In recent years, the Packers have focused on improving their defense through the draft and free agency, and this year is no different. After the season, defensive tackle B.J. Raji announced that he would be taking at least a year off from football. Since the announcement, it has been assumed that the Packers would start looking at defensive linemen to fill the void left by Raji.
Since the Packers announced that they would move Pro-Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews to outside linebacker after he played middle linebacker last season, it was also assumed that they would draft a middle linebacker this April. While there are some talented inside linebackers that experts feel can come in and contribute instantly, most agree that the defensive linemen in the draft are more talented. Because of the depth at defensive tackle this year, insiders believe the Packers will use their 27th pick on one. A name commonly linked to the Packers (if Andrew Billings is off the board) in the upcoming draft is former Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson is 6’4”, he weighs 307 pounds, and since he played in a system similar to the one used in Green Bay, he is considered a great fit for the Packers.
Other available options that the Packers could draft include Robinson’s teammates at Alabama, Jarran Reed, and former Baylor player Andrew Billings. Reed is great against the run, which is something the Packers have struggled with in recent years. He also played in a similar system in
Alabama and shouldn’t have trouble adjusting to the Packers’ system. Billings is also solid against the run, but he might not be available by the time the Packers make their selection.
If the Packers decide to take a middle linebacker with their first round pick, there is a strong possibility that the team would take Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, who could still be available when they make their selection. Ragland has the size and speed to compete in the NFL, and the Packers will be tempted to take him if he is on the board because he is the type of player that can have an immediate impact on the defense, allowing Clay Matthews to move back outside and helping them slow down Adrian Peterson.
Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith is another inside linebacker the Packers will surely look at. It was reported that at Smith’s pro day, the Packers stayed close, a sign if serious interest. Smith was projected as a top 10 pick in the draft but his stock slid after he suffered a serious knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl. If Smith slides down to the bottom of the first round, the Packers could roll the dice on him because he was considered the best defensive player in the draft before his injury and could return to form if he recovers fully. The down side to Green Bay taking Smith in the first round is that he won’t have a significant impact this season because he will miss most, if not all of it while he is recovering from his injury.
Will the Packers go high risk/high reward in this year’s draft? We will find out soon. Let us know who you think the Packers top draft pick will be in the comments below or back at our Facebook Fanpage.