The consensus going into the 2017 draft was that the Green Bay Packers had an unusually high number of holes in the roster that they needed to try to somehow fill with their eight scheduled draft picks. Some of the holes concerned starting positions, while others called for adding competent backup players to the depth chart – to account for inevitable injuries.
Through some good trading, the Packers wound up with 10 draft selections. Let’s examine how well they did on strengthening the roster.
The Packers’ top need was for a starting-quality cornerback. By picking Washington’s Kevin King with the 33rd overall pick, the Packers arguably plugged that big hole. I forecast the opening game starters to be Devon House in Sam Shields’ old spot on the defensive right side, Damarious Randall still starting on the defensive left side, and Ladarius Gunter starting (on about 80 percent of the plays) at nickelback.
King should be locked into a head-to-head competition with Randall, and should win the starting job by mid-season, unless Randall somehow can put 2016 behind him. I see Quinten Rollins as being Gunter’s not-very-adequate backup.
Last year’s 40 sacks ranked the Packers tied for the sixth-best pass rush team in the league, but the stat is misleading. Most opposing quarterbacks had oodles of time to pick out open receivers, and the good QBs picked the Packers’ defense apart. The Packers sack attack isn’t diversified: it came last year from edge rushers Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers. Unless Matthews rebounds from an injury-plagued season, we’re in store for fewer sacks this year.
The only attempt to plug this hole via the draft is Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel. He needs seasoning, and hopefully will be adding weight and muscle to his 6’3-5/8” frame. Other than that, he’s fast and explosive. When Matthews’ huge contract is up in 2019 — if not before — he should be ready to take over for Clay.
Whether the pass rush can hold its own depends in large part on whether Clay can stay healthy – and if his shoulder wasn’t permanently damaged last year. Mike Daniels provided a good inside rush in 2016 despite his lack of sacks.
I’m high on Vince Biegel, but not as a solution to this year’s problems.
Most fans felt the Packers were thin at running back. The Packers’ braintrust obviously agreed, as they selected running backs at overall picks 134, 182, and 247. Alas, quality rushers were lacking by that time, so it appears that the one pick who could see significant playing time (in the event of injuries) is BYU’s Jamaal Williams, a round 4 choice. I’m relying mainly on others here. CBS Sports has suggested that Williams will be a 1,200-yard rusher at some point. However, the feeling at Rotoworld, and I tend to agree, is that Williams was “exposed as a sub-par athlete” at the NFL Combine.
I’ve previously indicated I have high hopes for the Eddie-Lacy-like pick, Devante Mays. However, he’ missed most of his senior year and has never played at the BCS-level of college football, so I would think he needs at least two years of development, as is typical for seventh-rounders.
I have little enthusiasm – and no one else seems to either – for UTEP running back Aaron Jones, taken late in the fifth round.
My assessment is the team waited too long to choose a back that could help substantially in 2017. I hope I’m wrong about Jamaal Williams, but I just can’t find any upside to him.
A need was created when the Packers made the unpopular move of letting T.J. Lang go. His right guard spot was adequately filled, however, prior to the draft, by the acquisition of 34-year-old six-time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans. If more help is needed there’s fourth-year man Don Barclay, second-year man Kyle Murphy and former undrafted free agents Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick.
Veteran Evans should beat out Barclay for the starting spot opposite Lane Taylor. I also have high hopes for the Packers only o-line draftee, South Florida’s Kofi Amichia. This guy is a wonderful athlete, who should be able to fill in at either tackle or guard.
Yes the hole was adequately plugged pre-draft, but the Packers have gone downhill for two consecutive years by letting two fine guards go. They are sure to pay a double price for it, in poorer pass protection and run-blocking in 2017.
Backing up Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams, the Packers didn’t have much going into the draft. They came out of the draft the same way. Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey in round 5 and LSU’s Malachi Dupre in round 7 aren’t my idea of hole-pluggers. Of the two, I give Dupre the best chance of having some NFL success, as he left college as a junior and never got much of a chance to excel at LSU and its run-first offense.
You might want to start praying that the Packers’ starting receivers will stay healthy, for a change, this year.
While Letroy Guion is suspended for four games, Kenny Clark will probably be the nose tackle, but that still provides some opportunities for the third-round pick from Auburn, Montravius Adams.
Though he’s undersized and lacks strength, he’s only 21, and could develop into being a starter. He is considered quick and explosive. Since the Packers mostly start only two down linemen, barring injuries and as long as Clark continues to improve, he and Mike Daniels can hold down the fort.
The Packers were already strong at safety with an on-the-rise Kentrell Brice backing up two capable starters. Now, by way of second-round pick Josh Jones, they’ve potentially added a future star to the mix. There weren’t any particular holes at safety in need of plugging, but it’s now perhaps the team’s deepest position.
The Packers got no draft help at inside linebacker, leaving them with three average-at-best starters and precious little backup. Green Bay failed to even draft an inside linebacker for future development.
The Remaining Positions
The Packers didn’t need any help at quarterback, tight end or tackle.
Thumbs up regarding cornerback, defensive line and safety. Pass rush: neither up nor down. Thumbs down are running backs, wide receivers, and inside linebackers – all three of which needed backup help, but got precious little of it. I’ll have more to say soon about that safety pick.