Type to search

Packers’ Draft Picture Is Starting to Take Shape

Dozens of know-it-alls around this time of year come out with their NFL draft predictions. Pro Football Focus on Tuesday issued its “Mock Draft 4.0,” covering the first three rounds. Steve Palazzolo did the list, basing it on what he would do if he got to make all the selections.

PFF in a few short years has gone from a gaggle of football enthusiasts to a multi-million-dollar NFL analytics operation. When PFF talks, I listen. My interest is mainly over the Packers’ biggest needs: wide receiver, edge rusher and cornerback.

First though, Palazzolo’s top three picks were QBs: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, in that order. His other first round QBs were Lamar Jackson at 15 and Mason Rudolph at 22.

His top edge rushers were Harold Landry and Bradley Chubb, who he rated as his ninth and 10th overall picks. The next edge player on his list is Marcus Davenport, down a ways at number 25.

PFF has its top wide receiver going to Green Bay at number 14: Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. I previously did a piece on how there’s not much quality among wide receivers in this draft. Just two choices below Ridley is receiver James Washington out of Oklahoma State. The other receivers making PFF’s first round are well down the list at numbers 26 (Michael Gallup) and 29 (Courtland Sutton). Though I feel the team’s biggest need is at receiver, I wouldn’t use the Packers’ first-round pick on any of these guys.

That brings us to cornerbacks. PFF has them going at numbers 6, 12, 13, 30, 31 and 32. Those top three might be worthy of Green Bay’s consideration: Iowa’s Josh Jackson, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. But we won’t know if any are still available at pick 14 until minutes before the Packers must decide.

In round two at pick number 45, PFF has Green Bay taking Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis. Palazzolo says he’d bring depth and physicality to the secondary and that he’s a solid press man – something defensive coordinator Mike Pettine craves.

Finally, at overall pick 76 in round three, PFF has Green Bay choosing Central Florida edge rusher Shaquem Griffin. Palazzolo says he’s an outstanding pass rusher despite weighing less than 230 pounds. He adds that he can play traditional linebacker in base but become a movable chess piece as a pass rusher. Pettine has indicated he loves to have that kind of versatility. A linebacker with a 4.38 second dash time is certainly intriguing.

If PFF’s rankings hold up well, both receivers Ridley and Washington will be available when the Packers get to make their first choice. The edge rusher situation might not work out well for Green Bay: edge rushers Landry and Chubb might be gone, and selecting Marcus Washington, rated as a late round one pick, isn’t very sound.

Cornerback options might be more suitable. While Josh Jackson is unlikely to still be around, either Ward or Fitzpatrick probably will be.

People are speculating that GM Brian Gutekunst might try to trade up or down, especially with his round one pick, depending on who has been taken and who hasn’t. If so, these will likely be deals done on the fly, while the draft is taking place.

If Gutekunst’s first priority is a cornerback, he might not have to do that. The same could be true if he fancies receivers Ridley or Washington. If it’s an edge rusher, PFF’s ranking would suggest he might need to trade up three or four picks to get the best value. If he wants Marcus Washington, he could trade down, but when you trade down several spots, you have no way of knowing if the guy you want will still be available.

As the draft gets nearer and nearer, forecasts such as this one get more and more accurate. While the teams that end up with these players will vary, I’d say that close to 90 percent of those Palazzolo has named will indeed be selected before round four.

First-round predictions are usually the most accurate, as teams start to show their hands as to what positions and players they’re focused on. They do this in many ways: by the free agents they sign, by the players they release or don’t re-sign, by those they invite for a visit, by comments made at press conferences, by information leaks and so on.

I don’t get all that tuned in about draft prospects, but I have heard speculation about cornerback Josh Jackson, receiver Calvin Ridley, edge Marcus Washington and even edge Shaquem Griffin (in a later round) getting the Packers’ attention.

I’ve come upon a list of players who have drawn the Packers’ interest, either by way of a Pro Day or private workout, a private visit to Lambeau (30 such visits are allowed), a meeting at the NFL Combine, Senior Bowl or Shrine game, etc. Of the 11 names shown, most are not likely to be picked in the early rounds.

One name does stick out, however: Vita Vea. It’s just been announced that the defensive tackle from the University of Washington will have a private visit in Green Bay on Thursday. Vea weighs 347 pounds, is enormously strong (41 bench presses) and is pretty fast to boot. Opinions vary greatly on where he’ll land in the draft. PFF has him going to the Cowboys at number 19, and some even have him as a top 10 choice. Even though Green Bay, having acquired Muhammad Wilkerson, appears well-stocked with defensive linemen, maybe Pettine has a thing for massive nose tackles.

Tags:
Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

    1

17 Comments

  1. KILLER April 4, 2018

    All right, let’s get into this draft! Wooooohooooooo!!! I freaking LOVE the draft!

