No Joke: Packers Get Inside Linebacker

It took until Saturday, but Green Bay got a potential three-down defender in Michigan star Jake Ryan. Ryan's instincts, as much as his athletic ability, are what stood out to the Packers.

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Ted Thompson has an inside linebacker.

And a sense of humor.

With the Green Bay Packer’ fourth-round pick, Thompson grabbed Michigan’s Jake Ryan.

“(Thompson) kind of just said, ‘Maybe they’ll get off my back now, you know,’” Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf said.

Ryan, a rare two-year captain at Michigan, started 41 games in his career. He was productive. Ryan recorded 267 tackles, including 45.5 for losses and 9.5 sacks, and forced seven fumbles. He was tough. Ryan tore his ACL during spring practice in March 2013. On Oct. 12 – just six-and-a-half months later – he was back on the field against Penn State. And he’s athletic. At 6-foot-2 3/8 and 240 pounds at the Scouting Combine, Ryan ran his 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds. Our top 10 inside linebacker prospects averaged 4.68.

With that package, he ranked sixth in our charts comparing the inside linebackers based on athleticism and production. “Instincts,” are what stood out to Wolf and the scouting department. “I think he tested a little better than what people expected. The instincts are something that really stands out. He can get through traffic, he can make plays on the outside, he can penetrate and make plays on the inside run. Pretty good in coverage, kind of an all-around guy that we felt adds really good value to our team.”


Jake Ryan’s career stats, accolades
Jake Ryan’s official NFL scouting report (for our members)


Inside linebacker was the Packers’ No. 1 need entering the draft. To start the 2014 season, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore were the top three players at the position. None of those three are on the roster, leaving only Sam Barrington (and Clay Matthews) on the roster with any experience inside. That gives Ryan a chance to start immediately, though Wolf downplayed the need for the rookie to become an instant difference-maker, though he thought Ryan had three-down potential because of his all-around ability.

“It would be awesome to make an impact, but I’m going to go in there, work as hard as I can, try to get in the best shape I can and just do everything I need to do to be successful there,” Ryan said during a conference call.

Ryan is a no-nonsense, no-drama kind of player. Was he disappointed to fall to the end of the fourth round? Nope. Will he keep tabs on the eight inside linebackers taken ahead of him? Nope.

“You can’t look at it like that,” Ryan said. “You can’t put it out there. It just all depends on how the scouts and all depends on how the coaches approach it and look at it. But I’m happy. I’m happy to be a Packer.”

Ryan’s used to being overlooked. He was a three-star recruit who got a late offer from Michigan. He redshirted in 2010 then broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. In 2012, he was given the coveted No. 47, which had been retired in honor of Michigan legend Bennie Oosterbaan. After spending his first three seasons at outside linebacker, Ryan was moved into the middle for his senior season. He was first-team all-Big Ten and a member of the NFL Draft Report’s Super Sleeper Team with his career-high 112 tackles including 14 for losses and two sacks.

“I think instinctively is a good word to describe how I play,” Ryan said when relayed Wolf’s comments. “I have good instincts I’ve been told. I think I’ve got pretty good speed. A lot of film work goes into football, so just knowing what’s happening before I play I think is huge.”

Football and greatness are in Ryan’s genes. A grandfather played in the CFL, his dad played receiver at Wake Forest and two brothers play at Ball State. Now, Ryan has a great opportunity to great things for the Packers.

“It was awesome,” Ryan said of being drafted. “I saw a Wisconsin number, got very excited and it’s a huge honor.”

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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