Odighizuwa photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY
The NFL Draft is here. The Green Bay Packers have nine picks but, really, all you care about is what happens in tonight’s first round. It’s the big box with the big bow under the tree. Sure, those smaller boxes might have the good stuff, but it’s the big one you want to tear open.
So, let’s start tearing.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn is the dean of the draft people on the beat corps. He’s got the Packers trading out of the first round. It’s hardly a unique thought. I could toot my horn and say I’ve been on that bandwagon for more than a month but so have a lot of you in the Twitterverse.
After all, what are the Packers’ biggest needs? Cornerback and inside linebacker. Will talent meet need at those spots?
At cornerback, Washington’s Marcus Peters, LSU’s Jalen Collins, Connecticut’s Byron Jones, Utah’s Eric Rowe and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson all sort of fit in that range. By the time the Packers are up at No. 30, will any of them be left? Probably at least a couple. Would the Packers want any of them? Teams have gotten more comfortable with Peters’ off-the-field history and he’ll probably be gone because he’s so good. He is a head-strong person; the Packers made it work with Charles Woodson and, with their veteran coaching staff, probably think they can do it again. As for the others? Collins, with his pot problems at LSU, started seven games last year. Seven! And he’s supposed to start 16 for Green Bay? Enough teams like Jones and Rowe more at safety that you question whether they’re good enough to hold up on the perimeter against the likes of Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. Johnson seems like Sam Shields 2.0 with his great athleticism but lack of physicality. The Packers probably need a different look.
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At inside linebacker, the highly respected duo of Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock went with Denzel Perryman, the powerful and productive but short and athletically limited Miami inside linebacker. Normally, I wouldn’t buy that but, late last night, a scout reminded me about the Packers’ inability to tackle Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. “If you’ve got to beat Seattle …” was all the scout said. OK, but do you really want to spend your first-round pick on a guy who probably can’t play on third down? Clemson’s Stephone Anthony would seem to make more sense. He’s not as tough or as instinctive as Perryman but he’s bigger and he’s faster with three-down potential. Scouts from two teams said Anthony is good enough to be picked at No. 30; scouts from five other teams disagreed. Of the other inside linebackers, Mississippi State’s towering Benardrick McKinney is a two-down guy who didn’t impress teams in interviews, UCLA tackling machine Eric Kendricks just seems too small and TCU’s ultra-productive Paul Dawson is short and slow.
How about other positions? Outside linebacker isn’t a need now but it might be a big one next year, with Julius Peppers (age and salary), Mike Neal and Nick Perry (both free agents) potentially no longer in a Green Bay uniform in 12 months. If Missouri’s Shane Ray, with the news that he’ll be under the NFL’s drug-testing microscope, falls to No. 30, he’d be a consideration. But more likely, the Packers could be tempted by UCLA’s Owa Odighizuwa or Mississippi State’s Preston Smith. Odighizuwa is 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds with a 4.62 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical. That’s big-time athleticism. Surgeries on both hips that sidelined him for all of 2013 are a giant red flag but he really played well as last season progressed. Smith is 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds but not quite as athletic (4.74; 34 vertical). They both have the ability to play the “elephant” position manned by Peppers, Neal and Perry.
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And wouldn’t it just send the fans in a tizzy if Thompson drafted a receiver? Not just any receiver, though. The one that would tempt Thompson would be USC’s Nelson Agholor, who had 3,572 all-purpose yards in three seasons. Remember, when push came to shove, Green Bay – with its No. 1-ranked scoring offense – couldn’t get it done in losses to Seattle, Buffalo and Detroit. Why Agholor specifically? He’s also a proven return man.
So, who will it be?
Trading back makes sense, especially if you can get a player you like and fill a need and accumulate an extra pick or two in the process. Of course, it takes two to tango. Will some team picking in the first dozen-or-so picks in the second round that’s hungry for a quarterback (or whatever) get antsy and try to make a move into the end of the first? And would Green Bay be the team able to strike a deal? Typically, the number of teams wanting to trade down outnumber the teams wanting to trade up, so making a move is easier said than done.
Barring that, we’re stepping outside the box and going with Odighizuwa in the first. What about cornerback? Hope for some leftovers in the second. What about inside linebacker? Same thing, or take advantage of the Day 3 depth with a guy like Kansas’ Ben Heeney.
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