2016 Draft Class NFL Player Comps

The easiest way to explain a draft pick to fans is to compare a player to a curent NFL player.  I've been doing this for the last two years on PackersTalk.com (you can view 2014 here and 2015 here).  They're never perfect and almost by rule, they're quite optimistic.  The reality is that all seven of the players that Ted Thompson selected aren't necessarily going to be stars, starters, or even role players.  

These comparisons are more about the things that these players excel and struggle with than it is a true projection of their NFL "ceiling".  As you can see in the previous two years' comparisons, sometimes these comps work out (HHCD, Linsley), sometimes they do not (Thornton, C. Bradford).

Round 1- Kenny Clark: Bennie Logan, NT, Philadelphia Eagles

Clark is such a difficult athlete to project, because (and this has been talked to death) he is such a young player at such a big man's position.  Clark played nose tackle in UCLA's system without carrying a lot of excess weight.  A lot of nose tackles have a "gut" and you certanily don't see that with Clark.  At 6'3" and 314 pounds, Clark looks a little more like a 4-3 DT at this point, but film study shows that he is plenty comfortable playing a 1-tech nose in a 3-4 system.

It's certainly possible that by the time Clark plays out his contract in Green Bay (he'd be 23 years old), he'll be carrying 325 or 330 pounds.  Right now, however, he does not and it doesn't really show up on film.  If you're looking for deficiencies in Clark's game, being too light and getting pushed around is not among them.  Another very good run defender who plays nose at a lighter weight is Bennie Logan of the Eagles.  Logan is a  serviceable nose tackle who is still looking to develop pass rush at this point in his career.

Clark is a very productive player from a tackle perspective, but not many of those tackles are for loss or are quarterback sacks.  Run defenders are important and Clark might be a very good one right away, but the NFL is a passing league.  Clark has the potential to be a very good player in the NFL, but his ability to affect passing downs will ultimately define his long-term value.

Round 2- Jason Spriggs: Jared Veldheer, OT, Arizona Cardinals

Jared Veldheer was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders during the height of their obsession with combine measurables.  Like Veldheer, Indiana's Jason Spriggs is a long term project at left tackle that might take a year or two of seasoning.  Possibly because of some early struggle, Veldheer didn't stick with the Raiders but is now a very good player for the Arizona Cardinals.

I wouldn't expect the Packers to make the same mistake, or to need the same early contributions that the Raiders did from Veldheer.  Veldheer came from Division II Hillsdale College.  Spriggs is also from a non-traditional college power at Indiana, though his experience against edge players like Shillique Calhoun and Joey Bosa in the Big Ten should have him a little more prepared for the big time than Veldheer was.  

The hope for the Packers and their fans is that the "seasoning" that Spriggs needs consists of the 2016 season and the 2017 training camp.  With four of their top 6 offensive linemen playing on expiring deals in 2016, Spriggs will play somewhere on the 2017 offensive line.

Round 3- Kyler Fackrell: Paul Kruger, OLB, Cleveland Browns

This comparison borders on "too convenient". Let's find a white-guy outside linebacker and use a whole bunch of cool words like "grit", "motor", "first guy in the weight room, last one to leave".  This really isn't that.  

Fackrell really does play a lot like Kruger.  Kruger (a college defensive end), at this point is the superior pass rusher, but Fackrell is a better player in coverage.  Both are adequate, but not great against the run.  Kruger received a $40 million dollar contract to jump ship from the Super Bowl champion Ravens to play for the Browns in 2013.

The Packers would be elated to get a player who produces at a level commensurate with Kruger, but would be wise to use him a little differently.  Kruger is expected to be a three down player, as anyone who makes $8 million a year in this league should be.  Fackrell (probably like Kruger) should be used on 2nd and 3rd down in a rotation with a better run defender.  Because of elephant edge defenders like Datone Jones and Nick Perry, he should be afforded that luxury with the Packers.

Round 4- Blake Martinez: KJ Wright, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Stanford's Blake Martinez and KJ Wright of the Seattle Seahawks have the potential to have more in common than the number 50.  Wright was a fourth round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2011, and Martinez was selected in the fourth round this season by the Green Bay Packers.  

