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Packers First Round 2014 NFL Draft Prediction: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

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Packers First Round 2014 NFL Draft Prediction: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

As long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, the window to a Super Bowl is open. The goal of the team's front office should be not to squander it.

While the offense could use a big, seam-busting receiving threat and someone to grab the center position by the horns, Rodgers and running back Eddie Lacy generally have that side of the football under control.

The best and quickest way to improve this Packers team is to upgrade the defense.

By adding Julius Peppers, general manager Ted Thompson made the organization's biggest splash in free agency since signing Charles Woodson in 2006. And it shouldn't end there.

When the Packers are on the clock with the 21st overall selection, the prediction here is Thompson will continue swinging for the fences and take Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, a player predicted to be still on the board.

Obviously, this prediction assumes the Packers stay put and don't trade either up or down. And things could change based on how the draft unfolds in real time, but the guess more than 48 hours away is that Shazier will be available and the Packers will take him.

Shazier declared for the NFL Draft after his true junior season as a 4-3 weakside linebacker for the Buckeyes.

Playing at just 228 lbs. in his final season in college, the concern is that Shazier won't be able to hold up on the inside of a 3-4 defense like the Packers run, struggling to get off blocks from much bigger offensive linemen and being prevented from making the big plays he made in college (45.5 career tackles for a loss).

At the NFL Combine, however, Shazier weighed in at 237 lbs. and the extra nine pounds didn't appear to affect him in the least. His 42-inch leap in the vertical jump was the most of any player regarless of position and a display of the explosiveness he possesses.

Shazier also had the top broad jump of any linebacker (130 inches) and had one of the top five fastest three-cone drills (6.91 seconds) among players at his position.

Although a hamstring issue prevented him from running the 40-yard dash at the Combine, Shazier was clocked as low as 4.35 seconds (and as high as 4.41 seconds, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com) at his pro day at Ohio State in March, showing the added weight didn't slow him down.

At this time of year, the desire to compare and contrast is unavoidable, and as such, observers are quick to juxtapose Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley, thought to be two of the best inside linebackers in this year's Draft class. Whereas Mosley is stronger and stouter, capable of using his hands to stack and shed, Shazier has the higher ceiling.

Speed is Shazier's best quality. While some might worry that he'll struggle to disengage from blocks, the tradeoff is that he'll be able to avoid blocks with his quickness better than 99 percent of other linebackers.

Shazier is better able to find creases, knife his way into the backfied and make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Such ability makes him the better pass rusher of the two, whether he's asked to blitz up the gut or occasionally come off the edge. 

Arguably, Shazier is the more undisciplined player, liable to miss more tackles, but at just 21 years old, there's room for Shazier to grow, both from a learning standpoint and in defining his body—upper and lower.

Paired with an unselfish linebacker like A.J. Hawk willing to take on blockers, Shazier would be the perfect foil, free to react and attack. And thanks to his speed and fluidity, he could instantly become a three-down linebacker, able to stay stride for stride with receivers in pass coverage.

In Ted Thompson's tenure as general manager, he's recognized the unbelievably high expectations placed upon first round picks. Earning millions of dollars, there's already enough pressure from the fan base, so Thompson doesn't take chances from a character standpoint.

Shazier would seem to fit the same mold. Son of the team chaplain of the Miami Dolphins, Shazier considers himself a person of faith, integrity and discipline and doesn't have any red flags off the field.

Drafting a safety in the first round isn't out of the question in Green Bay either, and it could be a situation of "pick your poison" for Thompson on Thursday when the first round gets underway.

If Thompson passes on an inside linebacker in the first round, both Shazier and Mosley are likely to be gone by the time the Packers pick again with the 53rd overall selection.

Conversely, if they address inside linebacker in Round 1, the Packers may not have the opportunity to grab a safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Deone Buccanon, Jimmie Ward and Terrence Brooks in Round 2.

Might that influence them to trade down in Round 1 or trade up in Round 2 to get one player at each position? 

We don't have much longer to find out.

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.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I'd be very happy with any of Shazier, Clinton-Dix or Prior. They've got to get some talent in the middle.

I wouldn't call any of the guys they have at MLB or S highly talented, athletic or fast by NFL standards.

Zoellner25's picture

Shazier can probably run 4.5 at 245 lbs, not a concern there. I give equal odds to the drafting of one of four guys (Mosely, Shazier, Clinton-Dix or Pryor). I'd take any of them over Brad Jones or any of our current safeties.

YGB69's picture

Shazier is great ... take him in the first at 21.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

Any of these mentioned would improve the team.

