With the dust mostly settled on the NFL Free Agency period, now seems like a good time to predict what Ted Thompson will do with his eight selections in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
The Packers were unusually active in Free Agency this year, adding TE’s Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, ex-Packer CB Davon House, and DT Ricky Jean-Francois. Still, Thompson has work to do in order to fortify the defense and patch some holes created with the departures of TJ Lang, Eddie Lacy, and Julius Peppers, among others.
The Draft isn’t scheduled to take place until April 27th, but rather than keep you waiting another four weeks I figured I’d dust off my crystal ball and reveal Thompson’s upcoming draft class to you today.
So without further adieu, with the 29th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Packers select…
Conley’s teammate Marshon Lattimore is widely considered the top corner in this class and a lock top-15 selection. Conley is no ordinary “#2” however, as noted draft analyst Tony Pauline recently pegged him the “steal” of the draft at Corner and even better than Lattimore during stretches last season.
Conley’s solid forty time of 4.44 is comparable to Damarious Randall, however unlike Randall, Conley is unafraid to play physical man coverage. He offers exceptional length (33-inch arms) and exhibited elite explosiveness by ranking in the 90th-percentile among CBs at the Combine in both the Broad Jump and 3-cone drill. Conley has the skills to contribute immediately and take pressure off Randall and Rollins.
Willis is only scratching the surface of his potential at 21 years old, a scary thought considering he just destroyed the combine with a blistering 4.53-forty time, 6.85 3-cone, and 39″ vertical. In most years, that type of performance would put an Edge rusher squarely in the 1st round conversation. In this year’s loaded class however, Willis could fall in Thompson’s lap in the 2nd.
Willis brings more than just raw athletic potential as he amassed 25.5 career sacks at K-State, including 11.5 sacks and 17.5 TFL in his senior year. Like Perry, Willis will immediately be a force setting the edge against the run. If his pass rush skills develop quickly, Capers could utilize Clay Matthews even more at ILB in 2017, something McCarthy has already begun hinting at.
There are some who believe Dawkins is big and athletic enough to be a Tackle in the NFL (especially given his 35″ arms), but others believe he will truly excel as a Guard. He profiles very similarly to both Lang (6’4″ 318) and Josh Sitton (6’3″ 318), and as such, Thompson jumps on him here to be Green Bay’s new starting RG. Dawkins had an exceptional Combine, with top performances among OL in the 3-cone, broad, and vertical jumps. He would show up to camp as a day 1 starter.
Thompson kicks off day 3 by adding much needed RB depth with the home-run hitting Mack. He reminds me of James Starks with his upright, slashing running style, but his 4.50 forty-speed provides big play ability Green Bay hasn’t had in the backfield in quite some time.
Further adding to his case as a future Packer is his experience running out of the shotgun as well as his pass-catching ability, as evidenced by his 65 career receptions. He also jukes dudes out of their cleats (see above). He can be a bit careless with protecting the football, but that can easily get cleaned up with professional coaching.
The signing of Jean-Francois likely spells the end for Letroy Guion, whose upcoming 4-game suspension and slipping play no longer justify his roster spot. Still, his release would leave Green Bay precariously thin on the D-line.
Watkins showed some pass-rushing chops with 10.5 sacks in his Senior year, and reportedly had a great week at the Senior Bowl (an event Ted Thompson watches very closely). Jean-Francois is a fine stopgap solution for now, but Watkins is a true value pick for Green Bay here in the 5th.
As a small school prospect, Davis has totally flown under the radar despite posting truly eye-popping numbers at the Combine: 4.44 forty, 41″ vertical, 136″ broad, and 6.82 3-cone. At 6’3″, these are Julio-Jones-esque numbers, ranking him first among all WRs with a 98.8-percentile SPARQ rating. In other words, he’s a freak.
Davis also produced, leading the Sun Belt Conference in receiving yards as a Senior (77.8 pg) including a dominant 8-93-1 TD performance against Wisconsin. That TD was of the back-shoulder variety, a pass Rodgers uses quite a bit. Still just 21 years old, Davis is the type of unicorn McCarthy needs on this roster to groom behind Nelson, who finished 2016 strong but is only getting older. Given a year or two to develop, Davis can be a star in Green Bay.
Thompson continues bolstering his OL depth with Siragusa, who also profiles similarly to Lang and Sitton. Already a superb run blocker, he may take a little more time to develop in pass protection than Dawkins, but he too ranked top-5 in bench press reps, short shuttle, broad, and vertical jumps, all of which are solid predictors of success for NFL interior OL.
Should he fully realize his potential, he could also emerge as the starting RG and allow Dawkins to replace the solid-but-unspectacular Lane Taylor as the starting LG. Either way, this pick fortifies an OL that just lost Sitton, Lang, and Tretter all in the past calendar year.
Even after selecting Mack in the 4th round, Ted Thompson will ensure his team isn’t caught short at RB again after witnessing an embarrassing carousel at the position last year. Smith is a perfect big back complement to Ty and Mack, with good vision and an aggressive running style. He isn’t quite as explosive or agile as Lacy was (though that leap should look familiar), but he enters the NFL with arguably the best pass-blocking skills in the class, a huge plus for any potential Packer RB.
Although the Packers retained Christine Michael on a 1-year, $800K deal, only $25K of it was guaranteed. They could still opt to move on from Michael during final cuts if Smith proves himself a capable back behind Montgomery and Mack.
With this 2017 class, Ted Thompson will have successfully heeded Aaron Rodgers’ request to reload by emphasizing impact positions and replacing key contributors lost in the offseason. Further development from Green Bay’s second and third-year players along with this new talent should have Green Bay back in Super Bowl contention.
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