Green and Bold: The Future Star of the Packers' Draft Class

Third-round draft pick Kyler Fackrell could be a future Pro Bowl linebacker for the Packers.

Third-round draft pick Kyler Fackrell could be a future Pro Bowl linebacker for the Packers.

It may not have been stacked with skill-position players, but the Packers still put together an exciting and talented draft class that holds vast potential. 

There are players who can compete for starting jobs right away, such as defensive tackle Kenny Clark and inside linebacker Blake Martinez. There is a definite future starter in offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.

The class also boasts a player who could prove to be a Pro Bowl star: outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell. 

The Packers' third-round selection, who stands at 6'5" and weighs 245 pounds, came into the draft flying somewhat under the radar. Projected to be a Round 3 selection (the same value Ted Thompson and his team of scouts placed on Fackrell), the three-year starter could have gone at least a full round higher if not for one mitigating factor: he missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL. 

In the first two seasons of his career prior to his injury, Fackrell had already racked up 169 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions. 

It's tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Fackrell could have put up in his lost year in 2014, but in 2015, he came back without missing a beat.

He had 82 tackles; 15 tackles for loss, which led the team; two forced fumbles, one of which he recovered in the end zone for a score against Nevada; five fumble recoveries, which led the nation; 13 quarterback hurries, which led the team; four sacks, which tied for first on the team; and three games with double-digit tackles. 

Suffice it to say, Fackrell was a disruptive force all over the field in 2015. His efforts led to him becoming a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker, and earning an invitation to the Senior Bowl. 

Of course, college production doesn't necessarily indicate NFL production, and players need to have the skills necessary to succeed in the pros. 

Fackrell projected as a true 3-4 outside linebacker, the position he played at Utah State, coming into the NFL. He has the desired length and athleticism for the position, and his 33 1/4" arms give him a huge tackle radius.

While he has the burst and quickness necessary to get into the backfield and disrupt the quarterback, he also has the ability to cover in space. It may not inflate his numbers, but it makes him a crucial piece on the field. 

Pro Football Focus, which ranked Fackrell the third-highest among all outside linebackers in his class in pass-rushing productivity, noted that he is "excellent with his hands," which "gives him the unique ability to employ a secondary move if his initial one is stoned." 

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein was equally complimentary in his scouting report: "His field versatility, coverage talent and potential as a pass rusher could make him one of the fastest rising prospects in this draft and a future contender for a Pro Bowl nod."

While Fackrell may start his career with the Packers coming onto the field in sub-packages, it's easy to see the path he could take to becoming a starting outside linebacker in the base defense. Nick Perry and Julius Peppers will become free agents in 2017, and on Monday, the Packers declined Datone Jones' fifth-year option.

Since Jones has moved to the Packers' "elephant" position, he's been playing at outside linebacker as well as defensive end. But if he doesn't make a strong case in his contract year, Fackrell will be able to assume his snaps at outside linebacker in 2017, and possibly Perry's or Peppers', as well. 

Everything is lined up right for Fackrell to become a starting outside linebacker for the Packers in the near future. Now, he just has to earn it. 

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Comments (25)

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EdsLaces's picture

May 04, 2016 at 06:14 am

I think he will rotate inside as well. He and Clay are gonna be able to swap places often. Kyler is an exciting piece to our puzzle. I think Martinez is the sleeper pick though. Everyone is bummed that we didn't get the speedy mlb, but obviously that just isn't what Dom is gonna be working with. Martinez read n react ability is gonna make up for a lack of athleticism imo. Between Clark Martinez and Fackrell our defense just got a whole lot better.

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dobber's picture

May 04, 2016 at 08:41 am

To build on your comment: Martinez has good change of direction/short area quickness. He might not have the flat-out speed that Lee or Jones might have, but he's athletic in his own right.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 04, 2016 at 05:30 pm

Martinez has elite quickness and I'll take that over baseball speed. If he is covering receivers deep then the Packers have major schematic issues.

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Idiot Fan's picture

May 04, 2016 at 09:47 am

With Martinez's coverage ability (or so I read), it wouldn't shock me if he was the dime LB if not by week one, at least after the bye.

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dobber's picture

May 04, 2016 at 10:14 am

The ILB will benefit significantly just from the addition of Clark and Lowry...who I think will both get the opportunity to prove themselves early on (especially with that hot-weather game in Jacksonville early).

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4EVER's picture

May 04, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Bingo, you have that right. The anxieties are building at a fever pinch. The Clark and Lowry selections - as a pair - have my mouth watering for pre-season. Both will fully consume Daniels nasty. The 2016 draft selections as a whole; health, character, football IQ, athleticism, team fit and instincts are off the charts exceptional IMO. Great job, Teddy. CAN'T WAIT!

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Amanofthenorth's picture

May 04, 2016 at 06:23 pm

One more thing, that Daniels and Matthews also have in spades,
High motors! Seems I read that about all the D picks

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NickPerry's picture

May 05, 2016 at 06:39 am

Excellent point, not a Thornton in the bunch! My God, who needs to be motivated to make millions anyways???

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dobber's picture

May 05, 2016 at 08:05 am

As we look at these players, the projection on how TT drafts is playing out: virtually all (except Fackrell) have clean injury records, all have been productive and team leaders, all have high football IQ, all have strong work ethics. If anything, it establishes a group of players with a very high floor.

One thing that we saw from the Packers last season, especially on offense, was that the team degenerated at times to being less than the sum of its parts. I'm hoping that these kinds of additions prevent that from happening again any time soon...

