Day Two of our Green Bay Packers NFL Draft coverage will center on the "best player available" to the Green Bay Packers at #29 in the first round on offense, as well as some prospects that could be available in the first two days.
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By Jimmie Kaska
The NFL Draft is Thursday night, and it'll be a while before the Green Bay Packers pick--they're on the clock with the 29th overall pick in this year's draft, which means it'll be around three hours after the draft before we meet the newest Packer.
With that in mind: No mock draft can come up with a single scenario in which we know who exactly will be on the board when Green Bay is up to pick. In keeping with the Packers' theme of drafting the best player available, here are some guys to watch at various positions of need on the offensive side of the ball for Green Bay that would also satisfy the best player available mantra.
In a deep draft for running backs, Green Bay can be very flexible about where they select their backfield counterpart to converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery. As much as defense is a priority, there is a glaring hole in the backfield that will be filled during this draft. It's also not out of the question for the Packers to select multiple running backs.
If the Packers go for a running back in round one, it's very likely that LSU's Leonard Fournette and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey will be off the board. Florida State's Dalvin Cook is an option that, depending on who you ask, could go anywhere from mid-first round to the third round, and is considered one of the "sliders" in this year's class. It would be controversial, but Green Bay has been linked to Oklahoma's Joe Mixon for the past two months. His projection is tough, since grades put him as a first-round talent, but the off-field situation may push him down to the second round--or later.
If Green Bay waits until the second or third round to pick up a running back, they will have plenty of options. In addition to either Cook or Mixon sliding, Tennessee's Alvin Kamara was a highly-touted prospect who originally enrolled at Alabama, but injuries and suspensions eventually led him to Tennessee via junior college. Another Oklahoma running back, Samaje Perine (above), is part of a bevy of running backs all figuring to be selected in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft that includes record-setting rusher Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State, big back D'Onta Foreman of Texas, and even Wisconsin's Corey Clement, who could be available in the later rounds as well. It's a deep class, with many productive running backs to be had.
Samaje Perine and D'Onta Foreman fit the profile of bigger bell cow-type running backs that may be around in the second round should Green Bay eschew addressing the position with their first pick. However, there's increasing chatter that Joe Mixon will be in heavy consideration for the Packers with their first selection.
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With the departing T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter, Green Bay suddenly has a depth issue along the front lines this offseason. The NFL Draft isn't considered very deep at any of the offensive line positions, but the top players could be available when Green Bay is on the clock at #29. Additionally, many of the better linemen in this year's draft are projected to go in the middle rounds, so the Packers will be in a position to pick virtually any player they want from this class to address their needs along the line.
In the first round, it could come down to selecting between one of the top tackles in the draft, like Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama's Cam Robinson, or Utah's Garrett Bolles. Or, they could address the interior line, with Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp (above) the lone prospect even mentioned as a first-round pick potentially. Ryan Ramczyk in particular could be an interesting selection, given that some scouts view him as a difference-making interior lineman as opposed to a standout tackle... and, of course, the fact that he's a former Badger and a Wisconsin native. Tackle is not a big need for Green Bay, but if a top prospect is available, it could force at least a discussion.
In the second or third rounds, again they should have a shot at pretty much anyone besides the top four for the most part, as many of the offensive linemen that could step in right away have second- to fourth-round grades. Underclassmen Roderick Johnson of Florida State and David Sharpe of Florida are options at the tackle position (although the latter, Sharpe, is massive and some project him as a guard in the NFL), with nearly a dozen seniors receiving higher mid-round grades as well, such as Temple's Dion Dawkins, Troy's Antonio Garcia, and Western Michigan's Taylor Moton. At a glance, tackle isn't a big need, but Green Bay will look to add depth anywhere they can along the line with the... wait for it... best player available.
On the interior, at guard, the top dozen or so prospects are all seniors, from the massive Zach Banner of USC (6-8, 353) to the intriguing Nico Siragusa of San Diego State (no relation to former NFL defensive tackle Tony Siragusa) to small-school prospects like Jordan Morgan of Kutztown, Erik Austell of Charleston Southern, and Jessamen Dunker of Tennessee State. Indiana's Dan Feeney, Pittsburgh's Dorian Johnson, and Utah's Isaac Asiata are some of the power conference guards graded in the second or third rounds.
Centers are typically selected in the mid- to late-rounds, with only a handful projected into the top four rounds. Ohio State's Pat Elflein is widely considered the top center available, as the Rimington Award winner last year in college football, who has also had success playing at guard. LSU's Ethan Pocic, West Virginia's Tyler Orlosky, and Baylor's Kyle Fuller are also considered in the top group of center prospects in this year's draft.
