“Best Player Available” or position of need? If you’re Packers general manager Ted Thompson, it’s a fairly ridiculous question on the surface. He’s shown us that he’ll take a quarterback that falls to No. 24 when he’s got a Hall of Famer under center, or trade back for a talented receiver at what looks like a loaded position group. Take the best player no matter what and, eventually, he’ll find a way into the lineup.
But when things are close to equal and an obvious need exists, Thompson has shown that he won’t hesitate to take a player that will come in and start as a rookie, whether it was A.J. Hawk, B.J. Raji or HaHa Clinton-Dix.
It’s a select few that have seen the Packers’ draft board, so knowing where they value a player like UCLA inside linebacker Eric Kendricks won’t be apparent until the waning hours of Thursday night. But if his name does get called, Green Bay has taken a major step toward upgrading that side of the ball. If it waits, the questions could linger deep into the preseason.
Winston has all the physical traits you love in a franchise quarterback and the raw talent and intangibles to be a future Pro Bowler. But off-field issues and immaturity should be a red flag for someone pegged to lead your team.
The Titans pass on defense and grab the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. He doesn’t fit coach Ken Whisenhunt’s system, but they’re in need of a marquee signal-caller. Of course, teams from the Eagles to the Bears to the Chargers could be in play for this pick.
J-ville passes up arguably the top player in the draft in DT Leonard Williams to address an area of need with the versatile former Gator, who rushed from a two- or three-point stance playing all along their defensive front.
On the eve of “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” the Raiders draft college football’s version of the Hulk. Williams has a rare combination of size, speed, power and athleticism that allows him to dominate opponents whether he’s lined up inside at tackle or outside at end.
Beasley was a beast who dominated his position group at the Combine, but that was just icing on the cake of a four-year career that saw him total 52.5 TFLs, 33 sacks, 29 QB pressures, 11 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles, two recoveries, and two TDs.
6. New York Jets: DE Bud Dupree, Kentucky
A team captain for the Wildcats in 2014 that can bring heat off the edge for the J-E-T-S. Bigger than Beasley at 6-foot-4, 269, Dupree is an explosive athlete with good technique, but needs to continue to get stronger if he wants to duplicate his SEC success at the next level.
An easy pick for the Bears, who fill an area of need and get the best player available. After losing Brandon Marshall, they get the draft’s most polished receiver to take his spot. Even Jay Cutler will look slightly less mopey with the selection of Cooper.
An arrest for marijuana possession on Monday doesn’t deter new coach Dan Quinn from selecting the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Ray set a school record with 14.5 sacks in 2014 and has a skill-set that could make him a dominant rusher at the next level.
White is far too talented of a receiver to fall out of the Top 10. The Giants make sure that doesn’t happen, and their WR corps just got officially scary with Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham, Jr. and White.
NFL GM’s love Kirk Ferentz’s players. Scherff comes to the league as perhaps the most pro-ready lineman and likely ends up at guard with the Rams, serving as a body guard to newly acquired signal-caller Nick Foles.
The Vikings see some of the NFL’s best receivers twice a year in the NFC North, so it’s a no-brainer to tab the draft’s best corner and install him opposite Xavier Rhodes. The lanky Waynes can play press or man and runs a blazing 4.31 40-yard dash.
The Browns were dead last in the NFL in run defense a year ago. Those days are done with the selection of the 6-foot-2, 339-pound Shelton. An avalanche of passion and power, Shelton is going to be a headache for AFC North centers.
This could be a bit of a reach, but Gregory has the length and explosiveness to terrorize quarterbacks. He’ll need to add bulk to his 6-foot-5 frame — he’s just 235 pounds — but the Saints need an edge rusher and Gregory is the pick over Arik Armstead of Oregon.
After getting rid of Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline during the offseason, the Phins are in need of a big No. 1 target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Parker has great body control and soft hands and can still add weight to his 6-foot-3, 209-pound frame.
15. San Francisco: DE Arik Armstead, Oregon
They need to address the inside linebacker situation after losing Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, but it’s too early for that. Instead, they get a player with the size and strength to excel as a five technique end and slide inside in certain schemes. Justin Smith’s eventual replacement is here.
Arian Foster isn’t getting any younger so the Texans grab arguably the draft’s top running back to pair with their aging star. With a murky-at-best QB situation, Houston is going to need to run. Gurley is a dynamic, young runner and could be a steal at this spot coming on an injury.
Assuming they haven’t worked a deal for Mariota, the Chargers address the loss of Ryan Mathews by grabbing Gordon. Possessing elite balance and acceleration — not to mention two healthy knees — Gordon could wind up being Rookie of the Year in this offense.
Only six teams gave up more sacks than Kansas City last year. Here’s its chance to fix that with the selection of Collins. Strong and agile with just the right amount of nasty, Collins most likely projects to a right tackle or guard in the pros.
