The Green Bay Packers are currently slotted to pick at No. 26 overall in first round of Thursday's 2013 NFL draft.
We've established a first-round big board to help sort out who the Packers could eventually take with that pick later this week.
The prospects are separated into two categories: players in the "Likely to be Gone" section are near-locks to be taken before No. 26 overall; the remaining players worthy of first-round selection are sorted into a final big board.
A combination of personal evaluation, information gathering and positional need helped establish the big board. A vast collection of mock drafts were used to decide which players would likely be off the board by No. 26.
Likely to be Gone
--OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
--OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
--DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
--OLB Ziggy Ansah, BYU
--CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
--OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
--OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
--OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
--DL Star Lotulelei, Utah
--DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
--DL Sharrif Floyd, Florida
--S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
--WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
--DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
--QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
--CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
--WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
--OG Jonathan Cooper, UNC
--OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
First-Round Big Board
1. DL Datone Jones, UCLA
Powerful five technique with extensive experience in the 3-4 defense. Weighs 283 pounds, but plays much bigger than his size; routinely took on double-team blocks at UCLA and still pushed the pocket. Can be devastating with his hands in one-on-one situations. Stanford simply couldn't handle him for long stretches in Pac-12 title game. Has ideal length; measured at 6'4" with 33" inch arms at the combine. If need be, frame suggests that he can add weight.. Occasionally stood up as a edge rusher or was asked to be a one-man line across from center. Hustle on every snap, a leader on the field. Impressed at the Senior Bowl. Could be an immediate three-down player. Should be plenty of competition for his services before No. 26 overall. Jones, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett would make an attractive base front.
2. S Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
NFL-ready body at 6'0" and a well-built 217 pounds. Uses his build to make his presence known against both the pass and run. Most experienced playing in the box; finished his career as FIU's all-time leading tackler. Possesses range as a centerfield type, as evidenced by impressive track and catch against Louisville. Straight-line speed isn't elite, but he plays much faster on tape than his 40-time. Fearless hitter when the ballcarrier is in his vicinity. Capable as either strong or free safety, while providing a vocal, passionate leader in the secondary. Impressed almost everyone at the Senior Bowl. In the Dashon Goldson mold, but maybe more athletic. Could very well be gone by No. 26. Immediate starter potential alongside Morgan Burnett.
3. TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
The most complete tight end in the class, without much question. Lined up as an in-line tight end, "X" receiver and in the slot, and was productive at each spot. Tested well at the combine but doesn't always win in the passing game with athleticism. Makes all the catches, including those in traffic, with consistency. Attacks and tracks the football in the air. Combines 6'5" frame with a 36" vertical. Obvious that improvement in the blocking area was important to him; he improved every season while in South Bend and is now a capable blocker. Wouldn't be a shock if he was off the board at No. 26. Losing Greg Jennings in free agency opens up play-making opportunities, and Jermichael Finley might not be long for Green Bay after 2013.
4. S Matt Elam, Florida
Violent, electric ball of confident energy. Only 5'10", but packs 208 solid pounds on his frame. Uses that compact frame to impose his will against ball carriers. Consistently flashed as a playmaker when near the line of scrimmage; is experienced as a blitzer and covering receivers in the slot. Very good straight-line speed. Exudes confidence during and after the play. Willing and able to contribute on special teams. Very likely to be available at No. 26 overall, but might be too small size-wise. Would be expected to start alongside Burnett right away.
5. ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Somewhat undersized, but you wouldn't be able to tell watching his film. Plays strong and fast, with instincts to find the football and make the tackle even when taking on bigger blockers. Athletic marvel who can play sideline-to-sideline and cover tight ends and running backs in space. Almost never misses a tackle. Picked off both Robert Griffin III and Geno Smith in his collegiate career. Respected leader. Toss up if he'll be on the board at No. 26, and recent decisions at inside linebacker suggest the Packers are set at the position, at least for 2013.
6. OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
A monster of a man who is best suited to play right tackle. His 6'5", 339-pound frame allows him to maul defenders in the run game. Might be better inside as a guard. Serious question marks about how he'd hold in the passing game against faster, more athletic rushers at the next level. Almost zero chance he could be a suitable answer at left tackle, making first-round value a debatable point. If he's taken at No. 26 overall, the Packers would then plan on moving Bryan Bulaga to left tackle for the first time in his professional career.
7. RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
A battering ram of a back who should be able to handle 25 or more touches every game at the NFL level. Weighs 231 pounds, and possesses a strong lower body capable of running through tackle attempts. Agile and fluid in his movements despite his size. Not an every-down home-run hitter, but he's far from a "plodder." You do wonder if he's dynamic enough to be a first-round pick, and his pass protection leaves a lot to be desired. Question marks surrounding how he tested this offseason. The Packers could team him with DuJuan Harris and create the best 1-2 running punch they've had in Green Bay during the Rodgers era.
8. S Eric Reid, LSU
Athleticism is elite, and he predictably tested well at the combine. Size is also a big plus at 6'1" and 213 pounds, with 33 5/8" arms. LSU asked him to play in the box and as a free-ranger, and he proved equally adept at both callings. Few safeties in the class close faster or hit harder, although he sometimes runs himself out of plays. Some prefer Reid in the second round, but who knows how long he'll last after No. 26.
9. DL Jesse Williams, Alabama
One of the strongest players in the draft, with the versatility to play on the nose and at the five-technique. Strength and a high motor will make him a potential starter right out of the gates. Uses his power to get under the pads of linemen and disrupt plays against the run. Provided very little in terms of a pass rush and may never have much of an impact against the pass. Toughness and size are obvious positives that the Packers might like, although No. 26 might be too rich.
10. ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
A former safety who has the athleticism you'd expect from someone making that transition. Can aggressively close on plays in space, sideline-to-sideline. Possibly the top inside linebacker prospect covering tight ends and running backs. Accomplished blitzer from the inside. Struggles to take on and shed blocks, and would rather avoid linemen than take them on head-first. Off-the-field red flags. Potential three-down player, but a serious risk at No. 26 overall, especially at a position with established depth.
11. OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
Super raw, but obviously moldable. Limited football experience could give him an unthinkable ceiling, especially considering how many steps forward he made at tackle in such a short time. Athletic, with light feet and a perfect frame (6'5", 34" arms). With much tinkering still needed, it's very difficult to project him as a rookie starter at left tackle. Will also turn 25 years old during his rookie season. If there's not an overwhelming offensive tackle on the board (he isn't one), Green Bay should skip the position at No. 26.
12. DE Margus Hunt, SMU
His ceiling is as high as any player's in this draft. Measures 6'8" but still ran in the 4.6 range and put up 38 reps at 225, which is about as rare a combination as you'll find. Tape doesn't always match up to the measurables and can disappear from games. Still raw and will need good coaching to be dominant at the next level. Blocked a ridiculous 17 kicks during his collegiate career. The former junior gold medal winner in track and field will turn 25 years old in July, which might turn some teams off. He might be too risky for the Packers to take at No. 26, but his all-world ceiling is certainly enticing.
13. DE/OLB Tank Carradine, Florida State
At 276 pounds, you question his fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker or at the five technique. Potential diamond in the rough if a 3-4 coordinator could get creative. Plays with explosion off the snap and agility to bend and work around tackles. Hand usage is among the best in the class, with an ability to swipe away reach attempts with ease. A torn ACL stunted his meteoric rise, but his rehab appears ahead of schedule. An obvious fit and injury risk at No. 26, but there's big-time potential reward, too.
14. TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Versatile and big-bodied target who has experience across the offensive formation, playing inline and in the slot. More of a smooth, fluid athlete than explosive. Hands and blocking ability might both be a step down from Eifert, but only slightly. Nice to get better as an inline blocker. Excelled at making catches away from his body and securing yards after the catch. Did have some problems with concentration on "easier" catches. Some have compared him to Jason Witten. Might be better as a second-round option.
15. DL Sylvester Williams, UNC
An active, high-character lineman who is an interesting fit in the 3-4 defense. Could potentially play on the nose, but off-the-ball quickness suggests an impact as a five-technique. Has a wide body and is strong at identifying the football. Not a great pass rusher or pocket collapser. Needs to become a more versatile weapon. The value is debatable for the Packers at No. 26 overall.
16. WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Experienced, productive receiver who knows how to separate with deceptive route-running. Can win with footwork and route manipulation and has the quickness needed in and out of breaks. Makes all the catches with ease, using 10" hands and 34" arms to secure the football no matter where its thrown in his catching radius. Doesn't have burner speed and won't out-physical many NFL corners with size. Has big upside in a high-volume passing offense like Green Bay's. Might be attractive considering the loss of Jennings and free-agency status of Finley and James Jones after 2013.
17. CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
Strong football bloodlines but has a chance to be the best of the family. Has strong pressing abilities and uses his length to play the football in the air. Opened eyes at the Senior Bowl and then blazed through the NFL combine (4.38 seconds). The Packers are set at cornerback, making his selection at No. 26 an unlikely scenario.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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