5 Mid Round Sleepers The Packers Should Target In The 2021 NFL Draft

The Packers have done a great job finding value in the 1st round the last few years. To get over the hump, they'll need to get more mileage out of their mid-round picks. Here are 5 mid-round prospects that could help them get to the next level.

The draft is one of my favorite times of the year.

I spend an unhealthy amount of time studying it because I find it so interesting.

We've heard a lot about Rashod Bateman, Caleb Farley, Christian Barmore, and other potential 1st round picks for the Packers, but the real meat of a team is built in the later rounds. Sure, you want to find blue chip stars early, but the teams that get ahead are the teams get guys like David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones with Day 3 picks.

Here are 5 playes I'd love to see the Packers get in this year's draft that could all be around as late as Day 3:

 

JOSH IMATORBHEBHE
Wide Receiver, Illinois - 6'2 215
His measurable are fantastic, including a 46.5" vertical and 24 reps on the bench. He plays physical and has very strong hands, giving him a huge catch radius (including a natural ability to catch back shoulder throws). My favorite part of him is how mature and well-spoken he comes across in interviews - like a guy with simmering confidence who is eager to show the world what he can do. He seems like a future locker room leader and fits the definition of "Packer people."

So why might he be around on Day 3? For starters, he has slow timed speed, running a 4.53. That's not terribly slow (it's in the Davante Adams range), but teams value speed, especially in a class full of super fast receivers. He also has a ding against him because he ran a limited numbers of routes in his college offense. There's nothing in his game to suggest that he can't run all the routes, though. A big, strong, not-super-fast receiver with great hands, this guy feels like he was built for a Matt LaFleur offense.

 

BENJAMIN ST-JUSTE
Cornerback, Minnesota - 6'3 200
My biggest draft crush of the year, St-Juste has been flying up draft boards and may not be available on Day 3. Rightfully so, as he has a unique combination of physical gifts and playing technique. With an 80" wingspan, he re-routes receivers off the snap and is a menace at the catch point. The highest-graded cornerback at the Senior Bowl, St-Juste also plays the run well, using his frame to support the edge. With his size and willingness to play the run, he would allow the Packers the same defensive scheme flexibility they had with Kevin King, but without the injury concerns.

So why might he be around on Day 3? Well, this class is top-heavy with cornerbacks. Guys like Patrick Surtain, Caleb Farley, Asante Samuel, and Jaycee Horn are dominating the 1st round talk. Guys like Greg Newsome and Ifeatu Melifonwu are leading the next tier. A guy like St-Juste, who runs in the mid 4.5 range, never intercepted a pass in his college career, and doesn't have the quickness to rotate to the slot, looks like someone who will get pushed down.

 

MARVIN WILSON
Defensive Line, Florida State - 6'3 320
A year ago, it seemed absurd to think of Marvin Wilson as a potential Day 3 sleeper. In 2019, he was one of the top defensive linemen in the country with a 90.7 PFF rating. A high-energy guy, he played all over the line and was disruptive from every position. With a quick get off, a killer swim move, and good hand usage, he was a pass-rushing menace who also held up just fine against the run, especially in back-end pursuit.

So why might he be around on Day 3? Well, after his great 2019 season, he dropped weight and didn't look the same in 2020. He lost a lot of weight in his lower body, which impacted his power and made it harder for him to penetrate an defend the run. Injuries may have also played a part, but he looked downright ineffective at Senior Bowl practices. If he falls to Green Bay on Day 3, the Packers would need to get him in the weight program immediately. Once his body is back in shape, there's no reason he can't return to his 2019 form and become an immediate contributor on a defensive line that sorely needs reinforcements.

 

POOKA WILLIAMS
Running Back, Kansas - 5'10 170
A patient runner that waits for zone holes to develop, Pooka Williams also has the speed and acceleration to go the distance any time he gets a crease. His 4.37 speed makes it easy for him to beat defenders to the corner and he looked very smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. The Packers surprised some of us when they re-signed Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones after drafting power runner AJ Dillon in the 2nd round last year, but Pooka Williams could step into the Tyler Ervin role in the Packers offense, running jet sweeps and catching out of the backfield, while taking some rotational rushing attempts. Williams also did some work kick returning in college and scored a touchdown on a return last year.

