Inside Linebacker an Unlikely Packers First Round Choice

If one would take a poll of Green Bay Packers fans as to what position general manager Ted Thompson should choose in round one of the 2016 Draft there is a good chance that inside linebacker would top the voting. The chances of that happening however are slim. 

If one would take a poll of Green Bay Packers fans as to what position general manager Ted Thompson should choose in round one of the 2016 Draft there is a good chance that inside linebacker would top the voting.

The chances of that happening however are slim.  Let me explain why.

With the stated desire of Packers coach Mike McCarthy to move Clay Matthews back outside as a primary rush defender the middle of the Packers defense especially at ILB would seem to be an even greater area of need.

The two top candidates for inside-backer are projected first rounder’s Reggie Ragland (6’ 2” 259 - Alabama) and Myles Jack (6’ 1” 245 – UCLA).  Ragland is the more obvious choice for an ILB needy team.  Jack is highly thought of but may project better to the outside in the NFL.  Neither is likely to be available when the Packers pick at #27. 

Others who have an outside chance to sneak their into the first round are Jaylon Smith (6’ 2” 235 - Notre Dame) and Scoobie Wright (6’ 2’ 245 - AZ).  Smith will probably be drafted in round 2 -3 and is coming off a significant injury which would likely mean that he may not be ready to participate in training camp.  Wright is also coming off an injury which robbed him of all but three games last season.

An attractive candidate for Thompson later in the draft might be Kentrell Brothers from Missouri who would be a true inside linebacker.  A highly productive collegian Brothers notched over 100 tackles last season and plays with a non-stop motor.

The other reason that Thompson would pass on an ILB in round one and perhaps even rounds 2 and 3 is the he may very well feel more comfortable at the position with players already on hand than do a majority of Packers fans.  Rookie Jake Ryan was far from a difference maker when he did play late in the season but showed enough potential that there is reason to believe that in time he may very well be the answer with proper coaching and more time on the job.

The Packers will also get Sam Barrington back from injury where he was limited to just one game this past season.  The tandem might very well carry equal value to the Packers and preclude them from needing to reach for a linebacker early in the draft.

It could be effectively argued that there is greater value in rounds 1 – 3 at positions other than ILB and that is where the Packers will find the biggest bang for their buck.  Tight end, both the defensive and offensive lines and wide receiver might yield the better player at the top of the draft.

With the scouting combine Thompson will certainly have to take a close look at the linebacker position – but the selection will almost certainly come in the later rounds.

 

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Comments (30)

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Razer's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:24 am

I think that you crawled inside TT's head and saw the board. Unless a couple of the blue chippers (Jaylon Smith or Myles Jack) fall to us, I doubt that we use that 1st round pick on an ILB. I don't know if Ted would go for Ragland if he was available for our pick. The better value may be in rounds 2 or 3.

It is the dilemma of picking at the bottom of the rounds. It might be better trading the 27th pick for a high 2nd and 3rd round pick

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:44 am

This is a well-reasoned article, Jeff. If perchance Ragland does fall to #27, It might depend on whether TT views Ragland as a 3-down ILB. Some do, some don't.

I also agree that better talent probably will be available at different positions, likely DL, OLB, possibly LT - by which I do not refer to TT's alleged devaluation of the ILB position.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:39 am

Jaylon Smith is considered a top 20 prospect. The only thing that may prevent him from being drafted there is his torn ACL that he had.

Wright is more likely a 3rd round prospect. He is similar to Chris Borland when he came out. Very good instincts. He is more of a true football player like Borland was, versus pure athlete. That will likely drop him down to the late 2nd to early 4th round area.

One player that I wouldn't mind seeing the Packers looking at in around the 4th round area is Jatavis Brown. The MAC DPOY. Watch him in the 4th Quarter of the NFLPA bowl game and you will see why. The guy dominated the 4th Quarter. He has sideline to sideline ability, and plays bigger then his size.

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croatpackfan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 08:38 am

You might be right. Maybe he is the answer...

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Handsback's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:48 am

Jaylon Smith COULD have nerve damage in his knee and that will be the issue with him. I don't know if he's far enough along to determine that. So I'm not sure how far he will fall until TT would pull that trigger.
ILB isn't a position that TT considers 1st round worthy unless there's a talent sitting there that can transform the position. Like AJ Hawk was suppose to do. So players like Brown, Wright et all will be in play in the latter rounds.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:51 am

"It could be effectively argued that there is greater value in rounds 1 – 3 at positions other than ILB"

Yep, and since Thompson will probably not sign a reasonably priced veteran the coaches will be forced send the same players out there next year. It's too bad, anyone who watched the playoffs got to see what LB's who can cover do for a defense. I hope Ted was watching too and can admit to him self the fact that they don't have one.

