5 Names Every Green Bay Packers Fan Needs to Know Before the 2014 NFL Draft
The last time we did a primer of need-to-know Green Bay Packers draft prospects, we focused on lesser-known names that weren't dominating mock drafts and big boards but who nonetheless could still be targets for the Packers in 2014.
This time around, with the draft just days away, we're going back to basics with absolute, must-know names that fans should be prepared to hear in buzz surrounding the Packers between Monday and Saturday.
The five prospects that follow must have been linked to the Packers by a recent mock draft, and all are virtually guaranteed to be on Ted Thompson's draft board. Not all are first-round selections, but none are likely to be available after Round 3.
It's still worthwhile to go back and brush up on some less-obvious prospects like Ed Reynolds, Marcus Smith and Mike Davis. However, the following need-to-know players are ones to track until they are taken off the board, as it's highly likely the Packers could walk away from the 2014 NFL draft having selected at least one of them.
CJ Mosley (LB)
C.J. Mosley's injury history may make some teams wary of drafting him in the first half of Round 1, despite the fact that he is the consensus top inside linebacker prospect in this year's class.
Mosley did not bench press or run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine because of a right shoulder injury. His injury history dates back to the 2011-12 season, in which 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).
However, if Mosley's injuries do cause him to fall to No. 21, Thompson would be hard-pressed to pass him given his sheer upside. In fact, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler and Pat Kirwan and ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) all see the Packers selecting Mosley in Round 1.
Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker after the 2013-14 season. 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.
Ryan Shazier (LB)
Ryan Shazier has dominated mock draft selections for the Green Bay Packers, both for satisfying a position of need (the outside 'backer would likely move to the inside in a 3-4 scheme) and for value at pick No. 21.
After his 2013-14 season, it's not clear that Brad Jones is the solution next to A.J. Hawk on the inside. Green Bay desperately lacks speed and instinct in the middle, and far too many runners who were allowed to break free found their holes through Hawk and Jones.
Shazier's speed is one of the first qualities that shows up on his tape—and was reinforced by his sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash time at his pro day. His speed is ideal for dropping into coverage, and as the leading tackler in the Big Ten, he would help fortify the middle for the Packers.
In the days leading up to the draft, Shazier looks like a highly possible option for Green Bay at No. 21. It's almost exactly where he's being projected, so the value is there, and he would fill a big hole for the Packers.
Jimmie Ward (S)
A prevailing thought about Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward is that, as his stock continues to rise quickly, he'll be off the board before Green Bay's No. 53 pick in the second round.
But could the Packers consider him in Round 1—even if Calvin Pryor is still on the board? Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, in his latest mock draft, thinks so.
There's no question of whether Ward is a fit. Green Bay doesn't need a hard-hitting safety to play near the box but rather a rangy ball hawk who can patrol the backfield, tackle effectively and make plays. Ward possesses the latter qualities, making him an excellent fit for the Packers' needs.
Ward finished his career at Northern Illinois with 319 tackles (including six for loss), two sacks, 30 passes defended and 11 interceptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those interceptions, including the one taken back for a score, and 10 of those batted passes came in his senior season, in which he was easily among the nation's best safeties in terms of creating turnovers.
If Thompson doesn't feel Mosley would be a value pick at No. 21 and the Packers elect to select another player, such as Shazier or Mosley, in the first, would he perhaps trade up in Round 2 to be sure Green Bay's safety need is addressed early? With extra picks in both Round 3 and Round 5, it doesn't seem out of the question.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE)
It won't be a shock if Green Bay drafts a tight end in the early rounds to compete with Andrew Quarless. Green Bay met with multiple top tight end prospects in this class prior to or at the combine—including Austin Seferian-Jenkins, according to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky.
But to select a tight end in the first round, especially one with past character issues in the form of a DUI arrest, seems like it would be a stretch for Ted Thompson, who has never selected a skill player in the first round in his tenure in Green Bay.
Still, if Seferian-Jenkins is available in the second round, Green Bay may bite. A skilled pass-catcher is one of their biggest needs after safety.
Seferian-Jenkins has excellent size at 6'6" and 276 pounds, which allows him to be a skilled blocker as well as a difficult-to-cover pass-catcher. He'll leave Washington with a collection of school records, including career receptions by a tight end (110), career receiving yards by a tight end (1,388) and career touchdown receptions by a tight end (13), as well as single-season records.
Seferian-Jenkins' agility and technique make him a sure-handed target for a team in need of an upgrade in their receiving corps, and his height and physicality can make him a go-to red-zone target.
Louis Nix (NT)
Could Louis Nix, once projected to go toward the end of Round 1, fall to the Green Bay Packers at No. 53? ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay think so, per their latest multi-round mock draft (subscription required).
Ted Thompson's history of drafting defensive linemen high could be a weight for or against drafting Nix, but what may make the pick a real possibility is that there's a good chance the Packers will be in need of a nose tackle again come the 2014 offseason.
Whether Green Bay signed B.J. Raji to a one-year deal because they were losing Ryan Pickett, or because they wanted to put off paying him a year or because they wanted to address their need for a nose tackle in the short term remains unclear. But if it were the latter, Nix, who has been described as "a perfect 3-4 nose tackle" per ESPN.com's Rob Demovksy, could be a great option to rotate behind Raji for a year and prime for a starting job in 2015.
Thompson would likely see Nix as the ultimate value pick if he is indeed available at No. 53.
Nix has great size for a nose tackle (6'2", 331 pounds) but still demonstrates a nice burst off the snap. He's a two-gapper whose weight could be an asset or become a problem down the road if not maintained, but after showing up at the combine 23 pounds lighter, he's proven that he's able to manage it.