    The three picks laid out by PFF would add up to a very good first two days of the draft for the Packers. Are those the players I would pick if I were GM and not Gute the Bad? No. That said, there are a lot of good players in this draft, tons of them. At the Packers pick in rd 1 there will likely be 10 or 12 that are legit worthy to be taken at that position.

    I’d characterize Ridely at 1 and Davis at 2 as solid picks and Griffen at 3 as a steal. That would make for a very good first two days of the draft for the Packers.

    Now, a few corrections:
    *I would not characterize those who make draft predictions as “know-it-alls”. First, they don’t. Second, they know they don’t. Third, they do not claim to know it all. Fourth, it is sort of hypocrisy as we all make our guesses or predictions or wish list or what-I-would-do and it is all good fun. Don’t rain on our parade, Rob! (Because it is your parade as well!)
    *The teams biggest need is not at WR. Adams is supposedly a #1 WR. He better be as he is getting paid like one. Sure, Cobb is a slot WR but he is getting paid like a premiere #2 or borderline #1. And Graham will get some balls thrown at him as well. You don’t take a WR #1 to be a 3rd WR or back up. Any team can use more WRs but “biggest need”? Gimme a break. Not even close to CB, LB, or O-line. Not. Even. Close.
    *”While Josh Jackson is unlikely to still be around, either Ward or Fitzpatrick probably will be.” Wha-what? Excuse me while I pull out my magic wand here: REVERSO MAGICO: FITZPATRICK AND WARD ARE UNLIKELY TO STILL BE AROUND BUT JOSH JACKSON PROBABLY WILL BE. There. All fixed.
    *Vita Vea is an absolute beast. The next Haloti Ngata except he is bigger, stronger, and faster! He would be a steal at #14 overall. I doubt he will be there and I doubt the Packers will be smart enough to take him if he is there. Good chance Wilkerson is going to be a fat bust. If so a pick of Vea would set up a 2019 with Vea as the nose flanked by Kenny Clark and Daniels. That would probably be the best 3-4 defensive line in the NFL outside of Houston if JJ Watt is healthy.

    Jackson would be an excellent pick but I think it likely the Packers take an LB. That is where value and availability meet. But if they really wanted Rodgers to succeed and be healthy and really had their eye on the ball they will take an o-lineman.

    1. V April 4, 2018

      Agreed Vita Vea in our rotation would make it scary as all get out! Love that idea!

    2. TyKo Steamboat April 4, 2018

      “REVERSO MAGICO: FITZPATRICK AND WARD ARE UNLIKELY TO STILL BE AROUND BUT JOSH JACKSON PROBABLY WILL BE”

      Yea, i’m pretty sure thats what Rob meant too ..

      Anyways, I LOVE the draft more than anything too!

    3. tupac April 4, 2018

      This idea that every team even has a #1 WR is stupid. I dont know that I’d say there are 20 legit #1’s even.

      Adams is not a #1, he’s a top #2. Just as Cobb is a top #3. They all need to work together to find the mismatch in which ever D they’re facing.

      1. TyKo Steamboat April 4, 2018

        Only God can judge you

  2. KILLER April 4, 2018

    A little inter-division rivalry draft gossip/competition here:

    1. Both the Packers and the Vikings met individually with OLB Lorenzo Carter at the combine. Excellent prospect. Some have him sneaking into rd 1 but I think he is taken in the 2nd or even, gasp, the 3rd.

    2. Both the Packers and the Vikings have had CB Mike Hughes in for a private visit. Hughes has shut down corner eventually and early on nickel corner excellence in his future. Likely to be taken in rd 1, never gonna get past rd 2.

    Carter is a great rd 2 pick anywhere in that round. Hughes is a great late rd 1 pick. He would be a reach for the Packers at 14. Both players would look better in Viking royal purple than Packer cheese-mold green. But, of course, so would anyone.

    1. V April 4, 2018

      I really like this draft class at #1 and #2 IF it happens (Hughes and Carter). I think trading down a spot or two for a QB needy team might be in order to make it more of a realistic possibility.

  3. V April 4, 2018

    First off…Who is Marcus Washington? It’s Marcus Davenport and no, he’s a Top 15 player, not low 1st round. There’s probably a 40-50% chance he’s there to draft at #14 for the Packers.
    Secondly, PFF must be smokin’ something to not have Mike Hughes from UCF ranked ahead of Josh Jackson because that’s exactly where he’ll end up on draft boards.
    The way I see it for the Pack, there are three choices. Move down a few spots and pick up an extra 2nd rounder (ideal) with a QB needy team. Or, stay put and draft best available Edge or Corner. I believe the Packers put a premium on Edge here because the highest impact players in this draft are very top heavy. It’s a fantastic depth draft for corners so unless Denzel Ward falls in their lap (won’t happen), expect Landry or Davenport’s name to be called at #14. I agree that a tall corner like Carlton Davis could be their second round choice assuming he’s available but there are quite a few very capable 2nd or even 3rd round guys to be had.
    Our biggest “need” position is Corner (maybe even two of them) but a great pass rush mitigates that need somewhat.

