Football is BACK!

After another offseason of nearly every NFL player saying they are in the best shape of their life (yes according to the offseason articles, each and everyone of the stories is definitely true), three NFL teams trading up to draft a quarterback in the first round (time will tell if this works), the first salary dump trade in NFL history (Hi Brock Osweiler, how do you like the Cleveland Browns?) and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson realizing that spending money in free agency can be a useful tool to help build a team, football is BACK!

Well, preseason football that is.

Anyways, that means a whole new season of coverage of the Packers at scoreboardgurus.wordpress.com, starting with some analysis from the first Packers preseason game, a 24-9 home victory vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. Yeah, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Davon House and others didn’t play, but that doesn’t stop us from making observations of the people that did.

Here are a few:

  1. Wide receiver Trevor Davis is a legitimate threat as a punt returner. Davis wanted to impress special teams coach Ron Zook by practicing punt returns nearly every day at local high school fields. He had the returns recorded, which Zook told Packers reporters he had never had a player do before. With former punt returner  and secondary stalwart Micah Hyde signing with the Buffalo Bills, the job is up for grabs with jack-of-all-trades receiver Randall Cobb currently listed at the top of the depth chart. The second year pro, Davis, certainly impressed with a 68 yard punt return touchdown halfway through the second quarter to open up the scoring. Davis showed excellent vision with a few cuts and the breakaway speed that allowed him to be drafted in the fifth round last year as he ran away from would be tacklers. There could be a new name on top of the depth chart soon.
  2. Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan filled in admirably for the two-time MVP Rodgers who watched from the sidelines in a baseball cap. Rodgers is still a phenomenal quarterback who belongs in any discussion among the top five quarterbacks in the league (cough… best… cough…cough), but being a backup quarterback in the NFL is a very important job. Football is a violent game that results in many injuries to all positions. Rodgers has been fairly healthy the past few seasons which has been great, but in the NFL, that can never be counted upon. Hundley showed maturity after a rough beginning, finding wide receiver Jeff Janis on a pump and go route late in the second quarter for a touchdown. The third year quarterback finished 10-17 for 90 yards, one TD and an interception. Callahan, a member of last year’s practice squad, made a case for himself to make the active roster going 10-16 for 103 yards and taking command of the offense at all times. It will be difficult for the Packers to justify carrying three quarterbacks on the roster, but if Callahan continues to impress, Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy may be forced to find a roster spot for him.
  3. Turnovers will be a key focus for the rest of training camp after a sloppy start to the preseason, something that will assuredly not be lost on McCarthy. The Packers committed three turnovers and recovered three more fumbles that could have been turnovers themselves. Hundley and fourth string quarterback Taysom Hill threw interceptions, while starting running back Ty Montgomery coughed it up in the first quarter. With a month before the regular season begins, the team will have plenty of time to work on some ball security drills.
  4. Despite early missed tackles, the defense stepped up and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard. The Eagles also rested and barely played many key starters, but four quarters holding an offense to nine points is definitely an accomplishment. The Packers have many young players to get excited about that performed well in the first game of the 2017 season. Rookie Kevin King was all over the field recording five tackles and responded quickly after allowing a long completion. Second year safety Marwin Evans recorded an interception and led the team with seven tackles. Inside linebacker Joe Thomas made a great play in the second quarter reading the quarterback’s eyes and nearly bringing back an interception all the way back for a touchdown to set up another score. If the defense can continue to bring pressure on both runs and passes, the team will be in good shape when the games start to count.
  5. Unfortunately, the Packers did not leave the game unscathed with a few injuries to report. Reserve offensive lineman Don Barclay could not put any weight on his right ankle which depending on the severity of the injury, could severely hurt their line depth. Safety Kentrell Brice left with a finger injury and cornerback Raysean Pringle is in the concussion protocol.
  6. Along with these injuries, rookie Malachi Dupree and cornerback Damarious Randall are both in the concussion protocol over some questionable blocks and hits the Eagles placed. I will not link the video because it is difficult to watch. Football is dangerous enough without blindside blocks or hits to defenseless players who have no idea the hit is coming. Dupree appears to be okay after being carted off, and it is unclear the status of Randall, last year’s starter. McCarthy said that the team has sent in both tapes to the NFL league offices to determine whether any further disciplinary action should be taken. After watching each of these hits, I completely agree with McCarthy saying these were illegal hits. Say what you want about the NFL ignoring and even promoting these plays for years, but the league has been, and is continuing, improving the game for the safety of players. Doing nothing about these hits would look awful in the public’s and players eyes would definitley take a step back in this quest. But hey, the league has a long history of doing the right thing with these types of decisions… I couldn’t even type the sentence with straight face, so here is hoping something will happen following the NFL’s reviews of the videos.
  7. Final take is this, as much stock as we would like to take in preseason football, it’s all part of a bigger picture and and still an incredibly small sample size. My two favorite examples of this are a 17 year old New York Times article talking about how much first overall pick Ryan Leaf (one of the biggest draft busts in history) outdueled future five time MVP, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and Hall of Famer Peyton Manning from 2000. Don’t even try to blame the New York Times (which is assuredly not fake news), there is someone or some publication that publishes a story that ages horrendously nearly every day. Finally, the second example is the 2008 Detroit Lions, the second team in NFL history to not win a single regular season game, although the first team to go 0-16 since the schedule and league expanded. That Lions team’s preseason record, 4-0. I am not saying the Packers will come even close to matching that awful record, but you still can’t expect everything that happens in preseason to translate to the regular season. Countdown, T-minus 30 days to the regular season opener at home vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