L's picture

I warmed up quick to the idea of the Pack choosing Shazier at 21 and now I find it hard to argue why they'd take anyone else over him if he's available unless a clear top 10/15 talent (defensively speaking) dropped to them but I doubt Jadeveon Clowney, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, or Justin Gilbert will still be available.

4thand1's picture

Beating a dead horse for 2 extra weeks sucks. This draft really needs to get here. 75 more hours. Cya's at 8 pm Thursday night.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

It is about ready to drive me nuts.

Clay Zombo's picture

If liking Shazier, Mosley or Pryor is wrong, I don't want to be right.

What happens if none of these guys are available?

I keep thinking the 49ers really want a WR(or so I assume) and with Philly sitting behind us at 22 most likely to take a WR after the Jets at 18, that puts us in position to trade down with them at 30 or another QB needy team in the top of the 2nd round like Houston.

So who would you want at 30 or 33? Jimmy Ward Deone Buchanon, Kyle Van Noy Terrence Brooks and Stephon Tuitt are a few of my choices in those spots.

Would that be so bad plus an additional pick or 2?

Stroh's picture

"What happens if none of these guys are available? "

Don't even think it Clay! That scenario would be the worst thing I could imagine. Probably have to trade down, but none of the choices at 30 or 33 would excite me a lot either. Ward might fit there, but it still seems a little high. Brooks and Tuitt possibly, but that seems a bit high too. Certainly too early for Bucannon and VanNoy (late 2nd or 3rd round).

I would add possibly a WR in that area too. But would rather not use our 1st round pick on a WR. The depth at WR runs into the late 2nd and 3rd round IMO.

Gotta find a way to come away w/ Mosley, Shazier, Pryor or Clinton-Dix. That's all there is to it...

Clay Zombo's picture

Hey man I have to think about it that's all there is left to do...

Now despite your previous objections to Aaron Donald, hes still my favorite player in this draft and if he falls out of the top 10 than my preference would be to go up and get him. Hes a top 5 pick in my mind and would provide the most immediate impact for the Pack. Its highly unlikely but still my preference. I doubt he makes it out of the top 10 anyway so its a moot point.

My other favorite player in this draft is actually Kyle Van Noy, I love his instincts, no hes not fast like Shazier or a natural ILB like Mosley but I do not doubt he could move inside and be a very productive ILB for us. Don't get me wrong I think both Mosley and Shazier are good picks at 21 but if we don't get one of them it won't break my heart.

In general this years safety class is pretty week and if you don't get one in the first 2 rounds you might be screwed. That's why getting Pryor, DIx, Buchanon, Ward, Brooks or Joyner is a priority early IMO.

All in all I just want a good football player, not the fastest or the strongest but the best player we can get at 21 and 53 despite our immediate needs. If one of thos BPAs is at a position of immediate need than that's awesome but get a frickin good player please.

Clay Zombo's picture

Ok I don't like the idea of making the 9ers any stronger especially at our expense but its the draft and anything can happen like the last time they took a 1st round WR in AJ Jenkins(BUST).

Allan Murphy's picture

#1thing best player ..........................

Allan Murphy's picture

if all them gone i would take bucannon guys a beast safty/cb/fs look at a clip oml scary !

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Agree with Stroh: we need a playmaker. Need to come away with Shazier, Mosley, Pryor or Dix. If all were gone then trade down unless someone of interest drops, which seems unlikely. Might be able to trade down to #26 and conceivably still get maybe Shazier and pick #106, but it's a gamble. Shazier keeps getting mocked higher and higher. Trading down to #33 (Houston) or #35 (Cleveland) as mentioned above or to #36 (Oakland) wouldn't excite me, but should net pick #65, 67 or 71, roughly. At #33/#35, might still get Nix, Tuitt, Moncrief, Hageman, conceivably Fuller, and I feel TT could do some damage with picks #53, #65/67/71, #85, #98, just not sure if there would be an infusion of talent at ILB or FS with those picks without reaching. Since I don't think Bucannon is a FS, I would rather wait and pick up Brooks at #67 or Vereen later (maybe with #106 if GB traded down to #26 with Cleveland. Not ideal though.

JimTaylor31's picture

I think Shazier would excel providing Raji and Co. can keep the OL from getting to him and allowing him to find gaps and penetrate. I did a little homework on Shazier and found that when teams were able to get one of their OL on him early he got pretty much tied up. When the D-Line protected him he was very effective. If Shazier is the pick then Raji or whoever is in front of him become very key. I think Shazier and Pryor's stock may be rising a bit though. Too many rumors etc. Time to just get it going.

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