The Green Bay Packers had a rough year in the first half, but eventually they turned on the after burners to find a way into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. They rode a six game winning streak into the playoffs to defeat the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, but eventually their ride came to an end in the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons.
Now, with the Packers looking at improving their current roster, they need to address some questionable areas on the defensive side, and add a few pieces on offense for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers hold the 29th overall pick and a total of eight picks in this upcoming draft.
To begin, the Packers must look at their defense, as they were scorched in the air during the whole season. They ranked dead last in the league by allowing 287.7 yards per game and an overall total of 4,603 passing yards.
Interestingly, the Packers finished sixth in the league in team total sacks with 40. Nick Perry led the team with 11 big sacks. They tied with the Tennessee Titans in that department.
So with that being said, the Packers take T.J. Watt with their 29th overall pick. Watt would stay in the same state that he played his college days at (Wisconsin). Watt is a late bloomer, as he was a one year starter in college, but in that one year, he attracted scouts eyes by recording 11.5 sacks and 63 total tackles with 15.5 of those resulting in a loss. He will join a depleted pass rushing group in Green Bay, as Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, and Datone Jones are free agents. Watt will compete with Kyler Fackrell for one of the outside linebacker spots opposite of Clay Matthews, unless they bring back either Peppers or Perry.
Next, the Packers get a sleeper in Watt, but now they need to address their secondary. Sam Shields is most likely going to be playing in a different uniform next year, as he is a potential cap casualty (saves Packers $9 mil if cut), plus he missed 15 games in 2016. If he stays it is a bonus, but do not count on it. So, in the second round the Packers find Damarious Randall a partner in Fabian Moreau from UCLA. Moreau was at the Shrine Game and I watched him shut down receivers during that whole week of practice, plus on gameday. His stock rose and I think he fits what the Packers run defensively. He is not afraid to tackle in the open field and to play both man or zone coverage. Also, he can play off the receiver or press them at the line. This is a solid and safe pick in round two that could end up being the Packers best pickup in the draft.
The Packers offensive line is going to take a hit if T.J. Lang decides to sign elsewhere, but the veteran spoke out on where he wants to play by saying “I love everything about being a Packer.” Also, Don Barclay is a free agent, which he will not cost the team much, as I expect the Packers to retain Barclay’s services. In the third round, the Packers take Isaac Asiata from Utah. This big guard has all the tools to become a really good player. Do not be shocked if the team elects to ride with the youngster from day one.
The Packers offense is still in question at the running back position. Ty Montgomery filled in nicely, but he is not a number one running back. The Packers take a running back in the fourth round, but this pick will eventually be their future bell cow with Ty Montgomery splitting reps in year one and two. James Stark was just released via ESPN. They take another Wisconsin Badger in Corey Clement. Clement reminds me of his former teammate and current Charger Melvin Gordon. Clement does not have the same twitchy athleticism, but he has agile feet and balance to produce quick cuts and to make separation from defenders. He has excellent vision, plus he is a patient runner. He also does posses an aggressive edge to him when trying to attack the second level.
In addition, the Packers wide receiver group is fine, but I do think they might want to add another talented player in this group with always thinking about Jordy Nelson’s injury history. Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are nice pieces in this offense and the same with the gem they found in Geronimo Allison, but some competition is nice to add and I could see the team draft Ryan Switzer from North Carolina. Switzer is a smaller receiver, but a quick and sneaky talent in this draft. Any team would love to have him on their roster and Aaron Rodgers will love this guy like Tom Brady does with Julian Edelman.
However, that was the Packers first pick in the fifth round, as they have two. With the second fifth round pick, the team goes back to the defensive side and improves the trenches. They have a nice group, but again competition is nice and it is good to have a player you trust come in if one goes down with an injury. They take Eddie Vanderdoes from UCLA. They get Kenny Clark’s defensive linemen teammate from college. Vanderdoes would slide in as the backup nose tackle behind Letroy Guion with Christian Ringo moving to the defensive tackle position behind Mike Daniels. The young Bruin was once considered a potential first round pick a year or two ago, but injuries hurt his chances on showing out in college. If healthy, the Packers might have found another gem in the draft like they always do.
Nearing the end in the sixth round, the Packers get even more stronger on the depth chart and in the middle of their defense by finding Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez a key backup. They have two smart inside linebackers and they get Ben Gedeon from Michigan to give them three. Gedeon is a hard nosed guy that looks like he is going faster than others at the inside linebacker spot, but he is not a playmaker, but could be a strong special teamer.
Finally, we go look at the tight end group. Jared Cook is a free agent and I expect him to reach a deal with the Packers, but if not Richard Rodgers is going to get the job, but their is no one behind him with any experience, so it looks like they take a kid in the seventh round and give Cole Hikutini from Louisville a chance. Hikutini emerged as one of Heisman winner Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets by recording 49 receptions for 656 yards with a team-best eight touchdowns. He is a nice security blanket option in the middle of the field and he can block extremely well, plus he has experience over many tight ends in this draft by staying in as an extra tackle in pass protection, showing good knee bend and lateral agility to mirror, as well as underrated strength at the point of attack.