Paul Imig’s May 13 Packers mailbag

Haha Clinton-Dix, the Packers' first round draft choice, has the potential to step in and start at safety for Green Bay for years to come.

Craig Ruttle/AP

From Earl, Pewaukee: What grade would you give the Packers for this draft? I say a C. I see maybe one impact player.

A: I don’t officially give an immediate-reaction post-draft grade, but since you asked, I’d go with either a B or B-plus. The Packers hit three of their four biggest needs, though, as I wrote Monday, it’s fair to wonder whether the one need they didn’t address (inside linebacker) could haunt them this season the way that safety did last season.

I think there are two surefire impact players from Green Bay’s draft class, with the possibility of two more. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be a 10-year starter in the NFL. Whether he becomes All-Pro caliber remains to be seen, but he’s only 21 and has room to grow into an impact player. Davante Adams has the makings of Ted Thompson’s next second-round wide receiver gem. Richard Rodgers could be a "boom or bust" at tight end, but the possibility for "boom" is there. Cory Linsley could win the starting center job as a rookie, or he could be stuck on the bench for the next few seasons. Wait and see there. Then, given that it’s Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis both have the opportunity to become impact players.

From Packer Fan Dave, Milwaukee: What pick surprised you the most? And who did you think they should have taken but didn’t?

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A: For me, the most surprising pick was the selection of defensive lineman Khyri Thornton in the third round (No. 85 overall). Obviously none of these players had stepped on an NFL field yet, so it’s important to remember that projection can sometimes differ greatly from actual production, but Thornton has many things working against him as such a high draft pick. First, this was widely considered a reach, with Thornton being projected in the fifth-to-sixth round. He’s also 24 years old (about as old as rookies ever get) and came from a horrible Southern Mississippi team that won one game in the past two seasons — and Thornton didn’t even play in that one victory. For those reasons, it surprised me.

My only downgrade for the Packers in this draft is that they didn’t come away with one of the top four inside linebackers (C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Preston Brown, Chris Borland). I would have traded up 12-15 spots in the third round to be able to choose between Brown and Borland.

From Jalky, Dodgeville, MI: If Ted was offered a third round pick for pick 21 by the Browns so they could move up and take Manziel do you believe he should have taken it and moved down just five spots? Clinton-Dix may still have been there and Bucannon/Ward would have been. He must’ve really had Dix rated far above those other two because moving down just a handful of spots, with three good safeties still available, seems like a move that he would make every time.

A: I can’t say for sure how the Packers’ big board looked at safety, but the fact that Thompson did stay put at No. 21 (despite admitting that he did continue to receive trade offers for that spot) indicates that Clinton-Dix was rated quite a bit higher than Bucannon and Ward. Many were surprised that Bucannon and Ward went in the first round, so if Green Bay had moved back five spots and Clinton-Dix was off the board by then, the Packers might have passed on drafting a safety in the first round if choosing between Bucannon, Ward or a player at a different position.

From Bob Groff, Wausau: Are the packers now drafting for need rather than best player available?

A: Best player available lined up with need on many of the Packers’ picks this year. Clinton-Dix was best player available and a need, as was Adams, Abbrederis and Janis in the opinions of many draft folks. Carl Bradford may have also been the best player available at the time (was projected as a Round 3-4 pick), but with Mike McCarthy’s firm statement that Bradford will play outside linebacker, that wasn’t a need. But every team has players graded somewhat differently, and what may have not been the best player available to me or you could have been the best player available in the eyes of Green Bay’s front office.

From Ozzi Osborne, Hatfield, WI: Will the Packers be using Jared Abbrederis as a wide receiver or as a return man or both.

A: Both, and that’s part of the reason why the Abbrederis pick made so much sense. He’ll certainly have opportunities to compete against Jarrett Boykin, Adams, Janis, Myles White and Kevin Dorsey for offensive snaps, but the fact that he can contribute immediately in the return game is a huge bonus for the Packers.

From Bob, Green Bay: Why didn’t you trade up for Chris Borland?

A: Well, it wasn’t my call, obviously. As mentioned above, I think Green Bay would have been wise to ensure that either Chris Borland or Preston Brown were a member of the Packers by the middle of the third round. It’s debatable as to which of those inside linebackers would have been the better fit in the Packers’ defense, but I think the 49ers landed a good player (and good value) when they grabbed Borland at No. 77 overall.

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From Matthew Lavake, Green Bay: Do you think the pack has a chance to win the super bowl this year with picking Ha Ha?

A: Selecting Clinton-Dix filled a major need for Green Bay. If the Packers would’ve had a starting safety last season the caliber of Clinton-Dix, they would’ve been a much better defense, because M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian — and even Morgan Burnett — struggled so much. But even with drafting Clinton-Dix, it’s not like Green Bay will enter the season with the best odds of winning the Super Bowl, but it sure gets it a step closer.

From Wamp, Rochester: In rankings, how would Dix compare to Harrison Smith the Vikings took a year or two ago?

A: Harrison Smith came into the 2012 draft with a lot of similar traits to what Clinton-Dix did this year. Their cover skills, ball skills and instincts were similar. But Smith was thought of in a slightly higher regard in terms of his ability to stop the run, and he has bigger hands. If Clinton-Dix has as good of a rookie season as Smith did, the Packers should be ecstatic.

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