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Packers Poised to Leave First Round of Draft With Defensive Playmaker

Packers Poised to Leave First Round of Draft With Defensive Playmaker

-- Whatever position the Green Bay Packers target in the first round of next week's draft, it won't be one that's prioritized in advanced.

Given where the Packers are -- sitting pretty with the 14th pick and 11 others in their pocket -- there's a cushion provided for them to take the best player available on the board. Now, that, of course, comes with its restrictions.

The Packers need obvious help on the defensive side of the ball after fielding a below average defense in several team rankings last season -- the final year under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The best player available offensively at that point will likely be Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and all arrows are trending downward in terms of his fit in Green Bay.

Ridley was scarcely mocked to the Packers early on, but it's not hard to see why the connection was drawn in the first place.

The Packers released long-time veteran pass-catcher Jordy Nelson last month, leaving a moderately-sized gap at the position despite signing tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency, who is expected to play a significant part in the Packers' aerial plans. However, Ridley filling the void left behind in Nelson's wake would be asking for a lot, if not all of his upside to come to fruition, and that's hardly the case with most prospects.

He would need to be the perfect receiver to spend a pick on that early when there will be defensive playmakers available for the Packers to pluck from.

The beauty of where the Packers are is they can find a top-10 defensive prospect -- considering there could be four or five quarterbacks drafted within the first 13 picks -- without moving up or down. But their best bet to leave the first round with a full slate of talent that can immediately strengthen numerous facets of their defense would be to trade into the back-end of the first round after making their selection at 14.

Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry is one popular pick -- both amongst analysts and fans -- to be on Green Bay's radar at 14. If he does slip to the Packers and they can find a way to trade down into the late-teens, they'd be able to leave the first 32 picks with both a top-two edge rusher and a top-five cornerback.

UCF's Mike Hughes, Colorado's Isaiah Oliver and Louisville's Jaire Alexander are three other cornerbacks who haven't received as much notoriety as their peers, Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson. Rightfully so, of course, considering Ward and Jackson are at the top of their class.

If by some stroke of miracle Jackson slips into the vicinity of where the Packers would hypothetically trade around, he'd be the obvious pick. But Hughes is the only cornerback from the above list that the Packers have had a pre-draft visit with, aside from LSU's Donte Jackson.

Not a cornerback? Not an edge rusher? What about a safety or an inside linebacker at 14?

The Packers would still be getting a play-making defensive player if Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith managed to slip past greedy teams and into Green Bay's lap. If not Smith, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds -- 6-5 with the speed of a safety -- wouldn't be a terrible consolation prize by any means.

Edmunds is more versatile than Smith, but both offer distinctive qualities that can help lock down the middle of the Packers' defense, which has notoriously been a weak spot through the years. One of the two would be paired with Blake Martinez, who tied for the league-lead in tackles last season. Almost instantly, the Packers would have the potential of sporting one of the scariest inside linebacker duos in the league.

There's something to love about both FSU's Derwin James and Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick, two of this class' top safeties. Fitzpatrick, however, will likely translate his skill set to playing mostly nickel cornerback in the NFL.

James, on the other hand, is a human Swiss Army knife, similar to former Packers safety Micah Hyde's style. James would be able to blitz from the slot, manhandle opposing linemen with astounding force for his size -- 6-2, 215 -- as well as cover from any position: the slot, free safety, in the box. There's no limit to how James can be utilized.

There is a limit to how far he'll fall, though, and there's a high chance it won't be to the Packers.

While the Packers have glaring needs at both outside linebacker and cornerback, the luxury of where they are and with this current class or prospects is that they can stand pat with their 14th overall selection and still target the best-available defensive prospect.

That prospect, when drafted, can enter the Packers' plans on defense and immediately contribute as well. It's a strong class on the side of the ball for which the Packers hired a new defensive coordinator to coach this offseason, leaving the door wide open for a multitude of possibilities come April 26.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

EdsLaces's picture

Hurry up next week already! I'm ready to buy my new jersey!

