1. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S Alabama
2. Davante Adams, WR Fresno State
3. Khyri Thornton, DT Southern Miss
3. Richard Rodgers, TE Cal
4. Carl Bradford, OLB Arizona State
5. Corey Linsley, C Ohio State
5. Jared Abbrederis, WR Wisconsin
6. Demetri Goodson, CB Baylor
7. Jeff Janis, WR Saginaw Valley State
Last year, the Green Bay Packers were able to give one of the league’s most dynamic passing attacks a good running game. This year, the Packers had to put more emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, replacing some age, injury and simply ineffective play with an infusion of young talent while still giving Aaron Rodgers four offensive weapons. Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson had some questionable values in this draft but found some nice values late that really fit what the Packers want to do within their scheme.
The Packers had spent so much time and energy drafting for their lines the past few years, making them one of the easier teams to project. This year, an unexpected surprise fell into their laps and did not hesitate to pull the trigger on Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. Since the loss of Nick Collins to an unfortunate neck injury, the Packers have been using stop gap type players to try to fill their free safety position, which caused their corners to look much worse. In Dix, they gave everything they could want in a safety, but the best attribute Dix brings to the table is his range.
While timed speed would suggest Dix is average, he along with C.J. Mosley were the two biggest playmakers on Alabama’s defense this past year and everywhere the ball went, they seemed to make the play on it. Dix’s range would allow him to cover a ton of ground and give the feeling that the Crimson Tide had extra defenders on the field.
The big issue that Dix needs to clean up is the angles he takes, which can slow him down, but he has the ability to play the deep middle and help corners over the top. In a division with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and a young, but talented group in Minnesota, there is no shortage of big guys who can high point the football. This makes the Dix pick fill not only a huge need for the Packers in general, but really helps them to combat opponents in the NFC North and makes the value that much better. The Packers were fortunate that Dix lasted as long as he did and he has the talent to be a big time star there and really get their secondary back to being effective.
With second round picks, the Packers snatched Davante Adams from Fresno State. Save Mike Evans, Adams was the best high pointing receiver in the draft. He does not have the height and size of Evans, but he has a big, strong build that is reminiscent of Anquan Boldin. Adams’ speed is solid but not spectacular, but where he succeeds is quickness and using his strength to fight for more yardage in addition to his ability to go up and attack the football.
For an offense that has the steady Jordy Nelson and the playmaking Randall Cobb, Adams give Rodgers a big target that can extend drives, make plays after the catch and can fight for the ball in the red zone, which is a great fit for what Rodgers and that offense likes to do. Rodgers can put the ball in stride and allow a player like Adams to catch the ball without breaking stride and continue to work up the field to gain yardage. Again, Adams is not a speedster but he is able to maximize yards after the catch and hurt teams with the ball in his hands. Jarrett Boykin has been able to make some plays but Adams is there to really take hold of that third receiver spot, replacing James Jones, who is now a member of the Raiders.
The third round in general was questionable for me with the Packers. After getting a great value in Dix and a solid value in Adams, they in my opinion made reaches on Khyri Thornton and then Richard Rodgers. Thornton has quickness and athletic ability but to me was far too raw and incomplete to take this high. He can win at the initial snap and get quick pressure, but it was not as if he was terribly productive in that area at Southern Miss.
The saving grace for Thornton might be the fit in that 3-4 scheme the Packers run. First, he has a decent amount of competition in front of him that will force him to develop and earn it, but his skill set is more suited to that scheme. He has the size and quickness to play in it, but he has really struggled to anchor effectively in the middle of a 4-3. Athletically, he has a lot to like, but he seems like a substantial project and while he could develop into a nice player, the pick was simply too rich for my blood. I am not convinced Thornton can really be put on the field in his current form because there were so many things he simply could not do in college.
Rodgers makes a great deal of sense from a scheme standpoint. The Packers do not really use much in terms of inline tight ends and like the tight ends out in space. Rodgers can do that, but he is another relatively raw player that needs time to develop and would have really benefited from another year in college. The good news for the Packers is that Rodgers will be able to do largely what he was effective in from his time at Cal, but he needs to get far more polished.
