The two most pressing needs going into the draft for our beloved Green Bay Packers appeared to be at cornerback and for another pass rusher – presumably an outside linebacker. And some people were also looking for help at running back.
The first Packers’ pick proceeded according to plan, and everyone seems upbeat that long and lean cornerback Kevin King is going to be a successful outside cornerback, maybe in the mold of the Seahawks Richard Sherman.
Next up was the team’s original second-round pick, overall selection number 61. Instead of nabbing an edge rusher or even a running back, however, Green Bay made a surprise choice: safety Josh Jones, out of North Carolina State. He seems like a fine player, but certainly doesn’t fill any gaping hole in the team’s roster.
Of all the positions that Packers could have targeted, I would have thought safety was about the least needy position.
So why was this choice made? I have enough theories to satisfy almost anyone.
First, this could actually be a time when the “best player available” route was taken. Josh Jones might just be the complete package: very fast (4.41 dash time), very tall (6’3”), plenty strong (20 bench press reps), and a spring-like leaper. Maybe those abilities were too much for Packers to resist regardless of the position he plays.
Another theory might be that the Packers had their eyes on one or two linebackers they thought were high value at pick number 61 – but the run on such players, chosen at numbers 47, 49, 54 and 57, left the linebacker cupboard bare. When the Packers took Jones at number 61, no other team saw good value in an outside linebacker at that point either. The next outside linebacker chosen, by the Bengals, was Kansas State’s Jordan Willis at number 73.
It’s also possible that the Packers were too clever for their own good. Could it be that the edge rusher the Packers really wanted was fourth-round pick Vince Biegel’s college teammate, T.J. Watt? There were certainly plenty of rumors to that effect. Maybe the Packers thought they could finesse their way to getting Watt plus another draft pick by trading down just a few spots. Minutes before the Packers were to pick at number 29 in the first round, they made their trade, from pick 29 to 33.
Green Bay did indeed get a valuable extra pick, the first selection of round 4. Perhaps though, they weren’t anticipating the Steelers nabbing J.J. Watt’s little brother at number 30? We’ll probably never know, but such gambles do occur on draft day, and sometimes they don’t turn out as planned.
But here’s a final theory. Green Bay has become pre-disposed over the last three years to letting veteran players go, usually when they’ve reached about age 29 and their usually-lucrative contracts have run out. Safety Morgan Burnett has a four-year contract, at an average of $6.2 million, which will run out in 2018. Burnett will be 29 when the team assembles for the 2018 season. You know, like (give or take a couple years) Josh Sitton, James Starks, T.J. Lang, A.J. Hawk, Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Brett Goode, Andrew Quarless, James Jones, Scott Tolzien, Mike Neal, and B.J. Raji.
Are the Packers planning on Josh Jones replacing Burnett on next year’s roster? That’s the theory I’m leaning toward.