Green Bay Packers: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
After an interesting draft weekend for the Packers, the team has clearly made improvements to their 2014 roster.
Starting with two popular picks, Ted Thompson closed the second day of the draft with two selections that seemed offbeat at the time. Nevertheless, there are at least five Packers who could contribute in an immediate rotation in 2014.
Likely the draft they wanted heading into the weekend, as it was the first one in which Thompson didn't make a draft-day trade, he and the Packers cleaned up at the tail end after stealing a falling star in the first round.
Green Bay's idea seemed to be to reload though the draft. After two seasons of trying to find a Nick Collins replacement, he was found. After losing three premier receivers in two years, with three slated to hit free agency in 2015, Thompson took three value picks at receiver.
The Packers left the rest of the NFL with an impression. They were here to compete for years down the line, not just focusing on the short term.
Round 1, Pick 21: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Round 2, Pick 53: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Round 3, Pick 85: Khyri Thornton, DL, Southern Mississippi
Round 3, Pick 98: Richard Rodgers, TE, California
Round 4, Pick 121: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Round 5, Pick 161: Corey Linsley, OC, Ohio State
Round 5, Pick 176: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Round 6, Pick 197: Demetri Goodson, CB, Baylor
Round 7, Pick 236: Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley
The first, most exciting, and potentially best value pick of the draft was the selection of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a free safety out of Alabama. After years of change in the secondary, the corps finally seems to be solidified.
Clinton-Dix has been the consensus top safety since entering the 2013 draft cycle, and was unlikely to drop, based on projections even on the day of the draft. The starting safety that Packer fans have been asking for is now on their team's roster.
Davante Adams was an interesting pick for the Packers. He's likely to fill the old role of James Jones, who left for the Oakland Raiders this offseason. When Adams learns the entire route tree, he could be another Jones, or even a Michael Crabtree. Transitioning from a spread offense where he excelled may make his rookie year slightly difficult, though.
Khyri Thornton was the first surprise pick for the Packers in the 2014 NFL draft. A senior snub from the major postseason all-star games, many fans hadn't even heard his name, let alone think of him as a potential pick at No. 85 overall.
In the end, Thornton can be as good as he wants to be. He had offers from major schools coming out of high school, but he had to spend time at a college prep school due to grades before eventually enrolling at Southern Mississippi. If Thornton hits, he could be the base defensive end that could still create pressure that the Packers have been looking for since Cullen Jenkins left the team after the Super Bowl run.
Richard Rodgers was another head-scratching pick at the time. A son of an NFL special teams coordinator, Rodgers seems to be well coached, intelligent and hard working. His athleticism isn't top tier, though, and makes the decision to use this high of a pick on him confusing to some. Rodgers may be able to come out of the gate and start, which is where his value is held. Already a good route-runner for a tight end, Rodgers was a receiver for California after playing tight end under previous head coach Jeff Tedford.
A steal in the fourth round, the undersized pass-rusher Carl Bradford was on the board for the Packers to take. While some will make the comparison to Clay Matthews, Bradford might actually be able to play inside linebacker for the Packers, too. At Arizona State, he played a position called "devilbacker" which essentially called for Bradford to move around and line up at different spots.
Corey Linsley was a solid middle-round pick. After spending some time as a backup tackle and guard, Linsley took over the starting center job for Ohio State in 2012. With Green Bay losing their starting centers the past three offseasons, and J.C. Tretter likely moving up to the starting role, this left the Packers with no depth at the position. Linsley offers the Packers this from Day 1, and he may be able to push Tretter for the starting job.
Green Bay catches their second wide receiver in the draft with the home-state hero Jared Abbrederis. A former walk-on quarterback, Abbrederis transitioned to receiver while at Wisconsin and became one of the best route-running receivers in college football. Likely a fifth option in 2014, he could get a nice spike in play in 2015 when Green Bay's top three current receivers will hit the open market.
