The Green Bay Packers like big runnning backs, and they brought in three for predraft visits.
One of those was Utah State’s Devante Mays. Mays flirted with a 1,000-yard season as a junior, and big things were in store for his senior season. In the opener against Weber State, Mays rushed 18 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns. He emerged as the nation’s leading rusher but injured his right knee the following week against USC. Mays played sporadically and sparingly the rest of the season, with 17 carries for 49 yards in five games.
“It was really difficult, not being able to really play my senior year,” said Mays, who is one of 10 children. “I had huge plans. Initially, it started out great — the first game, rushing for over 200 yards and being the top guy in the nation after Week 1. It was really hard not being able to show people what I can do. Going through the draft now and being under the radar and people not really knowing too much about me, it’s still been pretty hard. It’s hard not being one of those guys that they talk about, like a Leonard Fournette, who I know I should be mentioned with those guys.”
That put the pressure on Mays to put on a show at Utah State’s pro day. He answered the bell. Mays (5-10 3/8, 230) ran his 40 in 4.52 seconds, posted a vertical jump of 40.5 inches and put up 22 reps on the bench press. That set off a busy predraft schedule that included a trip to Green Bay.
“They’re going to get a player who always goes out and plays hard, a guy that’s going to give it his all, a playmaker — they can expect that for sure,” Mays said.
Mays fits the Packers based on size and athleticism, and the team almost certainly be looking for a big back to pair with Ty Montgomery after losing Eddie Lacy in free agency. To land — and stick — with Green Bay, Mays will have to show he can catch the ball after making only two grabs in his two season at Utah State.
“This has been a dream my whole life, ever since I was a little boy,” he said. “It’ll definitely be a dream come true once my phone rings and someone says they’re going to draft me. Even if I sign as a free agent, it’s going to be a dream come true.”
Here are more Packers visits on offense, either learned or confirmed by Packer Report. The Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein also reported Packers visits; he has a somewhat different list so you should check out that story, too. Each team is allotted 30 visits. Mostly, the Packers use them as undrafted free-agent recruiting tools. Our defense visits are here.
Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois (6-1 1/4, 230; 4.66 40; 4.42 shuttle; 34 vertical): Bouagnon was second-team all-MAC after rushing for 885 yards and eight toucdhwons. He added a career-high 17 receptions. He was second-team all-conference as a junior, as well, when he was more of a focal point of the running game and plowed through defenses for 1,285 yards and 18 scores. Bouagnon, who is considered a strong blocker, finished 11th in school history with 2,911 rushing yards and seventh with 31 rushing touchdowns. Five of those came in a victory over Bowling Green last season.
Devante Mays, Utah State (5-10 3/8, 230; 4.52 40; 4.53 shuttle; 40.5 vertical)
Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (6-0 3/4, 228; 4.43 40; 4.25 shuttle; 35 vertical): Mixon is arguably the best and most complete running back in the draft and would be a perfect fit as the three-down back preferred by Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Actually, with proven kickoff-return ability, Mixon is a four-down back.
Mixon, however, comes with one well-documented red flag. In July 2014, he punched a female student. The woman suffered fractured bones in her face. Mixon was suspended from the team for the 2014 season and was charged with acts resulting in gross injury — a misdemeanor. A plea deal required Mixon to complete 100 hours of community service and go through counseling.
Mixon started only nine games in two seasons but piled up 2,027 rushing yards (6.8 average) and caught 65 passes for 894 yards. That gave him a two-year total of 2,921 yards and 26 total touchdowns. In 2016, he rushed for 1,274 yards (6.8 average), caught 37 passes for 538 yards (14.5 average) and averaged 23.5 yards with one touchdown on kickoff returns. His school-record 2,331 all-purpose yards got him first-team all-Big 12 honors. Mixon was the only player in the nation in 2016 to account for touchdowns passing, rushing, receiving and returning.
