Prognosticators and pundits alike are squarely focused on the upcoming draft in 43 days. With free agency once again coming and going, the Packers’ initial pick, in particular could be crucial but rather than coming into greater focus, the Packers draft situation seems rather foggy. Several questions come into play and must be on the mind of many in PackerNation. While we know that Ted Thompson will be focused on getting his board right, he is very good at keeping that information close to his vest, and that leaves a bunch of prospects out there that the Packers could pick at number 27. The picture has changed quite a bit in a short period of time, however.
Factor #1 – The exit of B.J. Raji
The unexpected decision of B.J. Raji to take a hiatus from football leaves the middle front of the Packers’ defense vulnerable. Last year, the defense saved the team time and again, until the very last series of the season as it turns out. But the nose tackle position is crucial to a 3-4 defense and though the Packers are mostly a sub-package defense, it remains to be seen if Raji can be replaced. Those big guys rotate so there is plenty of need for depth at the position and this year’s draft is strong in interior defensive linemen. The Packers will need to seriously think about drafting depth along the line.
Packers need a nose tackle
Factor #2 – The Packers are a sub-package defense
Just like most every team in the league, the Packers’ defense lives in sub-packages. This means extra defensive backs on the field. While the Packers have two top draft picks from last season who performed well in Randall and Rollins…and Ladarius Gunter played well too, the exit of Casey Hayward may change the focus of the draft for the Packer brass. Add to this the fact that this year’s draft is very talented at the defensive back position, and (I know, I know…not seen as a position of need) do not be surprised if the Packers go defensive back with their first round pick for yet another year.
Defensive back floats to the top…BPA is a corner or safety
Factor #3 – No answer at inside linebacker
It is a telling fact that the best inside linebacker we have had for ages is…an outside linebacker. A dominant player at this position immediately impacts the Packers’ already stout defense. The question is…can we finally find an answer? Determining whether an outside linebacker’s pass rush will convert to the NFL is difficult, but inside linebackers are asked to rush in our scheme too and also to play downhill against the run. This combination is hard to find. The Packers have not shied away from the attempt, nor have they yet been successful.
The prospect of Reggie Ragland is compelling but there are questions of availability where the Packers pick and there is still no guarantee that Ragland is the answer. There are some very fast OLB’s that might be available (Deion Jones just ran a 4.38 at his pro day) but then do you convert the rook to ILB or send Matthews back to the middle after promising that you would move him back outside?
Few complained when the Packers spent number five overall on AJ Hawk and he turned out to be a guy that was most aptly described as “serviceable”. It is a crucial position but seems to be one of the cloudy spots in Ted Thompson’s looking glass.
ILB is crucial…it is time to find “the guy”
Of course, the Packers have guys on the roster, some relatively untried, that could take over at each of these positions of need. Take the poll below to let everyone in PackerNation know where you think the Packers should focus in the coming draft, given these three choices. I know, there are other areas of need, these focus on the defense but I will add an “other” choice for those who think that none of these are top priority. We will be back with another poll on the offensive side of the ball.
So…pick #27 needs to be…