Green Bay Packers: A Very Solid Draft and a Badger to Boot

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Green Bay Packers: A Very Solid Draft and a Badger to Boot
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A number of observers have given the Green Bay Packers some very high marks regarding the team's selections in the 2014 NFL draft.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com gave the Packers an A. Bryan Fischer of NFL.com also gave the Packers big props. Chris Burke and Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated gave the Packers another A.

I certainly agree with all of those assessments. Yes I know it's too early to really judge a draft class, but based on the track record of the players picked by the Packers, one can see why people were impressed with the draft class assembled by Ted Thompson and company.

It all started on the first night of the draft when the Packers saw Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fall into their lap at the No. 21 pick.

I had the Packers taking Clinton-Dix in Round 1 in a mock draft I did shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine. But after my many conversations with scout Chris Landry, I didn't think it was very likely that the Packers would have a chance to select the former Crimson Tide star.

But the Packers received that opportunity, and they filled the biggest need on the roster with their very first pick.

Clinton-Dix was the highest-rated safety on Landry's board, as well as being the No. 1 safety for NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock in his position rankings.

In the second round on Friday, the Packers added another playmaker in wide receiver Davante Adams, who put up some unbelievable numbers the past two seasons at Fresno State catching passes from Derek Carr.

The Packers had a reason to add some help to their wide receiver corp, as the Packers have seen Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and most recently James Jones leave the team over the past two years.

In addition to that, both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are eligible to become unrestricted free agents in 2015.

So the addition of a talented receiver like Adams was expected. Especially in the second round, where Thompson has done so well drafting wide receivers. Even more additions to the receiver's group were to come.

In the third round, also on Friday night, the Packers selected a couple of players that probably had more than a few fans scratching their heads. Why? Because of the low profile of the players selected.

But in selecting defensive lineman Khyri Thornton of Southern Mississippi and tight end Richard Rodgers of Cal in the third round, the Packers picked up some real under-the-radar talent.

The 6'3", 304-pound Thornton always has his motor running and is a high effort type of player. Thornton played on some bad teams, but his effort was always there and he had a number of tackles for a loss.

At 6'4" and 257 pounds, Rodgers has the size one is looking for at tight end. He was a tight end in 2012, but then dropped some weight and became a receiver in 2013 for Cal. Rodgers will become strictly a tight end for the Packers, who like the soft hands he possesses.

Rodgers flashed some real potential during his career at Cal. Rodgers had 39 receptions for 608 yards and a touchdown in 2013, an average of 15.6 yards a catch.

I thought that Thompson and his scouting staff did a fine job on both Thursday and Friday nights, but Saturday may have been the best overall day of the draft for the Packers.

In the fourth round, the Packers selected linebacker Carl Bradford from Arizona State—talk about a high-energy player. The 6'1", 250-pound Bradford had two very good back-to-back years for the Sun Devils.

USA TODAY Sports

In those two seasons, Bradford had 142 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), one fumble recovery and six forced fumbles.

The Packers will look at Bradford at outside linebacker initially, but I wouldn't be surprised if the team looks at him at inside linebacker as well.

In the fifth round, the Packers first selected center Corey Linsley of Ohio State. The 6'3", 296-pound Linsley started 26 games for the Buckeyes at center and was first-team All-Big Ten in 2013.

Linsley is very strong—he can bench press over 500 pounds—and showed that strength at the combine with 36 reps in the bench press.

Linsley will get every opportunity to compete with JC Tretter to become the starting center for the Pack in 2014.

Then for the compensatory pick in the fifth round, Ted Thompson did something he had never done before in his tenure as general manager of the Packers: selected a Wisconsin Badger, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.

I had the Packers selecting Abbrederis in my final mock draft as a compensatory pick, but I thought it would be in the third round, not the fifth. The Packers had to feel very fortunate to get such a talented player so late in the draft.

In his career at Wisconsin, Abbrederis had 202 receptions for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was also a very accomplished returner for the Badgers, averaging 10.7 yards per return on punts (including a touchdown) and 25.8 yards per return on kickoffs.

Morry Gash/Associated Press
Jared Abbrederis

Abbrederis was considered by many to be the best route runner in this very deep wide receiver class, and I know that in my conversations with Landry that Chris was impressed as well: "Jared Abbrederis. I like him. I think he's a really good X-receiver. Can be a three or a four in the league. He's smart, and he runs good routes. He's got good quickness.

"He's sneaky vertical. Listen, he's one of the many guys, maybe as many as 16, 17 or 18 wide receivers that I think can be starters eventually in this league out of this draft class."

In the sixth round, the Packers added a very interesting cornerback prospect when they selected Demetri Goodson of Baylor. Goodson has nice size—he goes 5'11" and 194 pounds.

Goodson also has a very interesting background, as he played college basketball with Gonzaga before going to Baylor to play football.

He showed some definite promise the past two seasons at Baylor, as he had four interceptions and 16 passes defended. One of his picks was against Blake Bortles of UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.

You can never have enough quality cornerbacks in the pass-happy NFL, so the selection of Goodson was not unexpected, especially later in the draft.

In the seventh round, the Packers added yet another wide receiver to their roster when they selected Jeff Janis of Saginaw Valley State. I had the Packers taking Janis in my post-combine mock draft.

Janis dominated at the D-II level, with 83 receptions for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Janis also had a very nice combine, running a 4.42 40 and doing 20 reps in the bench press.

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In terms of the draft overall, the Packers have to be extremely happy. They added some key pieces to their defense and gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers some more weapons to utilize on offense. Special teams should be improved as well with the addition of these nine players.

Thompson seemed quite pleased, as he addressed the media after the draft ended via Packers.com:

"We're excited about our draft class."

Thompson also talked about why the selection of Clinton-Dix was important:

I don't know. I think when you do your ratings, you have certain levels of certainty. We felt very good about Ha Ha.

And we feel good about his ability to come in and play. I think most of the time at all of the different positions as you go down the board, I think there's greater risk that they won't be able to play. So we feel fairly certain Ha Ha will able to contribute.

Head coach Mike McCarthy was very happy with the draft overall:

First off, all the players that were drafted, it definitely gives us a lot of competition, particularly at the wide receiver position. I don't think you ever go into the draft and put limits or expectations on how much competition you're trying to create in one specific area.

It had a lot to do with the way the board was set. It's really the responsibility of the coaches [to deal with it]. Sometimes, [like] last year, we were heavier on defense than we were on offense. I think that's how the draft fell.

McCarthy also wanted everyone to know that the defense of the Packers will be improved in 2014:

We're going to be a better defense this year. You can write that in big letters. I think we said something about that last year. Our defensive staff has...been very diligent in preparing the personnel groups, the expectations and how we're going to package these guys, so I feel with that going into the off-season program, we have an opportunity to be better.

Health needs to be better, that will definitely help us. The addition of our free agents and a couple more guys, and hey let's not forget the free-agent process is still going on right now. We still may be able to add a couple guys and we've done very well in the college free-agent market too. We'll be a better defense this year.

Time will tell how good this draft class will be, but from an initial standpoint, things look promising for the Packers.

 

Stats via Sports-Reference unless otherwise noted. Combine results via NFL.com.

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