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Packers Draft Mailbag: With James Jones Gone, Attention Turns to WR

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Packers Draft Mailbag: With James Jones Gone, Attention Turns to WR

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.

Great questions and appropriate given Ted Thompson's track record of developing wide receivers outside the first round. Let's start with the big-bodied receivers that the Packers might consider if they don't sign Jermichael Finley or a free agent like Owen Daniels in free agency. As hard as might be believe that he'd drop in the draft, the Packers might not be able to pass up Mike Evans of Texas A&M, should be still be on the board with the 21st pick. He's a Calvin Johnson type of talent with room for development. In the second round, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State is another big target if a bit raw, declaring for the draft after only his sophomore season. Both are 6-5 and over 230 lbs.

Among the faster options, a trio of SEC receivers are among my favorites to be selected on Day 2 of the Draft. Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt and Donte Moncrief of Mississippi are both athletic marvels as receivers that are over 6-0 and more than 210 lbs. but can still run the 40 in the 4.4-second range. Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU is slightly smaller but makes up for it with better quickness. This year's class of wide receivers is very deep and the Packers should be able to find a good one with any number of players not listed here as well.

I've previously taken the space in this weekly column to sing the praises of Washington State's Bucannon. I know I'm in the minority in this opinion, but I've got Bucannon as the No. 1 overall safety, and I don't think he makes it out of the first round. His size is ideal, his measurables were among the best at the Combine and his production in college was better than his peers. He's the best combination of hard hitter and ball hawk there is in this draft class. Depending on who else is available, I wouldn't necessarily hesitate to take him at 21.

Ward is the best cover safety in this year's class, but he's different from Bucannon. The Northern Illinois product can easily play safety, but his best position may be as a slot type of cornerback. His size comes as the biggest concern. Ward is sub six-foot and sub-200 lbs. There are safeties in the NFL that can make it at that size, but there's not a ton. You don't pass up the prototype at safety in favor of the guy who might present some issues. Now, if Bucannon is off the board in the second round and Ward is the best available player, then sure, take him.

Watching Tripp in the Senior Bowl, he did not look out of place. And that is what you worry about from a player coming from the FCS level, playing in an all-star environment with the big boys. Coming out of Montana, Tripp will definitely undergo a learning curve in the NFL, but his ceiling is higher than just a nickel linebacker. He could become a starter in due time, probably just not in Year 1. He provides value on the third day of the Draft, potentially as high as Round 4.

Since last season ended, I've believed that the biggest needs for the Packers are at safety, inside linebacker and tight end. And I don't think that's changed, even after the Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless in free agency. The Packers could still use a hybrid tight end/wideout type of receiving threat that can stretch the field and be dangerous up the seam. That might change if they re-sign Finley, but that's looking more unlikely by the day.

One more need that has become apparent since the start of free agency is at center after Evan Dietrich-Smith left for Tampa Bay. There might not be a single center that's worthy of being taken before Round 3, however. But it wouldn't be surprising to see Ted Thompson pull his seemingly annual trick of taking a college left tackle and converting him to an interior offensive lineman.

You always have to take the idea of "Best Player Available" with a grain of salt. Even if the Packers felt a quarterback or a running back was the best player available in the first round, there's not a chance in hell they address either of those positions. If that were the case, the Packers would ideally look for a trading partner willing to part ways with an extra draft choice.

That being said, there's plenty of positions of need on the Packers roster. They certainly could be in position to find the best player available among safeties, linebackers, tight ends and wide receivers.

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: on Comments (12) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

I can't believe the draft is still nearly 2 months away.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Way to far away.

I'm like a kid waiting for Christmas when it comes to the NFL Draft.

RC Packer Fan's picture

This is really a great draft to find some very good WR's.

Round 2 has been Thompson's greatest round at finding players, especially at WR. (Jennings, Nelson, Cobb).
This year they could do the same. I like Jordan Mathews. I think he would be a good fit. He reminds me a bit of Jordy Nelson.

Kelvin Benjamin is similar to Alshon Jeffrey. Similar size and speed. I think Benjamin would be picked before the Packers pick in the 2nd round but if he was available I could see them targeting him.

Losing Jones, the one area that Jones was very good at was in the Redzone. They could definitely use a WR with good size to help out in the Redzone.
Also they could use someone with KR and PR ability.

A couple of guys to watch in round 3 are Brandon Coleman, Jared Abbrederis.
Round 4 - Robert Herron, Dri Archer, Bruce Ellington
Round 5/later - Jalen Saunders, Kevin Norwood, Cody Hoffman, Matt Hazel

RC Packer Fan's picture

Brian-
'The Packers could still use a hybrid tight end/wideout type of receiving threat that can stretch the field and be dangerous up the seam.'

