5 2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Green Bay Packers
General manager Ted Thompson excels in finding the Green Bay Packers talent in the mid and late rounds of the draft, as I showed in this article detailing in which rounds the Packers' primary starters have been drafted.
With promising sleepers at positions of need such as safety, linebacker and defensive tackle among others stretching well into Rounds 5 and 6, Thompson should have the opportunity to target some perfect fits to develop in the organization.
Moreover, with third- and fifth-round compensatory picks available to them, the Packers could also target a center to compete for the starting job and a No. 4 receiver without sacrificing more pressing needs.
While certain position groups like safety would benefit most from a starting-caliber Round 1 or 2 prospect, the following five players nevertheless would satisfy areas of need for Green Bay without a high-round investment. All five have potential to become starters down the line, if not immediately in 2014.
Tre Boston: FS, North Carolina
A projected Round 5 or 6 selection, Tre Boston is a sleeper free safety who just isn't an option to start opposite Morgan Burnett in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
But many feel it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers select two safeties in this draft—one with starting potential in the first two rounds and another for depth in the late rounds. The latter is exactly what Boston could be as a potential selection for Ted Thompson, who has already watched and met with the prospect.
After cutting safety Jerron McMillian in early December and electing not to re-sign free-agent M.D. Jennings, Green Bay was left with just Chris Banjo slotted in behind Burnett at strong safety and Sean Richardson (who played some snaps at strong safety late in the season) at free safety on the team depth chart.
Boston could certainly find a role as a special teams contributor and provide some much-needed depth for the safety group.
Boston recorded five interceptions for North Carolina in 2013, per Sports-Reference.com—five more than the entire Green Bay safety group. He led the Tar Heels with 94 tackles in his first year starting exclusively at free safety. A former cornerback, he's shown a proclivity for the free safety position with great closing speed and athleticism in the open field.
No one could fault Thompson for doubling down on safety picks in this draft and picking up a rotational player in Boston, as safety is easily Green Bay's weakest position group.
Jared Abbrederis: WR, Wisconsin
The 2014 year is an incredibly deep one for wide receiver talent, and where the top prospects project to be selected is proving to be divisive. CBSSports.com projects Abbrederis as a Round 3 pick
But for a team looking for an outside receiver for its No. 4 spot, such as Green Bay, Abbrederis could prove to be a perfect fit and somewhat of a steal—especially if the Packers could use their fifth-round compensatory pick to land him. The sheer amount of talent in the 2014 receiver class is going to make Abbrederis available much lower than he should be.
Some teams may feel his speed and athleticism are middling. But Abbrederis' size doesn't stop him from creating separation from defenders and extending to snatch balls out of the air with mostly reliable hands. He ended the 2013 season with 78 receptions for 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns for Wisconsin.
Another benefit Abbrederis could offer Green Bay is his experience returning punts, as he averaged 10.7 yards per return over his career with the Badgers.
Deandre Coleman could end up as a sleeper in the 2014 NFL draft because he's not the most complete player, showing little in the way of agility or urgency in pass-rushing. But at 6'5" and 314 pounds, he has the size of a prototypical NFL defensive end—something the Packers lack in their front seven.
Coleman could prove to be a welcome addition to Green Bay's run defense as a three-down player best suited for the 5-technique position. Additionally, he could provide depth behind B.J. Raji at the nose.
With the re-signing of DE/OLB Mike Neal and the addition of Julius Peppers in free agency, the Packers have certainly made moves to strengthen their pass rush. But the run defense, which started the season No. 3 in the NFL and finished No. 25, could use a boost, and that can be achieved by adding a player with the size the Packers need on the line, like Coleman.
Coleman finished his career at California with 123 tackles including 25 for loss, and six sacks, per Sports-Reference.com. He played primarily at defensive end until 2013, when he started 12 games at nose tackle.
For a team with multiple players who could be characterized as tweeners, Coleman is the type of run-stuffing wide body Green Bay could benefit from up front.
Max Bullough: ILB, Michigan State
Is there a situation in which the Packers could either pass up or miss out on C.J. Mosley, Shayne Skov, Christian Jones and Chris Borland to end up with Michigan State's Max Bullough in Round 4 or 5? The short answer is it depends on how highly Ted Thompson is weighing Green Bay's need at inside linebacker and the players available for him to select with up to four picks before Round 4.
If Mosley truly is the best player available at No. 21 overall then sure, Thompson might take an inside linebacker with the team's first pick. But it doesn't seem unreasonable Mosley could be off the board by that time and Thompson addresses positions such as safety, tight end, outside linebacker and defensive tackle before finding himself looking at Bullough's name on his board in Round 4.
Bullough was the unquestioned leader of the toughest defense in college football in 2013, and stands out as an intelligent and vocal leader on the field. His limitations come in his measurables. Per NFL.com, his 31" vertical and 9'3" broad jump were among the worst by linebackers at the combine. However, he was a top performer in the bench press with 30 reps.
Bullough led the Spartans with 111 tackles in 2012 (including 12.5 for loss). He was a two-year captain and his leadership by example could inspire a Packers inside linebackers group that looked unfocused for much of the 2013 season.
It's possible the Packers might be somewhat concerned with two character issues in Bullough's college career; the first, a 2011 arrest for possession of alcohol and eluding police officers and the second, an undisclosed suspension for the Rose Bowl against Stanford. But ultimately, if Thompson passes on him it will be for what's on the tape, not his off-the-field issues.
Still, Bullough could be an explosive player for the Packers paired opposite A.J. Hawk, especially if given time to develop in Green Bay's system. Per Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel, Thompson has spoken with Bullough multiple times, and is clearly intrigued by the prospect.
Tyler Larsen: C, Utah State
Though he had an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, standing up to highly ranked defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Tyler Larsen is still ranked No. 7 among center prospects by CBSSports.com with a Round 7 projection. NFL.com ranks him No. 5 among centers.
Larsen's short arms (at 31.5") are one reason he projects in the lower rounds. However, if he sticks around until the Packers' pick in Round 6 or 7, Ted Thompson could walk away with a promising prospect to compete with J.C. Tretter for the starting center job in 2014.
Larsen has great size; at 6'4" and 313 pounds, he's one of the largest prospects at the position in this draft class. He's versatile, excelling in pass protection as well as opening up lanes in the run game.
He also claims to have never allowed a sack in his career with the Aggies.
The Packers need not fear Larsen would be a wasted pick if he were to be drafted and ultimately not awarded the starting job. He's light enough on his feet he could also provide more depth for the line at guard.