A scout on Thursday morning predicted Mixon wouldn’t last to Green Bay’s spot in the second round and wouldn't rule out the first round. Last week, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, a disciple of Packers GM Ted Thompson, said Mixon "really came across as a good kid." Of the process of vetting a prospect with such a horrendous criminal offense, McKenzie said: “You have to feel the guy. We’re dealing with young men, whether they have a mistake here or there — drunk, bar fight — whatever the case may be. You try to feel the remorse but you try to gauge and see, is this a malicious situation? Will it continue to be an issue? If your gut’s telling you 'let’s give this young man a shot,' I’ll try to lean towards that. I’m not going to disparage the kid for a mistake, certain issues.”
Taysom Hill, BYU (6-1 5/8, 230; 4.46 40): Injuries ruined Hill’s promising career. Four of his five seasons ended in injuries, including his fifth-year senior campaign, when he suffered an elbow injury in the regular-season finale. Knee (2012), broken leg (2014) and Lisfranc foot (2015) were the other culprits. For his career, he completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 6,929 yards with 43 touchdowns vs. 31 interceptions. That includes 59.7 percent for 2,323 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a senior. According to Pro Football Focus, Hill ranked among the most accurate passers among draft-eligible quarterbacks both overall and when under pressure. He is 26 and not ready to give up the sport. "I love the game. The time frame to play at this level is short, so I'm going to take advantage of it."
Phillip Walker, Temple (5-11 1/4, 214; 4.74 40): In four seasons, Walker completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 10,668 yards, with 74 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. That includes a senior campaign of 58.2 percent and career highs of 3,295 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8.3 yards per attempt. He was picked off 13 times. He added 771 rushing yards and nine more scores in four seasons. He is the school’s career leader in completions, attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense, and he’s the only quarterback in school history to lead his team to multiple bowl games. Walker changed to jersey No. 8 as a senior; the school reserves single-digit uniforms for its toughest players. “I’ve always wanted to keep number 11. I never thought I wanted to change it. But it means a lot. When I got the opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. Just look at the list of guys that came before me with single digit numbers. It shows the level of commitment players want to put toward this program.”
Austin Carr, Northwestern (6-0 1/4, 202; 4.62 40; 33.5 vertical; 6.70 3-cone): Carr was the nation’s most productive slot receiver last year. He caught 90 passes for 1,247 yards (13.9 average) and 12 touchdowns as a senior, when he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and won the Big Ten Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award. All of that production came from the slot. In our Top 31 receivers, Carr finished fifth in drop rate at 4.26 percent, according to Pro Football Focus. Carr was not invited to the Combine but had a strong pro day, which included a 4.07 in the shuttle that overshadowed his ho-hum 40 time. Carr started his career as a walk-on. He’s also a composer, singer and pianist. “As with songwriting, you are attuned to the details. In football, there is structure on the field, but there is plenty of room for creativity at my position.”
Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois (6-4, 218; 4.50 40; 35.5 vertical; 7.00 3-cone): Golladay began his career at North Dakota, posting a 69-catch season as a sophomore, before moving up to the FBS ranks and moving back near his hometown of Chicago. At Northern Illinois, Golladay caught 73 passes for 1,129 yards (15.5 average) and 10 touchdowns as a junior and 87 passes for 1,156 yards (13.3) and eight touchdowns as a senior. Of our top prospects, he ranked seventh in drop percentage. Not only is he tall but he’s powerful. Only Penn State’s Chris Godwin and Georgia State’s Robert Davis beat Golladay’s 20 reps on the bench press at the Combine. Golladay used that strength as a blocker — he is one of the best in this draft class — and as a runner, with 20 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He was used often on deep passes but caught only 14-of-38 for 479 yards and five touchdowns.
Rob Wheelwright, Wisconsin (6-1 7/8, 205; 4.60 40; 38 vertical; 6.68 3-cone): Wheelwright caught 32 passes for 416 yards (13.0 average) and four touchdowns as a junior and 34 passes for 448 yards (13.2 average) and one touchdown as a senior. His drop rate of 10.26 percent ranked toward the bottom third of the draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. His tape wasn’t great and his 40 wasn’t great but his vertical jump and three-cone time will get him a look.
