Pro Day Tour: Quartet of Inside Linebackers

The Packers had scouts at at least seven pro days, including Georgia, Baylor and Michigan State. Those three schools all have quality inside linebacker prospects, led by the Bulldogs' Ramik Wilson. Here are the players of interest as we followed Green Bay's scouts around the country. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY)

The Green Bay Packers are rebuilding their inside linebacker corps, and they saw four quality options at pro days hosted by Georgia, Baylor and Michigan State on Wednesday.

Georgia

Ramik Wilson is one of the more underrated prospects at any position. He played inside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme for his first three seasons. As a senior, he played middle linebacker as the Bulldogs shifted to a 4-3. Wilson started for his final two seasons, posting a SEC-leading 133 tackles as a junior and 110 tackles as a senior.

Wilson (6-2 ,237) had a strong Scouting Combine with a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash, 23 reps on the 225-pound bench and a 35-inch vertical. He stuck with most of those numbers but opted to do the 40 and turned in a 4.62 that was the second-fastest of any Georgia player on Wednesday.

“He needs to add bulk to defeat double teams better at the next level, but with his aggressiveness and willingness to learn, he will soon become a linebacker coach’s dream,” reads part of Wilson’s official NFL scouting report, which was provided to Packer Report.

Wilson’s running-mate, Amarlo Herrera (6-1, 244), ran in 4.78 after a 4.83 at the Combine. As a senior, the three-year starter led the Bulldogs with 115 tackles and 10 tackles for losses and added three sacks.

Wilson could go as soon as the third round while Herrera is a late-round option.

Two more defenders figure to get drafted. Defensive end Ray Drew (6-4, 284), who wasn’t invited to the Combine, ran in 4.81 with 18 reps on the bench. As a senior, his biggest impact came on three blocked kicks. While he had only one sack, he was fourth on the team with 13 quarterback hits. Cornerback Damian Swann (6-0, 189) stuck with his 4.50 from the Combine. The three-year starter picked off eight passes for his career. He had a huge senior season with four interceptions and four forced fumbles.

On offense, Todd Gurley, who is battling Melvin Gordon to be the top back off the board, remains sidelined by a torn ACL. Receiver Chris Conley (6-2, 213), who had a staggering Combine with a 4.35 in the 40 and a 45-inch vertical, stuck with those numbers.

Baylor

Bryce Hager was born to tackle. The son of former Texas All-American and NFL linebacker Britt Hager, Bryce Hager recorded 322 tackles as a three-year starter.

With two Packers scouts in attendance, Hager was the obvious player of interest — quarterback Bryce Petty won’t be available and none of the receivers have obvious appeal.

Hager (6-1, 234) went through only position drills after an exceptional Scouting Combine workout in which he ran his 40 in 4.60 seconds with a 35-inch vertical and 26 reps on the bench.

“I had a pretty good day,” Hager said. “I went through some defensive back drills and that kind of stuff is new to me but I think I did very well,” Hager said after his workout.

“You have a lot of pressure especially being at the Combine. You do not know all of the coaches or scouts but it is just like playing a game, when you are out there performing you do not usually notice the outside noise and people watching you. You just have to get in the zone.”

Hager is projected as a fourth- or fifth-round choice. Considering general manager Ted Thompson’s Texas roots and Hager’s family tree, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hager is the second inside linebacker the Packers grab in next month’s draft.

Michigan State

Hager is more of a run-and-hit linebacker. Michigan State’s Taiwan Jones is an old-school thumper. Jones (6-3, 245) ran a plodding 4.95 at the Combine. He trimmed about one-tenth of a second off of that time, according to a source. Jones, a late-round projection, was a two-year starter who was second-team all-conference after a senior season that included 60 tackles, four sacks, 12.5 tackles for losses and one interception.

Other than first-round cornerback Trae Waynes, who will be long gone before Green Bay is on the clock, the Spartans have three mid-round picks worth remembering.

Running back Jeremy Langford (6-0, 208) would be a true counter-puncher to Eddie Lacy. For his career, he rushed for 2,967 yards (5.1 average) and 40 touchdowns. His hands are better than his 39 career receptions suggest — which he showed during his workout and why he’s drawn comparisons to Warrick Dunn. He’s got explosive speed, with his 4.42 at the Combine.

