Packers could target CB, LB in first round of draft
Just because the Packers need cornerbacks and linebackers in this week’s NFL draft, it doesn’t necessarily mean general manager Ted Thompson is set on taking one.
Not that he would divulge that information anyway.
Thompson adheres to a policy of taking the best available player in the NFL draft. If that player also happens to fill a position of need, all the better for the Packers’ guarded decision maker.
“There’s a certain amount of weighting in terms of need, but I am adamant that that’s not the way to draft,” Thompson said. “The way to draft is to take the best player.”
It worked out pretty well a decade ago, when the Packers picked Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick after the quarterback dropped precipitously in the first round. Green Bay had an aging Brett Favre at the time; after three seasons of sitting, Rodgers took over as the starter.
The intersection of need and best available player worked out last year, when Green Bay took Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round with the 21st overall pick. After a nice rookie year, Clinton-Dix figures to be a fixture at safety.
The Packers will pick 30th in the first round Saturday, when defense will once again be a top need.
“If you take good, solid players that you know can contribute, albeit at a position that’s maybe a little bit heavier, as long as you’re taking good, solid players you’re getting some value there,” Thompson told reporters. “If you reach and take something that’s not quite as good, then you may not be getting the same value. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s true. That’s what we do.”
CORNER STORE: The departures of veteran starter Tramon Williams (Browns) and up-and-comer Davon House (Jaguars) in free agency sapped the Packers of cornerback depth. Sam Shields has one position locked down, while Casey Hayward could take over Williams. Micah Hyde was also used as a jack-of-all-trades in the secondary.
There could be several good options for the Packers if they go cornerback in the first round, including LSU’s Jalen Collins, Washington’s Marcus Peters and Connecticut’s Byron Jones.
INSIDE GUYS: Giving pass-rush master Clay Matthews more time at inside linebacker last year helped solidify the run defense and allowed coach Mike McCarthy to get another pass rusher on the field in either Nick Perry or Mike Neal opposite Julius Peppers.
In a perfect world, the Packers would prefer to keep Matthews on the edge.
“I mean, Clay’s an outside linebacker. I think we all recognize that,” McCarthy said in January. “I think as we build our roster and go through the player acquisition phase, there will be more answers, hopefully more options and we’ll see how it goes.”
Maybe those answers come this week.
The Packers let veterans A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in the offseason. UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, Mississippi State’s Bernardrick McKinney, and TCU’s Paul Dawson are among the top inside linebackers in the draft.
ON THE LINE: The Packers re-signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga to keep intact one of the top front fives McCarthy has had in his nine years in Green Bay. Don Barclay is returning as a swing tackle after missing last season with a knee injury, while J.C. Tretter is also back as the top sub in the interior of the line.
But adding more quality depth never hurts, especially when the line’s No. 1 job is to keep Rodgers upright in the pocket. This position could be a target on Day 2.
TIGHT END: Green Bay has a solid twosome in veteran Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers, a third-round pick who caught 20 passes and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2014.
But Quarless and Rodgers don’t provide the kind of receiving threat Jermichael Finley offered at the position until Finley suffered a neck injury in October 2013. Finley hasn’t played since.
Minnesota’s Maxx Williams is a potential first-round pick who has impressed scouts with his athleticism. Tight end may not be the top position of need, though his value could appeal to Thompson.
QUOTABLE: “The question is how much value, and for how long is that value going to be there? That’s the way we look at it. You can’t get whacked out about the here and now, because that’s not the overriding issue. Our overriding issue is making sure we make value picks.” — Thompson, when asked about the balance between where a player is picked versus the number of good players overall that a team selects in the draft.
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