Any thoughts about Chris Harper possibly filling this position? He is listed at 6'1 - 228. I know the 49ers and Seahawks were looking to put him into those positions before they let him go.

Another in house option for that position. Bostick. I think he is poised for a breakout year.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Harper has the potential to be a good possession receiver, but I'm talking about a guy who's 6' 4", 6' 5", 6' 6". Somewhere in that range. The Packers need that type of player, and frankly, I don't think it matters if it's a wide receiver or a tight end.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree they need a player with that type of size.

Specifically for the redzone.

Honestly, they could even use a player with that size at both positions. WR and TE.

Jordan's picture

If you look at the Packers bread and butter big play on offense........
The Packers need someone who can run the GO route in slot in addition to Cobb.

Someone that can run it as well as Jennings. If you remember in XLV, it was a matter of inches on two of Rodgers-Jennings connections. Rodgers and Jennings also connected on that play vs Atlanta in 2010 playoffs, but Jennings was stripped.

That play is critical to the Packers offense when trying to offset a heavy rush/blitz.

I can't remember the name of the play......something like Tampa27-jet-go.

Anyway, I think it's better to draft a guy that can get separation fast and catch in stride which plays to the unique strengths of Rodgers (accuracy-quick release). Unless Calvin Johnson is in the draft, I don't think there's any 6'5" guys that can run that route effectively in the slot.

I realize the big guys are popular now, but most teams don't have an Aaron Rodgers type of QB and need big guys to offset their QB's shortcomings.

I hope the packers passing game doesn't turn in to a "throw it up for grabs" type of offense like cutler and the bears. Eli manning has also turned in to a throw it up for grabs type of QB. Although it's worked pretty well for Eli (at times).

Imma Fubared's picture

I would be the firs yahoo to say, oh we need a safety or a corner or a linebacker but I changed my mind. The tape of a guy named Cook changed my mind.

He ran a 4.33 40 did spectacular in all the drills, I saw him accelerate, cut on a dime and catch a pass and the analyst called him scary good.

I don't no if you can pass on this kind of talent. I was thinking if you lined him, Gordy and Cobb up they would be almost impossible to cover with that speed. It could be fun to watch that.

ben's picture

Brandin Cooks is a Top12 pick 2 me. On par with Watkins & Evans, and a special player I'd love to watch every Sunday. I think he could bring 2 things this nearly complete team needs. Another fantastic weapon returning kicks and a polished receiver who can fly.

Then again, Rounds 3-6 are absolutely loaded with intriguing WR talent.

I prefer VanNoy's tape & production or Shazier's upside to CJ Mosely. I'm hoping we don't invest a top pick in Dix, Pryor, or certainly Benjamin.

I can see taking Deone Bucannon or Jimmy Ward at the end of the 1st, but for me the only 1st round safety prospects are Justin Gilbert & Ryan Shazier.

L's picture

I think the priority of attention still hasn't switched from Safety regardless to J.Jones signing with Oakland; and in regards to that priority position I still hope TT considers bringing in former safety Pro Bowlers Thomas DeCoud (1x) and Roman Harper (2x) as well as Patrick Chung who wasn't a Pro Bowler, but like the others was cut by their team for financial reasons as well as consistency issues (I believe). None of them if signed would count against the Pack earning compensatory draft picks and they would instantly give the team some veteran leadership as well as a skill upgrade at a position that needs it probably the most. Thomas DeCoud was a Free Safety who's performances were up and down, but would allow M.Burnett to remain the Strong Safety. If they thought it best to move M.Burnett to Free Safety they could look at bringing in Roman Harper who is probably the best available of these three I mention, but is also the eldest. I'm not sure how someone like Patrick Chung and M.Burnett would best be teamed together if he were signed - FS or SS, but maybe it's worth looking into; but if he's signed it would have to be for hardly any guaranteed money given that he didn't have a very productive season last year and might end up just a back-up for the Pack if they draft a top round talent or M.Hyde proves capable of taking over the starting spot.

EDIT: Roman Harper has just signed a 2 year deal with the Carolina Panthers, so I guess nevermind him.

Bearmeat's picture

There's LOTS of talent at WR/CB/DL (and even C) in this year's draft. Better players than "normal" will be available at those positions in rounds 4-7. But TT absolutely HAS to get one of the top ILBs/S/TE's (preferably all 3) in the first 3 rounds. The defense absolutely NEEDS an infusion of talent up the middle, and the offense's ability to mix it up down the seam is a big part of MM's playbook.

Mosley/Dix/Pryor/Buchanon/Ward/Ebron/Sefarian-Jenkins/Amaro...

ballark's picture

Said it once, will say again: Jarvis Landry.

Dude is Mr. Dependable. His slow 40 could drop him to rd 2 or 3. But he gets open and he catches everything. Tough as nails.

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