Wright is a little bit longer player than Martinez, at 6'4" in comparison to Martinez's 6'2".  Both players appear to be rock solid in pass coverage, despite a lack of elite measurables.  Neither Martinez or Wright are slouches athletically, but neither player runs the 40 in the mid 4.5s.  Pro Football Focus ranked Martinez as the top coverage linebacker in all of college football in 2015, and ranked Wright 5th in the NFL. 

Wright isn't considered a perennial Pro Bowler, and Martinez might not be either, but pass coverage as a linebacker is a skill that can lead to a long NFL career.  Martinez, like wright, has the potential to make a big impact on special teams before becoming a regular on defense.

Despite Packers' fans pleas for a highly drafted linebacker, the Packers now have three fourth round picks (Martinez, Jake Ryan and Carl Bradford) and an overachieving 7th rounder (Sam Barrington) at the position.  I'd expect the defensive coaching staff to take the next few seasons to see what they have before making a huge investment in the position.

Round 4- Dean Lowry: Mike DeVito, DL, Kansas City Chiefs

At this point of Dean Lowry's development, he projects as a one trick pony in the NFL, but it might be a hell of a trick.  Mike DeVito, formerly of the Jets and Chiefs is a similar player.  Devito is a few inches shorter than Lowry, but Lowry's oddly short arms present the potential that he might not play as "long" as he is tall.

Lowry figures to be a 5-tech run stopper on the strong side of defensive formations, as DeVito has been for the Jets and Chiefs.  Despite his lack of height, DeVito has played in a 3-4 his whole career and made a living out of beating up on guards and tackles on early downs.

It's certainly possible that Lowry could develop the ability to rush the passer, but at this point the Packers figure to use him on early downs as a base 3-4 end to help Kenny Clark control the opposing run game.

Round 5- Trevor Davis: Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns

Trevor Davis was the most difficult player to find a comparison for in this draft class.  The dichotomy between his measurables and his production level at California is noticeable, especially because it can't be explained by quarterback play.  Davis is an elite athlete who might not contribute right away in Titletown.

Davis is by no means a dead ringer for Travis Benjamin, as he's three inches taller.  Their path to playing time, though, might be strikingly similar.  Benjamin does two things very well, run deep routes and return kickoffs.  At least right away, that's how Davis is going to have to make an impact on the Packers.

Thompson continued his effort to provide Rodgers with weapons this offseason, adding Davis to former Rams and Titans tight end Jared Cook.

Round 6- Kyle Murphy: Mitchell Schwartz, OL, Kansas City Chiefs

Murphy was my favorite selection by the Packers in this draft.  My hope is that despite his height (6'6"+) he can be a moveable chess piece with the ability to be a plus starter at a number of different positions across the Packers' offensive line.  I had a third round grade on Murphy, who is in my opinion a passable right tackle already.

Mitchell Schwartz has made a career out of being a talented enough player to become one of the highest paid right tackles in football.  Schwartz, also from the Pac-12 is the high end of what Murphy could be.  Schwartz is an inch shorter than Murphy, but both players have the length required to protect the right side while being very good run blockers.  Murphy opened a lot of holes for Christian McAffery and Stepfan Taylor at Stanford.

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Ross Uglem is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @RossUglem 

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Comments (19)

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dobber's picture

May 16, 2016 at 04:20 pm

If Trevor Davis turns out to be a Travis Benjamin, I think we would be very happy with that.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 16, 2016 at 07:47 pm

I went back and watched some of last season's film and I'm almost certain the WR battle is between Abby and Davis. If Abby didn't have injury problems it wouldn't even be a battle.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

May 17, 2016 at 09:55 pm

Time will tell, but chances are that one of these guys gets hurt again or is not completely ready to contribute (Montgomery?). Thus, I doubt seven will be kept, but who knows? Davis is officially on the roster now in my opinion....Ted almost always hangs onto a top 5 pick the first couple of years.