Why Ted Thompson needs to consider a veteran linebacker

 

Ted Thompson has long been considered one of the best general managers in all the NFL, yet he seems to always be one year behind on getting to the Super Bowl. The current state of the Green Bay Packers outside linebackers looks good on paper, but if you delve deeper there is one unfortunate problem: injuries!

Clay Matthews just turned 31 and has been plagued by injuries since the Super Bowl. No one is arguing how great he can be when healthy, as Matthews is a terror on the field like J.J. Watt. His motor doesn’t stop which is the reason his injuries happen. As long as McCarthy can monitor his snaps so he’s fresh, like some form of a snap count, it only strengthens the Packers chances at keeping him healthy for the long term.

Nick Perry can also wreak havoc when healthy but after breaking several fingers, forcing him to wear a club, the Packers were in danger. Perry had his best season of his career with 11 sacks last year, but it’s tough to put a lot of stock into someone who has been injured every year thus far. Perry still has a chance to have another stellar season, but having another veteran alongside he and Matthews would be the perfect recipe to keep both stars fresh for the long haul.

The Packers also drafted Wisconsin favorite, and former University of Wisconsin Badger Vince Beigel, who unfortunately recently had foot surgery and is looking like a long shot to be ready for training camp. The coaches are looking for second year player Kyler Fackrell and three year veteran Jayrone Elliott to pick up the slack this year, and thus far, Elliott has been injury prone and Fackrell needs to prove more this season.

This leads me to why the Packers should kick the tires on veterans Elvis Dumervil, Mario Williams, and/or Dwight Freeney. The packers recently lost Datone Jones and Julius Peppers and have made up for those losses with one outside linebacker. All three of these veterans can also put their hand in the dirt and play defensive end which is exactly what both Jones and Peppers did.

Dumervil is 33 years old and three years removed from a 17 sack season. Dumervil can fill multiple voids if need be which provides defensive coordinator Dom Capers with flexibility to move players around. Dumervil can also provide the leadership the Packers would need to put them over the top, similar to what Peppers did for the team three years ago.

Mario Williams may scare some people due to locker room concerns, but hear me out. Williams is only three years removed from a 14.5 sack season and being rated as the 42nd best player in the NFL.  He is only 32 years old and can provide Capers with much needed speed and power off the edge like that of Julius Peppers. Williams had his best seasons when playing for great coordinators who know how to work with stars like Jim Schwartz and Wade Phillips, as they  both made him a Pro Bowler at his various stops around the NFL. Williams and Capers would be a blessing in disguise and provide the Packers with a versatile weapon. His salary would not hinder the Packers as they can sign any of these veterans to a cost-effective incentive driven one year deal.

Dwight Freeney would be a locker room move and a player you know will get you anywhere from three to eight sacks potentially. Freeney can line up at defensive end or outside linebacker and cause chaos for opposing quarterbacks. Freeney is 37 and only a year removed from an eight sack, 11 game season. Older undersized pass rushers have defied father time before a la James Harrison (39 yrs old and five sacks last season). Freeney is looking for another ring and would provide the leadership and experience to get the Packers over the hump.

No matter what you think about the Packers, this team needs some depth at the outside linebacker position and these three players would fit the organization very well. They would also provide fans one more recognizable name on a defense that should be improved from last year.

How the Green Bay Packers can win the offseason

Re-sign a few core players

Ted Thompson is known for taking care of his own and carrying a young roster every year. With 18 pending free agents, unfortunately not all of them will be back next year. Let’s take a look at the core players that will be key to this offseason.

