NFL Draft 2011: Seven Defensive Linemen the Packers Should Target
The NFL Draft is just two days away, and the tidal wave of mock drafts being published is reaching insane levels.
Call me wonkish if you like, but I’ve always preferred positional analysis to the standard mock draft. It just seems to have more lasting relevance.
And as we’ve learned time and again from Ted Thompson and Co., solid player analysis is much more important to having successful drafts than being married to anyone that might show up on a mock draft.
In looking at this year’s draft, I would love to see the Packers target a defensive lineman (or two). The Packers will likely lose Cullen Jenkins when free agency begins, and the status of Johnny Jolly is murky at best.
Mike Neal will be back from IR, but that still leaves a lot of room for depth at both DE and DT.
The truth is that this is a draft of luxury for the Packers. They don’t have an obvious need at any position, and will be content to stock their shelves with as much talent and depth as they can.
Let’s take a look at a defensive lineman the Packers should target in each round:
First Round (32nd Overall): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio St.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Weight: 294 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.92 seconds
Vertical Jump: 30 inches
Heyward is a player whose stock is a bit uncertain heading into draft day. A week ago, I was certain that he would be off the board by the time the Packers pick at No. 32, but now I’m not so sure. If he were available, he would be a steal at the end of the first round.
I’ve had a chance to see him play a few times the last two seasons, and am impressed with both his strength and his motor. He has above average-height for a DE, and can be a force against both the run and pass.
His athleticism has been questioned, but he ran a solid 40-yard dash time (4.92 seconds) and showed good explosion with his vertical jump (30 inches).
Heyward could develop into a long-term replacement for Jenkins, and will fit in nicely with the player development culture in Green Bay.
Other possibilities: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia; Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
Second Round (64th Overall): Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL)
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Weight: 285 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.71 seconds
Vertical Jump: 36.5 inches
Allen Bailey is the kind of player who could thrive in Green Bay. He came to Miami as a LB, and has played both DE and DT during his career in college.
He is an incredible raw talent who has all the tools to be a great DE in the Packers 3-4 scheme. He shows quick burst at the snap, and is strong enough to blow up blocks against the run.
He needs to improve his football IQ, but could turn out to be the steal of the draft for the Packers if he’s available when they pick in the second round (No. 64 overall).
Other possibilities: Christian Ballard, DT, Iowa; Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Third Round (96th Overall): Sam Acho, DE, Texas
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Weight: 262 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.67 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33.5 inches
Sam Acho is another versatile player who could play either DE or OLB in the Packers scheme. He had nine sacks and forced five fumbles in 2010, and he possesses a relentless motor, rushing the passer and chasing down runs from the backside.
He was extremely durable at Texas (something the Packers could use on the defensive line), and is considered a strong character guy and great locker-room presence.
Acho needs to increase his upper-body strength to get a good punch at the snap, but has the work ethic that the Packers organization loves. Students of the game thrive under Mike McCarthy’s direction.
Other possibilities: Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson; Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida
Fourth Round (129th and 131st Overall): Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Weight: 294 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 5.06 seconds
Vertical Jump: 30.5 inches
Drake Nevis is someone I was impressed with when watching the combine (yes, I watched every televised minute). I remember thinking he looked strong and explosive in the drills, and he has been on my Packers draft wish list ever since.
His Scouts, Inc. player evaluation gave him a grade of 68 overall, and lists him as the 12th-best DT in the draft. I think both of those are an undersell.
His production increased every year at LSU, and in 2010 he made 56 tackles (13 for loss), along with six sacks, 3 forced fumbles and an interception.
Those are impact numbers.
He may be a stretch to fall to the Packers at either Nos. 129 or 131, but if he’s there, the Packers should give him a long look.
Other possibilities: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma; Cliff Matthews, DE, South Carolina
Fifth Round (163rd Overall): Karl Klug, DE, Iowa
David Purdy/Getty Images
Weight: 275 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.65 seconds
Vertical Jump: N/A
At this point in the draft, creativity and a little bit of luck is needed to weed out the legitimate prospects from those who will never make it in the NFL. In other words, this is Ted Thompson’s ideal environment.
Klug is a workhorse, and is equipped with elite speed for a DE. He has the ability to beat most OTs off the edge, and has great sideline-to-sideline speed to run down plays.
More than that, he plays with a Clay Matthews-esqe motor and determination on the field, something that Packers fans will love.
He will need to improve his strength to fight off blocks and maintain gap discipline against the run, but there is no doubting that he has potential.
Other possibilities: Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon; De’Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona
Sixth Round (197th Overall): Sione Fua, DT, Stanford
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Weight: 308 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 5.28 seconds
Vertical Jump: 24 inches
Sione Fua has the ability to be a good run-stopping DT in the NFL. He lacks the explosiveness to be an effective pass rusher, but does a good job of anticipating the snap count to make up for his lack of top-end speed.
Against the run, Fua gets a great initial push off the line and is effective in single- or double-team situations. His brute strength and low center of gravity make him an anchor on the line, and with some improvement could see the field at DT for the Packers.
Other possibilities: Martin Parker, DT, Richmond; Ryan Winterswyk, DE, Boise State
Seventh Round (204th and 233rd Overall): Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Weight: 264 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.63 seconds
Vertical Jump: 28 inches
By any metric, Chinasa would be considered a raw prospect. But it’s hard to look at his build and elite speed and not see potential value.
Chinasa appears to have gotten by in college on athleticism alone, and needs to drastically improve his fundamentals and football IQ to make it at the next level.
He plays with a great motor, and was injury-free in college, but will need to show a willingness to work extremely hard in order to secure a roster spot in the NFL.
Other possibilities: Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska; Justin Trattou, DE, Florida