After months of rumors and speculation, countless scouting reports and mind-numbing mock drafts, the 2016 NFL Draft is finally complete. Coming into this draft the Packers’ biggest needs for this season (and beyond) were inarguably in the trenches. Well, need and value met quite nicely for Ted Thompson this year as he aggressively addressed those needs throughout the weekend (with an early focus on Defensive front 7 players).
Fans had to be ecstatic when at 11:03pm EST, more than 3 hours after the Draft began, the Green Bay Packers were finally on the clock with all their presumed targets still on the board. While we assumed most of our favorite prospects would be gone by pick #27, there they were – Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, Andrew Billings, Vernon Butler, Noah Spence – all there for the taking. Even Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith slipped due to injury concerns.
Surely, Ted would take one of these prospects we’ve grown to love in the lead-up to this weekend, right?
Nope. In the end, Ted is gonna Ted. And in the end, the Packers stayed true to their board and took the less heralded but nonetheless impressive Kenny Clark. At a daunting 6’3″, 314 lbs, Clark offers a natural run-stuffing replacement for BJ Raji at nose tackle. But perhaps what separated him the most from players like Reed and Robinson is his ability to rush the passer and disrupt the pocket from the interior. Like his new teammate Mike Daniels, Clark has a wrestling background and violent hands that have proven useful in the trenches. An added bonus: Clark is still only 20 years old. Think about that. He had 73 tackles(!) and 5.5 sacks in his final season at UCLA, and is still only scratching the surface of his potential.
What should make fans most excited about this pick is the confidence that Kenny Clark was truly Ted and company’s top target. Oftentimes, successful teams are forced to “settle” for what’s left for them at the end of the 1st round. But given the full slate of options that were still on the board this year for Green Bay at need positions, we can safely assume the Packers got their guy, which is a very rare luxury at pick #27.
On day 2, Ted returned to his wheeling and dealing ways when he gave up the 57th (2nd), 125th (4th), & 248th (7th) picks in order to trade up for Jason Spriggs (one pick in front of the Chicago Bears, no less *insert smirking Ted GIF*).
Spriggs gives the Packers much needed depth on the offensive line this season and a prospect to develop for 2017 when Bakhtiari, Sitton, and Lang all hit free agency. Standing 6’6″, Spriggs obliterated the Combine when he led all linemen in the 40 and broad jump, placed 2nd in the short shuttle, and added 31 bench press reps. His technique and footwork still require work, but he offers a tremendous blend of size and athleticism and clearly has the tools to develop into a very solid starter for years to come. Spriggs was considered by many to be a late 1st rounder, so grabbing him here should be viewed as a steal.
You can never have enough pass rushers, and with OLB’s Peppers and Perry both on 1-year deals, the Packers grabbed a potential future starter in Fackrell. He has the prototypical length and explosiveness you need in a 3-4 OLB, and is extremely comfortable playing in space – a skill the Packers sorely need. Strength/weight is the only real concern with Fackrell, and he will benefit from spending a year developing in an NFL weight room. In the meantime, he will likely spend his rookie season as a sub-package pass rushing specialist, and his coverage skills likely make him the team’s top dime coverage linebacker already (a role filled rather miserably by Joe Thomas last season).
As he often does, Ted waited until Day 3 to address the ILB position, but the Packers finally added some much needed depth at the position by grabbing another Pac-12 standout in Blake Martinez. At 6’2″, 245, Martinez fits the mold that Ted prefers for his ILBs. While not the most athletic prospect in this class, Martinez is a tackling machine that racked up 140 tackles last year at Stanford. He ran a more than respectable 4.71 forty however, so he has more than enough speed to complement those instincts he displayed in leading the Pac-12 in tackles. He’ll have to find a new number in the NFL now that he’s joining the Packers, though.
Lowry is a high energy player with a non-stop motor and at 6’6″, 296, adds exceptional size and length to the Packers’ front 7. Falling to the end of the 4th round in a loaded 2016 Draft class, Lowry has the frame to slide perfectly into the 5-technique role previously held by Datone Jones, which will allow Jones to continue his development as an OLB/elephant rusher. The addition of Lowry alongside Mike Daniels and 1st rounder Kenny Clark is the final piece to a completely remade, ultra-athletic defensive front. One primary concern about Lowry is his short arms, but Daniels (who has an almost identical arm length as Lowry) should be able to teach him a thing or two about overcoming that.
It wouldn’t truly be a Packers draft if Ted didn’t select at least one WR everyone else has overlooked, would it? In the 5th round Ted elected to dip back into the Pac-12 (anyone noticing a trend here?) to select the 6’1″, 188 lb. receiver out of Cal. Davis is not yet a polished route runner, but he displayed flashes of separation and YAC ability and adds a vertical speed element this offense sorely lacked without Jordy last season. The selection of Davis likely means that Jared Abbrederis’ roster spot could be in jeopardy.
Murphy was a two-year starter at Stanford (I bet you can guess what Conference they play in) who could serve as important depth for the offensive line if he develops into an effective swing tackle. Ted often likes converting college tackles to guards as well, so a position switch may be in his future with Green Bay.
The Packers have signed 21 UDFAs in total, but here are some of the more notable pickups:
ILB Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State – Brown was linked to the Packers very early in the scouting process, and they got their man without having to spend a draft pick. He had 99 tackles including 11 for a loss in 2015, highlighting his strong instincts and ability to hit gaps early. He will add much needed competition to the ILB group this season.
WR Geronimo Allison, Illinois – Allison likely went undrafted due to speed concerns (he ran a 4.67 forty), but at 6’4″ he could develop into a red zone weapon for the Packers. If he makes the 53-man roster, it will be as a core special teams contributor early in his career.
P Peter Mortell, Minnesota – A Green Bay native, Mortell will provide competition for Tim Masthay in camp this summer after a disappointing last couple of seasons.