The TKstinator's picture

Is that remark directed at Al?
(Kidding; “Jersey” Al)

Packer Fan's picture

I think the Packers should trade down and get as many guys as possible in rounds 1 through the 1st pick of round 5. Right now we have we have six. Trading down may give you 6 or 7 with round 4 or better. 1st pick in round 5 is like a round 4 And dump some of the later 5th and 6th round picks. Read this article for some ideas.

Bert's picture

I disagree. Only trade down if there is nobody at #14 you feel is worthy of the 14th pick and will be an impact player. Forget needs and position. The Packers can use an impact player at about any position (except QB) across the board. Just loading up on more picks will probably accomplish little or nothing in the way of making a real upgrade to the roster.

frank the fork's picture

Big if but...As an owner or gm. ..I would always trade back my 1st rd unless its 26 or later; Your coin is less and you still get a 5th year option plus you'll get an extra 4th round pick from say... Jerry the Ego.
This year da cowboys trade 19 to packers at 14.
SO I Hope the extra pick lands a Bak or Martinez (daniels)quality pick up.
Agree again on trading up the 2 two 7 rounders for a 6.
Oh to dream and hope.

bodei1newbie1's picture

they been drafting down for years it's time for maybe drafting up for a change

The TKstinator's picture

Just gimme a guy who is REALLY GOOD at football.
And doesn’t get hurt.

The TKstinator's picture

Gimme a guy who is the opposite of “well, GB picks in the mid to late 20’s in the draft every year, so they don’t have the opportunity to choose from the real blue chippers”.
So yeah, gimme one of those guys.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

We could package our 1st and 3rd to trade down for someone else's 1st and 2nd--somewhere from picks 19-23, I suspect. With two 2nd rounders, it wouldn't be too hard to trade up by packaging with our wealth of lower picks.

Lare's picture

I still disagree with the premise that the first pick has to be on defense. They have enough holes where the BPA can still be a starter this year at several positions.

Bert's picture

Agree 100%. It's not like we are overly loaded with talent on offense either. OL, WR, TE, RB could all use an upgrade.

stockholder's picture

Truthfully I like the offensive players better than the defensive. The holes are bigger for the offense. I feel Gute patched the defense big time. Past is past people. These guys can play well under a new DC. The message was clear with Nelson leaving. Changes will happen just for your salary. With what the packers have already; NO DRAFTED PLAYER WILL START ON DEFENSE! Let me say that again. NO DRAFTED PLAYER WILL START ON DEFENSE! The Future is a CB. I've seen J Jackson as high as #9 now. He sets their draft. IF he's gone Davenport will be the pick. Not Landry.

frank the fork's picture

Add a Vea, Payne, or Ward, Fitzpatrick or Smith-Edmunds- Evans at Lb and they could start some games. Martinez needs a better partner at ILB.
Your spot on based on depth chart for defense on paper; as for offense,wr, rb, G and RT are open in my book...Evans and Bulaga are big if's. Injuries to RBs and WRs, are too common for the Pack and their thin at TE. Glad to have 12 picks...just have to pick wisely.

4thand1's picture

Packers poised to leave the first round of the draft with a defensive play maker. The sky is blue. Also one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, "don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining".

Royalty Free GM's picture

HOF Aaron Rodgers,

If this team doesn’t have balls to draft WR Ridley...
Leave this ungrateful fan base and go somewhere else where you get respect.
I’m tired of this organisation wasting your talent year after year.

Maybe it would be a good lesson for this spoiled fan base to experience 70’s and 80’s again with the help of qb guru MM.

Draft Ridley and win Superbowls*(TM)

stockholder's picture

I've seen DJ Moore ahead of Ridley on some mocks. Please convince us why you think Ridley should be the pick. And why the packers couldn't wait for a WR. Ross likes Gallop. The packers wanted Taller and big body WRs. and TT never drafted a WR rd 1. He thought WRs were the biggest busts of any position. Why shouldn't they wait for one?