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WKUPackFan's picture

May 05, 2016 at 10:45 am

Excellent observation. We will never know, and I despise speculation, but something seemed off last year. As weird as it may sound, they played like guys who didn't like each other.

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L's picture

May 06, 2016 at 10:53 am

I don't know about that. I just think it was a culmination of frustration.

As someone who's been a part of many sports teams I fully understand that there can be times when you and/or the team fail to meet expectations; especially, when expectations are set high, which leads to frustration. Those frustrations are often tied hand-in-hand with your and your teammate's emotions and since many athletes have a ton of pride and passion for what they're trying to accomplish it shouldn't be that hard to realize how abrupt and regretful outbursts can occur; especially, when someone believes that someone else on the team (perhaps even someone they like and/or respect a lot) messed up. Anyways, I think summing it up as "...they played like guys who didn't like each other" just isn't the best explanation. They certainly faced some difficulties last year and I'm sure many on the team believed that based on how they were performing at the end of the year the year before (outside of the 4th Quarter collapse) that they should have been able to perform much better then they were.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 04, 2016 at 06:37 am

Great article Michelle!

This draft is flying under the radar nationally. Within 3 years I can easily see 5 out of the 7 draft picks becoming starters. Not saying they all will, but I can see that happening.

To start I think Clark will be the only true starter on day 1. By mid season I could see Martinez and Lowry joining him.
Year 2 I could see Clark, Spriggs, Fackrell, Martinez & Lowry all starting. I think Murphy could possibly become a starter down the road also. At the very least he should become a vital backup swing tackle.

Overall I really like this draft class. It isn't one thats going to draw a lot of attention, but is one that will win games for this team.

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dobber's picture

May 04, 2016 at 08:44 am

I agree that there's a lot of utility in this draft. The overall level of talent on the team got measurably better.

What they need is for one or more of these guys to be better than solid starters. They need difference-makers. Fackrell has that potential based on the position and role he's likely to play.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 04, 2016 at 09:32 am

I personally think in 3 years at least 2 of these players will be considered playmakers.

Clark and Fackrell.

Clark is a rising player. He has pass rush ability. I think he will be a clog in the middle of our defense, yet will offer pass rush ability similar to Daniels.

Fackrell I think could be a cornerstone at one of the OLB spots. He has good pass rush ability can develop into a better overall player.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 04, 2016 at 07:42 am

Nobody knows what grade TT had on Fackrell. Presumably it was better than round 4. I think Spriggs will be a future NFL starter, but it is not definite. I like this draft and Fackrell.

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mnbruton's picture

May 04, 2016 at 10:19 am

My point there was that Thompson almost never reaches for a player, so if he was taken in Round 3 Thompson and the team of scouts likely had a Round 3 grade on him - or, similarly, he was simply the best player available at that position on their boards.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

May 04, 2016 at 07:43 am

If any of them are as good as their tapes are we will do well. The fire a few of them have just screams Packer football. Its way to early to tell but I love who Ted picked up at least these guys seem to have great potential at the get go.

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lucky953's picture

May 04, 2016 at 08:00 am

If Fackrell lives up to your assessment, and Clark plays like a 2009-10 Raji, this defense will be exciting to watch. I like the mentality of the guys Ted drafted: leader-like guys that study the game hard, with the NFL measurables to execute.

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dobber's picture

May 04, 2016 at 08:42 am

"" which "gives him the unique ability to employ a secondary move if his initial one is stoned." "

So he has something in common with Laremy Tunsil?

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WKUPackFan's picture

May 04, 2016 at 09:15 am

Who doesn't? Wait, what were we talking about?

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Clay Zombo's picture

May 04, 2016 at 11:23 pm

If the dude wasnt 25 yrs old already, I can almost guarantee he would have been off the board before 88. I dont mind his age myself, wish he was younger yeah but I will take him because hes mature and married with a young kid, so hes all business.

I wanted GB to draft someone with his length and height for so long, I thought it might never happen under TT... Ironically if I had my way with this draft, he wouldnt even be on the team unless he lasted till the first 4th round comp pick. (See comment in "solving the draft" post).

I certainly hope you are right with your prediction, the fact that he actually played 3-4 OLB in college and was very productive gives that hope legs. He might be the first fully functioning 3-4 OLB TT has drafted since Matthews, which is kind of shocking given they play the 34 and have for many years.

NFL comparison is Conner Barwin, if you get a chance look at their photos, they look almost identical its funny. His best year brought 14.5 sacks and a pro bowl berth, if Kyler can manage that in a season at some point than I would be extremely happy with that.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 05, 2016 at 07:11 am

One correction. Kyler won't be 25 until November. He is 24 right now.

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dobber's picture

May 05, 2016 at 07:58 am

Two contracts would make him 32, and exiting his prime. Age shouldn't be a concern here...

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 05, 2016 at 08:04 am

I'm not concerned at all.

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MITM's picture

May 05, 2016 at 02:23 pm

Admittedly I was banging the table in Round 2 for Cravens or Deion Jones, and when we traded up I thought for sure one of the two was going to be the pick. Out of sheer disappointment, instead of waiting for the rest of the draft to fill out, I briefly lost it over the Spriggs pick. That being said, now that the draft is over and the picks have been made, I am confident that this football team has improved. Hell, with the footwork and lateral movement ive since seen out of Spriggs it looks as if he could even drop into coverage himself! As far as LB goes, we are extremely fortunate that we were able to grab Fackrell and then Martinez. Ive followed Blake Martinez since hes been a starter at Stanford and I think that he is going to be the NFL player everyone expected Shayne Skov to be. The kid from Northwestern reminds me of former Steeler Aaron Smith also.

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