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Razer's picture

February 25, 2016 at 08:21 am

... I hope Ted was watching too and can admit to him self the fact that they don't have one...

The slide after the 6-0 start was the best thing that happened to last year's Packers. I think that we all saw the flaws on this team, including TT and MM. At times it was painful to watch that team, although the grit of the players was evident in the end.

I think that we are going to see a Raji/Matthews kind of draft. While Ted won't make a splash in FA, he knows that the window is closing. I am predicting a killer draft.

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EdsLaces's picture

February 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

Brothers would be a steal in the 2nd. I don't understand drafting Smith in the first round. He could possibly miss his first season? I understand he might be a great ilb but missing an entire season is huge. The more I think about it the more I think the value in round 2 will be there for mlb. Billings Butler Lawson or by some freaking miracle Nkimdiche or Spence would be a godsend for this team. Not impressed by Reed at all...

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Flow49's picture

February 25, 2016 at 02:00 pm

I'd be supremely happy snagging Brothers in rd 2. He's quick he can cover and he can tackle. May be my mizzou alum side talking but I'd be all for brothers.

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badaxed's picture

February 25, 2016 at 10:50 am

I see TT trading down and trying to get as many 7th round picks he can get. MM's job is to coach them up. Right?

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zoellner25's picture

February 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

I love this site, but some of these stories are just fluff. Nobody knows who Ted will pick. Nobody.

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Littlejim51's picture

February 25, 2016 at 11:34 am

Darren lee! LB from Ohio state has popped on mock drafts to the Pack in first round. Also at 20 to Jags

I really doubt a 3 down ILB will be available at 27
There are many talented DL available in rd.1 Ted will take a DL or trade out for a second+

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4EVER's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:25 pm

Football games are won in the trenches, this is a fact and not arguable! Making DL or OL the best statistical choose at 27. And it just so happens to be a real need for the Pack. LT and both OG are heading for FA in 2017. DL could sure use something top tier in the middle. The number of times Raji, Guion were pushed straight backwards - 5 yards + - into LB view and attack lanes was astronomical and depressing.

But the winning model, year in and year out, says trade down in rounds 1 and 2 and standing strong by also moving up or collecting additional picks in the TT rounds 3 and 4. It's true, again, year in and year out, that the NFL throws out there a select group of misguided GM's and personnel. Find them and take em to the cleaners. It's nothing personal just business.

TT must avoid debacles like in 2010; moving up just 15 spots to 71, and giving up 86 and 122. I do not have the numbers on that one, but it surely had to be a reach.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:37 pm

To add to that. The DL group is arguably the best position in the draft this year. The strongest at the top and the deepest.

I can definitely see them going for DL in the first round.

I am guessing they come away with 2 OL in the draft. Both will likely be mid round guys. (that is where Thompson has had the most recent success).

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Evan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:40 pm

But if the DL is the best and deepest group, wouldn't it make more sense to wait until later rounds?

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dobber's picture

February 25, 2016 at 02:19 pm

I think this is one of the safer position areas to pick, too, and why TT will likely go there.

The question is: are you trying to hit an HR at #27, or are you looking for a red-chip, gonna-play-for-you-for-8-to-9-productive-years guy at #27? If the answer is the latter, then DL or even OLB are the likely spots there.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 08:33 pm

Evan, I assume your question is rhetorical, but it is valid, imo. When we are on the clock at #27, my guess is that there will be a front 7 prospect, possibly a DL, who last year would have have been picked in the late teens and probably has a solid 1st round grade. I think we should take that guy, the best player on TT´s board. Is this a philosophical issue, or should it be on is it a case by case thing? I don´t want to get bogged down by names and each person´s opinion of a player, so say TT has Hunter Henry with a 1st/2nd round grade (or an ILB or OT with that 1/2 grade, for example but not a solid 1st rd. grade), and those guys are there at #27. Should TT take Henry, figuring that there will be a good front 7 prospect still available at pick #56, or should he take the front 7 prospect he likes better who has a solid 1st round grade at #27, or trade back?