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Travis_Jervey's picture

May 16, 2016 at 05:01 pm

Really cool piece. I went back to your last two versions and you had some good calls! Hoping you're right on a few this time around.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 16, 2016 at 07:19 pm

Sorry, not a fan of these comparisons. For every one that seems somewhat apt, there is another that makes me wonder.

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John Galt III's picture

May 16, 2016 at 07:43 pm

"Clark does not have a gut?"

If he is No.97 in the UCLA uniform you show, he has a gut. Anyone else see a gut?

Nothing against his abilities but my eyes see something maybe you don't.

Try this angle - maybe not Vince Wilfork but.....

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/202/files/2016/04/ncaa-foot...

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 16, 2016 at 07:50 pm

He put it in quotations for a reason.

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Ross Uglem's picture

May 16, 2016 at 09:44 pm

I meant it as a comparison to other 3-4 nose tackles. Clark is 314 pounds and looks like a normal 4-3 defensive tackle. Also how is proving that he does indeed have a little gut even remotely constructive football discussion?

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dobber's picture

May 17, 2016 at 07:24 am

He ain't no Big Grease, that's for sure...

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porupack's picture

May 17, 2016 at 12:25 am

Nice article Ross. It was fair and good way to introduce us to the rookie class; some I didn't know much about. Loved your Fackerell-Kruger post Yeah, you anticipated what posters would say. Also nice on Spriggs and Martinez. You accomplished what you set out to do...give fans some idea of players style and ability, and usage potential, while not predicting that they would accomplish to that player.

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NickPerry's picture

May 17, 2016 at 06:32 am

I read Russ on "Packers Talk" and I like these Comparisons he does. I'd say if these players if 4 of these players turn out like those they're compared too, this was one hell of a draft. The Packers drafted 2 really good O-Linemen, 2 D-Lineman who can stop the run, 2 LB's who can both cover extremely well, and a WR who has both speed and good hands. When you combine that to what the Packers already have a Offense and Defense it looks as though Ted addressed about every need and drafted quality depth. The LB'ers especially addressed a sore spot for years in this Defense, Coverage LB'ers.

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Tundraboy's picture

May 17, 2016 at 09:52 am

Thinking and hoping the same thing.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 17, 2016 at 06:40 am

Very nice article. I like the comparisons.

One comparison I have seen by a few on Trevor Davis is Emmanuel Sanders.

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Ross Uglem's picture

May 17, 2016 at 07:06 am

That's an interesting comparison and obviously Packers fans would be thrilled. Like Benjamin, Sanders is noticeably shorter than Davis, but I understand the similarities in style. It was a slow burn for Sanders, too, with only 98 catches over the course of his first three seasons.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 17, 2016 at 07:30 am

One thing is clear though in making these comparisons. Davis has speed. Speed that is much needed in our offense.

I would love to see them find ways to use Davis's speed in the offense. Even if only used a handful times a game, having some specialized plays designed for him would be really nice to see.

Obviously he has an uphill climb to make the roster and then to compete for playing time. But I would still like them to find ways to use each players strengths.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

May 17, 2016 at 10:03 pm

I could not agree more RC. But then again, where was our WR "concepts" & ingenuity last year? Hoping for better!!

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Since'61's picture

May 17, 2016 at 09:28 am

Ross - nice job. What I liked about your comparisons is that, with the exception of Bennie Logan, you compared the draft picks with a player who I would not mind seeing play for the Packers. If they all turn out like the players compared with this would be a great draft for the Packers. I think the 2 OLs, 2DLs and 2 LBs will provide much needed depth at their respective position groups almost immediately. Trevor Davis will need a very strong camp to stick with WR group but he may convince the Packers to keep 7 WRs on the 53. Thanks, Since '61

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blue eyes's picture

May 17, 2016 at 04:42 pm

Solid looking draft but i might weap a little if Davis doesn't pan out and Jerell Adams beasts out in NY.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

May 17, 2016 at 10:10 pm

I very much enjoyed this, Ross, and the context provided....thank you! I sure hope as a #1 draft choice, Clark provides more than just run support.

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