So why might he be around on Day 3? Size is the big obvious issue here. Pooka is a little guy with a frame that doesn't look like it can add a lot of additional mass. He also has some fumbling concerns. Also, the modern game has been emphasizing running backs less and drafting them lower. In the last 3 drafts, only one running back (Saquon Barkley) has been taken before the 24th pick. There are solid, complete backs in this draft and a small gadget player like Williams almost certainly won't go before Day 3... which would work out just fine for the Packers.

 

JAMES HUDSON
Offensive Tackle, Cincinnati - 6'4 305
In 11 games as the starting Left Tackle last year, James Hudson allowed 0 sacks. He has quick feet for zone blocking to go with an aggressive mentality in the run game. With long arms and strong hands, Hudson uses natural leverage to get low and hold off bull rushers. 

So why might he be around on Day 3? Well, there's a few reasons. First, it's a deep year for offensive tackles, so good players are already being moved down. Second, Hudson doesn't project well to a power gap blocking scheme. His athleticism and style make him a great fit for the Packers, who use a zone blocking scheme, but many other teams will have him rated far lower. Third, Hudson only played one full year of college ball, and it was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He originally joined Michigan as a defensive lineman. After playing one game in 2018, he transferred to Cincinnati to play offensive line, but had paperwork issues and was forced to sit out the entire 2019 season before playing left tackle in 2020. So he's a big, raw athlete who is still learning the position. However, his early success is enough to show that he has the tools to develop into a starting NFL tackle.

 

The Packers will have their pick of good prospects at a lot of different positions in the 1st and 2nd rounds. These five guys could be available on Day 3 and could help them fill whatever holes they don't address early.

 

Learn more about these prospects and other with your CheeseHeadTV Draft Guide, which profiles over 300 players and notes specifically how they would fit on the Packers. The guide also has features articles, including an overview of what the new defensive scheme might look like in Green Bay - check it out! 

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @PackersForTheWn.

 

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Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
stockholder's picture

April 25, 2021 at 11:17 am

I would draft both Wilson and Williams. Wilson has a past injury which drained some strength. I still think he would be just what the packers need. I just think that Wilson and McNeil are both must haves.

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Coldworld's picture

April 25, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Wilson depends on the story behind weight and strength loss and, potentially, the medical history. Could be a value pick for the future or off the board.

Williams is a possible return/slot option, but there are others that I prefer. Of these players Imatorbhebhe is the best fit for us probably, but may not be around as late as suggested.

St. Juste could be a good early third day option to develop if we haven’t found perimeter depth. Hudson is a raw flyer late on. Upside but not sure if he’s roster worthy this year.

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stockholder's picture

April 25, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Give me Raji- or should I say McNeil. Then Wilson! Wiliiams is a late pick. Very fast and follows blockers. He's strictly a change of pace. He'll never be a full time rb. But I would take RBs in my last few picks over any position. And wouldn't back off on this guy.

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Coldworld's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:04 pm

McNeil is definitely one we could use.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 08:59 am

I'm a big Alim McNeil fan, too.

He's a run stopper that has worked on his pass rush - kinda the opposite of Barmore who is more of a pass rusher that's working on his run defense.

McNeil is incredibly athletic for his size, too - not many 320 pound nose tackle propects played running back in high school. I saw a report that the Packers had a meeting with him, too. I'd love to have him.

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PatrickGB's picture

April 25, 2021 at 11:44 am

In some ways I get more excited over mid round picks because a good scouting department can find unknown gems there and it fits our draft position and cap issues. The vast majority of the team is filled with later picks and smart drafting is key.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:00 am

I feel the same way and with all the lost games and development time from the pandemic, there will be even more surprise players and mid-round sleepers that go on to great careers.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:00 am

I feel the same way and with all the lost games and development time from the pandemic, there will be even more surprise players and mid-round sleepers that go on to great careers.

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splitpea1's picture

April 25, 2021 at 12:19 pm

I would be wary of Wilson--how long is it going to take to be able to get him on the field? The Packers already bring many of their prospects along at a slow pace, so any additional concerns are not helpful.