One example is A) taking Jarran Reed, Spence, Dodd, Jaylon Smith in the 1st; or B) or passing on them to take someone else like Henry or Conklin, figuring that Johnson, Butler, Fackrell, Floyd or Jenkins will be there at #56? Trading back depends on how many guys with solid 1st round grades are still available at #27. In 2013, MN traded up to #29, giving up #52, 83, 102, and 229 (2nd, high 4th, and a 7th). In 2012, MN again moved up to #29 and gave up #35 and #98 (a 4th that yr), while NE got #25 in exchange for #31 and #126.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:42 pm

Great article Jeff! However, there is no way Jaylon Smith drops the 2nd round. I'll gladly come buy you a steak if we're lucky enough that he makes to the Packers pick!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 08:48 pm

You are probably right. Smith had an ACL and LCL tear. I have read that he might miss all of 2016 but also that he might be ready for a decent part of his rookie season. Makes a big difference to me. Physically, will he have the same explosiveness he had college?

Might be an interesting article going back to see how dropping a high pick on a player who is expected to miss his rookie season due to injury works out for the team. I can only think of Willis McGahee, taken by Buffalo with the 23rd pick in 2003. I guess that worked out, as I know McGahee earned a big FA contract in 2007.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 26, 2016 at 07:00 pm

Looks like Jeff may be getting a steak. Schefty is reporting nerve damage as another astute poster referenced. You're welcome to join us tgr.

It's a shame that Smith was injured in a meaningless bowl game. Hopefully sure 1st rounders will start protecting themselves and say "thanks, I've really enjoyed College U, good luck in that bowl game".

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D Ernesto's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:50 pm

I got the packers taking a tight end and or an offensive linemen with the one depending on who's on the board. They could use some backup help on the O line and have numerous free agents hitting the market next year. Albeit most of those guys will be long in the tooth and not starters elsewhere so Ted should be able to keep most and just let the line age gracefully.

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idgafkurt's picture

February 25, 2016 at 03:45 pm

I'm a big proponent of the Packers selecting Su'a Cravens from USC at the end of Rd. 1 and playing him at ILB.

After seeing the success of Deone Bucannon, who like Cravens was a SS that converted to LB, I think the NFL might be moving to more undersized, speed based ILB's, especially in a 3-4 D.

Cravens could be a 3 down ILB, great in coverage (something they sorely lack at that position), he'd add a lot of speed to their front 7, and he'd allow Clay to move back to OLB; thus, improving 2 positions on their already solid D.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 05:02 pm

Interesting player. Walter Football's yesterday update has Cravens going #45 to the Rams. Will be interesting to see where he is after the Combine.

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AgrippaLII's picture

February 26, 2016 at 12:10 am

You've got to look at the skill positions TT values most QB, LOT, CB, and DE/OLB (pass rushers) and start eliminating from there. Packers don't need a QB which is good because I don't see one Ted would be interested in anyway. LOT is a possibility but not a pressing need...he can get OL depth later in the draft. The same can be said for CB position. I think Ted will be looking for a pass rushing DE or OLB in the first round...and if he sees he isn't going to get one he'll try to trade back. That said...if he can't trade back he'll reach for a pass rusher.

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sonomaca's picture

February 26, 2016 at 12:52 am

I can't believe what I'm reading. The Packers have not drafted a skill position player in round 1 since Rodgers in 2005. And you know what? IT SHOWS!

The best QB in football and he doesn't have enough weapons. That's criminal, and it wrecked the Packers chances this year.

Unfortunately, this year doesn't feature deep talent at receiver and tight end. If a good one is available at 27 (Hunter Henry), TT has to pull the trigger.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 26, 2016 at 05:55 am

Jordy, Cobb, GJ, Finley, Lacy? Yeah, ole TT really hasn't drafted decent "skill" position players at all.

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sonomaca's picture

February 26, 2016 at 01:23 pm

I didn't say TT hasn't drafted well. He has.

However, we have no difference maker at TE or receiver right now. I don't believe Nelson is going to be the same player. If the Packers don't get a top flight skill position player, I don't see that 2016 is going to be much better than 2015.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 26, 2016 at 07:02 pm

Wasn't trying to be mean. All for Hunter Henry.

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Maverick91's picture

February 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Good article man, there really won't be any ILB's who will make an immediate impact available at pick 27, so we should sign Danny Trevathan or Jerrell Freeman in FA. Here are who I think we should take in the first 3 rounds:

- Round 1: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Oklahoma State
- Round 2: Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State (absolute STEAL!)
- Round 3: Chris Jones, DE, Mississippi State

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mrtundra's picture

February 27, 2016 at 01:57 pm

I think TT will go for a big OL or DL guy in the first round as those players go quickly. Our O line needs to be bolstered just because of the injuries our guys seem to always get. Our D Line can use an upgrade, or two, as well. I think the BPA, on either the DL or OL, when our pick comes up is who TT goes with. He won't grab an ILB in the 1st round and I'll bet he steers clear of FA, too.

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