Green Bay Packers Prospect Watchlist: Scouting the Pac 12

The top pro prospects in the Pac 12 are evaluated and discussed as potential fits for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Draft.

The Green Bay Packers have a recent history of looking to the Pac 12 to supplement their roster.

Aaron Rodgers (California), Clay Matthews (USC), Nick Perry (USC), Damarious Randall (Arizona State), and Kenny Clark (UCLA) are all first-round selections made during the Ted Thompson era from the conference.

The Packers have also found West Coast talent through the second and fourth rounds of the draft. Ty Montgomery and Blake Martinez both played at Stanford. David Bakhtiari is a Colorado grad and a former fourth-round selection.

Even the Packers first overall selection this past year was once again a Pac 12 defender. Kevin King was a featured player in the Washington Huskies defense and will be called upon to help bolster the Packers secondary.

When it comes to the Pac 12, this year may be no exception. The conference is full of talent at quarterback and the skill positions. However, it lacks depth if a team is looking for difference makers on the defensive side of the ball.

USC, Washington, and Stanford lead the way with next-level prospects in their programs. And three of the top six quarterbacks in college football all play in the Pac 12. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Jake Browning all have a chance to be high draft picks when they declare for the NFL.

As we continue our college preview series in preparation for the 2018 NFL draft class and discuss which players could fit with the Packers, we’ll take a closer look at the Pac 12 teams today.

If you missed them, make sure to check out our ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 previews as well.

 

NFL Watchlist: Pac 12 Prospects

Arizona

(2 prospects) - QB Brandon Dawkins, RB Nick Wilson

With good seasons, Dawkins and Wilson are the two players on the Wildcats roster that have a chance to be late-round draft selections in the NFL. Dawkins is an intriguing athlete who could make a position switch to wideout or halfback at the next level. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Dawkins led Arizona in both rushing (944 yards) and passing (1,348 yards). He doesn’t quite show the accuracy needed to be an NFL passer, but a team could experiment with his skillset on offense and use him as a utility player. After leading the team in rushing as a freshman with 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, Wilson struggled with injuries the past two seasons, forcing him to miss 13 games. When healthy, Wilson is a dynamic runner with good vision. However, he’ll have to show teams he can stay on the field this season in order to get any looks from NFL clubs.

Arizona State

(2 prospects) - RB Kalen Ballage, DE JoJo Wicker

ASU has two really interesting prospects on their roster. Ballage is an exciting tailback to watch, but he’s also a guy who hasn’t put it altogether on the field yet. The last two years, he’s split carries with starter Demario Richard. However, Ballage flashes special athleticism for a back measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. He has blazing breakaway speed and impressive burst out of the backfield. He’s also physically imposing when he wants to be. Even in a part-time role, Ballage still managed 1,005 yards from scrimmage as a junior, while also being a major weapon in the passing game. He caught a whopping 14 touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield. He has a chance to be an early-round prospect if he keeps progressing his game, and he’d be a player heavily utilized in a system like the Packers. On defense, Wicker is the Sun Devils’ top player. As a stocky 6-foot-3, 263-pound defensive end, the junior defender is a solid run defender on the edge. He also has flashed some pass rush ability, but he needs to work on finishing plays. He only registered 2.5 sacks last season.

California

(1 prospect) - LB Devante Downs

Downs could be a mid or late-round draft selection with a solid senior season. The tough inside linebacker is currently the only draftable player on the Golden Bears roster. As a junior, he led his team in tackles (84), while recording three pass breakups and two sacks. Downs has NFL size at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, and he moves well in space. He could be a guy to watch as a next-level inside backer.

Colorado

(1 prospect) - WR Shay Fields

The Buffaloes have one interesting prospect on their roster. Although Fields is an undersized wideout (5-11, 186), he's a versatile offensive weapon who can make plays on the boundary or out of the slot. He has some wiggle in space to gain yards after the catch and he possesses top-end speed to make plays downfield. As a junior, Fields averaged just under 15.8 yards per catch while scoring nine touchdowns and hauling in 883 receiving yards. If the Packers end up losing Adams or Cobb in the next year or two, Fields should be a guy they should keep a close eye on.

Oregon

(2 prospects) - RB Royce Freeman, LT Tyrell Crosby

The Ducks currently only boast two next-level prospects on their roster, but Freeman has the potential to be special player. Only one removed more a monster sophomore campaign where he tallied over 2100 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, Freeman had a disappointing 2016 season. If he can bounce back as a senior and showcase the playmaking ability he demonstrated his first two years in college then he could be an early-round draft pick next spring. On the other hand, Crosby looks like a mid-round tackle who could be a decent NFL player with some years to develop.

Oregon State

(1 prospect) - RB Ryan Nall

Nall is a potential late-round halfback who is really fun to watch in college. At 6-foot-2, 239 pounds Nall flat out runs over people. He also has impressive burst for a back his size. However, he's limited athletically and only has adequate vision. He could be an intriguing Day Three player in the draft.