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stockholder's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:04 pm

He'll be rotational until his strength gets back up. He has the size and the smarts from what I've heard. I have him 3rd rd.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 25, 2021 at 03:04 pm

He's a guy with a high bust grade. They would need inside info on his medical. He was a beast in 2019. Somethings not adding up.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

April 25, 2021 at 10:36 pm

Reminds me of Vince Biegel situation... the same Vince who was supposedly much better than TJ Watt

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Turophile's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:00 pm

There are a ton of guys that are of interest to me in later rounds. I can't list them all, but here are another six guys of interest (to me at least).

LB Charles Snowdon 6'6", 232, Virginia. Round 5. The angry octopus at 6'6". Athletic, nice blitzer, reads the field well. Has the elite length to be a nightmare for QBs throwing to the middle of the field.

S James Wiggins 6'0", 205. Round 5. Smart playmaker with a nose for the ball. Physical tone-setter with the athleticism to play single high coverage if needed. Is this low because of ACL (which he rehabbed super-fast).

CB Tay Gowan. 6'1", 185. Round 4 to 6. Smooth outside corner with the skills of a much higher pick. HE drops this far due to very little tape on him (sat out 2020 due to covid restrictions). Take a chance on his small sample-size and he could be a steal.

DT Bobby Brown III 6'4", 315. Round 5. Talented big-bodied mauler that will stuff the run all day. Can stymie double teams. Decent first step, solid pad level. Shows flashes of being a higher-round player but needs more consistency.

WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette 6'2", 186, Iowa. Round 5. Was done no favours with poor QB play. Quick, smooth-moving athletic deep threat, with return ability helping him to get on the field early.

OT Walker Little 6'7", 309 Round 3/4 For a later pick at OT, he has all the athleticism you need to play in space. Great length. Needs some technique work and more strength, which he'll get on an NFL team. I like Brady Christesen (BYU) and Hudson (Cincinnati) as well, but I don't think they go lower than mid round 3.

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Coldworld's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:07 pm

I like all of those, though I can see Brown going higher and am not that familiar with Gowan. I agree, a lot of interesting types later on this year.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:03 am

Thanks for sharing, I like a lot of those guys, too - especially Brown.

Walker Little is a really interesting story. He seemed like a future star and then missed a year with injury before sitting out for the pandemic. For a guy who hasn't played in 2 years, I think he's getting a lot of buzz. Just shows how impressive he was when he did play. I'm very curious to see how high (or low) he goes.

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stockholder's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:07 pm

I still want a trade down. I'd work with Miami if I was Gute. picks 35 and 50 are perfect. Why? - Dropping down for a WR and a DT just beats missing on both.

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OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:08 pm

Probably have to give 29 & 62 to make that happen

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:04 am

I'm always in favor of trading down. There seems to be a talent tier between 25 and 55 that the Packers could really take advantage of if no one they love falls.

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Flatlander's picture

April 25, 2021 at 01:21 pm

I saw Pooka Williams play a lot and for a slight/shifty RB on perhaps the worst team in D1 football he was All Big 12 his first two years - that says a lot. Questionable character has him dropping in the draft and he will most likely never be an every down back/receiver but who cares he can separate and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Might flake out or could be the second coming of Anthony Carter - worth the minimal risk in the later rounds.

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stockholder's picture

April 25, 2021 at 04:33 pm

Character issue was a fight with girl friend.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:05 am

Agree that he'll never be an every down back, but getting a rotational player with that kind of big play ability is more than worth a late round pick for me.

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nostradanus's picture

April 25, 2021 at 02:00 pm

I like your choices Bruce and you are right on, there are always a group of misfits that don’t fit in the NFL scouting box.

Teams that have forward thinking GM’s are the ones able to take advantage of great bargains from the island of misfit toys.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:06 am

Right - and I think a coach like LaFleur is creative enough to figure out how to use them.

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13TimeChamps's picture

April 25, 2021 at 02:55 pm

What the heck is a "swim move"? Lol

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Leatherhead's picture

April 25, 2021 at 03:55 pm

A swim move is one of the first, most basic moves that DL are taught, usually in 7th grade.

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13TimeChamps's picture

April 26, 2021 at 03:28 pm

Sorry I wasn't a D-lineman in the 7th grade, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance on the subject. It was a simple question. No need to get snarky with your response.

Have a great day.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:43 am

The defensive lineman comes out of his stance and lifts one arm high, chopping it across the offensive lineman's body to take out his arms and slip past.