While it is harder to get a read on offensive linemen projections, with the Packers set at left tackle with David Bakhtiari, pretty much every other position is up for grabs. After losing Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang at guard the past two seasons, Green Bay will probably find at least one interior lineman in this year's class to develop (or play) in the middle rounds, where they will have plenty of options. A versatile player such as Pat Elflein, who started at guard and center in college, or Isaac Asiata, who started at right tackle before moving inside, could be the ticket for the Packers to cover multiple positions. Or, if they want to directly address the guard position, they may have a shot at the top guard prospect in the draft, Forrest Lamp.
Right now, Green Bay is rolling out Corey Linsley at center, Lane Taylor at one guard position and possibly Don Barclay at the other with limited experience behind those three along the interior line. David Bakhtiari is a lock at left tackle, with Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, and Kyle Murphy all still in the fold at tackle as well. If the Packers draft a guard in the first few rounds, there is a good chance they will start from day one.
NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Line
The Packers would be looking to add depth and development here, given the injury history of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, and Geronimo Allison are also on the depth chart, so the competition would be fierce for a receiver to make the roster and contribute right away.
Since Green Bay has no obvious need at quarterback or tight end, this is the final position group that could be considered a need.
The good news is that this year's draft is absolutely loaded with wideouts. While Green Bay likely won't be targeting any of the top-tier prospects, like Corey Davis of Western Michigan or John Ross of Washington, if one somehow ended up in their lap at #29, it may be hard to pass on.
What the Packers need most at receiver is speed to stretch defenses. Washington's John Ross will likely be off the board, so other quick prospects like Curtis Samuel of Ohio State could be considered based purely on that factor (although Samuel himself projects as a slot/H-back type). Some mid-round options with low 4.4-type 40-yard dashes include Tennessee's Josh Malone, Baylor's K.D. Cannon and Penn State's Chris Godwin. Most of the other receiver prospects in the middle rounds are dinged for one reason or another, whether it's the lack of top-end speed, acceleration, or route running ability, so anyone the Packers select at receiver in the mid rounds and beyond would be considered a project and not likely to start ahead of the trio of Nelson, Cobb, and Adams in 2017.
NFL Draft Preview: Tight ends and wide receivers
The defensive side of the ball will be a focus for sure, but Green Bay has particular needs on offense to address. In order, they will need a complimentary running back to Ty Montgomery, a guard who can step in and play almost immediately, and a receiver with speed to stretch a defense that can also help in the return game or on special teams. The first two needs are most critical. With a deep running back class, it doesn't make much sense for the Packers to grab one with their first pick if they do go offense, with so much depth in the middle to late rounds, but there is plenty of chatter that Green Bay could be taking a running back at #29.
If we ignore the fact that Green Bay's more pressing needs are in the back two-thirds of the defense, then we can project a prospect like Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp at guard in the first round as an immediate fix to the losses of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang the past two years. However, the Packers were willing to let Lang walk this past offseason, and the money wasn't that far off. So, it may be unlikely that Green Bay will address the position early, opting instead perhaps to grab someone like Ohio State's Pat Elflein or Utah's Isaac Asiata in the second or third rounds.
The spot next to Ty Montgomery in the backfield is a huge part of the Packers' offense, which will feature more double tight end sets than last year (Green Bay was next to last in double tight end sets in the league last year). That's why Oklahoma's Joe Mixon and Florida State's Dalvin Cook are popular picks to the Packers in the first or second round. Bruising backs like Oklahoma's Samaje Perine and Texas' D'Onta Foreman would be a "type" fit for the departed Eddie Lacy, and would likely be around when the Packers picked at #61 or #93.
With so much depth in this year's class at running back and wide receiver, Green Bay will have plenty of options every pick to find someone to contribute early at the skill positions on offense. If Green Bay didn't address either spot until the fourth round, they will still probably come away with a productive player. Offensive line is the only question mark, with very little depth on the interior line, as to where the Packers would feel to grab someone to step in early.
I'm not a GM, but if I'm pretending to be one, Green Bay could be safe addressing either guard or running back (or both) until their third or fourth pick in the draft, focusing on the defense early on. With no pressing need at receiver, they can wait until later or after the draft to find someone to compete with the incumbents. The same can be said for addressing the offensive line beyond a top guard--many prospects fall outside of the draft based on the depth at the skill positions this year. Green Bay is a destination for rookie free agents, since they will have chances to catch on and contribute from the start, so if any targeted player goes undrafted in the later rounds, particularly along the lines, the Packers are in good shape to bring them in to compete for a job.
Tomorrow, I'll look at how the first pick the Packers make will dictate how the rest of their draft will go. The best player available mantra is fine and all, but it wouldn't make sense for them to ignore one side of the ball. And... I will do my best to say, here's what I'd do or something.
Yes, tomorrow's exercise is as close as I'll get to a mock draft.
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