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Packers’ Draft Class Grades Are On the Rise

2015 Draft Class

The big two were, of course, cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Rollins looked to be a bust by his second year and nothing in 2017 changes that outlook. I do believe that Randall, however, is going to be a starting cornerback going forward. At this point I’m more concerned about his durability than his ability.

Round-three pick, running back Ty Montgomery’s career, after such a promising start, has been waylaid by injuries. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to receiver, as the team appears to need more help there than at running back.

Jake Ryan, a fourth-round pick, has steadily improved. Though not flashy, he’s solid, especially in the run game and he’s managed to stay relatively healthy. This is what you want out of a mid-round draft pick.

It’s time Aaron Ripkowski, chosen in the sixth-round, is allowed to be more than just a blocking back. I guess it won’t happen as long as Big Mike is running the show, but a solid choice nonetheless.

Four contributors, no stars: C+

2016 Draft Class

Though Green Bay only had seven picks, two stars emerged this past year: first-round choice Kenny Clark and fourth-rounder Blake Martinez. I had to go back to 1992 to find a fourth-rounder who turned out as good as Martinez is looking: Edgar Bennett. The only others in the conversation since then are Josh Sitton (2008), T.J. Lang (2009), and Mike Daniels (2012).

All seven 2016 draftees remain on the team. Jason Spriggs (2nd) showed some progress this year, but his pass blocking puts the quarterback at constant risk.

Kyler Fackrell, chosen pretty high in the third-round, doesn’t impress physically, but he has a knack for making plays. He participated in 42 percent of the defensive snaps and almost all of the special teams snaps in 2017 – that’s a considerable contribution. In two years of backup play, 46 tackles, five sacks, a fumble caused and a fumble recovered is pretty commendable. Best of all, he stays healthy. Whether or not he ever becomes a starter, I think this guy is fulfilling his backup role pretty well.

This leaves us with Dean Lowry, Trevor Davis, and Kyle Murphy, taken in rounds four through six.

Though Lowry is a down lineman, his stats closely mirror those of Fackrell: 40 tackles, four sacks, and even three passes defended in two years of part-time play. In 2017, Lowry was in on nearly half (47 percent) of the defensive plays, and his tackles zoomed from eight to 30. He’s been a solid and improving contributor – and he too has kept healthy.

Trevor Davis has had his opportunities as receiver, but does not appear to have what it takes. His prospects for staying on the team lie with his return ability, which is considerable, but has been marred by bad decision-making.

A foot injury in September scuttled tackle Kyle Murphy’s second season. Despite that, in the chances he’s had, I’d say he’s outplayed second-rounder Spriggs.

A solid showing overall, and with two guys who are on track to become defensive All-Pros: B+

2017 Draft Class

Like in 2015, the first two draft choices went to the defensive backfield. It’s too early to reach firm conclusions on cornerback Kevin King or safety/linebacker Josh Jones.

Of the two, however, Jones was the more impressive. He’s a sound tackler and covers a lot of ground. If the Packers can get back to using that “Nitro” package, where Jones plays the key hybrid role, his value will skyrocket. His pass coverage has so far simply been too loose. Still, 71 tackles, two sacks, an interception, and five passes defended is a strong start to a career. He’s very athletic, has no glaring weaknesses, and stayed relatively healthy.

Kevin King got in nine games, including five starts, before going on IR with a shoulder injury in December. His stat line of 28 tackles and five passes defended accurately reflects the timid nature of his play. He had few game-changing moments – no interceptions, sacks, or forced fumbles – and his tackling was hit-and-miss. We probably expected too much, too soon, of King and Jones. Both, however, show signs of developing into fine defenders. King, however, needs to bulk up if he’s to withstand the physicality of the NFL.

