GreenBay Packer Nation

Top Priority in the 2017 Draft

The Packers need a good draft to get the team over the hump that has in recent years become the NFC Championship. The defense is the consensus top priority though some wouldn’t mind a running back in the first round. Of course, the Packers pick best player available and if a running back is it, that would fit Ted Thompson’s self-stated philosophy while many would argue that he does not pick running backs in the first round. So if the choice is defense…which position should TT pick first?

The biggest need

I don’t think there is any doubt that the Packers’ biggest need is at the cornerback position. The only thing Packers fans see when they look at this year’s defensive backfield is…two good safeties in Burnett and Clinton-Dix (one of which is up for a contract next year and the other may be a candidate for an early re-structure) and then…question marks. Now that Sam Shields is gone, one player of the high-drafted combo of Randall and Rollins would seem to be the successor-to-be. Unfortunately, the Packers’ most consistent and available cornerback last year was Ladarious Gunter, who was consistently beat by top wide receivers. Cornerback is the position that the Packers need to target one, if not two players from this year’s draft.

But does the biggest need automatically translate to the first round pick at number 29?

The top priority pick

This year’s draft is a festival of cornerback talent. The Packers need an upgrade and they need to add speed with the exit of Shields. So doesn’t that translate to a cornerback at number 29? Not necessarily so. The depth of the draft at cornerback means that if there is another position of need that can only be addressed at a high level with the first round pick, the Packers should consider picking at that position and coming back to cornerback in the second round. While many would say that position would be an offensive guard, I disagree.

The Packers ended the 2016 season ranked sixth in the league in sacks (contrary to popular belief) but the sacks and pressures did seem to disappear for long stretches at a time. With Nick Perry back in the fold and (presumably) a healthy Clay Matthews, the exit of Julius Peppers should be less of a factor. But after Nick and Clay, the Packers have zero pass rushers…let me say that again…zero. If you don’t have Perry (which, generally speaking…you have to assume you won’t at least at some point during the season) and/or you don’t have Clay Matthews ( which, generally speaking…you have to assume you won’t at least at some point during the season), you now are relying on 3-4 defensive linemen for your pass rush. Mike Daniels is a beast, Kenny Clark came on late in the season, and Dean Lowry really showed some things with his size and athleticism last year. But any team that runs a base 3-4 and relies on the defensive linemen for sacks is a non-starter for me. The Packers must add pass-rushers in this year’s draft. Kyler Fackrell did some good things and perhaps Elliot becomes the player in the regular season that he has flashed in the pre-season, but that is not good enough.

Working the class

The Packers know that they can get a cornerback with first round talent in the second round of this year’s draft. Thompson usually picks “off the beaten path” anyway so whoever he has at the top of his board is likely not the same guy the other teams have in that position. So the Packers first choice may very well be available in the second round. The Packers need to work the class. The pass-rusher class of this year’s draft is far from stellar and yet one of the top rushers could still be on the board when the Packers pick in the first round. While cornerback may be the biggest need, I don’t think it should be the priority pick if a top pass-rusher remains. Get the pass-rusher and come back with the cornerback (likely a guy that no-one else is looking at) in the second round. Add to that the fact that Ted Thompson is a great mid to late round drafter (better, in my opinion, than his first round picks) and the Packers should grab a top rusher and expect better-than-round value out of their second.

So, in the event that a top pass-rusher remains when the Packers are on the clock at pick number 29, I think the Packers should go with the rusher and come back to the cornerback. But what do you think? If you are for a top corner no matter what, you can let the world know that. If you agree with me that a pass-rusher would be a better first round addition with the Packers coming back to corner in the second and relying on that pick, along with the addition of Davon House and the presumed value (1st and 2nd round) of Randall and Rollins plus Gunter as a serviceable number four or better, click that choice in the head-to-head poll below. Go Pack!