Receiver Tony Lippett (6-3, 192) trimmed about one-tenth of a second off of his 4.61 at the Combine, according to the school Web site. Lippett is an intriguing prospect. If you’re a Big Ten fan, you’ll recall that he started at receiver and cornerback for much of his senior season. The Big Ten’s Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, recorded career highs in receptions (65), receiving yards (1,198) and touchdown catches (11) while averaging a gaudy 18.4 yards per catch.

“A lot of teams liked me as a corner; a lot of teams liked me as a wide receiver," said Lippett. “It's kind of 50/50. Basically the teams that liked me at the corner, they wanted to see me more. That's why at the Combine I did a couple of defensive back drills so they could see me, all of the coaches, GMs, owners, people like that. So, I got a good chance to showcase that, as well.”

Safety Kurtis Drummond (6-1, 208) stuck with his 4.65 and 39.5-inch vertical from the Combine. Drummond started the final 34 games of his career. As a senior, he won the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year with team-leading figures of 72 tackles, four interceptions and a conference co-leading 15 passes defensed.

Marcus Rush, who projects to a 3-4 outside linebacker, somehow is flying under the radar considering his 53 starts, 18.5 sacks, 37.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles. He ran in 4.68 with a 34-inch vertical and 24 reps on the bench.

“I showed my speed and my capability to play linebacker,” Rush said. “The big thing for me was to show my speed in the 40 and be able to do linebacking drills, because I've never really been able to show it after playing d-end my entire career here. It was a good opportunity for me, and it went well.”

Virginia Tech

Offensive tackle Laurence Gibson and safety Detrick Bonner — both late-round options — were the top draws.

Gibson (6-6, 305) stuck with his Combine workout that featured a sizzling 5.04 in the 40. Gibson, a relative newcomer to the game after playing only two seasons in high school, started at left tackle as a senior and is a man in demand with workouts and visits. Bonner (6-0, 207), who couldn’t test at the Combine because of injuries to both feet, couldn’t get through pro day, either.

Boise State

Running back Jay Ajayi met with the Packers at the Scouting Combine. While Green Bay needs a third running back, it’s doubtful Ajayi will be available when the Packers are ready to dive into the running back pool.

Ajayi (6-0, 221) is a terrific all-around player. Ajayi earned All-American accolades as a redshirt junior in 2014 with his 1,823 rushing yards (5.3 average) and 28 touchdowns plus a remarkable 50 receptions for 535 yards (10.7 average) and four more scores. That made him the only player in FBS history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. He stuck with his Combine workout (4.57; 39-inch vertical) and, as expected, displayed his excellent hands in drills, a source said.

Big receiver Matt Miller continued his comeback from an ankle injury that cost him most of his season. He ran in 4.75.

"I'm pretty close to being 100 percent healthy," Miller said. "The last few weeks, I started feeling really good, started getting that explosive twitch back. ... I felt pretty good today, but I still think I could have done better given more time."

Memphis

We couldn’t track down anything on defensive end/outside linebacker Martin Ifedi (6-3, 275), who ran in 4.88 at the Combine, or tackle/guard Al Bond (6-4, 303), who ran in 5.57 with 22 reps at the Combine.

Ifedi recorded 11.5 sacks as a junior but settled for 2.5 in nine games as a senior as he was slowed by a knee injury. He’s the school’s career leader with 22.5 sacks and was nominated for the Allstate Good Works Team for his community involvement. Bond was first-team all-AAC at right tackle as a senior. He weighed 3 pounds when he was born three months premature.

San Jose State

Defensive end Travis Raciti, a surprising Combine snub, helped himself. Raciti (6-4, 288) ran a 5.10 in the 40 and put up 27 reps on the bench. Raciti started 45 games, was a two-time all-conference pick and one of just seven players in program history to be a two-year captain. As a senior, he led the Mountain West’s defensive linemen with 72 tackles, including three sacks and 6.5 tackles for losses.

"I go into everything with a chip on my shoulder," Raciti said. "Nothing in life's ever been given to me. That's how I approach everything I do. I thought it went real well today."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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