The Green Bay Packers used their third-round draft pick on a player from Utah State.
It wasn’t Nick Vigil, who might have been the inside linebacker capable of strengthening their third-down pass coverage. He went to Cincinnati with pick No. 77. Instead, at pick No. 78, the Packers took his sidekick, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
“He’s kind of an all-around guy,” general manager Ted Thompson said on Friday night. “He has the ability to rush the passer, he’s got good ability in space, good athlete. We like him. Plays the ball.”
After redshirting in2011, Fackrell started all 27 games in 2012 and 2013. In the 2014 opener against Tennessee, he sustained a torn ACL and missed the season. He returned in 2015 and tallied 82 tackles, four sacks, 15 tackles for losses and a nation-best five fumble recoveries to earn first-team all-Mountain West honors.
In our group of 17 outside linebackers (not including the elephant prospects), he tied for first with 14 stuffs (a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage vs. the run) and finished third with 29 run disruptions. He was also the best tackler, with just four misses giving him a rate of 20 tackles per miss.
“Absolutely, I knew it was possible. It was still my goal,” Fackrell said when asked if he had any doubts following the injury. “That injury wasn’t what I had planned, what we had planned, but in a lot of ways it helped me, I think. It was a blessing in disguise for our family.”
Fackrell joins a strong outside linebacker corps, bolstered by the return of Clay Matthews to the position after he had spent the past season-and-a-half playing mostly inside linebacker. However, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry are entering their final season under contract, as is Datone Jones, who will join those two at the elephant position. As if there were any doubt, the selection likely ensures that Mike Neal’s six-year tenure in Green Bay is over.
“It’s a huge honor,” Fackrell said of playing with Matthews and Peppers. “Those are guys that I’m absolutely looking forward to learning from. They’re both great players and it’s a great team. I’m so excited to be there to learn and contribute everything that I can.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.