4 Bold Predictions for the Green Bay Packers' 2014 NFL Draft Class
Predicting how a drafted rookie will do in the NFL is always a tough endeavor. For instance, last year I tried to forecast what kind of year rookie running back Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers would have in 2013.
In August, I said that he would end up with 1,075 yards rushing, have a 4.3 yards-per-carry average, score eight rushing touchdowns, catch 22 passes and notch two receiving touchdowns in his rookie season.
I came pretty close with my prediction but was a bit low in my prognostication overall. He ended up with 1,178 yards rushing, a 4.1 yards-per-carry average, 11 rushing touchdowns, 35 receptions and zero receiving touchdowns.
That performance led to him being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. He became the first Packer to win that award since John Brockington in 1971.
I'm going to forecast four things that will happen with the 2014 draft class of the Packers. Again, this is difficult, as we haven't even seen the players in an OTA, minicamp or training camp yet.
Still, let's give it a try.
Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis Will All Make the Final Roster
A lot of people were surprised that the Packers selected three wide receivers in this year's draft. I know I was. I thought the Packers might pick as many as two receivers but not three.
Even so, I think there is a good chance that Davante Adams (Round 2), Jared Abbrederis (Round 5) and Jeff Janis (Round 7) will make the final roster.
After the loss of veteran James Jones to free agency, the Packers still have two very good receivers coming back this season in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, plus Jarrett Boykin, who had a breakout season in 2013.
In addition to them, the team also has some other young talent at the position, including Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Chris Harper.
So for the Packers to keep all of their rookie draft picks at receiver on the final roster, they would have to outplay the other young receivers, plus the team would have to keep six wide receivers on the roster.
Adams looks to be a given to make the team, based on his talent and where he was drafted. Abbrederis also has a good chance to make the team because of his production in college, route-running skills and return ability.
That means that Janis will have to open some eyes this summer. I think he will, based on his production in college and due to his performances at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day. If he does perform well this summer, it would be very difficult for the Packers to hide him on the practice squad.
If there was ever a year to keep six wide receivers on the roster, this is it with all the young talent the team has at the position.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Will Get Consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix only needs one interception in his rookie season to be an improvement over any Packers safety from last year. The bar is that low.
I think he will do much better than one interception. I also think Morgan Burnett will play much better at the other safety position.
Why? I expect the Packers to have a better pass rush in 2014. That leads to good opportunities in the secondary, especially at the safety position.
In Clinton-Dix, Burnett will finally have a partner at safety whom he can rely on, just like when he played with Nick Collins. Clinton-Dix is a true ball hawk, which he proved over the past two seasons at Alabama.
I expect him to have a very solid rookie season and to be quick on the learning curve. How many interceptions will that mean? That's hard to say, but I would not be surprised if he has as many as six picks in his rookie season.
If that indeed happens, he will be in the conversation about the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014.
Corey Linsley Will Be the Starting Center at Some Point in 2014
Normally when the Packers draft an offensive lineman, at least recently, they look for versatility.
The first of two fifth-round selections for the Packers in the draft last Saturday, center Corey Linsley was not an exception to that trait.
He played multiple positions of the offensive line in his first two years at Ohio State, but he became just a true center his last two seasons as a Buckeye, starting 26 games at that position.
That led to him being named first-team All-Big Ten in 2013 at center.
He is one of the stronger offensive linemen in this year's draft class, as he proved with his combine performance. He put up 36 reps in the bench-press drill, plus he has lifted more than 500 pounds when doing that task, per NFL.com.
The battle for the starting center position looks to be between Linsley and second-year offensive lineman J.C. Tretter. I expect the competition to be fierce.
Linsley proved his was a very solid run-blocker at Ohio State, plus he was an exceptional snapper when the Buckeyes went into the shotgun formation.
At some point this season, whether by injury or performance, I expect him to be the starting center for the Packers.
Carl Bradford Will Be on the Field All the Time
I expect to see Carl Bradford on the field a lot in 2014 for the Packers. For one thing, I expect him to play an important role on special teams, in both the return and coverage units.
I also believe the Packers will utilize him at times as a lead blocking fullback in short-yardage situations. He was an exceptional fullback in high school.
But defense is where he will really make a name for himself. He will get his first opportunity at outside linebacker based on the success he had at Arizona State at that position, even though he only is 6'1", 250 pounds.
In his last two years as a Sun Devil, he had 142 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), one fumble recovery and six forced fumbles.
The Packers have been looking for a bookend to Clay Matthews at outside linebacker for a number of years. The team has a number of options to use currently. Besides Bradford, the team can utilize Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal or Andy Mulumba as well.
The Packers want to get their best players on the field as often as possible on defense, especially in passing situations.
That is why I think Bradford could also end up as an option at inside linebacker. He obviously has blitz skills, plus he is a ferocious tackler. He's also fast enough (4.76 in the 40, per NFL.com) to be better in pass coverage than someone like A.J. Hawk, for instance.
No matter where he plays, expect to see Bradford on the field quite often in 2014.