With all the Packer mock drafts going around, I was beginning to feel left out. Some of my picks will be liked, some will not, but that's the risk I take. I know I'm going to please a good portion of the fanbase with my first pick...
Round One (23): Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
There's a lot to like about Hughes. He ran the fourth best 40-yard dash among defensive linemen at 4.69, which included the second best 10-yard split at 1.59. His 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle were also among the top four performers.
Outside of the measurements, Hughes has a very quick first step and he plays with his pads low, which allows him to gain leverage under bigger offensive lineman. He can change direction quickly, which allows him to keep the offensive tackles off-balance and keeps him unpredictable. He also has a large array of rip, spin, and swim moves, although his bull rush needs some work.
In the running game, Hughes lacks the build to hold up against runs to the strong side, but can disengage from blockers well and is excellent in pursuit when the back bounces outside. He's very good at diagnosing misdirection, staying disciplined in his gap, and closing down his side on runs away from him.
Like any converted defensive end, Hughes does lack experience and technique when dropping back into coverage, but he has the natural athleticism to pick it up quickly. As a converted RB, he has the hands to both intercept passes or bat them away, and has the quickness to stay with tight ends or backs.
Round Two (56): Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale
Jared Veldheer was an unknown going into the Combine. Afterwards, scouts were scrambling for tape on the 6'8", 312 pound OT from tiny Hillsdale College.
Veldheer finished fourth in the 40-yard dash, ninth in the bench press, third in the vertical jump, fifth in the broad jump, tied for the top 3-cone, and tied for first in the 20-yard shuttle among all offensive lineman. In other words, he excelled at every major test done at the Combine.
He has somewhat shorter arms (33 in.) but his superior athleticism should help him overcome that in pass blocking.
He needs to work on his run-blocking, as he struggles to gain leverage on bigger players, but his footwork and mechanics in pass protection are incredible for someone his size. He has enormous potential and would be a great fit on Green Bay's offensive line, where he could learn from Chad Clifton for a year before taking the reigns.
Round Three (86): Chris Cook, CB, Virginia
At 6'2", Cook has great size for a CB and is definitely good enough for Ted Thompson. He lacks lateral agility and quickness, but he should excel in a more zone-cover role.
If he's not available, and he very well may not be, the Packers may opt to go with a safety like Darrell Stuckey or Morgan Burnett. They could also stay at CB, with Amari Speivey, Myron Lewis, Domonique Franks, or Donovan Warren.
Round Four (122): Joe Webb, WR, UAB
This is my wild-card pick. If the Packers address their top three needs in the first three rounds, they can go anywhere with this pick. This is strictly a BPA pick and will most likely be a player that has fallen and would be a steal at this point. I also considered Donald Butler, Darryl Sharpton, Tony Washington, Larry Asante, Kurt Coleman, and Marshall Newhouse.
But, I settled on Webb. He's an intriguing prospect at 6'3", 223 pounds and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day (he wasn't invited to the Combine). He's a projected fourth-or-fifth round pick, and he really impressed in interviews. He has all the physical and mental tools but needs some coaching to adapt to the bigger and faster game he'll encounter in the NFL.
Round Five (154): Austen Lane, DE, Murray State
The Packers go with their second D-II of the draft here. Lane is a monster at 6'8", 276, so he has great size for a DE, but he lacks a solid first step and sometimes loses leverage against the run. Like Butler, with some coaching up he could become a Calais Campbell-type DE (eight sacks as a 3-4 DE for the Cardinals last year).
Round Five (169): Adam Ulatoski, OT, Texas
Some had Ulatoski pegged as a first round prospect before last year's draft. A somewhat disappointing season has left him wondering whether or not he'll even get drafted. He has a tendency to overextend his blocks, and struggles to gain leverage. However, he is extremely coachable and has a high football IQ. He has a big enough frame to put on bulk to help with his lack of strength. Overall, not a risk in the fifth round.
Another possibility would be Ciron Black from LSU if he is available. His lack of speed and quickness was exposed last year, but a move to the right side would alleviate some of those problems.
Round Six (193): O'Brien Schofield, DE/OLB, Wisconsin
If he's here, he's a steal this late. Schofield is a legitimate second round talent, and scouts rave about him like he could be a first-rounder. A torn ACL at a Senior Bowl practice will keep him out for a while, so his draft status is uncertain but I don't think the Packers can pass him up. One can never have too many pass-rushers, and if Schofield pans out that gives the Pack three very good ones.
Round Seven (230): Brian Jackson, CB, Oklahoma
That's right, the Packers have three needs this draft: OT, OLB, and CB and I have them filling two of those positions. Jackson is an incredible athlete, but struggles in man coverage. The scouting reports can't say enough about how he'll fail in man coverage.
However, in a 3-4 defense corners play a lot of zone, and that's where this kid can excel. He is a willing tackler in the running game and has outstanding strength and speed. He would be great value here—he possesses the versatility to play safety as well.
Thompson was at his pro day, so don't be surprised to see Jackson in Green and Gold next fall.
Curtis Steele, RB, Memphis
Steele was a productive runner at Memphis, rushing for 1200 yards and 15 TDs as a senior. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and has a strong lower body to power through arm tackles and help in the blocking game. He could end up as a good third down back.
This is a weak year for kickers and punters, and the Packers already have two P on their roster so they won't want to waste a draft pick on another one. But Thompson could bring in an undrafted rookie for competition. Crosby could use someone to light a fire under him to see if they can bring out his best.
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