Cory's Corner: Willie Gay Jr. Fits The Bill

 
The two most important words associated with the NFL Draft when it comes to the Packers are value and versatility. 
 
The Packers have more than one hole and according to overthecap.com, they have $20.4 million in cap space right now. 
 
The intersection of those two attributes may have shown itself in Indianapolis over the past few days. Enter Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay, Jr. Coming into the NFL Scouting Combine, Gay was ranked No. 304 overall and No. 28 among linebackers according to CBS Sports. 
 
Then he wowed NFL scouting departments and front offices with an impressive 4.46 40-yard dash and a 39.5-inch vertical jump. Those were good enough to be in the 97th percentile among off-ball linebackers since 1999 according to Mockdraftable and 93rd percentile. Oh, and let's not forget that he led all linebackers in the broad jump at 136 inches. 
 
It's no secret that the Packers have a desperate need at inside linebacker. Blake Martinez is trying to squeeze water from a stone by asking for top dollar in free agency and Oren Burks hasn't proven anything in two seasons and the expectations entering his third year aren't overly exceptional. 
 
What many teams have been timid about is that he was suspended eight games this past season for an NCAA violation and for getting into a fight with Bulldogs quarterback Garrett Shrader.
 
The question is, can the Packers overlook those off-field transgressions? I would hope so. Is it a gamble? Heck yes it is. What were the biggest ingredients that were missing when the Packers played the 49ers? Explosiveness and speed. Gay has both of those things and even though he is climbing up other team's draft boards, Green Bay can still get plenty of value out of him. 
 
The Packers will have to package some picks to move up in the third round, but it will be worth it. The middle of the defense has been as soft as pudding and it's time for a change. The previous regime never prioritized the inside linebacker position and Gay appears like he would be perfect for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine by playing all over the field.
 
Versatility and value are the keys to NFL Draft. Gay fits the bill. 
 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (26)

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Guam's picture

March 03, 2020 at 07:13 am

I'd like to know more about why he was suspended and why he was fighting with his QB. Character matters with the Packers and these could be serious red flags. Yes we need help at ILB, but not at the expense of our reputation.

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MITM's picture

March 03, 2020 at 08:04 am

He got caught cheating on a chemistry test and punched his starting QB in the face in practice causing him to miss the Bowl Game

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Leatherhead's picture

March 03, 2020 at 09:37 am

Well, that’s a pretty big red flag to me.

Running fast and jumping high is not going to replace Blake Martinez.

According to reports, the Martinez camp wants about $10/million and the organization is looking at more like $8. Of course, how the money is structured is key but that’s about what it’s going to take to get Littleton or Schobert. The market value on these guys is probably $10 million and up, so the Packers are either going to pay that or look for help in the draft.

But not this guy. There are better options.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 04, 2020 at 09:52 am

Base on past free agent markets, I doubt any of the guys will get a 10 million plus offer. Heck, 10 million is likely to be overpaying the player at the position. Agents always try to puff up the market every year (it's what they do) and every year reality lands with a thud. I think the only position close to the magic number will be tackle. And I doubt we'll see much above it. (Of course it all depends on how the CBA plays out. Longer this goes on, worse it will be for the owners. Too bad they didn't have a completed offer for the players to consider..)

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mamasboy's picture

March 03, 2020 at 03:44 pm

We can't have him punching Rodgers in the face. If he cheats on tests he's a perfect fit for the Patriots.

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The_Justicar's picture

March 03, 2020 at 05:57 pm

Well, perhaps we allow the threat of a punch to the qbs face if the qb holds the ball too long and over looks wide open receivers on short routes? No? I kid! Tough crowd.

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Hematite's picture

March 04, 2020 at 05:52 am

Hmmmm, sounds like bad chemistry.

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stockholder's picture

March 03, 2020 at 07:41 am

Versatility and value are the keys to NFL Draft.???? Then don't trade picks. The packers are going to have to REACH for players this draft. Knocking yourself out of any round is not value. And Pettine won't trust his Defense to any ILB. Gay is a Quality Pick. So was Burks. But the packers blew picks. And going for this guy early, would cost us a better/Additional players again. The ILB position must be filled through Free Agency. Blow the money. Not the picks. Selecting Defense in a Rich offensive draft is a mistake. We need to Re-load. Not pick underwear hopefuls. Gay Was not on anybodies radar before the combine. He should not be a love affair of the imagination. We don't need versatile. We need a ILB.

