Trying to re-stock their talent for another deep playoff run, the Green Bay Packers have several options in the first round of 2017 NFL Draft
A betting man would probably feel good about placing some money on the Green Bay Packers going defense with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Their offense is pretty phenomenal, thanks in large part to the play of franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He’s one of the best in the league today and the Packers feel like they can win any game as long as he’s guiding them.
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The problem is, their defense has trouble helping either hold a lead or keep the team in games when the offense struggles. Such examples happened when a 21-3 lead against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round came down to a kick as time expired. Had it not been for some heroics by Rodgers and tight end Jared Cook, the Pack may have never made it to the NFC Championship Game.
The following week the offense struggled early and by halftime it was 24-0. Green Bay got going on offense but never stopped the Falcons offense and lost 44-21.
Naturally the team will be looking to fix that side of the ball in the 2017 NFL Draft. Of course, what they do with their first pick will rely on what happens with the first 28, but here is a very defensive-heavy look at who the Packers may be looking at selecting with their top pick.
With outside linebacker Nick Perry heading to free agency on the heels of an 11-sack season, the Packers may really need pass rushing help. Perry will demand a big contract but Green Bay may be hesitant to pay him what he wants given that prior to this past season he had just 12.5 sacks in four seasons while never recording more than four in a single year.
A more affordable, and potentially better option, could very well be Auburn edge rusher Carl Lawson. Injuries slowed him down, but the upside Lawson has makes him a worth wile risk to take. In three seasons, the Auburn defensive end recorded just 14.5 sacks, but that included a 2016 season that saw him flash his potential as he took down the quarterback 9.5 times.
At 6-2, 253 pounds Lawson has ideal size to play linebacker in the 3-4 system Green Bay uses. He has great hand use and exceptional power. He even flashed an ability to play inside on the defensive line as a rusher for Auburn, although that’s not something Green bay would expect him to do. Lawson could be a great pass rusher for the next decade for the Pack as long as his health continues to be a thing of the past.
Sep 19, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Keanu Neal (42) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) celebrate during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Florida defeated Kentucky 14-9. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jarrad Davis, ILB — Florida
Another big area of need for the Packers is their middle linebacker spot. With Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez manning the positions and they struggled to make plays. They weren’t terrible in run defense, finishing eight in the NFL in yardage, but the tackling by their linebackers was still questionable at times. Finding a guy who is a better tackler would be a great move by Green Bay.
One such player they could target is Florida inside linebacker Jarrad Davis. The four-year player for the Gators has been praised continually by his coaches as a strong team leader and solid tackler. He shows great closing speed and should have no problem adjusting to the pro game.
Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson (2) carries the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 103rd Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. USC defeated Penn State 52-49 in the highest scoring game in Rose Bowl history. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3. Adoree’ Jacskon, CB — USC
During his freshman season for the USC Trojans, Adoree’ Jackson started at both wide receiver and cornerback. He had ten receptions that season and another 27 as a sophomore. He finished his career on offense with 39 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns. He added another four touchdowns as a punt returner and four as a kickoff returner.
As for his full-time job, the 5-11 Jackson deflected 28 passes while recording six interceptions, one of which he returned for a score. He’s an incredible athlete and stepped up as a cornerback during 2016 as he picked off five passes before deciding to go pro.
While he may not be as polished as other corners, his time at receiver will help him understand and read routes of opposing wideouts. He also has excellent hands that scouts love. In recent years the Packers have selected safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Damarious Randall. Both have become every day starters, but they can use more skill in the defensive backfield given that they surrendered 269.2 yards per pass, which ranked them next to last in the league.
Jackson may not be their favorite target in the draft, but he could be the best option they have in the back end of the first round of the draft.
Nov 19, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) points to the sky in celebration after a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Stanford defeated California 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB — Stanford
Finally, an offensive player. The Green Bay Packers have a good offensive line, an excellent quarterback and a great group of receivers. With running back James Starks recently released and Eddie Lacy set to hit free agency they need a running back.
Currently they have Ty Montgomery at the position, and he did pretty well for a converted wide receiver. He led the team in yardage with 457 yards on the ground but ran just 77 times all season. The Packers could look to pair Montgomery with his one-time college teammate Christian McCaffrey.
The 6-0, 200-pound running back rushed for 3,922 yards in three seasons. He added another 1,206 yards receiving with 31 total touchdowns. He played three years at Stanford, but the majority of his damage came during his sophomore and junior seasons. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2015 after leading his team in both rushing and receiving yards.
While Green Bay will never be a team that runs the ball 25 times every game, they could benefit from getting a more explosive player at the position. McCaffrey would fit in perfectly in their offense as well since he is so capable out of the backfield as a receiver.
Again we go back to the defensive side of the ball. They could really use some playmakers on that side and, with Nick Perry potentially leaving, pass rusher may be the most important spot to upgrade. While this is a great draft for edge rushers, Green Bay won’t likely have a chance to get players like Takkarist McKinley from UCLA or Derek Barnett of Tennessee. One guy who could be there is Charles Harris from Missouri.
Harris is another good pass rusher from Missouri, a team that has become known for sending edge rushers into the NFL. At 6-3 and 235 pounds, he would probably fit better as an outside linebacker rather than a down end in a 4-3 scheme. Harris has great explosion off the snap and is able to get into the backfield and create havoc thanks to his speed. He was a basketball player in high school, and the athleticism he showed then has transferred to the football field as he is incredibly light on his feet and very smooth in his movements.
His production increased each season he played for the Tigers, going from two as a freshman to seven and finally nine in his final year. Turning pro after his junior year means that the needle is still pointing up and there’s room for improvement still. Working with a veteran like Clay Matthews would be an excellent thing for him as he would have a great mentor.