5 Risky Picks Green Bay Packers Must Consider in 2014 NFL Draft
Ted Thompson isn't known around Green Bay as being a risk-taker—and yet an element of risk is present in every decision a general manager makes. That's especially true on draft weekend for a team like the Packers, which builds almost entirely through the draft and chooses to let established but expensive free agents sign with other teams.
Each pick that Thompson makes needs to have the potential to develop in the system and become a starter at his position, and many of the GM's mid-to-low round selections since 2005 have done just that, as I pointed out in this article.
By utilizing the "best player available" strategy most of the time, Thompson doesn't often gamble on players who have health or character concerns who nonetheless could be top prospects at their positions—and yet, not always drafting for need is a risk in and of itself, because it assumes that there's a young player on the team who can step up into a role.
In 2014, the Packers should have a handful of prospects on their draft board who could prove to have value and starting potential if they're available at the right pick, but all of them also have health, size or character concerns that Green Bay may have a hard time accepting.
Still, if Thompson doesn't have to reach for any of the five following players—who would satisfy positions of need such as linebacker, tight end and safety—the Packers could walk away from the draft with instant contributors.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Being the consensus top player at a given position, as C.J Mosley is among inside linebackers, doesn't mean that any team that is seriously considering drafting him isn't aware of potential risks.
Mosley wasn't able to bench press or run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine due to a right shoulder injury. His injury woes date back to the 2011 season when he dislocated his right elbow against Arkansas and missed two games. Then, in the BCS Championship Game against LSU, he dislocated his hip and later had offseason surgery on his right shoulder (an issue that has lingered through this offseason).
For a team like Green Bay, which seems to struggle with a disproportionate number of injuries, Mosley's injury history will raise a red flag.
Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker after the 2013 season, beating out Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, Shayne Skov and Ryan Shazier. His football skills are evident both on the field and off it; his ability to diagnose plays is as strong as his instincts and athleticism on the field.
He had 108 total tackles for Alabama in 2013 per Sports-Reference.com, including nine for loss—the most of his four-year college career. He didn't record a sack after having four in 2012, but if he were paired opposite A.J. Hawk, who had five sacks in 2013, he wouldn't have to rush the passer to be effective.
Mosley's real impact for the Packers could come against the run. His anticipation and explosive hits would solidify the middle for the Packers and help the run defense get back to being an elite unit.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Is Austin Seferian-Jenkins' DUI conviction from 2013, when he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent (twice the legal limit in Washington state), enough to keep teams from drafting the tight end? More specifically, is it enough to give Ted Thompson and the Packers pause?
While the Packers have a little less tolerance for potential character concerns than other NFL teams, the way they handled Johnny Jolly's suspension from the NFL for selling narcotics by eventually re-signing him proves that they understand that mistakes are not necessarily indicative of wider character issues.
That's the take-home point Seferian-Jenkins has stressed this offseason.
"Obviously they are going to do their due diligence in asking me about the situation with the DUI," he said in February, per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. "But I think when you get to know me and you get to talk to me, I think it's very clear that I'm not a character-issue guy. I made a mistake and I've moved past that."
Can the Packers move past it? With their need at tight end and Seferian-Jenkins' clear upside, it's highly likely. The question that remains is if his statistical drop-off between 2012 and 2013 had anything to do with his off-field issues.
Seferian-Jenkins recorded 146 receptions for 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns in his three years at Washington, per Sports-Reference.com, but only 36 receptions and 450 in 2013. He says the drop-off was not due to his off-field issues but rather to a change to a no-huddle, spread offense by the Huskies, per Condotta.
The tight end gained weight in 2013, thinking he would need to block more, but is now back to a trim 6'5" and 262 pounds.
His touchdowns were consistent across his three years at Washington (six, seven and eight, respectively), which is important if the Packers are to consider him. Green Bay needs a solid red-zone target for Aaron Rodgers, and Seferian-Jenkins' size allows him to get separation in the end zone. He's also fast for his size.
Thompson and the Packers should be able to see past the DUI—and if they are in a position to draft him, they could dramatically improve the receiving corps.
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
Size, plain and simple, is the biggest concern surrounding Chris Borland. It's one of the only flaws in his explosive game, but for some, it's insurmountable. The question is whether or not Ted Thompson can look past Borland's 5'11" frame to his playmaking ability.
With the size of the NFL offensive linemen he would be facing, Borland raises fears that he will be eclipsed by them at a pro level, struggling to fortify the middle and tackle runners.
He also had some health issues in his time at Wisconsin, including a torn left labrum in 2009 and a strained right hamstring in 2013.
One of Green Bay's most pressing needs on the front seven as a whole, but especially from its inside linebackers, are a sense of urgency and constant effort. Borland's motor doesn't have an off switch; his effort is consistent through every snap of every quarter.
He leaves Wisconsin with a padded stat sheet. He had 420 total tackles, including a whopping 50 for loss, and 17 sacks for the Badgers. He also forced 14 fumbles. He truly has a nose for the ball and would excel in Green Bay's zone-blitz scheme.
Thompson has proved that size isn't as much of a concern for him, and the Packers defense is built to utilize tweeners on the outside and on the line. Size isn't as important for an inside linebacker as athleticism and effort, and if the Packers either miss out on or skip Mosley in the first round, they may decide to see if 5'11" Borland can fortify the middle better than 6'3" Brad Jones.
Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
Ed Reynolds isn't necessarily a risk for every team that is looking to draft a free safety. But for the Packers, whose safety group didn't produce a single interception in 2013 and who desperately need to upgrade at the position by plugging in a Week 1 contributor, he's somewhat of a gamble.
Above all else, the Packers need a ball hawk. He recorded only one interception in 2013 after having six in 2012. That's a worrisome drop-off when production is one of the biggest qualities that Green Bay needs from its secondary.
The other issue that the Packers secondary struggles with is missed tackles, and Reynolds is still working on his tacking form. He needs to work on taking correct angles so that he doesn't miss open-field tackles.
Reynolds is built to cover the modern, athletic pass-catching tight end. At 6'2" and 205 pounds, he has the size that the Packers want in a free safety.
Though it's unclear why his production dropped in 2013, his six interceptions in 2012 racked up a total of 301 yards and three touchdowns, which proved that he can take it to the house when the ball lands in his hands.
If Reynolds could continue to be a playmaker in the NFL, he would be a great option for Green Bay if it isn't able to take a safety in Round 1.
Mike Davis, WR, Texas
Concerns about Mike Davis include both his physical game and his maturity. Though he has large hands (10") and nice size (6'0"), he drops more balls than he should, which could make it hard for him to build trust and chemistry with Aaron Rodgers.
He also doesn't record many yards after the catch, which is a strength of Green Bay's other receivers.
As for his maturity, CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler notes that Davis' mental toughness is "questionable" and that he may not possess the drive to reach his full potential.
Davis is an outside receiver in the vein of Mike Wallace with the ability to make acrobatic in-air catches like Jordy Nelson. Davis has the natural physical gifts to be a No. 4 option for Rodgers and could benefit from development in Green Bay's offense.
There's no denying his production at Texas; he is only one of three wide receivers in school history to finish with more than 200 catches and 2,700 receiving yards, per Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News. According to Sabin, Davis is hoping his track record with the Longhorns is proof enough of his talent for teams that may be concerned about his pro-day performance.
He needs discipline, and with increased maturity and the coaching to develop his inherent physical skills, Davis could be a solid No. 4 option for Green Bay.