Stanford

(7 prospects) - RB Bryce Love, TE Dalton Schultz, OT Casey Tucker, DT Harrison Phillips, OLB Peter Kalambayi, LB Joey Alfieri, CB Quenton Meeks, CB Alijah Holder

Stanford is one of the few defenses in the conference with legitimate NFL talent. Starting with the secondary the Cardinals have a talented pair of cornerbacks in Meeks and Holder. Both are physical defensive backs who can use their 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame to jam receivers at the line. Alfieri is a tough physical inside linebacker and Kalambayi can generate pressure from a two-point stance. However, Phillips is probably the front seven player with the most upside. On offense, Schultz is an athletic 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end who could be a real weapon in the Packers West Coast offense. He should be one of the top prospects at his position in the draft.

UCLA

(4 prospects) - QB Josh Rosen, RB Darren Andrews, OG Scott Quessenberry, LB Kenny Young

Rosen headlines the Bruins roster. If he decides to declare for the NFL after this season, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round quarterback. After a breakout freshman campaign, Rosen missed half of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. If the young quarterback could show he's fully recovered from the injury this year, he should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in the draft. He has a true next-level skill set. Quessenberry and Young could be Day Three players with strong senior seasons. Young has already shown a lot of improvement and maturity to his game one week into the new collegiate season.

USC

(8 prospects) - QB Sam Darnold, RB Ronald Jones III, WR Deontay Burnett, TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe, DE Portis Gustin, LB Cameron Smith, CB Iman Marshall, SS Chris Hawkins

The USC roster is loaded with potential NFL talent. Darnold is arguably the top quarterback in college football and is a near lock to be a top-five draft pick if he decides to go pro after this season. Jones is also a high-level offensive prospect, and he could even crack the second or third round next spring with a strong 2017 season. The Trojans also have several notable players on defense. Linebacker Cameron Smith is a field general and ferocious hitter who would be a nice addition to the Packers defense as a early to mid-round draft selection. Portis Gustin could also make a Clay Matthews-like transition to outside linebacker in Green Bay’s scheme. However, even though he's a relentless pass rusher, he's not the elite athlete as No. 52. Despite all of the talent on their roster, Marshall might be the next Trojan drafted after Darnold. He's an athletic cornerback with speed and tremendous ball skills. He could develop into a No. 1 at the next level.

Utah

(4 prospects) - WR Darren Carrington, NT Lowell Lotulelei, DE Kylie Fitts, SS Chase Hansen

The Utes boast one top tier prospect in nose tackle Lowell Lotulelei, younger brother of Carolina Panther defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Many expected Lowell to declare for the NFL after the 2016 season. However, after an up-and-down season, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive lineman decided to return to college one more year to polish his game and put together better tape for NFL scouts. If Lotulelei can return to the dominant form he showed against the run game as a sophomore, he could be an early-round pick in the draft next spring. Fitts is a hard-charging edge rusher with late-round potential.

Washington

(8 prospects) - QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, WR Dante Pettis, LT Trey Adams, DL Greg Gaines, NT Vita Vea, LB Azeem Victor, LB Keishawn Bierria, S JoJo McIntosh

The Huskies roster is tied with USC with the most NFL prospects in the conference. Browning is a highly talented quarterback who is coming off a monster sophomore season, where he threw for 3,340 yards and 43 touchdowns. However, the young quarterback’s accuracy still needs improvement before he's mentioned among the top crop of next-level quarterbacks. Gaskin and Pettis are two explosive offensive weapons who could factor in the middle rounds of the draft, while Adams is an elite tackle prospect who could sneak into the first round with a strong junior season. On defense, Vea, Gaines, and Victor are all big-time players. Vea possesses rare athleticism and quickness for a nose tackle measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds. He has first-round potential if his motor just improves. While Victor is a small athletic linebacker who excels when playing out in space. He's built for the modern NFL, but he's also coming off a season that ended with a major leg injury. Bierra is another linebacker to keep an eye on. He's a tough underrated defender who holds his own in coverage.

Washington State

(5 prospects) - QB Luke Falk, OG Cody O’Connell, OT Cole Madison, OT Andre Dillard, DE Hercules Mata’afa

The Cougars have a dominant offensive line. Three pro prospects in O’Connell, Madison, and Dillard anchor the offense and give Falk all day to throw from the pocket. At 6-foot-8 and 354 pounds, O’Connell moves surprisingly light on his fight and has the size and length to get scouts attention. Madison and Dillard look like guards at the next level. Falk should also get a lot of attention when draft season rolls around. He could prop himself up into Day Two with another highly productive season at WSU.

Top-10 PAC 12 Prospects

  1. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
  2. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
  3. Vita Vea, NT, Washington
  4. Lowell Lotulelei, NT, Utah
  5. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
  6. Jake Browning, QB, Washington
  7. Porter Gustin, DE, USC
  8. Iman Marshall, CB, USC
  9. Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
  10. Azeem Victor, LB, Washington 
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