The other part of this pick that is interesting is how they have, at least for the time being, signed Colt Lyerla as an undrafted free agent. Lyerla has had major issues off the field, which is why he went undrafted, but he is not short on talent. If he can keep it together and stick on the Packers roster, he could end up leapfrogging Rodgers on the depth chart. If Lyerla does have an issue and is ultimately released, they will certainly be glad they had Rodgers. Overall, I think the Packers are hoping both of them can stick and develop into a pair of talented tight ends as their current stable of tight ends is pretty mediocre. Personally, I would have opted for Crockett Gillmore at that pick if they were determined to take a tight end.
Perhaps the most interesting pick for the Packers was in the fourth round when they took Carl Bradford. It’s interesting because the early indication is that he will play inside linebacker for them, which is interesting given what they do. Bradford has limited length, which made it difficult for him to really play on the outside and while he is always active and flying around, his instincts are pretty mediocre, which is something that has to improve regardless of where he plays.
What makes Bradford in Green Bay an interesting option is that he is great when it comes to burst and attacking downhill. At Arizona State, he moved all over the place for them to rush the quarterback and create pressure. For the Packers, he could be a nice role player as someone that comes in and attacks the A gap in a hurry. Bradford has the size, quickness and strength where he can take on a block in the middle and potentially help with the run or just attack the quarterback. With Clay Matthews and what they hope is a healthy and productive combo of Julius Peppers and Nick Perry on the outside, Bradford can be the beneficiary in the middle. His instincts need to improve, but I understand the pick being made here. As an outside linebacker, I personally would not have drafted Bradford at all.
In the fifth round, the Packers took a center in Corey Linsley. Linsley never looks terribly impressive in how he wins, but he turned in some really productive games this past year, including a dominating performance against Wisconsin. Linsley comes in and provides depth to play behind J.C. Tretter, their fourth round pick, whom they appear to be high on at this point. Linsley can work to get bigger and stronger while giving them some qualified depth, which has been a necessity for the Packers over the last few years on the offensive line.
Later in the round, they took Jared Abbrederis, which just screams prototypical Packer’s receiver. Abbrederis played in college football for the Badgers and while he was never a terribly well-known receiver, even with Russell Wilson at quarterback, he was always productive.
Abbrederis has been tabbed as being slow, despite a track background. He has great feet, has good agility and can is dangerous when he is able to get the ball in open space. When Wisconsin played Ohio State, Bradley Roby was roundly criticized for his performance, though he really was not bad. Abbrederis, on the other hand, was spectacular and showcased everything he could do for a team.
The Packers have had a ton of success with mid to late round receiver picks that fit what they want to do, because they have a terrific quarterback in Rodgers. Inside or outside, Abbrederis can get open, has enough size and more than enough speed to be an asset for the Packers and it would not be a surprise if he finds his way into helping the Packers as a rookie. He was extremely polished in college and that should carry over to the NFL, particularly in his route running.
The sixth round pick of Demetri Goodson is really what the sixth round is designed to do. Goodson is about to turn 25, which is part of why he went as late as he did. He is actually older than both Casey Hayward and Davon House. Before playing three years of football at Baylor, Goodson played three years of basketball at Gonzaga. He is also someone that has battled injuries and is still somewhat raw. Nevertheless, he is really athletic, has shown ability in coverage and if he stays healthy, could fight for playing time in nickel or dime immediately. If not, the investment was small. In either case, it should be clear relatively early what they have in Goodson.
With their last pick of the draft, the Packers went with another receiver in Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State. Janis has good size and was just a solid all-around receiver in college. Both he and Abbrederis attended the Reese’s Senior Bowl and while Janis was relatively anonymous, it was because while he was not spectacular in any one area, he was not doing anything wrong either. He just did his job and when the ball came his way, he caught it. Janis might have a difficult time making the final roster because of the sheer amount of receivers the Packers have, but he should be able to stick on their practice squad and potentially develop into a player like Jarrett Boykin was for them last year.
The Packers’ third round was somewhat baffling, but they did make up for it with value in the Dix pick as well as getting Abbrederis and Janis where they did. Overall, the Packers did much of what they were hoping to in the draft, so it remains to be seen if those players can contribute. It will be interesting as some of these position groups are packed and there could be some tough cuts to be made before the process is concluded. The defense got help at every level and Rodgers continues to get receiver help to be the next man up in their offense. The draft as a whole was solid for the Packers, but in a division where everyone looks to have done an excellent job in the draft, they still might cede some ground.