Green Bay Packers' 8 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone and there were certainly plenty of takeaways for the Green Bay Packers.
The biggest takeaway was probably how deep this draft is going to be. Sure, there were plenty of players who saw their stock drop at the combine, but there were many more who put on great performances and proved they have the skills to compete in the NFL.
With the Packers having so many current needs heading into the draft, it's important that they have a successful draft in order to be true competitors during the 2014 season. Here are the eight biggest takeaways from the scouting combine for Green Bay.
Defense Still Looks Like the Way to Go in First Round
When you look at both sides of the ball, it's quite easy to see that the defensive side of the ball has far less talent than the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers. So, it makes complete sense that the Packers would be looking to add talent to the defense in the earlier rounds of the draft.
However, it's truly hard to ever know what general manager Ted Thompson is thinking. He could potentially trade back or select the best player available who could not be a defensive player. That's just how Thompson rolls and he's been quite successful with that strategy over the course of his tenure as Packers GM.
With that said, all early signs point to Green Bay attacking its defense first in the draft. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle sees the Packers selecting a defensive player with the 21st pick (h/t Midday 180).
With the combine proving that a number of late first-round prospects and early second-round prospects actually have quite a bit to offer, the Packers should have no trouble finding an impact defensive player in the first round.
What About "Best Player Available"?
I know we just talked about the Green Bay Packers probably addressing the defense in the first round, but let's look at the best-player-available approach. It's only logical since it's a move that Ted Thompson loves so much.
Here's one way in which this scenario could work for the Packers. Let's say that the top safeties and a handful of the top defensive linemen are already off the board when Green Bay selects with the No. 21 pick. Instead of reaching for a prospect, the Packers would be better suited to draft the best player available in that scenario.
One potential player who would make sense in this example would be UNC tight end Eric Ebron. He's an elite talent at his position, and while tight end isn't the biggest need for Green Bay, it's certainly a position that could be upgraded.
While drafting a defensive player certainly looks like a more likely route, we simply can't throw out the idea of Thompson taking this approach when the draft rolls around.
The Safety Class Could Be Deeper Than Originally Thought
There is no denying the fact that safety is the biggest position of need for the Green Bay Packers this offseason. The position was so terrible last season that there's no way the Packers can compete next year without a major upgrade at the position.
Before the combine it seemed like Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor were quite a bit ahead of any other safety prospect in the draft. However, the rest of the safeties made that gap quite a bit smaller this past week by putting together some strong performances.
Both Washington State's Deone Bucannon and Minnesota's Brock Vereen were two big winners from the combine. They displayed the speed and athleticism to be players who can make an early impact without being drafted in the first round.
This is great news for the Packers because they likely won't have to reach for a safety in the first round if both Pryor and Clinton-Dix are gone. They can add another impact player early in the draft and still get a difference-maker at their biggest needs in the later rounds.
Heck, the Entire Draft Is Extremely Deep
Let's go a little farther than just the safeties for a moment and break down just how deep this entire draft class is from top to bottom at all positions.
For example, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. put on an absolutely stunning show at this year's combine. However, he's still likely to be drafted behind Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Even players like Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin could be drafted before he does.
Considering Beckham Jr. has legitimate No. 1 receiver potential and could still see four players drafted before him should show you just how deep this draft is. Heck, if Beckham Jr. falls to the Green Bay Packers in the first round, it'd be hard to imagine the team not taking a hard look at him.
The ultimate point of this is that this draft has the potential of improving the Packers in a major way. We could see a number of the draft picks start or contribute in a major way from day one for Green Bay.
Could the Packers Bring Some Former Badgers on Board?
Despite producing a number of NFL talents in recent years like defensive end J.J. Watt, the Green Bay Packers rarely dip into their hometown college, the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that may change this year as the Packers could potentially be interested in a number of former Badgers.
The biggest target would be inside linebacker Chris Borland. He reportedly met with the Packers while at the combine, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN. Borland certainly didn't jump off the page at the combine, but he relies more on instincts to make plays than athleticism.
Demovsky also reported last week that the Packers were looking at offensive guard Ryan Groy. He'd likely be a pick in the later rounds of the draft, but could add some much-needed depth along the interior of the offensive line.
While looking to the Badgers hasn't been a move used often by Green Bay, there's a definite possibility that the team will add two in this year's draft.
Dri Archer Needs to Be a Target for Packers
Can anyone remember the last time the Green Bay Packers had a player on their roster with legitimate 4.26 speed? That was Dri Archer's time in the 40-yard dash this year, and it was a full .07 seconds better than anyone else who ran in Indianapolis.
The thing about Archer's speed is that he legitimately plays that fast while on the field. That's what makes him such a dangerous player and that's why he needs to be a priority for Green Bay.
Where Archer would be best used right away for the Packers is in the return game. This is one area where Green Bay struggled mightily last year, and Archer would be an instant upgrade over any return man currently on the Packers roster, save wide receiver Randall Cobb.
The good news about Archer is that he's likely to be available in the later rounds of the draft. As a second- or third-day selection, Archer would be an absolute steal for the Packers.
Top Defensive Tackles Could Be Long Gone Before 21st Pick
One position at the NFL combine that saw a handful of players improve their stock was the defensive tackles. This is ultimately a bad thing for the Green Bay Packers.
Before the combine happened, numerous people expected players like Ra'Shede Hageman from Minnesota or Notre Dame's Louis Nix III to be available at the 21st pick. Heck, some even had Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald falling to the Packers.
Well, it's unlikely that any of those players will be available for Green Bay in the first round. Donald had one of the best combines of any player and cemented his stock as a top-15 pick. Both Hageman and Nix III were also impressive, showing off their unique blend of size, strength and speed.
With the Packers needing help along the defensive line, it'd be great to add one of the top defensive tackles. Unfortunately, it now appears that Green Bay will have to trade up to grab one, and that simply doesn't seem like a likely scenario.
The Packers Need to Be Willing to Take a Risk in the Later Rounds
The last takeaway from the NFL Scouting Combine for the Green Bay Packers is that they have to be willing to take a risky prospect late in the draft. There are simply too many players with too huge of upsides that'll be available in the later rounds for the Packers to pass on them all.
One player that instantly comes to mind is Colt Lyerla. Yes, there are the off-field concerns, but he went a long way to showing that his upside on the field is far better than any off-field issues.
Lyerla finished with the third-fastest 40 time among tight ends with a blazing 4.61. He was also a top performer at his position for vertical and broad jump. Simply put, Lyerla displayed that he still has all the athletic ability and tools that made him such a coveted prospect for the Oregon Ducks.
The Packers have a need a tight end and using a late-round pick on Lyerla could have the biggest payoff of any pick they make. There are literally a handful of high-upside, high-risk players like Lyerla that will be available on the third day that the Packers could choose from.
They've stayed away from these types of prospects in the past, but there is too much potential talent for it to happen again this year.