Packers Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Projections
For Packer fans, the draft is the offseason. In three days, general manager Ted Thompson makes the vast majority of the significant personnel moves for the coming season. Heading into the offseason, there were some question. Some where answered by players such as Sam Shields, Julius Peppers and B.J. Raji. Some questions still stand, though.
Thompson will never go into a draft completely empty-handed, but there are some areas where the Green Bay Packers could clearly get better.
Inside linebacker Brad Jones has yet to meet the production that his new contract would insinuate. Micah Hyde was a dime slot corner to start 2013 and is currently slated to transition to starting free safety in his sophomore year. Andrew Quarless doesn't figure to be a top-30 tight end in the league, either.
Obviously, it's known that Thompson picks best value available, and he may not even pick at No. 21, but those would be the positions to watch for on the first two days of the draft.
On the third day, depth positions such as receiver, offensive line and cornerback lead the way for potential position targets, especially considering Thompson's history with them in the mid-to-late rounds.
Unlike Thompson, though, this mock draft will not be considering trade-ups or trade-downs, instead just sticking to the slots in which the Packers are scheduled to pick.
1st-Round Pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
2013 starting tight end Jermichael Finley hit free agency this spring and has yet to be signed. While the Packers did re-sign Andrew Quarless, he is unlikely a starting-caliber tight end at the NFL level. This leaves Green Bay in a predicament: What do you do at tight end?
Quarless and Brandon Bostick are solid enough backup tight ends, but the guy is missing, and in this class, there may only be three tight ends who could replicate anything close to what Finley was able to give the team in the passing game.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has some off-field baggage (such as a DUI arrest) that could cause him to drop to Day 2, but his potential is off the charts. After losing some weight post-foot injury, Seferian-Jenkins reportedly ran a 4.56 40 time in a workout with the Jets, per PackerReport.com (via The News Tribune's Todd Dybas).
With Seferian-Jenkins' Rob Gronkowski-like potential, Ted Thompson could easily put a premium on a big, immediate impact at a position desperately needing to being filled. If someone doesn't start dropping in this draft, look at Seferian-Jenkins as a potential option at No. 21.
While this pick may be a shock, it's still in the realm of possibilities for Thompson. Remember, no one saw Justin Harrell coming, either.
2nd-Round Pick: Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State
It has been no secret that since Nick Collins has left, the Packers have been in shambles at the safety position. Charles Woodson patched up the void for a while but eventually moved on for salary reasons. Morgan Burnett just signed a large contract recently, but he's not the free safety type like Nick Collins was, but more of a hybrid of a free and strong safety.
While many will want an enforcing safety, they can only thrive in the NFL when an Earl Thomas is there to complement a Kam Chancellor. Throw in the fact that Dom Capers really only uses those “Bat” types in a sub-package, and it seems unlikely that the team would invest in one this early.
Terrence Brooks, on the other hand, is the free safety type Green Bay could look at. In 2013, while Florida State went on its title run, Brooks played a majority of the time in single-high looks for the 'Noles. Lining Brooks up high would give Burnett and the defense more flexibility, possibly even giving the team a chance to bring in that enforcing strong safety for more reps on game days.
Brooks also has experience at corner from his time at FSU, and if for some reason Micah Hyde was given the edge due to experience, Brooks could replace Hyde's role in the slot from day one. Either way, Brooks is likely to evolve into a quality safety in this league and maybe the best one-high safety in the class.
3rd-Round Pick: Jackson Jeffcoat, OLB/ILB, Texas
Jackson Jeffcoat began his career at the University of Texas with a bang. He flashed, and everyone pegged him as a future first-rounder. The former freshman All-American then struggled with injuries his sophomore and junior seasons.
Heading into his senior year, many had forgotten the potential he flashed as a freshman, but it would soon resurface. In 2013, he was named a consensus All-American defensive end and won the heralded Ted Hendricks Award.
While defensive end is where he was used for the Longhorns, it may not be the ideal position for him in a Dom Capers style defense. When standing up and stunting, Jeffcoat was much more effective as a pressure creator. Knowing how much Capers likes to design blitzes, Jeffcoat could easily make that rare defensive end-to-inside linebacker move at the next level.
Like a misused version of Derrick Johnson, Jeffcoat could be brought in to play strong outside linebacker, allowing Nick Perry to move around and to keep the pass rush fresh, or at inside linebacker, potentially replacing Brad Jones, who hasn't been living up to his shiny, new contract.
3rd-Round Pick: Vinnie Sunseri, SS, Alabama
Son of a famous college coach, Vinnie Sunseri could be one of the steals of the draft. On a podcast with Ross Tucker, former NFL scout Louis Riddick stated that Vinnie Sunseri "could go Day 1". The media and fans have yet to match that opinion, as his current consensus "draft stock" is the 162nd player in the draft.
In Alabama's system, Sunseri and potential first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would have many of the same assignments, as the Tide roll the safeties according to what the offense does. So why is Sunseri not a consensus first-round pick like Clinton-Dix? He was injured toward the end of the 2013 season, and he's more of a hitter than a coverage safety.
