The Green Bay Packers are in the pole position for the start of today’s second round.
With the 33rd overall pick — or wherever the Packers wind up picking should some quarterback-hungry team want to move into that slot — general manager Ted Thompson has an impressive list of prospects on his board. Here’s a look at what’s ahead, with Green Bay at No. 33 (for now), No. 61 (the 29th pick of the second round) and No. 93 (the 29th pick of the third round).
With the free-agent departures of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones, a poor season by Clay Matthews and an underwhelming rookie season by Kyler Fackrell, this would seem to be the clear No. 1 area of need for Green Bay. The Packers just missed out on UCLA’s Takk McKinley, who Atlanta traded up to get at No. 26, and they could have selected T.J. Watt, who Pittsburgh grabbed at No. 30.
Houston’s Tyus Bowser, a do-it-all defender who played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and Kansas State’s Jordan Willis, a pass-rushing 4-3 end who would move to outside linebacker, appear to be the best options based on production and athleticism. Vince Biegel, who was productive in a 3-4 scheme at Wisconsin, could be an attractive option at No. 61 or beyond.
Cornerback is the deepest position group of this draft class. No matter how Thompson and the coaches feel about the long-term prospects of 2015 draft picks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, the Packers figure to take advantage of this bumper crop of cover men.
At No. 33, Washington’s towering Kevin King, Florida’s cat-quick Quincy Wilson and Colorado’s do-it-all Chidobe Awuzie probably will be considerations. Thompson’s never drafted a tall corner but there rarely are prospects with King’s off-the-charts combination of height and agility. He wasn’t a great player at Washington, though. Wilson doesn’t have great long speed but his 20-yard shuttle was one of the best in the draft class. Awuzie has a nose for the ball but doesn’t have great hands. He is Micah Hyde with better athletic ability.
The wild cards are Washington’s Sidney Jones and UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, who suffered major injuries at their pro days. Jones was a legit top-10 prospect before the injury but might not be back until midseason, at the earliest. Moreau, who might be ready for the start of training camp, didn’t play like a first-rounder but sure tested like one.
All of the top guard prospects are available, led by Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp. The Packers signed Jahri Evans to replace T.J. Lang but Evans isn’t a long-term solution. In the third round, watch for San Diego State’s Nico Siragusa, who has testing numbers comparable to Lang and Josh Sitton.
The Packers badly need a running back to pair with Ty Montgomery. But this is an incredibly flawed group. Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook have had well-documented off-the-field incidents. Cook’s Combine workout was far worse than any running back drafted by Thompson. Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara is undersized and never has been a No. 1 running back. Texas’ D’Onta Foreman’s fumble count practically matched his reception total.
The Packers are strong at safety and wide receiver, but don’t rule out those positions. The safety class is loaded and the Packers must replace Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett is entering his final season under contract. At receiver, Jordy Nelson isn’t getting any younger and Davante Adams and Jeff Janis are entering their final season under contract.
Fresh faces could be welcome at inside linebacker and the defensive line. A three-down inside linebacker could be an option at No. 33, and Thompson always drafts defensive linemen.
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.