It is a very badly kept secret that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson believes that the core of an NFL roster should be built through the NFL draft. Thompson has many critics who believe that his lack of moves in free agency are prohibiting the Packers from getting back the Super Bowl, something they haven’t done since the 2010-2011 season. Call it stubbornness, arrogance, or just his beliefs, but that is what the Packers live by, building their franchise through the draft. Today will take a closer look at what the 2017 Green Bay Packers Draft Class might look like.
To help guide us through the possibilities for Thompson and the Packers we discussed some scenarios with Daniel Parlegreco of DTP Draft Scout. Parlegreco is the author of the very popular DTP’s 2017 NFL Draft Guide. Parlegreco has studied hours and hours of tape of this year’s draft prospects and knows this class inside and out.
Forecasting the 2017 Green Bay Packers Draft Class
LWOS: The Packers have some key holes on their roster going into this year’s draft. Right now, they have big holes at offensive guard, outside linebacker, running back, and possibly cornerback. What kind of depth is there at these positions in this year’s draft?
DTP: Edge rusher, offensive guard, running back and cornerback are four of the deepest positions in this year’s draft. I am confident there are going to be multiple starting players at every one of these positions on day three of the draft. There is a strong possibility that the Packers could get four starters out this draft.
LWOS: Many believe that the Packers top two needs going into this draft is at outside linebacker and offensive guard. With outside linebacker being such a vital piece in their 3-4 defense, it is a high probability that outside linebacker is the number one need, if so, which prospect might be available for them when they go on the board at 29 in the first round?
DTP: The four prospects that I believe will be around when the Packers select in the first round are Auburn’s Carl Lawson, Missouri’s Charles Harris, Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt and Kansas State’s Jordan Willis. If the first two mentioned are there, it is a no brainer. Watt and Willis, I believe are second round prospects.
LWOS: One player you mentioned is Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt. A lot of Packers fans have seen his name mentioned as a strong possibility for the Packers at 29. Do you believe Watt is worthy of a first round grade? Many have compared him to current Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, do you feel that is a worthy comparison?
DTP: Personally, I do not. From the tape I have reviewed on him, I give him a second to possibly an early third round grade. Because of his bloodlines (he is the younger brother of Houston Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt), I believe he will be over drafted. The same thing happened to current Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, but instead of him being over drafted, he was undervalued because he was the brother of former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr. T.J. only had one big season at Wisconsin, which might scare off some teams from spending a first round draft choice on him.
LWOS: If the Packers decide to bypass the outside linebacker position with their first pick, is there a prospect that might be able to contribute in their rookie season that will be available in possibly the third or fourth round?
DTP: Absolutely. There are a plethora of prospects that will be available early on day three that will have significant impact at outside linebacker. Just a few names to remember for that area are Alabama’s Ryan Anderson, Pittsburgh’s Ejuan Price, Washington’s Joe Mathis, TCU’s Josh Carraway, Louisville’s Devonte Fields, Illinois’s Carroll Phillips, and Houston’s Tyus Bowser. I believe all of these players will have an opportunity to have an impact in their rookie season.
LWOS: One player who has been getting a lot of attention lately, who seems like he would be a Ted Thompson guy, is Youngstown State pass rusher Derek Rivers. Might Rivers be able to play outside linebacker in a 3-4? What round do you believe Rivers might go in?
DTP: Rivers has been shooting up the draft boards as of late. He is likely to be a second or early third round draft choice. He has played almost exclusively as a hand on the ground defensive end for Youngstown State. He has the ability to stand up as an outside linebacker, but I’d imagine his height and length will make him more appealing to teams that run a 4-3 defensive alignment.
LWOS: With starting right guard T.J. Lang signing with the Detroit Lions this off season and the Packers seeming not to have anyone on their current roster to fill his spot, it appears guard might be a position they look at with their first pick. You have Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp as your top guard in your draft guide, do you believe that he carries a first round grade? If so, will he be available at 29 when the Packers select?
DTP: Yes to all the above. Lamp might be the safest player in this year’s draft. Much will be made about his shorter then normal arm length, but when you watch his tape you can see it never affected him. He’s a stud and probably a perennial Pro Bowler on offensive line at the next level.
LWOS: Thompson and his staff rarely select college offensive guards. Instead, they select college offensive tackles and ask Packers offensive line coach James Campen to convert them to guard. Are there any prospects who played tackle in college that would be better fitted to play guard at the next level? If so, who are these prospects?
DTP: This year’s draft has a lot of prospects that fit in that category. Temple’s Dion Dawkins, USC’s Zach Banner, Kutztown’s Jourdan Morgan, and Florida’s David Sharpe are a few that come to mind. All could flourish at guard in the right system at the next level.
LWOS: The top two running backs on the Packers roster are converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery and recently re-signed Christine Michael. Both aren’t big bodied running backs. With Eddie Lacy now in Seattle, is there a running back in this year’s draft who could fit that bill for the Packers? It is rare that Thompson and his staff grab a running back in the first two rounds, is there a prospect who would be available in the third round or later that could be a fit for the Packers?
DTP: One prospect who would be a fit and that has been rising up draft boards is Pittsburgh’s James Connor. He has that type of size and ability the Packers are looking for. He has also shown that he can overcome obstacles, after dealing with cancer while at Pittsburgh. Another running back I really like is Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine. He’s a big bruising back that is faster than his 40-yard dash time suggests. He plays with incredible balance and vision. If he falls to the fourth round, he would be a steal for some team.
LWOS: With Julius Peppers and Datone Jones departing as free agents, the Packers defensive line is missing a player who is physically imposing. A prospect that grabbed scouts’ attention during Senior Bowl week is Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon, who is a physical monster. Is he able to play inside in a 3-4 alignment? In what round do you see him coming off the board?
DTP: He would seem to be a perfect fit at defensive end in the Packers 3-4 alignment. He’s raw, but he really flashed at times at Villanova last season. He’s a borderline second or third round selection. I feel he will probably go in the third because he is so raw. But as they say, you can’t teach size.
LWOS: In recent drafts, Thompson has waited to select an inside linebacker until the fourth round. Some believe the reason behind this is that when he selected former linebacker A.J. Hawk with the fifth overall pick, Hawk never played up to his draft status. If Thompson does look at inside linebacker in this year’s draft, who might he look at?
DTP: I really like Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan in that role. Other possibilities are LSU’s Kendell Beckwith and Northwestern’s Anthony Walker, Jr. A possible sleeper could be Lindenwood University’s Connor Harris.
LWOS: Finally, Thompson is known for taking unknown prospects that not many fans have heard of. Is there a player from a smaller school who could grab Thompson’s attention?
DTP: I’ll give you two names to remember. Damontae Kazee from San Diego State is a slot corner that could be available in the fifth round. His 40-yard dash time wasn’t very good, but he is a much better player on film then how he tested out. He’s going to be an outstanding, if not elite, slot corner at the next level. The other name to remember is Jerome Lane from Akron. He is a big, bruising wide receiver that has similar characteristics, physicality and toughness as Arizona Cardinal’s Larry Fitzgerald. He isn’t a great athlete but he is going to be a really good football player. I project him going some time in day three of the draft.