While all the preseason attention was on the defensive draftees, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, picks in rounds four and five, were putting on quite a show. Between the two, in limited playing time, they had a 1,000-yard rushing season. Williams, Big Mike’s favorite, went for 556 yard in 153 carries, while Jones had 448 in 81 carries. The yards per attempt were greatly in Jones’ favor, 5.5 to 3.6. Jones is clearly a breakaway threat on every play, while Williams is a steady plodder who got almost all his action in the final eight games and in four of them had 20 or more carries. Williams proved to be an adept receiver, averaging over 10 yards per catch on his 25 receptions.

From pinning the running hopes on Ty Montgomery as the season opened, many now feel the Packers are on solid footing with the two rookies going forward – with or without Montgomery. Two pretty fine mid-round picks!

That leaves fourth-round pick Vince Biegel and third-rounder Montravius Adams to talk about.

We only saw Biegel on 121 defensive plays and Adams on 65 – due to foot injuries in each case. Biegel spent much of the year recovering from foot surgery for an injury he had in college. Adams suffered a stress fracture on the second day of training camp, causing him to undergo surgery.

We’ll have to wait until next season on these two, but both had notable college careers.

Despite the average play of the top two picks, the talent of the two running backs boosts this grade: B+.

If Biegel and Adams prove their worth in 2018, this grade is likely to be adjusted upward in the future.

Comments

I’m more bullish than most over the past three draft classes, but I’ve seen the Packers increasingly go after better athletes in each of these years. I believe that much of the final decision-making has been taken away from Ted Thompson and become a consensus of the team’s personnel department, with considerable input from Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst (although Alonzo Highsmith’s comments throw that into question). I can’t prove this, but in 2017 in particular, the draft picks are very different types of players than the Packers were accustomed to during Thompson’s heyday.

From 2010 through 2014, when my marks would be mostly D’s, the Packers would be lucky to get two decent players in any year. Things have been changing for the better – and with a new general manager about to be named, I’m hopeful that the large 2018 draft class (11 picks?) will be the best of the last four years.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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16 Comments

  1. PF4L January 3, 2018

    A B+ is a fairly generous grade considering that almost the whole draft was the walking wounded, and some injuries being related to college injuries.

    If J. Jones is the better of the two def. backs. We’ve still got serious problems back there. Cornerback? – Back to the drawing board for the 3rd straight year.

    Yes, Williams and Jones had their moments in limited action. But my, we have short memories around here……didn’t this website repeatedly gloat about Lacy’s 5.1 YPC, and Ty Montgomery’s 5.9 YPC in limited action. How’s that working out for them now?

    I’d be a bit careful before i’d start pro-claiming future All-Pro’s. But it’s your world my friend, enjoy.

    1. icebowl January 3, 2018

      Nice research Rob.
      Agree with you PF4L – lets see how they handle Sophomore Sag and potential pass-heavy play calling around the return of #12.

      To add to draft problems of the Thompson Era is the fact that they let players leave, not willing to recognize their value or not willing to pay. Hayward and Hyde come to mind – both playing amazingly well and being selected to Pro Bowls AFTER being let go by Green Bay. Letting Sitton and T.J Lang go was bad enough, but the short-sightedness of not realizing they would go to division rivals was a criminal oversight. Hell even Datone Jones is playing respectfully with Dallas.

      Letting Lacy go has proved a good move to date – yet I’m not counting him out – don’t believe Seattle is the right fit for him – they got off on the wrong foot with the whole publicizing of the weight clause in his contract. He’ll figure it out himself.

      I really do hope that, as you stated Rob, we are seeing an upswing in the team’s drafting capability. With 11 picks coming in April we should see a possibility for future talent. The question remains where to focus the draft – given all the needs.

      I’m encouraged that they were able to drain the tundra – McFatty might’ve saved himself, at least enough to get a 1-year extension, by not fitting through the drain hole.

      1. PF4L January 3, 2018

        lmao…fitting through the drain hole…lol, classic Ice.

        1. Icebowl January 4, 2018

          I’m flattered

  2. Deepsky January 3, 2018

    I would agree with this assessment. When the Packers lost Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey, the Packers had some pretty bad drafts. It’s a bit better now. I think Ron Wolf said if you can get two starters, its a good draft. 2011 only got one starter, Cobb.

