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Pi Network

Draft King Analysis
February 9, 2016
Lou Pickney,

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at

This column is going to be a little bit different -- I answered some questions tonight from Todd Mishler of about the Green Bay Packers, and I figured I would share that with you on here tonight.

1. What do you see as Green Bayís 3 biggest needs and why, and who are one or two players that you feel would best fill those needs in the draft?

Thanks to Ted Thompson's approach to identifying and retaining players who fit Green Bay's system well, there isn't an overwhelming volume of positions to fill.

Tight end is a major position of need, though this doesn't appear to be an overwhelmingly deep draft at the position. 3-4 inside linebacker is also a position that must be addressed. Nose tackle could be an issue depending if the Packers and B.J. Raji are able to agree to terms on a new contract. Offensive line, while not a glaring need, would be an area of note.

In relation to the draft, tight end is tricky because of the relative lack of depth compared with demand for the position. Arkansas TE Hunter Henry is the near-consensus top tight end in this draft. But the Packers can't reasonably expect him to be on the board in round two, and it might even be a slight risk to hope he will be there at #27.

2. Last year I believe most prognosticators said there were only about 18 to 22 players with first-round grades. How many do you believe there are in 2016 and how does that play into the Packers picking at No. 27?

I respectfully dissent when I see a list of arbitrary first-round grades, in large part because team needs vary so wildly. Though from team-to-team it makes sense to identify a list of players that are believed to be worthy of first-round status relative to team needs. While the Packers might consider the aforementioned Hunter Henry at #27, Seattle at #26 would seem highly unlikely to do so.

At this point I would think the list of potential first-rounders is rather large, perhaps 45-50 players, if not more. Positional needs play a role: there are in particular some great defensive linemen and wide receivers that you could argue have first-round potential who might end up going in the mid-to-late second round. There are many unknowns in play ahead of the NFL Combine and school pro days, between measurements and interviews and in-depth tape review.

But I'll say this relative to the Packers: trading down from #27 into a mid-high second-round position could still leave the team in position to land a player they would have been happy with at #27. That's some high-stakes poker, metaphorically speaking, and part of what makes the draft process simultaneously fascinating and maddening.

3. Green Bay will no doubt get a couple of compensatory selections (probably fourth round) and even though teams canít trade them until the 2017 draft, do you see Ted Thompson being more active in rounds 1-3 as far as trading up/down because of those extra picks?

I have great respect for Thompson, who has shown that a disciplined approach to player acquisitions and contract extensions can yield tremendous long-term positives. A general manager on the hot seat isn't going to want to trade for future picks and will likely be willing to spend recklessly: if you win now, you look smart, and if you lose now, you're getting fired anyway, and the future problems you created become the next GM's headache.

Because Thompson is so adept at identifying players who would fit the Packers system well, I would think it works to Green Bay's advantage to be able to trade compensatory picks. In my estimation, he has earned the benefit of the doubt vis-a-vis roster decisions, and it would serve to reason that having more latitude in trading would work to the Packers' favor.

4. If Thompson is thinking about trading up in the first round, who are the 2 or 3 players you think he would be moving up to grab?

Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland is an obvious potential target, and clearly Thompson has shown a willingness in the past to draft Crimson Tide players with high picks after selecting Eddie Lacy and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in recent years. Perhaps there will be an offensive lineman determined to be worth trading up for, such as Michigan State OT Jack Conklin.

And, with the passing game being more important than ever, it's not outside the realm of possibility that a wide receiver prospect, such as perhaps Baylor's Corey Coleman or TCU's Josh Doctson, might be a surprise target on a trade-up. What the team does with James Jones could play a role to what degree such considerations are made.

One true wild card is Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith, a remarkably skilled player who showed the rare adeptness to play both inside and outside linebacker. The knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl possibly cost him a top five slot, but if he slides far enough, perhaps he would be a player Thompson would be willing to trade up to select.

5. Who are some late-round and/or small-school guys that Green Bay might be targeting or guys you think would help fill needs?

Sticking with the inside linebacker theme, Utah State's Nick Vigil and Temple's Tyler Matakevich could be viable mid-round options. For offensive line depth, a player like Marshall's Clint Van Horn could be a late round target, ditto for Nicholls State tweener OT/OG Jonah Austin, who might find his best fit at offensive guard.

I'm fond of teams looking to the FCS level for cornerback prospects, the kind of mid-to-late round guys that can end up playing key roles. CB Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2013, and he has both the skill and experience to potentially do some great things.

Another possible target is James Bradberry of Samford, a transfer from Arkansas State who is a bit of a mystery as far as how he fits into the pecking order. Some him as a possible day two pick and others think he is more likely to slide down toward the lower end of the draft.


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