  1. Nick Perry: a 26-year-old pass rusher who lead the team with 11 sacks and missed two games with a broken hand. You better believe Thompson will sign him! The expectation is four years $8 million.
  2. Julius Peppers: 37 years old and at the point of his career where it’s one year at a time. Peppers showed his age near the end of the season. I’d personally say it’s been a great run, but it’s time to get younger at that position.
  3. Eddie Lacy: 26 years old and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Eddie was clearly having a bounce back yearbefore injury, so I’d expect a one year prove it deal for $4-5 million.
  4. Jared Cook: Do not let his regular season numbers fool you. Cook clearly showed what he is capable of in the playoffs. McCarthy knows how to utilize him and Thompson knows another year in Green Bay will only improve the offense. He’s staying put. Expect him to sign a three-year deal worth $4-5 million a year.
  5. TJ Lang: 29 years old and set to turn 30 in September. He is clearly a top five guard in the NFL, and with the Packers letting go of former All-Pro Josh Sitton last year, it’s hard to imagine another star leaving this offseason. Core players don’t often leave Green Bay, but with his injury history and potentially large price tag, this could go either way. Lang either gives the Packers a hometown discount or takes the money and most likely plays for a non-contender. My prediction is he takes the money while he can.
  6. Micah Hyde: 26 years old and had arguably his best season. Being one of the most versatile defenders in the league, there’s no way he hits the open market. My prediction is he’ll sign a four-year deal worth $5-5 million a year.
  7. JC Tretter: 25 years old with an unfortunate injury history. Tretter is the Micah Hyde on the offensive line. He can play any position at any time. If Lang doesn’t come back, expect Tretter to fill that void. If no other team completely overpays him, Tretter should be back. My prediction is four years at $4 million a year.
  8. Datone Jones: Jones is a bit of an enigma. Switched to linebacker in the offseason, but with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry missing some time due to injuries, Jones never took over like he should have. He may never become the star he once was projected to become, but Thompson may want to kick the tires with a prove it deal. Jones could sign a one year prove it deal, but it may not be with the Packers.
  9. Christine Michael: Michael was a fantastic change of pace back and an offseason in a Green Bay to master the offense will only help the young running back. My prediction is Michael signs a two year, $1 million deal.
  10. Don Barclay: Every Packer fan cringes when an offensive lineman goes down and Barclay enters the game, but his familiarity on the team helps his case. I think he will stay for the veteran minimum.
  11. Christian Ringo: Ringo didn’t get much playing time, but when he was on the field he showed strength and toughness. The defensive lineman will probably re-sign for two yrs, $2 million.

This will be another typical Ted Thompson offseason. He will sign his core players for the right price if they’re also trending upward. Unfortunately, if Packers fans want to see a big signing, someone will have to take a pay cut or someone above with a huge price tag (a la TJ Lang) probably won’t be on the team next year.

 

Pay cut for either Clay Matthews or Randall Cobb

After cutting cornerback Sam Shields and running back James Starks, the Packers have roughly $43 million in cap space. Counting the draft class ($8-9 million) and those who should re-sign ($24-30 million) the Packers probably won’t have too much cap space to spend on free agents. They can pay for a free agent or two if someone is willing to take a pay cut. Clay Matthews is scheduled to make $15 million this next year at 31 and coming off a semi-productive season. No one is questioning his injury situation or his toughness, but a pay cut allowing room for incentives could be the way to go in order to add a veteran free agent.

I do not see Randall Cobb being asked to take a pay cut, but he’s the type of person that wouldn’t say no in my opinion. Playing with Aaron Rodgers is a wide receiver’s dream, and if he was released, he would not make more for a different team. The Packers would have a leg up in negotiations solely because the lack of production for Cobb, however, it is unlikely to happen.

2017 draft class will need solid contributors

The Green Bay Packers will have the 29th pick in this year draft, and it’s going to need some immediate impact from a few players. Experts often say it’s impossible to predict who Thompson will draft. A tendency I’ve noticed with the Packers general manager is he often picks from the deepest position(s) in rounds one or two. Here’s my mock draft for the Packers:

  1. 29th pick: Linebacker T.J. Watt (Wisconsin). So hear me out before this sounds like a biased decision. There’s no doubt he’s on Ted Thompson’s radar, especially with only Matthews and Kyler Fackrell under contract at outside linebacker for next season. Watt provides a lot of upside with this past year being his first complete season at linebacker. He led the Big Ten in sacks and commanded one of the best defenses in college football. He will fit right in opposite Matthews.
  2. Cornerback: Jourdan Lewis (Michigan). The Packers definitely need defensive help, and Lewis, paired with a rejuvenated Randall and Rollins, should be fantastic. Lewis may lack size, but his motor and mechanics are off the charts
  3. TE: Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech). He is more of a big wide receiver than anything, but with a red shirt year to develop and add more weight to his 6’7” frame, he could become a terrific player in head coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.
  4. CB: Brendan Langley (Lamar). A converted wideout who is still learning the corner position. I think he is going to test well at the combine and that should be enough for Thompsonto pull the plug and do what he does best: draft talent and develop.
  5. OG Isaac Asiata (Utah). With the potential for both T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter moving on to different teams, Thompson will have to get younger at the guard position and draft someone worth developing.
  6. RB: James Connor (Pitt). An extra running back certainly won’t hurt the Packers, and they definitely don’t want to be in the same position as last year. Connor could excel in Green Bay.
  7. OG: Ben Braden (Michigan). This pick is more for depth along the offensive line, and, since Braden could play anywhere, he would be a solid contributor if someone went down due to injury.

