After digesting the draft and other off-season moves for a month, let’s take a look at the state of the Packers.
As of Sunday, May 28th the Packers have finished their first week of OTAs (Organized Team Activities), the first true look at the rookies. The Packers were able to move back, acquire one of the 6 prospects I highlighted in last month’s draft preview (CB Kevin King) and still gain the first pick of the 4th round – to which they selected Vince Biegel, from Wisconsin.
Green Bay went defense with their first four selections: King CB; Jones S; Adams DT; Biegel OLB. King, Jones, and Biegel all have a chance to get considerable playing time in the coming season, with King likely getting the starting job pushing highly talented, oft-injured Damarious Randall to the nickel spot (covering the slot receiver when in passing situations). This is a monstrous year for Randall and Rollins, but more on that in the coming weeks.
King has been well-documented since being drafted, but the prospect I’m “high” on and interested in watching is Josh Jones, the Safety from North Carolina St. The “expert’s” in-depth scouting report of Jones is that he’s a fierce hitter that’s possesses the size and speed to be a long time starter in the NFL. The Packers haven’t featured a player, especially on defense, with his skill set and if he’s able to control his aggression he could be an impact player this defense has been lacking since Charles Woodson donned #21 (before he became old and slow). Comparing Jones to Jabrill Peppers (the highest hyped safety) is very intriguing:
The last note on Jones: a story from OTAs this week brought a smile to my face. The Packers, practicing in a helmet and sweats, saw Jones come down hard on WR Jeff Janis and light him up and rock him as if they were going 100% with pads! I’m sure the coaches scolded Jones for potentially injuring Janis, and himself, being that no one is protected – but I love hearing about a defender bringing the pain as the Packers have lacked a player of that mentality (coupled with potential) for quite some time. To say I’m excited would be fair, and only time will tell if Jones turns out to be better than Jabrill Peppers, let alone good…
The departure of RG TJ Lang to Detroit left a gaping hole on the offensive line, which GM Ted Thompson “addressed” slightly by signing veteran Guard Jahri Evans. While with the Saints, Evans was revered as one of the top guards in the NFL for an extended period of time…and although his skills have dropped considerably, he still knows how to play the position and he can’t be worse than backup, Don Barclay. By signing Evans the Packers weren’t in a position to having to spend a high pick on an offensive lineman, allowing them to focus on defense in a defensive-deep draft.
The other picks by the Packers addressed need with appropriate value of each prospect. Montravious Adams, DT from Auburn, was valued as a 2nd-3rd round pick and shows superior athleticism for a big man, however the concern he didn’t try until his last year at college begging the question Is he going to get drafted and revert to laziness and not produce? Either way he should have an opportunity to get into a regular rotation on the defensive line with Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, and newly acquired Ricky Jean Francois.
Next, most everyone knows, Vince Biegel. What he lacks in talent and skills he more than makes up for in character. The older I get, the more I care about building a team of good guys that can play. The scouting report states the same – Effort-based worker bee with edge-setting hands and attitude, but a lack of power that could lead to inconsistency in play. Biegel’s football character is off-the-charts and he can be counted on to put the effort into improving in areas that need work. He lacks individual rush talent but could be a good fit for teams utilizing exotic rush packages. Average NFL ceiling but has the demeanor and traits of a potential special teams demon. – Lance Zierlein
The other picks consisted of 2 Wide Receivers, 3 Running Backs, and an Offensive Lineman (a tackle that will likely be developed into a Guard). The WRs have talent and likely one of the two will turn into a solid player and produce (Yancey tore up a very good Badger defense when they matched up last fall) and Dupre was regarded has a potential 2nd round talent, but without any quarterback at LSU couldn’t showcase his talent/production.
The HBs were taken out of pure numbers…meaning if you take 3 it’s likely one will turn out to be solid, if not two. Many talk about Jamaal Williams from BYU. Seems like a good kid, but isn’t necessarily fast and didn’t play vs. top talent at the college level. He’ll have an ideal situation for a mid-late round pick of sitting behind a smart player (Ty Montgomery) and learning the position while being given the benefit of doubt. In addition to Williams, the Packers selected Aaron Jones from UTEP. Jones isn’t necessarily fast (4.56 40-yard), but did test extremely well in the 20-yard (2nd) and 60-yard shuttles (3rd). Being a local kid (along with his twin brother) to El Paso, TX, Jones stayed local allowing him to play, improve, and ultimately improve to a point to get drafted. Like Williams, Jones will be given the benefit of the doubt to play and produce. The last HB taken by Green Bay, Devante Mays (Utah St.) is unheard of but woke up many scouts with is testing: 4.5 second 40-yard; 40.5” vertical. Standing at 5’11” and 230lbs possessing that athleticism, he too will be given plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
In closing, following the draft the Packers addressed each need and brought in potential playmakers on defense while adding depth to offense…will it be enough to change the Packers from being a perennial disappointment into accomplishing something? Time will tell, but many other players will have to step up and play to their expected level (ahem Clay Matthews, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, the entire offense in January) in order for me to expect otherwise.