Demetri Goodson has sports in his blood. After quitting football as a high school sophomore, Goodson picked it back up with a transfer to Baylor. Originally in college to play basketball for Gonzaga, Goodson, the brother of a former NFL player, took no time to get on the field.
But the cornerback's biggest drawback was that he couldn't stay on the field for his first two seasons, breaking his ankle, then arm. After applying with a medical waiver to play one more season, Goodson played all of 2013 as a starter and led the Big 12 in pass deflections.
The Packers continued to try to hoard and retain talented receivers by selecting Jeff Janis with their final pick. A small school sleeper, Janis had off-the-charts measurables, comparable to that of Julio Jones when he entered the draft in 2011.
Now, Janis is raw, but if general manager Ted Thompson could stash him as the sixth receiver on the 53-man roster or on the practice squad, the Packers by 2015 may have themselves a steal.
Best Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Already quite likely the Packers top safety, Clinton-Dix somehow slipped all the way to their pick at No. 21, and the team didn't hesitate to pull the trigger on the talented defensive back.
After a year of Charles Woodson and a year of M.D. Jennings, the Packers now have their starting safety for the foreseeable future. The Alabama product played in a system in college not all that dissimilar to the one he will join in the pros. Like in Green Bay, Alabama runs a split safety set, which rolls safeties based on what the offense does.
Essentially, there is no free safety or strong safety, merely two safeties. That's also what Dom Capers does in his defense.
The selection makes impacts all over the secondary, too.
After a successful rookie season, there were rumors about moving slot cornerback Micah Hyde to safety, where he spent some time in college. With Clinton-Dix there now, it seems unlikely that Hyde will be moving to safety. This means he's likely to be in the slot with Casey Hayward.
If the team wanted to give him more reps during games, though, they'd have to move Hayward out of the slot, which may not be a bad idea. Like Hyde, Hayward also had a very good rookie season. Unfortunately, he was hurt for a majority of his second campaign. With Tramon Williams and Davon House likely gone in 2015, does this prompt Green Bay to ease Hayward into an outside cornerback starting role, so that he's ready to take over in 2015?
No one knows at this point, but it seems a lot more likely after the Clinton-Dix selection.
Worst Pick: Richard Rodgers
While tight end was a need for the Packers, there was a run on the position early, and there proved to be few value picks later on in the draft.
That being said, if you're going to lose value in a pick to address a need, a team should at least take a sure-fire starter.
The son of an NFL special teams coordinator, Richard Rodgers is already an advanced player mentally. Simply put, it's his athleticism that holds him back.
A savvy route-runner with good hands, Rodgers has all the ability to make an impact in the rotation early, but his measurables don't suggest that he'll be much more than a below-average starting tight end, even at his peak.
Essentially, the Packers used a Day 2 selection on a Donald Lee-type TE to replace Jermichael Finley, who at this point is still a free agent. While this is no knock on Rodgers, he was simply valued a bit too high by Ted Thompson. The value of the rest of the Green Bay draft evened out, but this selection seems to stick out as a question mark.
Andrew Quarless will likely battle Rodgers for the starting spot in camp. If Rodgers doesn't win the job, he may be spend the majority of his rookie season getting snaps on special teams. Based on the end of last season, there's nothing to suggest that Brandon Bostick's emergence was a fluke or that he's not the best pass-catching tight end on the roster.
So on passing two tight end sets, if Rodgers isn't the starter, why would he come in instead of Bostick? In running situations, are the Packers going to bring in the tight end who was a receiver in 2012? Many questions remain about this selection, but Thompson has the track record to make you wonder if he has all of the answers already.
Undrafted Free Agents
Joe Thomas, ILB, South Carolina State
A very productive, but small, outside linebacker in college, he's likely an inside linebacker for the Packers. Contributions on special teams could make him a dark horse to make the roster.
Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College
A four-year starter at Boston College, Rettig is likely a camp arm. If he does well enough, though, he may be able to stick on a practice squad. The fourth quarterback in camp has done so several times.
