first-round outside linebacker? Sure, but Mack is a rare talent, and any team would be happy to have more elite pass-rushers, Green Bay included.
Timmy Jernigan (DT)
Jernigan weighs in at a trim 292 pounds. Raji and Pickett weigh in 337 and 338 pounds, respectively. Undersized for a 3-4 nose tackle, Jernigan has nonetheless proved that he can be effective at Florida State. The Packers will have noticed his strength at the combine in spite of his frame.
They'll need a powerful two-gapper to anchor the run defense up front, and Nix may be the better size to do it. But if he's off the board, Jernigan could prove to be a disruptive force on the line.
Kony Ealy (DE)
Many scouts and analysts have Ealy as a potential outside linebacker prospect as well as a defensive end, but his 40 time of 4.92 seconds was slow, even among defensive ends. A 3-4 team could certainly use him as an edge-rusher, but if Green Bay were to consider him, it would more likely be as a defensive lineman, especially with up to four unrestricted free agents there. He's not an elite run defender just yet, but he moves nicely for his size and is disruptive.
Kyle Van Noy (LB)
If the Packers are going to consider a linebacker in the first round, and especially if C.J. Mosley is off the board, they'll be interested in Van Noy's versatility on the inside and outside. If Van Noy were to play inside, however, does he address the speed concerns the Packers have there?
His 40-time of 4.71 seconds wasn't overly impressive, and his other measurables weren't flashy—but he's a playmaking linebacker who could be versatile in Green Bay's scheme. However, No. 21 overall is too high to select him for his value, and he'll be off the board by the Packers' pick in Round 2.
Anthony Barr (LB)
Barr will do best on the outside in a 3-4 scheme, and he is one of the best outside linebackers available in this draft. That being said, it's highly unlikely he's on the board at No. 21. The Packers may choose to give Nick Perry another, hopefully healthier, year to develop opposite Clay Matthews, but there's no doubt Barr is on their radar. He's a relentless pass-rusher who has notched 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss in the last two seasons.
Eric Ebron (TE)
The top-ranked tight end prospect in this year's class, Ebron would be a game changer for a Packers offense that struggled with red-zone efficiency, especially after Jermichael Finley's neck injury. Would the Packers select a tight end when so many defensive positions—namely, safety and defensive line—need help? If Ebron, who could go as early as No. 9 overall to the Buffalo Bills, is still on the board at No. 21, he'd be tough for Thompson to pass up.
Ebron's 40 time of 4.60 was second among tight ends, and he notched 120.0 inches in the broad jump. While he's elite as a receiver, he's average in blocking, but what the Packers really need is a pass-catching tight end who can be a red-zone threat for Aaron Rodgers. Again, it's unlikely Green Bay goes tight end with its first choice, but Ebron's got to be on the board.
Jace Amaro (TE)
The Packers' defensive needs far outweigh their offensive needs in potential first-round selections, but with the uncertainty surrounding free agent Finley at tight end, they are absolutely taking note of skill positions this early. Amaro exploded at the combine; he was a top performer in the 40-yard dash (4.74 seconds, which was fifth among tight ends), bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle run and 60-yard shuttle run.
It's unlikely Ebron will be available when the Packers pick, but if they satisfy a lot of defensive needs through free agency and want to look for a tight end in the draft, Amaro is one to consider—but with just average separation as a receiver, he'd be a far cry from Finley.
Aaron Donald (DT)
At 6'1" and 285 pounds, and with limited two-gapper potential, Donald is better suited for a 4-3 scheme than the Packers' 3-4. But he has great footwork, and he consistently led Pittsburgh's defense in sacks and had 63 tackles for loss. That kind of production is hard to overlook; he did lead the country in sacks.
Still, it's hard to believe that CBSSports.com ranks Donald second among defensive tackles, after Nix and ahead of Jernigan, Hageman and Tuitt. Yes, his explosiveness can make up for his lack of size to a degree, and that may get him drafted in the first round. But if the Packers could select Nix or Hageman ahead of him, they likely would, though their need for a defensive tackle will keep him on their board.
Justin Gilbert (CB)
If the Packers can't select a safety in the first round, would they go for a corner? Some analysts, such as NFL.com's Charles Davis, have Green Bay taking a cornerback in the first round. (Davis specifically had Bradley Roby.) If the Packers do have interest in drafting a cornerback at 21st overall, it's probably not going to be Gilbert—but they certainly noticed him at the combine.
Gilbert had the best 40 time among defensive backs, with a 4.37. There's no doubt he'd be ready to match up against Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey twice a year. This one really depends on if the Packers are able to reach a new deal with free agent Sam Shields.
Darqueze Dennard (CB)
Even if Pryor and Clinton-Dix were off the board by the time the Packers picked in the first round, they may be better off going with another safety, such as Deone Bucannon, in the second than a corner—specifically, Dennard—in the first. However, the secondary needs massive help, and there's no doubt Thompson is doing his due diligence on Dennard.
He only participated in two events at the combine, the 40-yard dash and the bench press, and finished outside of the top 10 among defensive backs in both. He's also not that experienced in playing zone coverage, and past injuries may be a concern. Still, he's solid in man coverage and displays nice awareness.
Ryan Shazier (LB)
A prospect on the line between the first and second rounds, Shazier's combine performance may help bump him into first-round status. He was a top performer in three drills—the vertical jump, the broad jump and the three-cone drill—and his 42.0-inch vertical jump was the best posted by a linebacker.
Though he played on the outside at Ohio State, the Packers would probably think of him as an inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. One of the biggest assets he could offer is his speed in coverage, which the Packers need on the inside, as well as his versatility against the run and the pass.
Stephon Tuitt (DT)
Like Hageman, Tuitt's size (6'6", 312 pounds) and athleticism give him huge upside. However, there are lot of question marks surrounding him now. He was not cleared to participate in the combine, as NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah reported Monday, due to a small fracture in his left foot.
Tuitt was already on the bubble between being a first-round and second-round prospect, and this medical setback may push him squarely into the second round. But until his pro day, where he'll have the chance to prove himself, the Packers will likely keep him in mind, as he is a top-five prospect at his position. Being able to prove his durability will be key.
Dee Ford (DE)
Another player not medically cleared to participate in the combine, Ford wasn't able to put stock behind his claims that he is a better pass-rusher than Jadeveon Clowney. However, Ford intends to participate in Auburn's pro day on March 4, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.
The Packers need more players who fit their scheme without conversion, and Ford would be a likely candidate for a conversion to outside linebacker, due to his smaller frame. That's not ideal for Green Bay, but because they've gone that route in the past, it stands to reason that they'll continue to monitor Ford heading into the draft.
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