The Green Bay Packers Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions Post Free Agency
General manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers has to feel a bit giddy. The Packers now will have nine draft picks in the 2014 NFL draft, which is being called the deepest draft class in years.
During a conference call with reporters just before the NFL Scouting Combine, via Pro Football Talk, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock gave his take on the upcoming draft that will take place starting on May 8.
“From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I’ve seen in probably ten years,” Mayock said. “That’s been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I’ve talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a Top-20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top-10 pick last year.”
Scout Chris Landry told me that this is an outstanding draft class when I talked with him recently: "In terms of overall grades, you are right, I'm not completely done yet, but I can tell you that I'm on pace to have a higher number of first-round grades that I've had in years. Maybe as high as 28 or 29, which is extraordinarily high."
Landry then went on to talk about the rest of the prospects in this year's draft:
"It's really deep in the second and third rounds. Maybe even a little bit above that. So, there is really good value. And what that means is that when you are picking in the fifth or sixth round, you will be getting in a lot of cases third-round-value players. Because how you grade a player is how you see them and how they fit in a certain category. And that grade is corresponding to a round.
"But if you have more than 32 players with second-round grades, which you are definitely going to have this year, just do the numbers. If you have 42, you have 10 players who going to bleed into the third round with second-round grades. If you do the numbers going forward, I think there is going to be tremendous value here (in this draft)."
So if you see the usually very composed Thompson crack a smile at times between now and the draft, now you know why.
He and head coach Mike McCarthy have put together a draft-and-develop system in the eight years they have been together in Green Bay. It has been a successful formula, as the team has an 82-45-1 record in the regular season in that time with six playoff appearances, four NFC North titles and one Super Bowl victory.
This year's draft should definitely add to the talent and depth of the Packers in 2014 and beyond.
So with that being said, here is my fifth mock draft for the Packers. If you would like to reference my first four mock drafts, here is a link to the last one I did, which will also include links to the first three.
Round 1: Linebacker C.J. Mosley (Alabama)
Weight: 234 pounds
C.J. Mosley is a complete linebacker. He can play on all three downs and is very good against both the run and the pass.
Here is what scout Chris Landry told me about Mosley:
"C.J. Mosley is even more versatile. To me, he's kind of the new age of linebackers, in that he can stay on the field for three downs. He's outstanding in coverage. He's got great pursuit speed. He's got really good instincts. He's a good tackler.
"I mean, he can play the run and he can play the pass with equal effectiveness. Not any issues there. Doesn't play over a tight end as well. More of a weak-side guy. But he is someone who when you go up against spread offenses and some uptempo stuff, he's a guy who you don't have to worry about substituting for because he can run like a deer."
Mosley's career stats at Alabama back up the strong endorsement from Landry, as the player had 319 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions (three for touchdowns), 24 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles in four years with the Crimson Tide.
The Packers need to get quicker and faster on defense. They need an inside linebacker who can stay on the field for all three downs and play effectively. They also need another playmaker on defense.
Mosley can do all of those things.
Mike Mayock rated Mosley as the top inside linebacker on his board, behind only Khalil Mack.
Round 2: Safety Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
Weight: 211 pounds
The biggest eyesore for the Packers in 2013 was the lack of big plays by anyone who played the safety position.
Yes, there were two fumble returns for touchdowns, but the group didn't have an interception, missed multiple tackles and blew several coverage assignments.
The Packers have already seen one of the starters at safety leave the team. M.D. Jennings signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears after Green Bay did not tender him a contract offer as he was a restricted free agent.
The Packers are also going to give Micah Hyde more opportunities (including safety) to get more playing time in 2014, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, but more help is needed.
The other starting safety, Morgan Burnett, did not have a very good season in 2013 either. And that was after getting a contract extension last summer.
One player who would help the Packers at safety is Deone Bucannon of Washington State, who is good against both the run and the pass.
He had a very good career as a member of the Cougars, with 384 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, 15 interceptions, 23 passes defended, one fumble recovery and seven forced fumbles.
Talk about a playmaker!
He also had a very good performance at the combine.
Mike Mayock rated him as the fourth-best safety on his board.
Round 3: Cornerback Keith McGill (Utah)
Weight: 211 pounds
The Seattle Seahawks proved last season that big is better at cornerback, as Richard Sherman had a huge season and postseason for the Super Bowl XLVIII winners. At 6'3", he is one of the tallest corners in the NFL.
The Packers might have an opportunity to select a big cornerback of their own, if they decide to select Keith McGill from Utah.
He showed a glimpse of his abilities last year with the Utes, with 37 tackles, one interception and 12 passes defended. That led him to be named honorable mention on the All-Pac-12 team.
He also had a solid combine, where he showed off his outstanding athletic ability.
The Packers are fairly deep at the cornerback position with Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde and Jarrett Bush, but Williams will be 31 years old in 2014, Hyde will most likely move over to safety, and Bush is primarily a special teamer.
Plus, one can never have too many cornerbacks in today's pass-happy NFL.
Round 3 (Compensatory): Wide Receiver Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin)
Weight: 195 pounds
Ted Thompson is often criticized for not drafting any Wisconsin Badgers. He has drafted a lot of players from the Big Ten in the nine years he has run the draft for the Packers, but he has never drafted a Badger.
That might change in 2014.
Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis would be an excellent fit in the Packers offense. He might be the best route-runner in this year's wide receiver class.
He also had a great career at Wisconsin, where he had 202 receptions for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns. His stats should have been even better, as he was wide open on several deep pass plays last season, only to see quarterback Joel Stave overthrow him.
