INDIANAPOLIS––If the Packers stay put at No. 28 overall in the NFL Draft in April––and there's no guarantee they will––there's 13 players I've identified that fit the criteria of being available and may interest the Packers.
All but one are on defense.
It's no surprise the Packers need help on defense. Ted Thompson preaches that he'll select the best available player, but with the talent they've accumulated on offense, it's becoming increasingly difficult to envision the Packers selecting a player on offense, even if they do believe one is the best player available.
The one exception might be center if Scott Wells leaves in free agency. And even if that does happen, the Packers might look for a short-term replacement in free agency.
With Green Bay needing help seemingly at every position on defense, there's very likely to be at least one player available that they both like and is still on their board.
Here's my baker's dozen of players that I think one of which will be wearing the green and gold come April...
- Peter Konz, center, Wisconsin––Arguably the best center in the Draft. Konz comes from a program known for churning out elite offensive linemen. He's also shown he can be effective on the move with the way the Badgers like to have their offensive linemen pull.
- Devon Still, defensive lineman, Penn State––After a tremendous senior season in which he was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, Still is climbing up draft boards. He had 4.5 sacks as a senior, but even more impressive was his 17 tackles for a loss. Has the ability to be a three-down player.
- Michael Brockers, defensive lineman, LSU––He's got the size and athleticism you look for in an elite player, even though at 6-7, he's a little taller than most Packers defensive linemen. He came off the field a little more at LSU than would be expected of a first round draft choice.
- Dontari Poe, defensive lineman, Memphis––He's built from the exact same mold as B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, short yet stout players who are ideal for the Dom Capers defensive system. The issue with Poe is, if the Packers draft him, where will the pass rush come from? He's not a sack artist.
- Fletcher Cox, defensive lineman, Mississippi State––Cox is slightly underweight at a shade under 300 pounds, but he maximizes his size. He played both the run and the pass pretty well in college, but will he be able to do the same against bigger and better offensive linemen in the NFL?
- Jerel Worthy, defensive lineman, Michigan State––Similar to Cox, he's slightly undersized. He was downright dominant at times at Michigan State, but the knock against him is that his motor runs hot and cold. He might be a pass rush specialist until he figures out how to be reliable against the run in the NFL.
- Brandon Thompson, defensive lineman, Clemson––Might be the best marriage of run stuffer and pass rusher after Still. He's big enough at 314 pounds to hold up against the run and nimble enough to be a good pass rusher as well.
- Kendall Reyes, defensive lineman, Connecticut––Another guy who's slightly undersized and hasn't quite reached 300 pounds, but he's a late riser after a dominating performance at the Senior Bowl. If he can play against both the run and the pass like he did in Mobile, he can probably make it in a 3-4 defense.
- Whitney Mercilus, outside linebacker, Illinois––With both Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram likely to be gone by 28, Mercilus might be the next best potential outside linebacker. There's concerns that he's a one-year wonder, but his big-play ability he displayed in 2011 is hard to deny. The 16 sacks and NCAA-leading nine forced fumbles are very impressive. He might be stiff, but he's still young enough to adapt.
- Nick Perry, outside linebacker, USC––Performed very well against Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin who's considered a first-round draft pick. The comparisons to Clay Matthews will always be there just because he's an outside linebacker from USC.
- Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, South Carolina––There's a lot of comparisons to Charles Woodson, and many of them are valid. Gilmore is a physical corner with size that can defend the slot and still has the speed to cover receivers downfield.
- Chase Minnifield, cornerback, Virginia––Has the size the Packers look for in their corners. If he has the speed to match it, he'll be highly regarded. It helps his cause that Virginia's defense greatly improved in his senior season. Son of former Browns corner Frank Minnifield.
- Mark Barron, safety, Alabama––Probably the only first-round safety. He's equally good in run support and dropping into coverage. Not afraid to mix it up with bigger guys. He can grab the interception and blitz and also cause havoc on the blitz as well.
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