Chad Williams, Grambling (6-0 1/2, 207; 4.43 40; 35.5 vertical; 7.06 3-cone): Williams posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. As a junior, he caught 64 passes for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was even more prolific as a senior with 90 catches for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns. That gave him a four-year total of 210 receptions, 3,062 yards (14.6 average) and 28 scores. He hardly looked overwhelmed by the competition at the Senior Bowl. He stuck with Grambling even through turmoil that included a moldy weight room and the firing of coach Doug Williams. “I play with an edge that most guys really don't have, in my opinion. Everything I got, I had to earn it. I did a lot of dirty work. If there’s an interception, I’m the guy who’s going to make the tackle.”
DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue (6-1 5/8, 220; 4.53 40; 35.5 vertical; 6.84 3-cone): Yancey provided the big plays for the Boilermakers, with senior-year totals of 49 catches, 951 yards (19.4 average) and 10 touchdowns. According to PFF, he caught only 10-of-29 deep passes but turned those catches into 449 yards and six touchdowns. His four-year total was 141 receptions, 2,344 yards (16.6) and 20 scores. Yancey ranked 15th in our Top 31 in drop rate. His 21 reps on the bench press at pro day would have topped the fleet of receivers at the Combine.
Levon Myers, Northern Illinois (6-4 3/4, 309; 5.41 40; 4.83 shuttle; 24 bench): Myers, a native of Franklin, Wis., started 26 consecutive games at left tackle as a junior and senior. He was second-team all-MAC both seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, Myers ranked 13th among all draft-eligible offensive tackles in pass protection. PFF charged him with two sacks and 13 total pressures. He keyed a line that gave up the fewest sacks in the nation while ranking 16th in rushing. It’s been quite a rise. “Growing up, elementary school and even into middle school a little bit, I was the absolute last person to be picked,” he said. “I was so uncoordinated. I mean, I couldn't even tie my shoes, I couldn't walk.” He called visiting Green Bay, his favorite team, “an amazing experience.”
Aaron Peck, Fresno State (6-2 3/8, 239; 4.68 40, 4.36 shuttle; 36.5 vertical; 22 bench): Peck was expecting to be drafted a year ago. Instead, he sat out the 2015 season with a foot injury.
“There’s definitely that period of me being down, wondering why this had to happen to me,” he said.
Peck returned in 2016 and caught 46 passes for 630 yards (13.7 average) and three touchdowns. He is transitioning from big college receiver to NFL tight end. The Packers were among the teams intrigued enough to bring him in for a visit.
“I played my senior year at around 230-ish as a big receiver,” he said last week. “I felt going into the league and being able to do some of the tight end stuff and also flex out and be a receiver, as well, just offers more versatility. I thought that’d be a key for me if I wanted to make it and stay in the league.”
Catching the ball is no problem. Peck finished with one of the lowest drop rates among draft-eligible receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. He caught nine passes for 112 yards in the opener against Nebraska and had 26 receptions through five games before being slowed for the rest of the season with an ankle injury. The challenge will be becoming an adept blocker. It’s a challenge he’s embraced, including working extensively with Bill Lewis, a former NFL center, at a training facility in Arizona. Lewis’ son, Alex, played on the offensive line at Colorado and Nebraska and was a fifth-round pick by Baltimore last year.
“I do feel confident in my blocking,” Peck said. “He definitely knows his stuff.”
Peck was the face of the program. Literally. He was featured on posters, billboards and digital and print advertising promoting the football program. That shows just how much Peck was respected at the school.
“It was cool,” he said. “My friends enjoyed it probably more than I did. We got a kick out of it. I’m more of a low-key kind of guy, so being on the poster, it was different. It’s something cool that I can show my kids.”
Peck could be a late-round pick. If not, he figures to be signed after the draft. Either way, it will be a dream come true.
“You think about it growing up but it’s different when it’s about to become reality,” he said. “These past couple weeks, the anticipation is building. I don’t know what it will be like. There’ll definitely be some relief like, ‘Whew, I’m going here. Now I can get to work.’”
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.