Green Bay Packers: 5 Bold Predictions for 2014 NFL Draft
When it comes to making predictions about what the Green Bay Packers will do in any given draft, I've had a pretty good track record recently.
I'm no Nostradamus, but I did correctly predict that the Packers would select Datone Jones in the first round last year.
The year before, I had another mock draft where I predicted that the Packers would select Nick Perry in the first round and Casey Hayward shortly thereafter.
Part of the reason for my success is from talking to people like scout Chris Landry.
But a lot of it is also doing research on the tendencies of general manager Ted Thompson. It's not easy to get a read on Thompson, as he has a great poker face, especially when he addresses the media.
Still, if one looks hard enough, there are some things that could perhaps leave some clues about what Thompson might do during the draft.
Based on that, I'm going to list five predictions in this slideshow.
Ted Thompson Will Be Busy
Currently the Packers have nine picks for the upcoming draft. Here is the breakdown:
Round 1: 21
Round 2: 53
Round 3: 85, 98
Round 4: 121
Round 5: 161, 176
Round 6: 197
Round 7: 236
If you look at Ted Thompson's track record in recent drafts, then you know that he will be extremely busy in the 2014 draft—especially one that is as deep as this one is.
In the past five drafts, Thompson has traded up six times. I expect the same thing to happen in this draft.
Thompson also likes to trade back at times. He has done that five times in five years.
In terms of trading up, I believe Thompson will do that fairly early in the draft. Perhaps in the second round.
Thompson did that twice in the 2012 NFL draft when he traded up to select Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward.
Expect to See a Wide Receiver Drafted Early
When it comes to selecting wide receivers, Ted Thompson likes to select them fairly early in the draft when he can.
Thompson has selected four receivers in the second round:
Terrence Murphy in 2005
Greg Jennings in 2008
Jordy Nelson in 2008
Randall Cobb in 2011
Thompson also selected James Jones in Round 3 in the 2007 NFL draft.
The wide receiver class is extremely deep this year. Chris Landry broke it down for me recently:
"It's a really good year for receivers. It's a deep year. You got different types. You've got different big guys. You've got smaller slot fast guys. You have a little bit different flavor, depending on what your likes are."
With Jones leaving and going to the Raiders via free agency recently, and with Nelson and Cobb being unrestricted free agents in 2015, I expect Thompson to get another wide receiver in either the second or third round this year in the draft.
Expect to See More Additions to the Defense
The Packers got off to a nice start defensively in 2013, as the team was ranked 11th in total defense and fourth in rushing defense prior to its Week 9 meeting with the Bears.
Ted Thompson has focused on drafting help for the defense over the past two years, and I expect the same thing to continue in 2014.
In the 2012 NFL draft, Thompson selected six defensive players among the eight players he picked. The list includes Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward and Mike Daniels.
In 2013, Thompson selected five more defensive players. That list includes Datone Jones, Micah Hyde, Josh Boyd, Nate Palmer and Sam Barrington.
I expect the trend to continue in this draft.
I would be shocked if Thompson selected an offensive player in the first round on May 8. The only way I could see that happening is if Thompson deems that the player is definitely the best player on the board at the time.
Otherwise, expect to see one of the better defensive players in the draft selected.
Special Teams Will Get Some Help
The Packers definitely need help on defense, where they were ranked 25th overall. But another area that needs help is on special teams.
Not so much with the kicking game, as both kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay are among the best in the NFL at their particular positions.
But the coverage and return units need help, especially the coverage units.
Last year, the Packers finished 20th in the NFL in the special teams rankings, which are compiled annually by Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.
The special teams units were much better overall in 2012, even with Crosby having his worst season ever, as the Packers finished 12th in the rankings.
The hiring of Ron Zook to help coordinator Shawn Slocum will definitely help, but more talent is needed.
The Packers need to draft players who will be big assets on special teams, especially on kickoffs.
Covering kickoffs was a huge problem for the Packers last year. So was returning kickoffs, as Green Bay was ranked 30th in the NFL in that department with an average return of just 20.3 yards.
Expect to see the Packers to select a number of players who excel on special teams in this draft.
Perhaps they'll even select someone who also returns kicks, although Micah Hyde did a nice job returning kicks, especially on punt returns, as he boasted an average of 12.3 yards and had a 93-yard return for a touchdown.
But Hyde is now slated to receive more snaps on defense, so the Packers might look for another return man in this draft.
Pick No. 21 Will Be Either C.J. Mosley or Calvin Pryor
We are 15 days from the start of the 2014 NFL draft, but right now, I'm zeroing on two players who I believe the Packers and Ted Thompson might select in the first round.
You might see a reunion of linebacker C.J. Mosley and running back Eddie Lacy, pictured above after Alabama won the 2013 BCS National Championship Game versus Notre Dame.
Mosley would be perfect for the Packers. Chris Landry told me about his attributes recently:
"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 has the stats to prove Landry right, as he had a great career for the Crimson Tide. In four years, Mosley 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.
Another player who is on my radar is safety Calvin Pryor of Louisville.
Landry also likes Pryor when he compared him to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, who I expect to be selected before the hard-htting Cardinal:
"I think the difference between Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, I think both are outstanding. Both will be really good players. I think Clinton-Dix is a little more rangy in coverage, and Pryor is a little more physical coming down the hill in defending the run. The both can play free (safety), but I think Clinton-Dix has a little bit more range.
"It's really what you are looking for. Pryor does a good job of playing deep, but coming down hill a little bit better than Clinton-Dix defending the run. Both can latch-on to cover or slide-cover the tight end. They can stay on the field in the nickel. Both are very good. I expect them to go high (in the 2014 NFL draft), but I think Clinton-Dix's range is a little bit better."
Pryor also had a fine career at Louisville. He had 218 tackles, two sacks, seven interceptions, 18 passes defended, one fumble recovery and nine forced fumbles.
Bottom line, the Packers need help at both inside linebacker and at safety. I think that is where the focus of the team will be early in the draft.