INDIANAPOLIS––Just because the Green Bay Packers took defensive players with their first six draft picks last year doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to go heavy on offense this time around.
The Packers have plenty of needs on both sides of the football. Outside of quarterback and cornerback, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if they addressed a need at almost any other position in the first round.
To be sure, certain positions might make more sense than another. And it all depends upon who’s available when they’re on the clock with the 26th pick come April.
If the Packers stay put at 26, and there’s no guarantee they will, they’ll potentially be considering a list of players that contains several names from the group comprised here.
A few of these players may already be gone, and seeing as this list is being created pre-Combine, it’s possible a one or two can drop entirely out of first-round consideration with a poor workout, medical exam or interview.
Without further ado, here’s the second annual NFL Combine edition of the “Baker’s Dozen”…
- Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones––As we saw in Sunday’s mock draft survey, Jones is a name frequently popping up as going to the Packers. But does Alabama’s team success and Jones’ name recognition overshadow that he was less of a force than his teammates on the Crimson Tide offensive line? Jones has the ability to play any position on the offensive line, but the Packers would have to consider him their starter at center if they’d take him in the first round. Being versatile is simply a bonus.
- North Carolina interior offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper––Cooper has been a guard during his college career, and a darn good one at that. Behind Alabama’s Chance Warmack, he’s the second-best guard in the Draft and has future Pro Bowler written all over him. But can he play center? The Packers have a lot of money invested in their guards, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. But Cooper simply might be too good to pass up. Even though many guards don’t go in the first round, it could be a situation like 1994 when the Packers couldn’t afford to let Notre Dame’s Aaron Taylor slide any further. Look for the Packers and other teams to find out if he can play center if he lasts until No. 26.
- Wisconsin interior offensive lineman Travis Frederick––Jones might be a hot name because he was a part of three national championship teams, but Frederick is the center the scouts love. “As far as Travis Frederick at Wisconsin, the center, he’s similar to Barrett Jones a little bit from Alabama, my No. 1 and my number three centers,” said the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock on a recent conference call with reporters. Former NFL executive and current SiriusXM NFL Radio host Gil Brandt has the Packers taking Frederick in the first round as a junior entry.
- Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert––The John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end, Eifert didn’t have quite as good of a season as senior (50 catches, 685 yards, four touchdowns) as he did as a junior (63 catches, 803 yards, five touchdowns), but Notre Dame’s success as a team in 2012 was obviously much improved, and Eifert was a big part of it. At 6-6 and 251 lbs., Eifert is part of the next generation of hybrid tight ends but still has the size to play in-line. His blocking needs help, however.
- Stanford tight end Zach Ertz––With almost the exact same frame as Eifert, Ertz is another tall tight end known more his receiving skills than his blocking. After just 16 and 27 his freshman and sophomore seasons respectively, Ertz exploded onto the scene as a senior with 69 receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns. His season highlights included a touchdown in the upset over No. 1 ranked Oregon that sent the game into overtime and game-winning touchdowns against No. 2 USC and No. 13 Oregon State. Ertz enters the draft as a junior.
- Alabama running back Eddie Lacy––Like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson before him, Lacy looks to become the next Alabama running back selected in the first round for a third consecutive year. Ingram and Richardson entered the NFL as juniors, and Lacy will too. There’s always the question of whether it’s worth it to draft a running back in the first round when good ones can be found later in the draft (or even after the draft), as well as the Packers should invest in a running back when they’re offense is so heavily predicated on the pass. If the Packers determine that Lacy is a Pro Bowl talent, however, he’d be hard to pass up no matter what reservations there might be.
- Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien––Josh Norris of NFL.com is leading the charge on the Johnathan Cyprien bandwagon, having him going as early as No. 21 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Most mock drafts don’t have Cyprien going that high, but Norris might be onto something. After an impressive Senior Bowl, observers are starting to catch on. The range displayed by Cyprien to get sideline to sideline is impeccable, and he can play either strong or free safety. With Charles Woodson gone, the Packers may look to find a starter in the first round.
- Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro––It’s not as if Vaccaro isn’t a good safety, but whether he’s a top 10 overall draft choice, like some have him going, is debatable. He’s helped by the reputation of Texas sending good defensive backs into the NFL, but this is a guy whose highest interception total in a single season is two. Interceptions are not the be all and end all metric for safeties, but with a first round draft pick, you want the complete package. If Vaccaro slips into the twenties, the Packers will consider him.
- North Carolina State defensive back David Amerson––Perhaps the wildcard of the bunch, Amerson is not being considered as a first-round cornerback, but he could be if considered at safety where he’ll be able to keep everything in front of him. In a recent online conversation with Chris Steuber of Ourlads.com, Steuber compared Amerson to Ed Reed. Comparisons like that are not thrown around lightly. After leading the NCAA in interceptions with 13 as a sophomore, Amerson came back to earth with five interceptions as a junior. At 6-3, he’s probably better suited for free safety at the next level.
- LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter––Taking an inside linebacker in the first round might depend upon what the Packers do with A.J. Hawk. But if he’s released, the Packers might look to become more athletic at the inside linebacker position. Alec Ogletree of Georgia and Manti Te’o of Notre Dame are also possibilities, but each has off-the-field concerns that will likely push them out of first-round consideration. Minter was a tackling machine at LSU where he racked up 130 tackles, 15 of them for a loss in his junior season. He’s an early entrant.
- Ohio State defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins––At 6-3 and 335 lbs., Hankins moves with more sudden movement and explosiveness than most men of his size. He enters the draft as a junior and might not last until No. 26. But if he does, the Packers might look to add depth on the defensive line knowing that Jerel Worthy has undergone offseason knee surgery and might not be ready in time for the start of the season.
- Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Jenkins––Jenkins is even bigger than Hankins. Both are 6-3, but Jenkins carries roughly 350 pounds on his frame. He’s a space eater and could do a good job plugging holes in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. Jenkins moves pretty well for his size, but the criticism is that he can turn his motor on and off and can get worn down late in games.
- Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams––This barrel-chested Australian has more brute strength than most other players in the Draft. However, he offers little pass rush. With Ryan Pickett being the oldest player on the Packers’ roster at 33 years of age, the Packers could take his eventual replacement in Williams and get essentially the same player, a run stuffer who will come off the field on passing downs.