From a Green Bay Packers perspective, this draft forever will be about T.J. Watt and Kevin King.
The Packers could have used their first-round pick on Watt, the born-and-bred Badger with the famous family ties and the knack for sacking the quarterback. Instead, general manager Ted Thompson traded the 29th pick of the first round for the first pick of the second round, No. 33 overall, where he grabbed the rangy and athletic King. Watt went No. 30 to Pittsburgh.
King filled a major need on one of the NFL’s most porous pass defenses. But the Packers needed a pass-rushing outside linebacker, with Clay Matthews coming off a poor season and Julius Peppers and Datone Jones departing in free agency.
They could have taken one with the second of their second-round picks. At No. 61 overall, Green Bay selected safety Josh Jones — and bypassed Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot (No. 68 to Jacksonville), Kansas State’s Jordan Willis (No. 73 to Cincinnati), Alabama’s Tim Williams (No. 78 to Baltimore), Ohio’s Tarell Basham (No. 80 to Indianapolis) and Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers (No. 83 to New England).
With the list of edge rushers dwindling, Green Bay was back on the clock at No. 93 overall late in the third round. The Packers selected Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams — and bypassed Florida Atlantic’s Trey Hendrickson (No. 103 to New Orleans), who was the nation’s top pass rusher last year.
Green Bay started Day 3 of the draft on the clock with pick No. 108. That was the selection obtained by trading out of the first round. In our list of the top 12 edge rushers, only two remained: Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel and Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
The Packers, of course, went with Biegel — Watt’s sidekick. Lawson went eight picks later to Cincinnati.
Athletically, the decision was a draw. Biegel (6-3 1/4, 246) ran his 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, his 20-yard shuttle in 4.30 seconds and his three-cone drill in 6.92 seconds. Lawson (6-1 3/4, 261) matched Biegel’s time in the 40, beat Biegel in the shuttle with a 4.19 but lagged well off the pace in the three-cone in 7.46. However, Lawson’s 35 reps on the bench press were one of the highest tallies at the Scouting Combine and 14 more than Biegel. Two things worked against Lawson. One was arm length (Lawson, 31 1/2 inches; Biegel, 32 3/8 inches). Two was health. While Biegel missed a couple games as a senior due to midseason foot surgery, Lawson missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL and half of 2015 with a cracked hip.
Production was a landslide in Lawson’s favor, at least from a big-play, on-paper perspective. Lawson earned some first-team All-America accolades with his nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses. Biegel had only four sacks and six tackles for losses. However, the data from Pro Football Focus tells a different story. PFF’s pass-rush productivity metric measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Among the edge-rushing prospects in this draft, Biegel ranked 12th while Lawson ranked 13th.
Run defense was a landslide in Biegel’s favor, regardless of perspective. Biegel logged 44 tackles compared to Lawson’s 30. Moreover, Biegel ranked 12th among the edge rushers in PFF’s run-stop percentage, a metric that measures impact tackles. Lawson ranked 97th.
Behind Matthews and Nick Perry, there is no proven depth at outside linebacker. Kyler Fackrell, last year’s third-round pick, had a quiet rookie season. Jayrone Elliott has been a standout on special teams but never has had to play a major role on defense. Put simply, Biegel must be an instant contributor. And his career probably will be measured alongside Lawson’s.
“When I was on the phone when they drafted me ... they said, ‘Vince, that same type of motor, same type of enthusiasm on film, I want you to bring that to Green Bay,’” Biegel said. “And I’m going to bring that and then some there. Wherever I go in the draft it doesn’t matter. I have a chip on my shoulder and I want to be able to go in there, work hard, earn the respect of my teammates. Quiet, learn the playbook, be accountable — those are the things that make up a great teammate, and that’s what I want to do.”
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.