In this series, he produces his all-Senior Bowl mock Packers draft. Opinions are based on his observations, and conversations with Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber and league scouts who were in Mobile.
After selecting offensive tackle Ciron Black in the second round cornerback Brandon Ghee in the third round, defensive end C.J. Wilson in the fourth round, offensive lineman Zane Beadles in the fifth round, safety Harry Coleman in the sixth round and punter Matt Dodge in the seventh round, the Packers are back on the clock ...
First round: Dexter McCluster
The Packers will enter next season as one of the prime Super Bowl contenders. To solidify that ranking, they need to bolster both offensive tackle positions as well as rebuild a cornerback corps that was dismantled by the likes of Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner.
Chances are, there will be at least one starting-caliber offensive tackle on the board when the Packers select at No. 23 — perhaps Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, USC's Charles Brown or Maryland's Bruce Campbell. In a deep class of cornerbacks, the Packers could have a shot at Florida State's Patrick Robinson or Boise State's Kyle Wilson. Safety, with Texas' Earl Thomas or USC's potential-packed Taylor Mays, could fill a void, too.
With two big-time receivers in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, a budding star at tight end in Jermichael Finley and remarkable depth with Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Lee and Spencer Havner, the Packers don't need another playmaker in the passing game.
Sometimes, however, a prospect is just too good to pass up.
Last year, general manager Ted Thompson selected defensive lineman B.J. Raji over the highest rated player on his draft board, receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is immensely talented and could develop into a Pro Bowl player. What Crabtree is not, however, is a potential game-breaking player who is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
McCluster is exactly that kind of threat.
McCluster, who ranks second in Ole Miss history with 4,089 total yards, played running back in college but his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame won't be able to hold up to the punishment as a 15- or 20-carry back in the NFL. So, he'll have to develop into an all-purpose threat in the mold of Minnesota's Percy Harvin.
McCluster certainly has those skills. As a senior, he rushed for 1,169 yards (6.5 average) and caught 44 passes for 520 yards (11.8 average) with 11 total touchdowns. During Senior Bowl practices, McCluster looked like a remarkably polished receiver considering that wasn't his role for Mississippi.
And with big-time speed, McCluster will enter in the NFL as one of the few players who will be a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
McCluster entered Senior Bowl practices as a second-round prospect, but by being the best player on the field all week, he's climbed into the first round. Whether he stays there will depend on how he runs at the Scouting Combine and if concerns about his size will outweigh the potential powderkeg in the hands of a creative play-caller.
Considering the Packers set a franchise record for scoring offense this season, just how much better can this unit become with an electric playmaker with the potential to get deep on any pass play? The Packers haven't had a legit speed threat in years. Just imagine what the threat of McCluster running deep and occupying a safety could mean for Jennings and Finley doing their work on intermediate routes.
While receiver isn't a position of need, neither James Jones nor Jordy Nelson have shown they are ready to be the heir to the 35-year-old Driver. Plus, the Packers desperately need to add some juice to their kickoff and punt return.
"McCluster is small, but a very productive performer who has big-play ability," Steuber said. "He's exceptionally quick and elusive in the open field. He has great vision and cutback ability making him difficult to track down. He's stronger than his size suggests and can get off a jam with his agility, quickness and strength. He has good hands and catches the ball away from his body. He's a maximum-effort type of performer and works hard to improve in every facet of the game. He's an experienced return specialist and offers excitement every time the ball is in his hands."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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 twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.