    1. Deepsky January 3, 2018

      To add to this, I think Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey each took a copy of the Packers draft board with them. While an NFL team rates every available player, I think that in reality there are only a few they are targeting in each round, say 30 players. If the Seahawks, Chiefs and Raiders targeted those 30 players before the Packers in each round, they didn’t leave a lot left for the Packers.

  3. Kato January 3, 2018

    On the rise to 3-7 sans Aaron Rodgers? Sheesh

    1. Cheese January 3, 2018

      I would say 3-8 including the first Vikings match up. Hundley is the one who finished out that game, not Rodgers. Then those three wins are against the three worst teams in the league. The Bears, Buccaneers, and the winless Browns who took GB to overtime. I bet McCarthy is excited for his paycheck, I mean Rodgers, to come back next year so he can brag about being a highly successful coach.

      1. Kato January 3, 2018

        I did count that Vikings game sans Rodgers, they were 4-1 going in. Then Rodgers played the Carolina game. So 4-2 with losses to Carolina and Atlanta with Rodgers. Then 3-7 with Hundley including Minnesota game

        1. icebowl January 3, 2018

          They’re gonna need to pay a team to take Hundley off their hands this year…..

          1. Kato January 3, 2018

            The packers may as well keep him at this point. He has no market. If it were a traditional GM, they would look at taking a QB as high as the second round to have a potential QB of the future/competition for the top backup spot behind Rodgers. Now Idk, they will probably just draft for need rather than BPA, so probably something along the lines of OLB/pass rusher dependent on defensive scheme being run next year, CB, OG, OT, WR, TE. Probably use an undrafted FA qb for competition. If the new regime operates anything like I believe it will.

          2. PF4L January 3, 2018

            Keep him as a 3rd string maybe because he’s cheap, we need a stronger #2 to Rodgers, he’s going to be 35 next season. We don’t need another 8 games of Brett Hundley starting in case Rodgers goes down..

  4. KILLER January 3, 2018

    “I’m more bullish than most over the past three draft classes…” No! Really!?!

    All draft classes should have some value, you expect a starter or two, valuable back-ups. One pro bowler even makes it a good draft. That said… 2015… I could almost, ALMOST… argue the Packers would have been better off forfeiting their picks. Rollins and Randall, to this date, have been disastrous and street free agents would have done far better than them on the field. Montgomery isn’t as good as Steven Ridley who was out of football most of this year. Jake Ryan was basically a young street free agent type who happened to luck out and get drafted in the 4th round. I’d give the 2015 draft a D-. Even that is generous if a C is supposed to be average or what you expect to get out of a draft.

    2016, maybe then a C. 2017 just too soon to grade. I guess if you forced me based on potential and where they got the players vs. where the players were expected to go it might be a B-.

    Clark and Martinez are good but… on track to be All-Pros? That is a whole level above pro bowl. Clark would have to be one of the top 3 DTs in the entire league and Martinez one of the top 2 or 3 MLBs. Just never going to happen. Never. I’ll be a bit surprised if they ever even make the pro bowl. As injury replacements.

    Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Mike Daniels are all better than Martinez so I don’t get that whole “had to go back to 1992” thing. C’mon, man, all three have been to the pro bowl and Martinez never has! But Martinez is better than them?

    1. PF4L January 3, 2018

      I guess i must have missed that Pro Bowl that Daniels was voted in on. But i defer to your superior knowledge.

      1. KILLER January 4, 2018

        No, I was wrong. For some reason I thought Daniels got in the pro bowl last year as an injury replacement. Confused it with him being named in the NFL Networks Top 100 players I guess. Or maybe I have that wrong also. :-)

        PS Daniels was named a pro bowl alternate the past three years, 1st alternate this year. He is one injury away from being in the bowl.

        1. PF4L January 4, 2018

          To hell you say!?…You’re wrong…TT get’s removed….the queens are in the playoffs?

          It’s a world gone mad i tell ya.