    1. KILLER April 4, 2018

      Took a second look at some of the mentioned prospects based on your insight.

      Yeah, PFF be imbibing off the crack pipe.

      No one but PFF has Landry ahead of Chubb. Landry is good but Chubb is Myles Garrett good. He is, literally, the otherwise unquestioned #1 defensive player in the draft. I will say Landry MIGHT be a better fit in a 3-4 but these ranking are supposed to be overall/general not let’s-pretend-the-4-3-does-not-exist. Landry MIGHT be almost as good as Chubb against the pass but is way behind him vs. the run.

      And, yes, given a choice between Landry and Davenport, no matter what my defense is, I take Davenport. 6’6″ vs. 6’2″. 264 lb. vs. 252 lb. 2.58 40 vs. 4.64. Longer arms, too. Davenport has room to grow and develop. Landry is maxed out. Davenport can be a Ziggy Ansah or Daneille Hunter. Landry can be… Landry?

      James Washington and Michael Gallup are NOT going to be selected in rd 1. Gallup probably not even in rd 2. That PFF has them both going in rd 1 and Washington 16th (!)… well, pretty obvious that thick cloud of smoke is, in fact, crack.

      The only part you observed that I may disagree is Hughes vs. Jackson. Jackson improved his 40 time to 4.42 at his pro day which is the speed he appears to play at and had good height. So he beats Hughes easily in speed and height and his college performance senior year was one for the books. I like both players and they may each be better suited to different circumstances — Hughes may be a better pick for one team and Jackson for another team.

      If the Packers can trade down a bit it probably would be wise. Reason I say this is that they sure do have a lot of needs and there will be 10 or 12 players at #14 worthy of that pick. So trade back to 22-24 or so and get a 2nd and a player they may well have taken anyway? Brilliant. Might be more likely they move back 6 spots and get an additional 3rd. Fine, do it. Great move.

      After this experience with PFF it’s draft prospect credibility is out the window for me.

  4. Larry April 4, 2018

    Ridley at #14 was good for a laugh. Washington perhaps. That kid from Memphis night be better than both of them. Wilkerson is only here for a year so I can see the Washington stud being the pick.

  5. MJ April 4, 2018

    Regarding Vita Vea, yes, we now have Wilkerson, but for thus year only. If Vea is as solid as he is reputed to be, we would have a cheap inside disruptor for four to five years. As Howard has said in a fee occasions, inside pressure is a QB’s worst enemy.

    1. KILLER April 4, 2018

      Vea is a MUCH better prospect than B.J.Raji ever was and Raji was taken in the Top 10. Getting Vea at #14 would be a steal. This is a deep draft and this is an example.

      Another example is OT Kolton Miller. I think he is similar to and as good or better than Nate Solder. Solder was drafted #17 overall in his year by the Patriots. This draft there is talk Miller may make it to the Vikings at #30. I sincerely doubt that. I think Belichick takes him #23 with his shiny new #1 pick from the Rams. But even there that is a 6 spot later pick for a better player than Solder. Shows that depth, at least at the top.

  6. TyKo Steamboat April 4, 2018

    My 1st round wish list would be as follows:

    1.) Denzel Ward, CB Ohio St. (High end, Will be gone before 14)
    2.) Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama (more than likely gone before 14)
    3.) Marcus Davenport, DE UTSA (maybe there at 14)

    1. KILLER April 4, 2018

      I think you nailed it.

      I keep talking about players worthy of that pick and here are some others that are and also fit a need:
      OG Isaiah Wynn
      OG Will Hernandez
      OC/OG Billy Price
      LB Vender Esch
      CB Josh Jackson
      DT Da’Ron Payne
      DT Vita Vea (likely gone before 14)
      CB Jaire Alexander
      WR Courtland Sutton (borderline)
      LB Tremaine Edmunds (likely gone before 14)

      1. TyKo Steamboat April 7, 2018

        Edmunds will be gone.
        Some of your mentioned names are worthy of a very late 1st-rounder, therefore, trade back
        Josh Jackson is the only realistic name on the list i like but in a trade back as he is probably 26-30 as far as beast overall player on the board
        I think the Bears take Edmunds at #8

  7. cz April 7, 2018

    Since Gute cant fire MM,
    here is how he could indirectly …

    he could trade down, for future picks,

    watch Pack get losing record again, this time with Rodgers at QB all yr..

    MM then get his smug a** canned,
    as we all hope,
    and try to win the following yr
    with a extra draft picks’ and
    new HC Bill Bellichick
    who NE fires for losing another
    SB by benching their best
    player prior to kickoff.

  8. Hinder April 12, 2018

    I used to get fired up about the draft but Uncle Ted killed it for me. Year after year I would be excited about the top prospects and then he would either trade back or draft an All American beach volleyball player and try to make him a cornerback or OLB. I predict more of the same with Gutey who is, after all, Uncle Ted’s slow-witted trainee.