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Packers Connections at the Senior Bowl: Kenny Ladler, Trent Murphy

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Packers Connections at the Senior Bowl: Kenny Ladler, Trent Murphy

With general manager Ted Thompson and many other Packers representatives down in Mobile, Ala. this week at the site of Senior Bowl practices, the NFL draft rumor mill is getting heated up and there's couple items of note coming out of the college all-star game practices.

Because of the glaring need at safety in Green Bay, Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is predictably hot on the trail of players at the position, and learned that the Packers scout spoke with Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler this week.

First of all, our obligatory reminder that a Packers scout simply speaking to any particular player is essentially meaningless. The entire scouting department will talk to almost every draftable prospect at some point over the course of the next several months.

But this does present a good opportunity to discuss the connection between Ladler and the Packers, because of the need for a safety and Ladler being a top-ranked prospect.

As Dunne notes, there's the growing connection between Vanderbilt and Green Bay with former Commodores defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson already wearing the green and gold.

It would appear the Packers have maintained a close relationship with former Packers assistant coach James Franklin, who had been the head coach at Vanderbilt for the past three seasons before recently being hired by Penn State.

And as Dunne also notes, Ladler was a turnover machine in college.

"The 6-foot, 200-pound Ladler has started in Vanderbilt's defense since his freshman year, actually playing alongside Sean Richardson," writes Dunne. "He made plays — consistently — in the country's best conference. A first-team all-SEC selection, he was the only FBS player with five forced fumbles and five interceptions."

Because he doesn't play at Alabama and his head coach doesn't have a reputation for developing first-round safeties like Nick Saban, Ladler is flying under the radar right now. But make no mistake, Ladler is every bit the player as the higher-profile Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of the Crimson Tide and a bigger playmaker.

The NFL Combine and its numerous measured drills will play a large part in determining both players' relative value, but I am confident in saying right now that Ladler is not a fourth or fifth round prospect as projected by NFLDraftScout.com. He will likely go on Day 2 and may very much be a target of the Packers if they don't go after a safety in free agency.

Another rumor emanating from the Senior Bowl is the Packers' purported interest in Stanford defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid Trent Murphy, coming from WalterFootball.com.

"The Packers are also interested in Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy," writes draft analyst Charlie Campbell. "Green Bay has some edge rushers in Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, but both players have dealt with injuries. Murphy (6-5, 252) fits the mold as an edge rusher in their defense as he led the nation with 15 sacks last season. If Murphy falls to their second-round pick, that would be ideal for Green Bay."

As usual, take this information with a grain of salt coming from an unnamed source, but once again, this provides as good an opportunity as any to take a closer look at Murphy.

The Packers have invested recent first round draft choices into Matthews and Perry in the past couple several seasons, but as seen in both 2012 and 2013, they have trouble staying healthy.

If Matthews and Perry are available, they figure to be among the best players on the Packers defense, but the organization can't afford to stand pat, especially with Mike Neal becoming a free agent.

It's notable that Murphy measured in smaller at the Senior Bowl (6' 5 3/8", 252 lbs.) than his published size at Stanford (6' 6", 261 lbs.), perhaps hinting that he's more linebacker than defensive end.

According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, "Really liked the overall game Murphy showed today.  He was able to hold the point out of a three point stance and never gave up an inch of room to opponents.  Murphy also displayed a good deal of agility and easily moved about the field.  In a nutshell he was stronger and more athletic than anyone thought."

And like Ladler, how Murphy performs at the Combine will go a long ways toward determining how high he gets drafted. Scouts are going to want to see how well he moves in space, doing things like dropping into coverage, typical things asked of a linebacker and things he didn't do on a frequent basis in college.

But it also remains to be seen how high a draft choice the Packers can afford to invest into an outside linebacker before also addressing positions of greater perceived need such as safety, inside linebacker and tight end.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

Comments (14)

Hank Scorpio's picture

If Murphy can function in space, why can't he be moved inside in GB?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Maybe he could. It's just a big transition and a big risk for a guy who's played in the trenches almost exclusively. It wouldn't happen overnight.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Think of Jamari Lattimore. He was a DE in college, and has transitioned from DE to OLB to ILB now. It has taken him a while.

