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2015 NFL Draft

Why I Like Defensive Line for the Packers in the First Round

Datone Jones

The NFL Draft is almost here and while the Green Bay Packers will tell you they don’t draft for need, that’s pretty much a bald-faced lie when it comes to the first round.

As such, most people have the Packers taking an inside linebacker or cornerback in the first round of this year’s draft. Inside linebacker is considered, by some, to be the weakest position on the team. Similarly, some people think the Packers need a cornerback after watching Tramon Williams and Davon House depart during free agency.

Well, I think those people are idiots. That’s not to say that if the Packers find a game-changing inside linebacker or cornerback available, they shouldn’t draft that guy. It’s overlooking the fact that those two positions are not in as bad of shape as outsiders like to suggest. It’s also overlooking the fact that the Packers defensive line is at least as much in need of improvement if not more.

First, let’s address inside linebacker.

What people aren’t understanding here is the Packers already have their starters at inside linebacker. They are Sam Barrington and Clay Matthews. While that second name may come as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Matthews was dominant after the Packers moved him inside last year. Meanwhile, he was pedestrian as an outside linebacker during the first half of the season, on pace for a total of five sacks for the year. The move inside increased his numbers dramatically, while improving the Packers defense as a whole. So why would the Packers move Matthews back outside?

They’re not stupid. Regardless of what you or Matthews think, he’s an inside linebacker.

That decision makes the need at this position much lesser.

What the Packers need at inside linebacker is depth. They’ve already got two capable starters.

Second, let’s address cornerback.

The Packers did indeed lose a very capable starter in Tramon Williams and a decent backup in Davon House. What people seem to forget here is this was the deepest position on the team in 2014. It was so deep that a talented guy like Casey Hayward could barely get on the field.

Well, guess what.

Hayward is finally going to get what he’s wanted all along — a chance to start at cornerback for the Green Bay Packers. And he should get that shot. If Hayward can improve his tackling, he’s more than capable of taking Tramon’s place on the outside. That leaves Micah Hyde, another guy who’s proven more than capable in a limited role, to play the slot.

So your top three cornerbacks are Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde.

Tell me what sounds horrible about that.

Again, the Packers could use some depth and perhaps someone to push those three guys, but this isn’t a huge need either.

So why defensive line?

There are two factors at play here.

First and foremost, I would argue that defensive end is the weakest position on the Packers defense right now. I’m specifically talking about the defensive end spot manned by Datone Jones.

Since being drafted in the first round two years ago, Jones has been average at best and a complete non-factor at worst. After barely getting on the field as a rookie, Jones was handed a starting job in his second season. He responded with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. That’s pretty much the picture of subpar.

People will defend Jones by saying, well, it takes a lot of guys three years before they really make a splash.

Maybe, but typically those guys will do something in year two to at least catch your eye. They’ll show a flash of greatness here or there. Jones has literally shown nothing.

He’s just a guy. One I maintain is better suited for playing defensive end in a 4-3.

What’s more, is the Packers have a couple question marks in the middle. They went and re-signed both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion to one-year deals earlier this offseason. While that’s swell and will surely get them through 2015, what happens then?

The fact that the Packers didn’t make a long-term commitment to either guy says that they don’t know if either guy is their long-term solution at nose tackle.

Really, the only thing that is certain about the Packers defensive line is that Mike Daniels is a boss.

It would sure be nice if he had another boss playing alongside him.

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Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

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11 Comments

  1. Fritz April 26, 2015

    in the first round, i still think the strategy of getting the best football player available is the way to go, and here is why: TT can always outshine other GM’s as a horse trader to find black horses and hidden gems in the later rounds, but the best players in the draft are usually obvious to all but the densest GMs [e.g. Lions], which is why TT has sometimes been burned going for a position need in the first round and passing up on the best player available, e.g., he passed up on Kaepernick that year they went for an all-round D panic-buying riot.

    if i was TT and i KNEW a “Lou the Toe” Groza was available to me in the first round, i would go for it in a heartbeat and go for position needs in the deferred picks.

    1. Fritz April 26, 2015

      correction: it was the 2012 draft and the best player available to pick in the 1st rd. was Russell Wilson.

  2. Icebowler April 26, 2015

    This year, we need to take the BPA’s “on defense” in the first two or three rounds. After that, we can draft for need on defense or even look at a few offensive players if they are the BPA at that point.

  3. Cheese April 26, 2015

    Why would you draft kaepernick or russel Wilson when you have Aaron Rodgers for many years to come? The whole point of bpa is even though you might not get the position you need you can still use that player on the field and benefit from their value and talent. Any qb the Packers draft is going to spend 95+ percent of their time riding the bench. Spend a first round pick on a second string qb? Not happening when you have the league mvp tossing the ball for you. Especially when value is subjective and no knows exactly how these kids are going to translate to the nfl. So many qbs are taken in the first round and over half of them turn out to be extremely average or garbage. All this coulda shoulda drafted whoever is just a bunch of hindsight.

    1. Fritz April 27, 2015

      it’s got to do with the “Bell Curve” i.e., the best of the best of the class are usually mostly gone by the packers 2nd round. you can always use a really good prospect for development and/or trading collateral.

      For example: Rodgers was correctly picked in the first round for the right reason: as BAP [in associated value]; a backup QB with potential to develop into a replacement/starter to fill the aging BF’s shoes.

      1. Cheese April 27, 2015

        Rodgers was correctly picked because he fell to #24 to a team that NEEDED a successor to Favre, who was constantly talking about retirement and wasn’t having his best years on the field. It was one of those unique situations like last year where the BAP was also a large need. Drafting Russell Wilson in the first round while Rodgers is in his prime and the defense is one of the worst in the league is just silly.

  4. Church Lady April 26, 2015

    I’m not so sure the Pack is going to stick Matthews back in the middle…he is WAY better in the middle, I agree, but it seems like they played him on the outside a lot more in the playoffs and didn’t stick with what was working. I hope to god they keep them there, but knowing McCarthy, he will do something stupid like putting him back outside. This makes ILB the biggest position in need – unless you like Carl Bradford, which even Carl Bradford’s Mom is like “He isn’t the answer and kinda sucks”.

  5. Shawn Neuser April 26, 2015

    TT has stated that he values big guys over small guys. So, going DT in the 1st round should surprise no one.

    However, rookie DTs typically do little, see Mike Daniels’ rookie season. So, its doubtful a guy you draft will be ready to replace Datone in the starting lineup, regardless. More like a replacement for Datone Jones if the Packers don’t extend him after 4 years.

  6. Vano Lucas April 27, 2015

    I have been thinking we need another ILB above all else. I never did get a good “read” on Barrington, although he seems to have a lot of potential. I’d be interested in hearing what other people think about him.

    Peace. Vano over and out.

  7. Deepsky April 27, 2015

    The Packers won’t spend a first round pick on an inside linebacker. But Thompson will still draft for need and that’s at cornerback. I think it will be a player that appears to be a second rounder on most mock drafts, but who looks good on tape and plays big in big games. PJ Williams is my guess.

  8. Andrew Chitko April 27, 2015

    BPA all the way. Someone who can step in and play a legitimate role in year one.