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NickPerry's picture

March 04, 2020 at 03:38 am

"Blow the money. Not the picks. Selecting Defense in a Rich offensive draft is a mistake. We need to Re-load."

This should be on Gute mirror in his bathroom at home and in his office so he looks at it every day.

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scoonie_penn's picture

March 03, 2020 at 08:16 am

I get a Vontez Burfict vibe from this guy.

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mrtundra's picture

March 03, 2020 at 08:52 am

That's what I thought! Burfict! Would this guy be a penalty factory if GB drafted him? I like the fact he punched his QB in the face. I'd hope he could do the same for opposing QBs. I mean, if he's going to get penalized, he might as well do something worthwhile to get that flag thrown at him!

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The_Justicar's picture

March 03, 2020 at 06:00 pm

I agree. I love tap to a qbs face gets the same penalty as a punch to the face (without using the helmet as a weapon ala Myles Garrett). Though many fans want us to be a tougher team. Sometimes you need a character risk to get tough.

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Razer's picture

March 03, 2020 at 08:44 am

Don't know the player at all. Great - he tested well at the Combine. Just like Burks, Gary and all the other combine trained athletes. How did he play in his college career? How did he play against top flight opponents?

The Packers need to avoid the project approach to drafting, particularly in the high rounds. Let's get some guys who showed that they know football and have proven themselves through their careers. At this point, this guy may only know how to fight with teammates and run fast.

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Lare's picture

March 03, 2020 at 08:53 am

Gay's bio from NFL.com- 6'1" 243 lbs.-

"Gay looked to be on the upswing after a promising sophomore campaign in which he posted 48 stops, 5.5 for loss, five sacks and two interceptions in 13 games with six starts. He was limited to playing in five games as a reserve (28 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one interception, one pass breakup) during his junior year, though, as he was held out of eight contests due to NCAA violations pertaining to an academic tutor. Reportedly, Gay and starting quarterback Garrett Shrader got into an altercation late in the year. Gay was a top-50 overall recruit who led Starkville High School to a state title before committing to his hometown school. He played in all 13 games as a reserve linebacker and on special teams in 2017 (23 tackles, two for loss, one sack, two pass breakups)."

"Gay has experience lining up in a variety of linebacker roles, but might not have the feel to play in the middle on the next level. He's hard to miss on the field with his flailing arms and energetic playing style. He's a healthy hitter once he squares and attacks ball-carriers. He lacks instincts and angles to mirror ball-carriers from the gaps to the flanks, but he does a nice job of sticking and finishing when he's in position. His play speed and athleticism appear to be average and he has some zone cover talent. Carving out a defined role will be important if he is to make an NFL roster."

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ShooterMcGee's picture

March 03, 2020 at 04:22 pm

If he is still available in the 6th round he may be a good pick. Could start on special teams while learning how to play ILB. Trading up in the 3rd round would be a huge mistake, same as the Oren Burks pick. Let the players fall and draft for value. The more picks the better.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 03, 2020 at 06:19 pm

He's not falling on charts.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 03, 2020 at 11:07 am

I think that all the posters have expressed my opinion as well. Sounds like a resounding no!

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PatrickGB's picture

March 03, 2020 at 11:10 am

Sorry, double post. I edited it out. But the same opinion. Still, I would think that a good ILB remains a strong need by the team. I hope we get one.

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Lphill's picture

March 03, 2020 at 12:06 pm

Packers will sign a free agent ILB and draft another,Gay would be a nice pick , Packers need a linebacker with some attitude , the last one we had was Nick Barnett . We need some nasty on the D .

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wildbill's picture

March 03, 2020 at 12:09 pm

A warrior attitude, not a thug attitude.

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Stroh's picture

March 03, 2020 at 09:29 pm

Bishop had far more attitude than Barnett. He was a better player too, until he tore his hamstring off the bone. That effectively ended his too short career.

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ShooterMcGee's picture

March 03, 2020 at 04:25 pm

He went from #304 to top 80 with just his combine. He is athletic but can he play ball? We need players not workout warriors.

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JamesLofton's picture

March 04, 2020 at 07:03 am

Sign Littleton and draft any one of Joe Bachie, Malik Harrison or Jacob Phillips in the mid rounds.

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lowcsp's picture

March 04, 2020 at 09:24 am

zack baun

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billy96's picture

March 08, 2020 at 04:27 am

The middle of the defense has been as soft as pudding and it's time for a change.
https://tabbysspotlesslyclean.com/

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Archie's picture

March 28, 2020 at 04:53 pm

Is he Nitcske? If so, I'll take him.

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