This is Part 3 of our Green Bay Packers seven-round mock draft. Our selections for the first four rounds have been vetted by three NFL scouts to make sure our selections have a good chance of being available. Picks in the final three rounds will be based on the overall rankings at CBSSports.com/NFL Draft Scout.
The Packers replaced T.J. Lang in the first round and got a badly needed cornerback in the second round. Now, with their third-round pick, it’s time to turn our attention to the pass rush. The edge-rushing class is incredibly deep. An impact player should be available at No. 93.
Our three scouts came up with 10 edge rushers who could be available at the end of the third round. In alphabetical order: Alabama’s Ryan Anderson, Ohio’s Tarell Basham, Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel, Houston’s Tyus Bowser, Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Keionta Davis, Florida Atlantic’s Trey Hendrickson, Washington’s JoJo Mathis, Illinois’ Carroll Phillips, Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers and Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker.
We’ll cut the list to players who were mentioned at least twice for the sake of making a realistic choice. Stats are from STATS and Pro Football Focus. Rankings are based on our personal group of the top 24 edge-rushing prospects. Of those, PFF has data on 23, with the exception being Davis, who played an FCS schedule.
Anderson (6-2, 253; 4.78): It’s perhaps worth noting that GM Ted Thompson has drafted seven outside linebackers since the move to the 3-4 scheme in 2009. Five of them were at least 6-foot-3. The exceptions were Nate Palmer (sixth round, 2013, 6-foot-2) and Carl Bradford (fourth round, 2014, 6-foot-1). Obviously, neither of those picks panned out. Would that impact how the team views Anderson? More size issues: Anderson’s 31 1/2-inch arms were the second-shortest of any edge rusher or defensive lineman at the Combine.
Size didn’t matter during his senior season, though. Anderson was first-team all-SEC with 61 tackles, nine sacks and a team-high 19 tackles for losses. He added 10 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles. That gave him career totals of 19 sacks, 39.5 tackles for losses and six forced fumbles. As a senior, Anderson ranked 14th in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity and seventh in PFF’s run-stop percentage for a combined ranking of 11th in our group of top 24 edge rushers. Whatever his shortcomings, Anderson overcame them by bringing the venom to a defense that coach Nick Saban called “hateful.”
Biegel (6-3 1/4, 246; 4.67): Despite missing two games with a foot injury that required surgery, Biegel was second-team all-Big Ten as a senior. He logged 44 tackles, including four sacks and six for losses, and added seven quarterback hurries. He was third-team all-conference as a junior (66 tackles, eight sacks, 14 for losses) and second-team as a sophomore (7.5 sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles).
The son of cranberry farmers from Wisconsin Rapids, Biegel ranked eighth in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity and fifth in run-stop percentage for a cumulative ranking of fourth. That’s the best in this group of six possibilities. He lacks great length (32 3/8-inch arms) but tested better than expected at the Combine. Biegel, who was a semifinalist for the William Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman — won regularly with smarts and motor. He’ll need to hone his technique and add more power.
Hendrickson (6-4, 266; 4.65): Hendrickson put up big numbers during his final three seasons with 27.5 sacks, 39.5 tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles. All of those are school records. After piling up 13 sacks, 14.5 TFLs and five forced fumbles as a junior, Hendrickson faced more attention as a senior but was named Conference USA’s Defensive MVP with 9.5 sacks, 15 TFLs and one forced fumble. He led the nation with four blocked kicks. How was he so productive? His 10-yard split was the second-fastest for any front-seven defender at the Combine.
The former two-star tight end ranked first in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity but 17th in run-stop percentage for a cumulative ranking of sixth. His 32-inch arms and lack of power might render him little more than a pass-rushing specialist.
Mathis (6-2, 266; NA): Mathis is one of the most confounding prospects in the draft. In 34 career games in his first three seasons, Mathis had four sacks and eight tackles for losses. In the seven games before his senior season was cut short by a foot injury that required surgery, he had five sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses. While not tall, he’s got long arms (33 inches) and plenty of power (24 reps on the bench press ranked eighth among all edge prospects at the Combine). He’s not overly reliant on speed rushes, which should appeal to the Packers, who demand physicality at the position.
In a limited sample size, Mathis ranked second in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity and fourth in run-stop percentage for a cumulative ranking of second. He will test for scouts sometime in mid-April.
Phillips (6-3 1/4, 242; 4.64): As a senior, Phillips became the Illini’s first first-team all-Big Ten selection since 2011. Among his 56 tackles were nine sacks and 20 for losses. The TFLs count is tied for fifth-most in school history, and his 19 solo TFLs ranked second in the nation during the regular season. He added three hurries and one forced fumble. It was from-out-of-nowhere production for a player who had a combined total of three sacks and 5.5 TFLs the previous two seasons. Not only is he a good athlete but his 33 3/4-inch arms are the longest in this group of six. He needs to add power to his game.
Despite the big sack total, he ranked only 18th in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity and 14th in run-stop percentage for a cumulative ranking of 18th. He needs to get stronger if he’s going to be anything more than a speed rusher.
Walker (6-3 5/8, 280; NA): Walker wasted no time in embarking on becoming a consensus first-team All-American. In the opener against Ole Miss, he piled up 4.5 sacks — all in the second half. For an exclamation point, he had four tackles for losses in the Orange Bowl against Michigan. By season’s end, Walker posted 16 sacks and 21.5 tackles for losses among 68 tackles. He added three forced fumbles and four additional hurries. His four-year total: 27 sacks, 41.5 tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles.
Walker, despite the huge sack total, ranked only 19th in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity and ninth in run-stop percentage for a cumulative ranking of 14th. Walker might lack the explosiveness of some of the other edge prospects — FSU’s pro day is Tuesday — but he also outweighs most of them by 25 or 30 pounds. If the Packers are looking for an elephant to replace Datone Jones or Julius Peppers, this could be the guy.
So who will be the choice? The Packers have no use for pure pass rushers. That means Hendrickson and Phillips could be out of the mix. If the goal is to get more athletic, than Walker would be out of the running. Mathis has about a half-season of production. Biegel lacks power and that 5-yard explosiveness to be a great rusher. Anderson might be maxed out. But his well-rounded game and take-no-prisoners style would be a welcome addition if he falls to the 93rd selection.
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.