The transition into the NFL offseason is now in full swing, which means free agency and the draft are soon about to take full control of the league's news cycle.
Of course, that also means it's now mock draft season.
In the days since the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, a full breadth of draft analysts have unleashed their first or most recent mock drafts.
Just keep in mind, it's still really early. At this time last season, many were still mocking Barrett Jones to the Packers in the first round. With that said, here's who most of the big guns in the draft world are mocking to the Packers at No. 21 overall:
Todd McShay, ESPN (2/6, Insider required): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
If the Packers re-sign Sam Shields and decide to keep Tramon Williams, I'm not sure Gilbert will be a very likely option. Where does he play? Shields, Williams, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde make up a solid four. And that's not even including Davon House. If Shields bolts or Williams is cut, then Gilbert makes more sense.
Mel Kiper, ESPN (2/6, Insider required): S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
If you haven't already, familiarize yourself with Pryor. He's nearly universally slotted as the first or second best safety in this class, and the Packers' need at the position is well documented. Pryor runs well, matches up in single coverage and can bring the boom. The Packers could use more of all three on defense.
Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated (2/6): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
It's somewhat easy to understand the attraction to Gilbert. He has the size, ball skills and return ability to make an immediate impact. And let's not forget, the Packers defense ranked 24th in passing yards, 27th in passing touchdowns and 26th in interceptions last season. There's plenty of room for improvement here. If Thompson sees the value, it's easy to see him pulling the trigger.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report (2/2): ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Not many mocks have Mosley dropping to the 21st pick. But if the board happens to fall that way, the Packers would have a homerun pick on their hands. Athletic, instinctive and disruptive, Mosley is everything the Packers are missing at inside linebacker. He's an immediate starter, one that a defense can build around. But again, those type of players don't typically fall to No. 21.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com (1/14): S HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Most still have Clinton-Dix as the best safety in the class. The problem with that projection is that a consensus talent at an increasingly important position probably doesn't have a chance to make it all the way to No. 21. That said, Clinton-Dix hasn't won everyone over. Colleague Brian Carriveau believes Calvin Pryor is the better safety, and by a healthy margin.
Drafttek (2/6): WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The one outside-the-box pick here comes from Drafttek and Jersey Al. But before you trash the idea of picking a receiver in the first round, consider both the value and Ted Thompson's history of picking long-term value over immediate need. It's not crazy. And can you imagine the offense adding a weapon like the 6'5" Evans? He could help replace the production that may be lost through James Jones and Jermichael Finley.
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: DL Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
The former Gopher is an explosive athlete at 6'6" and 311 pounds. His physical profile certainly sounds like a fit at defensive end, where the Packers do not currently have a penciled-in starter for 2014. There's potential for serious turnover up front on defense. And Thompson has a history of a picking one position in the first round over back-to-back years. In both 2010 and 2011, he selected an offensive tackle with his first pick. There's big-time boom or bust potential with Hageman.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: DL Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
If the Packers lose any combination of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly to free agency this offseason, there will be an urgent need for size along the defensive line. Nix offers it in spades. His ability to play on the nose or at the five technique will be attractive for 3-4 teams.
Nate Davis, USA Today: TE Eric Ebron, UNC
Losing Jermichael Finley—either to Dr. McKenzie's call or free agency—feels like a near-certainty. If that ends up being the case, the Packers could replace him with Ebron, who offers the same type of package at tight end. He's a rare athlete with size and speed, but a non-factor in the run game. But is the first round too rich for a tight end when other needs are more pressing? We'll see. Buckle up for three months of draft mayhem.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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