19. Cleveland Browns: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
The Browns need some more targets and Perriman is a Josh Gordon clone as far as size, strength, and speed — without the off-field issues that derailed his career and frustrated the organization. He suffers the occasional drop, but he’s a big body with sub 4.3 speed.
Jones is a fluid athlete who started 37 of a possible 43 games at UConn prior to a season-ending shoulder injury in 2014. A converted safety that excels in press coverage, he upped his draft stock at the Combine when he exploded for a 12-foot-3, world-record broad jump.
Tackle Andrew Whitworth turns 34 this season and is in the final year of his contract. At 6-foot-6, 329 pounds, Flowers serves as an heir apparent to Whitworth and excels as both a run blocker and pass protector.
The Steelers finished 27th in pass defense last year, lowest among playoff teams. Johnson is a smooth, fluid athlete with natural cover skills. Pittsburgh was well-represented at his Pro Day and pulls the trigger at this spot.
Brown looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman at 6-foot-2, 319 pounds. He’s played end in a 4-3, and end and tackle in a 3-4 scheme. In 2014, he notched 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He’s not Ndamukong Suh, but he fills a big need and is the best player on the board.
After releasing their starting center a month ago, Irving is a 6-foot-5, 308-pound athlete who can start from Day 1. He’s got 22 starts at tackle under his belt, and showed his versatility last November when he made his first career start at center against Miami.
At 6-foot-7, 313 pounds, Peat has the measurable that coaches drool over. Though he’s not a punishing blocker per se, he has the size and athleticism to be a major upgrade on the Panthers’ offensive line and a reliable body guard for Cam Newton.
Dorsett can take the top off a defense with his elite speed and separation. After running a 4.33 at the NFL Combine, he uncorked a 4.27 at his pro day. At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, he’s dangerous from the slot or lined up outside and gives Baltimore a young playmaker.
27. Dallas Cowboys: CB Marcus Peters, Washington
The Boys have never shied away from a talented player with off-field baggage. Peters was kicked off the Huskies by coach Chris Petersen, but he’s arguably the most talented cornerback in the entire draft and is tremendous value at this spot — provided he stays out of trouble.
A team captain who started 13 games as a senior, Clemmings is a massive athlete with a basketball background and big upside who will fit in well with a Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking run scheme.
The top safety in the draft, Collins is better against the run than the pass — but that’s just fine with Indy. It needs a physical presence to shore up its secondary and Collins fits the bill at 6-foot, 228 pounds.
30. Green Bay Packers: ILB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Is Kendricks, in fact, the cliché “Best Player Available” on the Packers’ draft board? Only Ted Thompson knows for sure. If he is, then for the second year in a row, “BPA” and “Need” will cross paths in the war room. Experts have had Kendricks going anywhere from San Francisco at No. 15 overall to the Dolphins in the second round at No. 47.
At 6-foot, 232 pounds, Kendricks isn’t physically imposing, but his play is aggressive and instinctive beyond what his frame would suggest. The younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal (and son of Marvin, a former UCLA and CFL running back), Eric is a three-year starter who was voted team captain last season. A true three-down backer who can excel in coverage — something Green Bay’s defense has lacked from that position — he’s also got the quickness and vision to blitz when called on. He won the Butkus Award as the nations” top linebacker in 2014, along with the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
With Kendricks in the fold, he can line up next to Sam Barrington, a thicker, run-stuffing “thumper,” and allow Clay Matthews to spend more time at his natural outside spot. While players like LSU cornerback Jalen Collins could be tempting, Thompson will be more put off by his mere 10 starts than his multiple failed drug tests. UConn cornerback Byron Jones, a converted safety, could get tabbed here if he’s available. And Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman warrants consideration, given that Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji are working on one-year deals. But cornerback is a deeper position, and defensive line not as dire a need, and there are tight ends to be had in the middle rounds.
Green Bay let A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, and Jamari Lattimore walk in free agency, so it’s not just finding a starter, it’s adding bodies. The only viable option on their roster now is Carl Bradford, a rookie last year who was moved from outside linebacker to inside. If the Packers forego inside linebacker in Round 1, there’s a good chance that the top four at the position — Kendricks, Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney and TCU’s Paul Dawson will all be off the board by their next pick. Barring a trade back into the Top of Round Two, or a trade up from the bottom, this will be Green Bay’s best shot to find a playmaker at this position.
USC’s Nelson Agholor could get the call here, as well. But if available, the Saints add a big, strong receiver in the aptly named Strong, who plays faster than the stop watch indicates. Drew Brees is happy to get a receiver that draws comparisons to Marques Colston.
32. New England Patriots: CB Jalen Collins, LSU
The Patriots will be more than happy to trade out of this spot if some team comes calling. If they stay, Collins has the prototypical size and skill set that fills a major area of need for the Super Bowl champs after losing both their starting corners. FSU’s Eddie Goldman is also an option.
W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.