Sunseri flies off the screen when you watch him. On special teams, he closes in and makes tackles. At safety, he looks like a speedy linebacker. In Dom Capers's scheme, he doesn't fit as a starter, unless you play him at linebacker, but playing him in a Kam Chancellor low strong safety role would be a great match.
With Jerron McMillian being cut in 2013, that left the role open for undrafted free agent Sean Richardson, who has injury issues in his past.
Be it on special teams, linebacker or safety, Sunseri could make an impact day one for this Packers squad, as the roster currently stands, and would be a benefit to have in the film room and active on game days.
4th-Round Pick: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
In Green Bay, the most important aspect to the receiver position is route running, and the homegrown prospect has some of the best route running in the class.
The former quarterback could fit right in with the Packers receiving corps, which have lost Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones over the past two offseasons. To go along with that, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are set to hit the market soon, which makes the receiver position one that should be stressed on draft day.
Jared Abbrederis would slip into the fourth receiver spot immediately, with the potential to jump Jarrett Boykin for the third receiver spot by the end of the season. With Randall Cobb flexing inside and outside, Abbrederis could even be the second outside receiver behind Nelson.
After some big games against quality competition, such as Ohio State's Bradley Roby, Abbrederis has proven that his talent is translatable against NFL talent. If Abbrederis does fall to Day 3, as many project, he would be a prime candidate for a Thompson selection.
5th-Round Pick: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Coming out of high school in Oregon, Brett Smith only had two FBS scholarships despite winning the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state. It was down to either Wyoming or San Jose State, who had been rumored at the time to be going down to the FCS level. To put it simply, he didn't have it easy.
While at Wyoming, everything had to be earned, which included the starting job as a true freshman. Robert Herron is a trendy name now, but he's the only player of NFL caliber whom Brett Smith played with in his three years as a starter with the Cowboys. After a coaching change, he decided his three years were enough and declared for the NFL draft.
Smith has proven to be a gritty competitor and is the type of quarterback Mike McCarthy would like to put through camp and develop. Athletically, he's up there with the best, which seems to be the way McCarthy is trending with some recent pickups of Vince Young and Seneca Wallace.
Ideally a third quarterback out of the gate, a team would need to dedicate a roster spot toward him, as he wouldn't last long on the practice squad before someone snatched him up. Green Bay has shown its willingness to do so lately, which makes Smith a perfect match for what Green Bay might do in the later rounds.
5th-Round Pick: Brandon Linder, OL, Miami
A heralded high school recruit, Brandon Linder started making an impact at the University of Miami from his first year there. He didn't become a full-time starter until his second year, but by his junior season, he was turning heads.
A guard prospect with experience at tackle, he fits the mold of what the Packers have been targeting since Mike Sherman left. Since Mike McCarthy has taken over as the head coach, only one offensive lineman has been selected who wasn't a blindside tackle at the college level. Linder got snaps at right tackle, for a right-handed QB (Stephen Morris), but the Packers have shown enough interest to assume he's on the radar, as reported by Bill Huber of Scout.com (subscription required).
The large lineman not only earned second-team All-ACC honors from the ACC coaches, but also netted the MVP award from the team. Not only is that award rare for a lineman to win, but it's even more rare with a roster full of offensive skill talent like Miami's was.
Linder could come in and play swing guard, tackle and potentially center for the Packers. Covering the bases at interior offensive lineman is important, as Green Bay really lacks depth there. Linder would be a very intelligent pick by the Packers on Day 3.
6th-Round Pick: Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin
Like Abbrederis, a homegrown prospect, Beau Allen put up great workout numbers and proved his leg strength matches up with his tape. With B.J. Raji signing a short-term contract, it seems as though a replacement must be found quickly. Allen is the type of prospect who could evolve into that starting role by the time Raji hits free agency again.
Behind Raji, there is really no nose tackle types on the roster. Josh Boyd flashed his rookie season but is ideally a strong-side defensive end, and Johnny Jolly and Ryan Picket are no longer on the roster.
Likely not someone who will contribute to special teams, he won't be active on game days but could make the 53-man roster. If nothing else, he may be able to stick on the practice squad while developing.
Late Day 3, if you can find a role player or someone you feel comfortable developing, you're winning with the pick. If Green Bay is able to snag Allen here, it'd be well worth it.
7th-Round Pick: Nikita Whitlock, FB/ILB, Wake Forest
Playing defensive tackle at Wake Forest, Nikita Whitlock could have a career in a role similar to that of former Packer Korey Hall. Hall was a college linebacker who was flipped over to fullback. Whitlock, too small to play nose tackle, is likely to be moved to a fullback or linebacker role.
At the Medal of Honor Game, a college All-Star showing, he got reps at both positions. While many think that fullback will be his eventual landing spot, the position value of an inside linebacker is greater, which is why he may get a shot there first, as Hall did.
Whitlock won with grit at Wake Forest, almost relying totally on it to match his high level of production on the defensive line. He could make the active list simply for his contribution to special teams. As a flex player who finds a way to get on the field, Whitlock seems like a safe investment.
Again, like Allen, filling a specific role on Day 3 is a huge plus. It's not like John Kuhn is going to be in Wisconsin forever, either.