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Packers Draft Mailbag: Cornerback Becomes First-Round Possibility if Shields Leaves

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Packers Draft Mailbag: Cornerback Becomes First-Round Possibility if Shields Leaves

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Photo by Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV.com.

In the run-up to the NFL Draft, we are publishing a weekly “Mailbag” feature here at Cheesehead TV.

If there’s any question you’d like answered, tag your queries with the hashtag #PackersDraft on Twitter.

If Shields ends up leaving the Packers in free agency, cornerback easily becomes a position they could end up addressing in the first round or early in the draft. Justin Gilbert solidified his status as this year's top corner at the NFL Combine when he ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash at 6-0 and 202 lbs. Being an elite return specialist only adds to Gilbert's value, making it doubtful he falls to the 21st pick and perhaps a no-brainer if he's still somehow available.

Should Gilbert be off the board, Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech would be among the top cornerbacks available. None of them are in the tall, 6-3 mold we saw with the Seattle Seahawks and Richard Sherman, but that doesn't mean they're not good players. Dennard and Fuller both have a nice blend of sufficient size, toughness and cover ability to be top NFL cornerbacks.

Mosley has had a variety of hip, shoulder and elbow injuries over his college career, but they've been more nagging than debilitating. In four seasons at Alabama, he only missed two games in 2011 because of dislocated elbow. Remember that another Alabama player had injury concerns coming out of college last season in Eddie Lacy, and in hindsight, we all saw how much they limited him at the pro level. That being said, 32 NFL teams put through Mosley through a thorough physical at the NFL Combine, so they should have a pretty good idea if there's any red flags.

The thing that impresses me most about Mosley is his pass coverage. He's among the most instinctive cover linebackers I've ever seen coming out of college, and in a game where there's more and more passing taking place, that's not exactly a bad thing. He's not the most hard-nosed or best blitzing linebacker I've ever seen, but it's not as if he's soft by any means. Mosley is also viewed as a leader and a great character player.

There's some question whether Ohio State's Ryan Shazier would fit inside after being a 4-3 outside linebacker in college, but there's no denying his talent. I don't think the Packers––or any other team––should overlook a playmaker like Shazier who made 45.5 tackles for a loss in three seasons. He'd undergo a learning curve in transitioning to a 3-4, but it shouldn't be substantial.

After Shazier, the next tier of inside linebackers include Wisconsin's Chris Borland, Florida State's Christian Jones, Stanford's Shayne Skov and LSU's Lamin Barrow in no particular order. Each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, but I wouldn't necessarily rule any of the them out as being a fit with the Packers.

The easy answer would be Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, but seeing as I've already gone in-depth on him on an article here at Cheesehead TV, I'll give a few more guys who had great Combine performances. Staying in the secondary, I think Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert justified being the top cornerback taken after running the top 40 time among players in the secondary.

In the trenches, I thought Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald had a terrific Combine, highlighted by running a 4.68 40 at 285 lbs. I'm not sure how much interest the Packers would have in Donald in the first round, however, because they already have a similar player in Mike Daniels. For an under-the-radar guy, Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio also had a terrific Combine as a top performer in the 40 (4.97 seconds), vertical (32 inches), broad (114 inches) three-cone (7.37 seconds) and short shuttle (4.44 seconds). He's the type of player that could play either tackle or guard in the NFL and probably be good at both.

That's a good question and a case could be made for either player. Louis Nix has a fantastic personality and would have Packers fans laughing on Twitter for years to come, and he could fill a void if big-bodied defensive linemen like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly leave in free agency. But Nix only had 2.5 sacks in three college seasons. I know nose tackles don't have to be big-time pass rushers, but I'd like a first round draft pick to have a few more big plays. If we're talking about the second round, I'd be more inclined.

It's not as if I don't like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but I still think both Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon are better options at safety. The thing I like about Clinton-Dix, however, is even though he doesn't lay the wood like the two afore-mentioned safeties, he's not a guy that misses tackles. He uses his range to his advantage and gets the job done. Because the need at safety is so much bigger than the defensive line, I'd say Clinton-Dix would be a better long-term fit than Nix, but the difference might be negligible.

Lyerla is going to fall far, really far. There will be some teams that will refuse to draft or sign him at all because of being dismissed from Oregon and later being arrested for cocaine possession. On top of that, Lyerla had a troubled childhood and even went so far as to call the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in Connecticut a government conspiracy on Twitter. These are serious red flags.

From a football standpoint, Lyerla may have had impressive performances in the 40 and the two jumps at the Combine, but it's also worth noting that he had the fewest bench press reps of any player listed as a tight end at the Combine. If Lyerla keeps his nose clean between now and the draft, there will be a team that will be willing to give him a chance, most likely as an undrafted free agent, but he won't have a long leash.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Justin's picture

With all the holes on defense, having to spent a first round pick on a CB would be disappointing. I still think they sign Shields or another free agent player that plays in the secondary.

Evan's picture

Exactly.

Losing Shields will weaken the only strength of the defense, imo.

Bert's picture

Sure hope you're right Justin. Hate to see us have to plug another leak in the boat via the draft.

Greenville's picture

I hope we do not draft shazier in the 1st round its bad enough Thompson has been bad in the first round in past years this would be another. Pluse torwards the run he'd be a bad fit have you seen Ohio state run deffense this past season ewww bad.

ted, of bill and ted's picture

Keeps his nose clean...nice

gslumbers's picture

Shields is inconsistent, and injury prone. One bad game from AJ Green and a pick on Romo and the he's supposed to get paid the big $? He's fast, hes got good range, but he's not worth 6 mil a yr. Try and sign Byrd or Ward, draft Mosley. Casey and Tramon will hold down the fort. TT knows what he's doing. Bank on it

leo's picture

I think Sammie Shields is a good player, but I'm much closer to your way of thinking than to the 11 M franchise tag Idea. Remember 1 season ago we were about to cut the guy. And this last season wasn't that good, he showed flashes but he was no shut-down corner.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Gilbert will likely be a top 14 selection. Lions or Bears both could select him. Dennard would be the more likely option.