Just watch the film on Abbrederis when the Badgers played Ohio State last season. He went up against Bradley Roby (one of the better cornerback prospects in this draft) and dominated the Buckeye throughout the game. Abbrederis had 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown.
Scout Chris Landry also gave me his take on the former Badger: "Jared Abbrederis. I like him. I think he's a really good X-receiver. Can be a three or a four in the league. He's smart, and he runs good routes. He's got good quickness."
Landry also added this in his appraisal: "He's sneaky vertical. Listen, he's one of the many guys, maybe as many as 16, 17 or 18 wide receivers that I think can be starters eventually in this league out of this draft class."
Abbrederis can also help the Packers on special teams, as he was a pretty good return man at Wisconsin.
Round 4: Tight End Arthur Lynch (Georgia)
Weight: 258 pounds
The Packers did something in 2013 that they had not done in more than a decade. That would be finishing in the top 10 of the NFL in rushing.
They finished seventh in the NFL in rushing last season with an average of 133.5 yards per game.
That was the team's best mark since the 2004 season, when the Packers finished 10th in the league.
I expect the Packers to continue and try and improve their running prowess even more in 2014. They have a deep set of running backs, with Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin.
Fullback John Kuhn is a decent lead-blocking back when called upon, and recently re-signed tight end Andrew Quarless is also a solid blocker.
The offensive line should be even better in 2014 with offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga coming back from the knee injury he suffered last season.
However, the blocking could get even better at tight end if the Packers select Arthur Lynch from Georgia. He has great size and is one of the better blocking tight ends in this draft.
He was a solid weapon for quarterback Aaron Murray in the passing game for the Bulldogs, as he put together decent numbers the past two seasons. He had 54 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns.
No. 88 also showed his strength at the combine by putting up 28 reps in the bench press.
Round 5: Center Tyler Larsen (Utah State)
Weight: 313 pounds
The Packers lost their starting center from last year when Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs last month.
Currently, the plan is to give second-year offensive lineman J.C. Tretter the first shot at becoming the new starting center. He broke his ankle last year at one of the early OTAs and started the season on the PUP list.
He did return to the roster late in the season but did not get any playing time. Still, the Packers think he could become a fine center because of his athletic ability.
Another center who has intrigued them from a prospect standpoint is Tyler Larsen from Utah State.
According to Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel, the Packers showed some interest in Larsen at the Senior Bowl, where he played very well against top competition.
At the combine, he also showed off his strength with 36 reps on the bench.
At Utah State, where he played under head coach Gary Andersen (now with Wisconsin) for three years, he started 52 games and was named to the All-WAC first team three times.
Round 5 (Compensatory): Defensive Lineman Deandre Coleman (Cal)
Weight: 314 pounds
Deandre Coleman from California has the prototypical size for a 3-4 defensive end. He was also named to the 2013 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention team by the coaches.
For the season, he had 39 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In his career at Cal, he had 123 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss and six sacks.
His strength is in stopping the run. The Packers need help in that area, as the rush defense broke down in the second half of the 2013 season, and Green Bay finished 25th in the league in stopping the run.
The Packers are looking to get more athletic along the defensive line, and the drafting of Datone Jones last year and the signing of free agent Julius Peppers this year point to that.
But the Packers also need players who specialize in stopping the run, especially on early downs and in short-yardage situations.
Coleman can help out in that area.
Round 6: Fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn)
Weight: 254 pounds
As I mentioned in an earlier slide, the Packers finished seventh in the NFL in rushing last season. That was mostly due to the fantastic 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 in the league, and the big season by No. 27 was a big reason why. Lacy had 1,178 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
The team recently re-signed fullback John Kuhn to a one-year deal to be the main blocking back in the running game.
Even with Kuhn coming back, the Packers still might look for his heir apparent in this draft. That is why I believe the Packers might be interested in drafting Jay Prosch, who was considered by many to be the best blocking fullback in the nation last year at Auburn.
He started his collegiate career at Illinois for two years before he transferred to Auburn for the final two years of his career.
The powerful fullback can dominate in run blocking. He proved that the last two seasons with Auburn, which had one of the best running attacks in college football.
Prosch also showed some promise in catching the ball, as he had a 19-yard average on five receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown last season. In short-yardage situations, he had 38 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
In addition to that, he is a very good player on special teams (just like Kuhn), and the Packers need to improve in that area in 2014.
Round 7: Quarterback Brock Jensen (North Dakota State)
Weight: 223 pounds
The Packers have two quarterbacks on their roster. One obviously is Aaron Rodgers, while the other is Scott Tolzien.
I expect the Packers to re-sign free agent Matt Flynn as well.
Even with all that, the Packers could add a fourth arm, either via the draft or by signing an undrafted rookie quarterback.
The Packers painfully learned last season that one can never have enough good quarterbacks on the roster in the NFL, especially after Rodgers fractured his clavicle against the Bear in Week 9, which kept him out of the lineup for seven games.
According to Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press Gazette, the Packers have scheduled a visit to look at quarterback Brock Jensen from North Dakota State.
He is formerly from Waupaca, Wisconsin, where he led Waupaca to a state title his senior year in high school.
He also showed he could win in college. North Dakota State had a 47-5 record under him at quarterback, which includes a perfect 15-0 mark last season.
According to the North Dakota State athletics website, Jensen had a great career with the Bison, throwing 72 touchdown passes versus 21 interceptions for 8,598 yards.
He was also pretty nifty with his feet, as he rushed for 1,240 yards and 35 touchdowns.
While I wouldn't expect him to make the 53-man roster for the Packers in 2014, he would have a good chance of landing on the practice squad.