Imagine someone is standing directly in front of you with their arms reaching out to push you in the chest. You raise your right arm up and bring it down hard across their right arm, pushing both of their arms down, nudging them to the side, and allowing you to push past them.

There's a lot of variations. You can use your other hand to push the offensive lineman's hip first. You can also aim really high and try to bring your arm around so your elbow plants right into the offensive lineman's back.

However you do it, your main arm moves like the motion you use when you're swimming, except instead of water, you're pushing through offensive linemen.

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13TimeChamps's picture

April 26, 2021 at 10:46 am

Thanks for the clarification. I had never heard that term before. Not sure why the down votes for simply asking a question though.

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dobber's picture

April 25, 2021 at 03:19 pm

Imatorbhebhe ran a sub 4.50 on his pro day. I don't know how it was timed (a hand-timed 4.48 isn't meaningfully different from a 4.53). Whatever the case, he might have physical attributes, but I'm bear-ish on his ability to become a regular contributor. Even in 2019 with a better QB situation, he wasn't a high-volume or dominating receiver. There's something more to the story, here. Maybe he can become a James Jones type WR, who knows.

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Packers0808's picture

April 25, 2021 at 05:48 pm

According to these writers over the last few the Packers are going draft every player in the draft!

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Dragon5's picture

April 25, 2021 at 08:40 pm

Hudson profiles like Yosh Njiman 2.0

Avoid injury prone 7LPs Imatorbhebhe & St Juste

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marpag1's picture

April 26, 2021 at 01:55 am

I wouldn't touch Wilson unless there is a perfectly clear, understandable and obviously correctable medical reason that explains his issues. Otherwise, don't waste the pick.

It strikes me as kind of funny how people bash GMs for "always wanting to be the smartest guy in the room" (which honestly is just a senseless argument, but I digress), and then they go and do the exact same thing based on far LESS knowledge than NFL front offices have. If Wilson was ordinary in the ACC throughout his final season, and then barely looked like a player at all during senior bowl practices, eventually bowing out of the senior bowl just like he bowed out of the season itself, what does that tell us? You don't really have to read very many tea leaves.

If Wilson really did have some obvious medical issue that was now over and done, or at the very least was easily correctable, his agent would be screaming it from the rooftops. Maybe I'm out of the loop, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

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Coldworld's picture

April 26, 2021 at 07:21 am

I agree. However, I think it highly likely that the teams will have been appraised of whatever medical or other explanation his camp is pushing. Then it’s a question of credibility and, if so, implications. I wouldn’t necessarily expect medical issues to be publicized. Only the teams matter.

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Monsmoy's picture

April 26, 2021 at 04:16 am

Big fan of St.Juste and enough for it to concrete my desire to trade our 29 pick back to early 2nd round and in doing so pick up an early 4th. Along with Trill Williams, these two could provide the stability and depth a draft can produce in a position group.
Speaking of double bagging, which many think Gute likes to do based on draft precedent, I think OT is one of those positions we should. Definitely take a starter (RT), or close to starter in round 1 or 2, then James Hudson could be a fabulous development prospect. It is so important to have 1 eye on the future for OT.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 26, 2021 at 09:46 am

It's a deep cornerback class and every one of them has a different question mark. There's so many that I like, but after the first few, it's hard to separate them, which is why I'd love to trade down and double up.

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Rossonero's picture

April 27, 2021 at 07:16 am

Two guys I think could be massive steals in the mid-rounds are Alim McNeil (DT, NC State) and Cade Johnson (WR South Dakota State). Johnson looked great at the Senior Bowl and could be a fantastic day 3 gem. McNeil reminds me a little of Kenny Clark. His arms are actually a bit longer, but his hands are slightly smaller.

DT Alim McNeil, NC State. 6'1" 320 lbs. PFF Projection: 2nd round

PROS
As quick a 320-plus pounder as you'll see. Get-off that creates problems.
Did not need much in the way of technique to still push the pocket.
Held up so much better to double teams in 2020. Complete run defender.
Role not great for pass-rushing production. Almost exclusively 0-technique.

CONS
Not sure he has anything considered a pass-rush move in his arsenal. Just charges.
Rushes the passer way too high. Spin moves looked like a figure skater.
Big difference between him fresh and late in a series.
More of a gap holder than a playmaker in the run game. Average stop numbers.

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