Could No. 1 Pick Be From Division II College?

The Packers appear to be hot on the trail of a talented left tackle prospect from well off the beaten path. The All-American talked to Ted Thompson at a college all-star game and talked to the Packers again at the Scouting Combine on Thursday.

A surprise candidate has emerged to be the Green Bay Packers' first-round pick.

Jared Veldheer, a fast-rising left tackle prospect from Chester Marcol's alma mater — Division II Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich. — figures to make a name for himself this weekend. Standing 6-foot-8 and tipping the scales at a self-made 315 pounds, Veldheer figures to show everyone that he's the "freak" that his head coach, Keith Otterbein, called him on Thursday.

Every NFL team sent scouts through Hillsdale this season — most of them visiting at least a couple times. Veldheer, a Division II All-American, said he's received strong interest from the Packers, including a meeting with Packers general manager Ted Thompson at the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game and with the Packers again at the Scouting Combine.

The Packers own the 23rd pick in the first draft. Longtime starting left tackle Chad Clifton is set to be an unrestricted free agent and will turn 34 in June.

Veldheer is's 13th-ranked offensive tackle but insiders expect him to soar up draft boards when he works out for scouts on Saturday.

"He is so athletic for his size, not to mention, he has above-average strength," draft analyst Chris Steuber said. "He's going to run a 4.9 in his 40 and show quick feet during drills. His stock is rising. I've talked with seven scouts today and everyone has said he's a legit second-rounder who could be a surprise first-rounder."

When Veldheer arrived at Hillsdale, he weighed 250 pounds and could bench press 185 pounds just 10 times, offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Nate Shreffler said on Thursday. Five years later, Veldheer has been timed at 4.87, has done 32 reps in the 225-pound bench press and boasts a vertical jump of 30 inches.

"That tells you a little bit about what he's doing off the field," Shreffler said.

OT Jared Veldheer
Pete Mowry/Hillsdale College
Assuming he can replicate those numbers at the Combine, the draft's best-kept secret no longer will be a secret.

"Once that big son of a gun starts running around, they're going to go, ‘Where did this guy come from?'" said Otterbein, who's going to travel to Indianapolis to watch Veldheer's workout. "We're going to look really smart. In all reality, Jared is in Indianapolis because he absolutely worked his tail off. Just incredible work ethic, great character, comes from a great family."

Veldheer, a pre-med major with a 3.0-plus grade point average, has "impeccable" character, Otterbein said.

"He's going to knock their lights out with that part of it," Otterbein said. "He is a phenomenal young man when it comes to his character. He's exactly what any organization would want. There's zero risk involved with having that kid on your football team. Zero. He's going to do the right things, he's going to be in the right places, he's going to make the right choices."

Of course, none of that matters if he can't play. The Chargers run a pro-style passing game with a zone-blocking running game. That'll make Veldheer especially intriguing to teams like the Packers.

"He definitely knows how to block that, there's no doubt about that," Shreffler said.

Scouts have been watching Veldheer since the first day of practice through the Chargers' second-round playoff loss to eventual Division II runner-up Grand Valley State. Hillsdale will host its first-ever Pro Day on March 18. The consensus?

"Pretty big and pretty athletic," Otterbein said. "The one thing that they're all nervous about is his level of competition. My gut tells me they're all going to be willing to take that risk. He'll learn that. He'll learn the speed of the game."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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