I would think that Murphy doesn't have the 'prototypical' body to do it. I think he is a more of a fit at OLB in the 3-4.

Hank Scorpio's picture

A kid from Stanford is probably pretty smart. I bet the learning curve would not be as sharp as it might be with some other guys. If I'm wrong about that, I have zero doubts Matthews can function inside if they had a credible replacement for him outside.

My point is that they don't have to limit themselves to looking at guys that are projected at ILB to improve ILB. At this early point, my poking around draft sites suggests ILB is not a real strength of this year's draft. If that's true (and I don't claim to know), the scouting staff needs to get creative.

Stroh's picture

Too many people already bitch about drafting college DE and having them play OLB. Don't know if your one of them or not... But Murphy isn't suited for ILB. By far his best position would be DE or 34 OLB. OLB are asked to play less in space than ILB and at his height he would be at a major disadvantage in coverage. His long build is far more advantageous on the LOS where length is an asset. Length is disadvantageous in space.

KB's picture

GB regularly drafts 4-3 OLB's and plugs them inside.

IMO Murphy is a horrible fit for a 3-4 ILB. Just doesn't make sense with his height and size. You don't want a player like that covering quicker/smaller players in space over 50% of the time.

ILB you want a player more in the 6'2-3 235-245 lb range that is more agile yet still stout against the run.

Watching tape of Murphy, I don't see that out of him.

I also couldn't imagine dropping Matthews into coverage more than he already is. You want your best pass rusher getting after the QB as much as possible. He already drops into coverage enough being a 3-4 OLB. Would be amazed if he was moved inside anytime soon.

RC Packer Fan's picture

This was a great article.

I have been high on Ladler. I am looking forward to seeing how he plays at the Senior Bowl. If he tests out well, I think he will be a 2nd round pick.

When watching him play, something about him reminded me of Nick Collins. He seemed to move well, (not to the speed of Collins) but he seemed to move well and was another player that seemed to always be around the ball. That would lead me to think he has good instincts.

Ebongreen's picture

Speaking of bizarro-Ted, I've been toying with the notion that he might be willing to ante up for either Jimmy Graham or Jairus Byrd.

Crazy talk, I know - but hear me out.

If the Packers were serious about potentially breaking the bank for Jermichael Finley, why not actually break it for a guy who's only a year older and has been both far more durable and more productive and with a similar skillset?

As for Jairus Byrd, I imagine the money will come down to signing him vs. inking Sam Shields. There's only so much money you can put into a secondary, and the Packers still have Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde, Casey Heyward and Davon House at corner. Safeties are cheaper than corners (generally) and with Drew Rosenhaus as his agent, Sam isn't likely to settle. I could see Thompson making the trade-off and saying, "Byrd is cheaper and at a position of greater need. If he's interested, let's get him."

Of course, the likelihood of either of these coming to pass is about on par with me getting struck by lightning twice, but we're allowed to imagine - right? :)

Evan's picture

Taking money from Shields and putting it toward Byrd would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Personally, I think they can afford both (Shields and a FA safety that is, not necessarily Byrd. Maybe Ward or a guy like Clemons.)

Hank Scorpio's picture

I think the Saints are planning on tagging Jimmy Graham.

4thand1's picture

Yep

TommyG's picture

You're probably right. I don't see any chance on them letting him go.

HUMP's picture

nice job ebongreen! rosenhaus will not let shields sign for less than 10 mil yr,and byrd or ward would be considerably less and are both better players period.good safety's generally are football players cuz they love to play football,where as cb is usually a guy like shields with God given speed and talent,that once they break the bank as asamoah did,they turn into fragile primo-donnas that take the money and chase the girls and never return to form!!

jamie's picture

I don't really want to draft Clinton-Dix. I know Saban has a good reputation as a DBs coach and he gets a lot of them drafted, but when has an Alabama DB done anything in the NFL recently. Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Miler, and Mark Barron have all been underwhelming relative to their hype.

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