Rajion Neal, RB, Tennessee
Being a riser late in the draft process still wasn't enough to get Neal drafted, though he's talented enough to make an NFL roster. If I were DuJuan Harris, I'd be nervous about my job stability.
John Fullington, OL, Washington State
A two-sport athlete with over 40 games of experience at Washington State, Fullington has a shot to make it on the Packers roster. If not, he seems like the type that could at least make the practice squad.
Jake Doughty, ILB, Utah State
A former all-academic player in two conferences, Doughty always knew how to get to the ball. In the past two seasons he also made all-conference, proving to everyone that he could put that intelligence into action.
Jayrone Elliott, OLB, Toledo
A pass-rusher with his hand down at Toledo, Elliott will be playing standing up in Green Bay. With the additions of Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, and Carl Bradford, it would seem unlikely for a pass-rusher to make a roster.
Ryan White, CB, Auburn
A slot or backup cornerback for the majority of his Auburn career, White will need to show his ability to play special teams to make the 2014 team.
James Sims, RB, Kansas
A very productive running back at Kansas, the combine snub comes into Green Bay's camp with a chip on his shoulder. Like Neal, he's talented enough to steal a spot on the roster.
Mike Pennel, NT, Colorado State-Pueblo
A big school-to-small school transfer, Pennel is an interesting body, but he may just be that. Playing the 2013 season a little too large, he lost thirty pounds between his in-season measurements and his combine weigh in.
Justin Perillo, TE, Maine
An all-conference tight end with a basketball background, Perillo has some interesting traits. He'll have to prove to the team that he has more special teams value than Ryan Taylor to make the roster, though.
Carlos Gray, DE, North Carolina State
A surprising early declaration, Gray was a reserve for the majority of his Wolfpack career. With an odd body for a 3-4 end, no one knows exactly where he'll practice at, but you can assume defensive end for now.
Demetruce McNeal, S, West Alabama
After starting for Auburn for two season, McNeal was released due to drug issues. At West Alabama, he continued to start, and he's got some athletic traits that make you wonder if he's a developmental practice-squad type who could make the roster in 2015.
Wilson Van Hooser, WR, Troy
After starting at Tulane, Van Hooser transferred to Troy. At Troy's pro day, he put up some good numbers, and may be able to return kicks and play in the slot.
LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
The third productive and talented running back from an AQ school, Perkins too has a shot at making the roster. The smallest, most compact running back in camp, Perkins will have to outplay his size on special teams.
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
That this big-time player from a big-time program when undrafted is a bit of a surprise. Hubbard could make the team if Nate Palmer and Co. don't progress enough in camp. According to Al.com, he slipped out of the draft due to an issue with his heart.
Denico Autry, OLB, Mississippi State
A Juco to SEC player, Autry saw significant playing time in his two years at Mississippi State. The pass-rushing linebacker has an uphill battle to make the roster, first having to beat out his fellow UDFAs.
What's Next for the Green Bay Packers
While the 2014 draft filled a majority of the needs of the future for the Packers, a few still stand out.
At inside linebacker, Brad Jones has yet to live up to his contract. A.J. Hawk also is coming towards the end of his career. If Carl Bradford is used as an outside linebacker as opposed to inside linebacker, where is the future of the position going? Unless Sam Barrington steps up his game in the preseason, the position is a question mark going into the future.
At cornerback, Tramon Williams and Davon House are set to leave after 2014. That leaves only Sam Shields, and potentially sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson as the outside cornerbacks. If Casey Hayward can make the transition to the outside, everything is solved. If not, then there's a starting hole to fill on the roster.
At tight end, it may seem great to have drafted a Day 2 selection this year, but if that player has a limited upside, would you pass on a talent in future drafts? Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers aren't the athletic freaks on the roster, that's Brandon Bostick, who may keep Richard Rodgers as the third tight end on the team in 2014. Ryan Taylor is another tight end likely to make the team, but he's used as a special teams ace more than anything.
With all seven original picks still in possession of the Packers, and potentially more compensatory picks, the 2015 draft could address all those positions and more.