I really think that Shazier would fit inside with the Packers. He would be next to Hawk which would allow him to be a very good player. Hawk takes a lot of blocks on which allows the other LB to make plays. Shazier would fit really well in that role.
I also love Borland.

Phatgzus's picture

If Shields leaves I'd bet TT gets a CB, but it wouldn't be in the 1st.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I'm willing to bet Thompson will draft a CB even if Shields stays.

Williams is entering his final year of his contract and House hasn't proved to be consistent enough. Also they may move Hyde to safety which would create an opening at CB.

Hank Scorpio's picture

Shoring up the back middle of the defense in coverage is at the very top of my offseason wish list. What they've said about moving Hyde makes me feel much better about Safety. But ILB is still pretty awful without much hope for improvement from within, IMO.

So if Brian's assessment of CJ Mosley's coverage skills is correct, I'd be thrilled to add him.

4thand1's picture

Byrd is available, go get him. Draft Mosley #1. Ward might be there too. The fixes are there for the taking, now take em.

ATS's picture

Hope is a dangerous thing.
Percent chance of Byrd landing in GB is probably in the 1-2 range..

4thand1's picture

1 or 2 %? Seems pretty low. Makes perfect sense to pursue him. If ever the Packers are going to fill the void left by Collins this is it.

ATS's picture

Wait - you are a Packer fan, right?
You do know how they operate, right?
Unless Thompson stepped down and I missed it, Byrd is not coming to GB.
That is exactly the type of player the Packers don't even consider looking at. Thompson has NEVER signed an established impact player who other teams were interested in (Woodson doesn't count because no one wanted him).

If no other team shows any interest in Byrd then the % definitely increases but somehow I think there may be a number of suitors.

They'll sign a safety. It'll be someone we've never heard of. There will be a battle for the position between unheralded FA "x", drafted player "x", Richardson, and Banjo.

May the best man win!

4thand1's picture

O ye of little faith. I guess we won't know until it happens. He just broke the bank on AR and CM, so it appears he's not afraid to spend money on talent. They know what is needed and I think Ted will pull the trigger on a significant FA. Draft picks are cheap and they have $$$ in the bank. I hope I'm not wrong.

ATS's picture

"I think Ted will pull the trigger on a significant FA"

You very well may be the only Packer fan in the world that thinks this is possible.

Evan's picture

I think it's absolutely possible this off-season - at least more possible than it's ever been.

I don't know about Byrd, but a 2nd tier guy like Chris Clemons/Malcolm Jenkins/Thomas DeCoud I could very much see happening.

4thand1's picture

Got you by the balls, anyone other than MD Jennings will be a significant FA.

ATS's picture

"but a 2nd tier guy like Chris Clemons/Malcolm Jenkins/Thomas DeCoud I could very much see happening."

Yeah, um, NO!
Where on earth are you guys coming from on this?

They may sign a few FA's but they will be guys I've never heard of and who have a 50/50 chance of making the 53.

Are you guys serious?

This is Ted Thompson.
These are the Packers.
Acquiring starting caliber FA's is not part of the plan.

Hope you guys are right but the thought of something like this happening has never even crossed my mind.

I'm surprised that there are Packer fans that think this might happen.

Evan's picture

I know it goes against TT's recent mo. I just have a feeling - and I'm hardly alone. I just think the need is so glaring and they have so much money that he has no choice but to do something.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if he did nothing. Ha

WKUPackFan's picture

I have that feeling that TT will sign a second tier FA safety also, although I'd rather draft Pryor and spend that money elsewhere. Even as a rookie, Pryor (or Bucannon or Ha-Ha) would be a significant improvement over MD. Either way, this defense will be much improved with a competent safety.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

4thand1, I'd bet MM & TT already know who's playing on defense next year. I'm sure they have it figured out, whether Shields, Raji, or whoever doesn't return. They most likely have a plug for every position. JMO

Bobby D's picture

So....Shields will be gone. Slimenhaus will not get the Pack in a bidding war, because Ted can always find bargains on the street corners. Question becomes, who covers Megatron, Marshall, Jennings/Patterson twice a year and all the other 1's? Tramon or a rookie? There are some FA corners, but old Ted will wait until all the talents been picked over, jump in and take someone who was hurt last year or hasn't played for two years and unearth that gem he's obsessed with. Byrd? Are u kidding? Wouldn't be surprised if he signs J Jones and Starks, extends Nelson and saves the rest for Cobb. Going to have to score a ton and keep A-Rod Up-Right

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

Bobby D, I just Choked on my Champagne. I hope The Hell You're Right!!

FITZCORE1252's picture

I sure hope you mean the high life.

Digital Tucker Hero's picture

speaking of which, Wisconsin is still just a wet state then?

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

FITZ, I don't know what you mean? I'm hoping he's Right on JJ & Starks

FITZCORE1252's picture

Miller high life, the champagne of beers. We're Packer fans... we drink beer.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

FITZ, I thought that's what you meant. I'm with you. That's what I drink. Sometimes too much!!

THEMichaelRose's picture

Brian,

Following up on Colt Lyerla. Don't you think the Packers will also be nervous about Austin Seferian-Jenkins, whom a lot of folks like in the second round? As I understand it, he's had some run-ins with the law. His flags aren't as red or numerous as Lyerla's, but the Packers still don't seem like the team to take chances like that early.

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