Green Bay Packers draft radar: Four college players to watch Rivalry Week

Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball past North Carolina Tarheels linebacker Jonathan Smith (7) during the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

In this weekly series, we highlight four college football players to watch over the weekend that could be on the Green Bay Packers radar for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Things aren’t looking good for the 4-6 Packers. They’re now on a four-game skid and two games back in the division.

Even though the picture seems bleak right now, the season is not over for Green Bay. They can still turn things around with a win this week against Philadelphia. However, the Packers are quickly approaching the tipping point, and one more loss may just put them completely out of the playoff picture.

If the Packers continue down the slippery slope, we can at least find some solace in looking ahead and discussing how Green Bay can improve this team in the offseason.

It’s clear the Packers offense could use more playmakers at the skill positions. They could also use some help in their secondary, and they may also need to look hard at adding some young pass rushers to their roster, especially if Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, and Datone Jones depart after this season.

Fortunately, as football fans there are a lot of great college games to watch this weekend. It’s rivalry week, and there isn’t a better time to get an idea of the standout prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.

Here are four college players to keep an eye on this weekend that could eventually don the Green and Gold.

Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) outruns Clemson linebacker Korrin Wiggins (15) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Clemson won 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook is just flat-out fun to watch on film. He’s explosive, runs hards, and has the breakaway speed to make big plays out of the backfield.

The 5-foot-11, 213-pound junior has already amassed 1,467 yards on the ground this season. He’s also leading all ACC running backs in rushing touchdowns with 17. His 6.06 yards per carry average shows just how effective he is with the ball in his hands.

These impressive numbers come after a sophomore campaign where he took the nation by storm with 1691 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns, and a 7.38 ypc average.

Cook is a special talent. He’s the big-play type of back Green Bay could really use in their offense. His potential to take it to the house every time he touches the ball would instantly demand the respect of opposing defenses and help rejuvenate a Packers ground game that has been dormant for awhile.

The FSU standout is also a very established receiver out of the backfield, which would give the Packers an extra dynamic weapon on third downs.

Regardless of where they end up in the draft order, Green Bay should have a shot at selecting Cooks in the first round if they want to address the running back position early in the draft.

When to Watch: Florida vs Florida State this Saturday on ABC at 7 pm central

Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) rushes the passer against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton continues to garner more draft buzz the further the season goes along. The past three weeks against Big Ten competition, the Michigan pass rusher really stepped up his game, recording a sack and several pressures in each contest.

Charlton now has 6.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries on the season. As a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end, Charlton has tremendous length and size to win on the edge. He uses his long arms and strong base to keep blockers off him.

However, his explosiveness and athleticism are what really jump out on film. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who wins with speed on the edge. Charlton is a rare athlete who can get low and bend while accelerating to the quarterback.

His overall game is still a work in progress though. He’s still not a great run defender, and he needs to work on bringing more of an array of pass rushing moves to his resume. It’s also not clear at this point how well he’d transfer to outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.

He definitely has the athleticism to rush the passer from a two-point stance, but I’m not sure how well he’d hold up dropping in coverage. This could be something to look for this weekend when Michigan takes the field against Ohio State in perhaps the biggest game of the week.

When to Watch: Michigan vs Ohio State this Saturday on ABC at 11 am central

Southern California Trojans wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (9) tries to elude California Golden Bears cornerback Darius White (6) after making a catch in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

While starting the season slow, Smith-Schuster has stepped up his game since early October and has showcased his ability to make plays during USC’s stretch against Pac-12 competition.

Coming off a 2015 year where he recorded 89 receptions for 1454 yards and 10 touchdowns, expectations were high for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver heading into this season.

While Smith-Schuster has had his ups-and-downs this year, he has still managed 59 receptions for 758 yards and eight touchdowns despite some nagging injuries and inconsistent quarterback play.

Despite the box score numbers, the junior wideout still shows on film all of the athletic and playmaking traits teams desire in a receiver prospect. Not only is Smith-Schuster big, he also has a big catch radius and good straight-line speed.

His hands are consistent and he’s fearless over the middle of the field, but he can also make guys miss in the open field. His ability to change direction quickly for a player his size is unique.

As the NFL Draft approaches, opinions may be a bit polarizing when it comes to Smith-Schuster, but on film I still see the playmaking wideout that averaged over 16 yards per catch as a sophomore.

When to Watch: Notre Dame vs USC this Saturday on ABC at 2:30 pm central

Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) leaps over Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Micheal Summers (84) after making an interception during the first quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

4. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson

It’s no secret the Packers desperately need secondary help. This should be one of the top priorities going into the 2017 offseason.

Fortunately for Green Bay, the upcoming draft class of cornerback prospects is shaping to be one of the better groups in recent memory. Not only does it have a handful of elite players, there are also several Day 2 cornerbacks that could immediately play a key role on their team as rookies.

Any other year, Cordrea Tankersly would likely be a lock for the first round. However, because the 2017 class will also have guys like Quincy Wilson, Teez Tabor, and Sidney Jones headlining the cornerback class, a highly-talented defensive back like Tankersly could get pushed back into the second round.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior battles hard every down. He gives wide receivers hell all game, and he’s a very good in press-man coverage. He has the tools to be a reliable lockdown corner at the next level.

While Tankersly isn’t a classic burner, his solid technique, physical playing style, and good on-field awareness, more than makes up for any speed deficiencies in his game.

The Clemson standout also demonstrates good ball skills. Over the past two years as a starter, Tankersly has recorded six interceptions and 18 pass breakups.

Green Bay could not only use a cornerback on their roster that can compete with the larger wide receivers in the league, they could also use a guy in their secondary that can force turnovers and make plays on defense.

The depth of the 2017 cornerback class may lead to many overlooking Tankersly this spring, but I would’t sleep on the Clemson defensive back. He’s a solid prospect.

When to watch: South Carolina vs Clemson this Saturday on ESPN at 6:30 pm central

Previous CFB Players to Watch: Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 9Week 10Week 11, Week 12

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