Thompson Addresses Some Needs But Not Biggest

Two cornerbacks and a receiver/returner are a nice haul from the first two days of the draft, but where is the badly needed inside linebacker?

In the first two days of the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers have checked off two major items on their to-do list.

Rebuild a cornerback corps left bare by the free-agent defections of Tramon Williams and Davon House? Check. In addition to the first-round selection of Damarious Randall, Green Bay added Miami (Ohio) star Quinten Rollins during Friday’s second round.

Upgrade an impotent special teams? Check. Third-round pick Ty Montgomery, a receiver from Stanford, averaged 27.4 yards on kickoff returns and 19.8 yards on punt returns – with a total of five touchdowns – for his career.

“Quite frankly, we kind of set a plan here. It’s a simple plan, but we wanted to make sure we got football players and we think we got a couple more tonight,” general manager Ted Thompson said on Friday night.

It didn’t take long to address the elephant in the room, though. The Packers had a glaring need for an inside linebacker in the 2014 draft and didn’t take any. And through two days of the 2015 draft – with the glaring need now a blinding need – the Packers still haven’t taken any.

If Thompson was concerned, he put on his best Texas poker face.

“I think it’s fine,” Thompson said, his definition of “fine” being different than how the fans and, quite likely, defensive coordinator Dom Capers might define the word.

“I’m a football guy,” Thompson added. “I don’t know, I have confidence in the fellas that we have.”

You could accuse Thompson of being overconfident if that’s what he truly believes. No different than when the Packers released A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones and allowed Jamari Lattimore to walk in free agency two months ago, Green Bay has just one inside linebacker who has started an NFL game. No, that’s not quite strong enough of a statement. Green Bay has just one inside linebacker who has suited up for an NFL game. That would be Sam Barrington.

The Packers chose Randall over Stephone Anthony in the first round, then watched as Benardrick McKinney (No. 43 to Houston), Eric Kendricks (No. 45 to Minnesota) and Denzel Perryman (No. 48 to San Diego) were long gone before coming on the clock at No. 62 of the second round. In the third round, Green Bay chose Montgomery over TCU’s Paul Dawson, who went five picks later to Cincinnati.

It’s a roll of the dice by Thompson. You could argue that Thompson should have taken Anthony in the first round, but McKinney, Kendricks and Perryman were not worth the cost of moving up 20 picks in the second. McKinney’s a two-down defender who didn’t impress scouts during his Scouting Combine interviews. Kendricks is athletic enough to play on third down but might not be powerful enough to be a force on first or second down. And Perryman’s height and athletic deficiencies made him a two-down defender. In the third round, not only is Dawson short and slow – leading to concerns that he’d be unable to duplicate his success at TCU – but wasn’t exactly a model citizen.

So, Thompson will enter Saturday with six picks at his disposal. Even if the plan is to move forward with Clay Matthews joining Barrington on the inside in the base defense, the Packers must emerge with at least one inside linebacker – preferably more – during Day 3 of the draft. The big names might be gone, but scouts agreed that the depth of the position lies in the fourth and fifth rounds, where there are big guys (Michigan State’s Taiwan Jones) and small guys (Penn State’s Mike Hull), and big-school prospects (Michigan’s Jake Ryan) and small-school prospects (Newbery’s Edmond Robinson).

“This thing is a long way from being put to bed,” Thompson said.

At least Thompson selected some impact players. Randall, who was listed as a safety but played plenty of man-to-man coverage, according to his collegiate position coach, had three interceptions in each of his two seasons. Rollins had seven interceptions during a remarkable first (and only) season with the football team. Montgomery, who entered the season as the nation’s top senior receiver, piled up more than 5,200 all-purpose yards.

But they don’t play linebacker. If Anthony outplays Randall and Dawson delivers more game-changing plays than Montgomery and whoever the Packers land at inside linebacker doesn’t make a splash, then Thompson’s decisions will have left the 2015 season in grave danger.

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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