Michael Hughes's picture

Not saying we have to get one first round but WR is our biggest need. Full stop.

Receiver is desperate ...the team lives. and dies on rodgers arm and we are looking at starting geronimo on the boundary. What happens if adams gets another concussion ? Does clark start ?

It takes time for rodgers to bond with his catchers. When cobb leaves next year he will be chucking it up in the air and catching it himself.

Handsback's picture

Green Bay will have a top 10 player fall to them at 14. Too many QBs will be taken before their pick. The idea of going for another pick in the first round may be a good strategy. I would love for them to get Clevelands first pick in the 2nd round if possible. They would/could get another difference maker and probably immediate starter.
I'll just say that I thought 12 picks were too many, but not anymore. The Packers have to lift their talent level. Too many UDFAs make this team and while they make a great brings into question the talent level.

John Kirk's picture

I said this awhile back and glad to see Lance back my thoughts up on Sutton making a late charge up the boards. He's a star and should be 1st WR drafted. 14 is the perfect landing spot.

Chuck Farley's picture

Hate to be devil's advocate but the problem I see via the million mocks, many teams in front of us also need d and the 4 or 5 best that could help us will be gone. Teams are not passing on Fitzpatricks and other corners and safeties.
Over the years the cream of this crop is in the top ten. Ya we can get some d help at 14 but were not talking dominate game changers here, just decent players not juch better than round two or early threes.

tinnomi's picture

The pack need a Db in the 1st, and Chark in the 2nd. He would be great with Rodgers. CHARK in the 2nd.

sonomaca's picture

Kevin King is really awkward. No natural balance or body control. Has to really think things through. Not a natural reactor. He’s never going to be a number one corner, despite the size and speed.

Ward at #14

holmesmd's picture

This is one of the most outrageous comments I’ve read in a long time. Completely inaccurate.

LambeauPlain's picture

So rookies come in and instantly adjust to the top end speed of the NFL and just know how to react to it.


Look at Martinez...he said his first year had him thinking and not reacting, thanks to experience and knowledge earned in year one, he became a tackling machine and a solid pass defender in the middle of the box in year 2.

You underestimate the jump King will very well make next year...also while healthy.

tinnomi's picture

and if we don't take a db in the first take a edge in the 1st, Chark in the 2nd, and donte Jackson in the 3rd.

packrulz's picture

I think there will still be starting caliber CB's in the 2nd round. I believe one of the LB's or Safeties will drop to 14. Davenport, Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, or James. They could trade down and still get Landry. The Packers D is going to dominate this year!

fthisJack's picture

i'm kinda bummed. the Packers are right on the edge of that first tier of impact players IMO. i figure James(my man crush), Smith, Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, Ward will be off the board. if they don't trade up and these guys are gone, they might as well trade down and get the same rated player as they would get a t 14. so, they might as well trade up or down. the question will much will it cost to trade up and get their guy?

4zone's picture

We have too many needs to trade up and lose our valuable picks in Rds 2, 3 and possibly 4.

Best Trade might be with Buffalo for their #22 and #53 although NE might want to jump up too. I think we could get a solid DB or Edge guy there while coming away with an additional pick in Rd 2 on top of it.

LambeauPlain's picture

BG could trade up 4 spots with his buddy McKenzie/Raiders giving his 3rd round pick and #14.

Then he would be assured to get one of those top D prospects/likely instant starters named Edmunds, James, Fitzpatrick, Smith or even Ward (distant chance, but he could fall). No way all of those guys would be off the board at #10.

Then he could trade back into the middle of the 3rd by giving Baltimore his 2 4th rounders and last two of his 3 5th rounders.

1st for an impact D starter.
2nd for another top D prospect.
3rd for a good WR

5 more picks as he starts Rd 5...for depth, sleepers, and a few guys on their board who fell.

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