All in all, the Packers most likely will not surprise anyone in free agency. Free agency is where most teams overspend and over-hype their offseason. Thompson loves to draft and develop so expect him to have more picks than seven. The Packers will again attempt to fix the defense and roll into the offseason healthy and ready for redemption.

Everyone was wrong about the NFL Draft’s 1st round

I was wrong, you were wrong, and so was the rest of the world. No one could have predicted what would take place the night of April 28, 2016. The NFL draft once again took everyone by storm as the most unpredictable circumstances took place. From Laremy Tunsil doing his best Cheech and Chong impression to Myles Jack’s unforeseen fall into the 2nd round, it’s safe to say that the first round of the 2016 NFL draft has started off with a bang.

The first two picks of mine were correct as many assumed, but had Tunsil not had his account hacked and gotten toasted that night with family, presumably most of us would’ve gotten the San Diego Chargers pick correct as well.

The rest were quite obvious. The Cowboys needed a running back to go behind that great offense line, and the Jaguars needed a play-maker in the secondary. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley was a solid choice as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with the Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome making the picks. The San Francisco 49ers will without a doubt have one of the best defensive lines in the league with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner paired together.

Then the real fun began with the Cleveland Browns going out of the norm and trading back as opposed to trading forward, and dare I say that they’ve finally realized how to play the draft! They gave the Titans who they wanted and received many more picks to play with in the process.

That wasn’t enough as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded their pick to the Chicago Bears, giving them their chance at linebacker Leonard Floyd. You can only imagine how much is he chomping at the bit to get a chance to work with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and company.

Former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple could’ve been considered a reach, but the New York Giants got their man. With the top 10 rounded out there was still much more to come!

The Bucs picked Vernon Hargreaves III, who fits perfectly in their scheme. The New Orleans Saints couldn’t help but grab a Mike Daniels clone in Sheldon Rankins. At this point, you could start to see the trend of drafting for need rather than best player available.

The Miami Dolphins then decided to pounce on Tunsil and make him the 13th pick in the draft despite his crazy night.

The Oakland Raiders knew they needed secondary help, and they got the best safety in the class in Karl Joseph. Finally, it was the Browns up at 15. Many fans and experts couldn’t help but wonder if they were going to make yet another trade, as if they were in grade school trading food at lunch. They chose Corey Coleman and arguably the best wide receiver in the class.

The Detroit Lions went for the solid yet unattractive pick in Taylor Decker, and the Atlanta Falcons surprised us all when they chose Keanu Neal at safety. Cue the crickets.

The Indiana Colts made the obvious choice in Ryan Kelly at center, and the Buffalo Bills got a perfect fit for their defense in Shaq Lawson. Then Darron Lee, the fifth Ohio State Buckeye of the night was chosen by the New York Jets.

Then it was the receivers turn to fly off the board. The Houston Texans traded with Washington Redskins for the speedy Will Fuller from Notre Dame. The Redskins went one pick back and took TCU’s Josh Doctson. That left Minnesota Vikings with Laquon Treadwell at pick 23.

The Cincinnati Bengals stayed and picked a top 15 talent in cornerback William Jackson III, and this left their bitter rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers to pick an unknown cornerback in Artie Burns.

Yet another first round trade from the Seattle Seahawks gave the Denver Broncos the opportunity to pick their tall big armed quarterback in Paxton Lynch, which should help challenge Mark Sanchez as the Broncos starter this year.

Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers stayed the course and drafted an unknown, low key player in defensive tackle Kenny Clark from UCLA.

The 49ers made a great move by trading back into the first round for the former Stanford Cardinal

Joshua Garnett. The Cardinals did what most fans wanted their team to do, drafting Robert Nkemdiche.

The exciting and unpredictable draft was followed by the NFC champion, Carolina Panthers drafting defensive lineman Vernon Butler, and the Seattle Seahawks picking offensive tackle Germain Ifedi.

The first round of the draft has been an emotional roller coaster for the fans, and they should expect nothing less tonight during rounds two and three. Let’s all remember that no matter how much we think we know about the draft, an unexpected video of a talented player smoking weed out of a gas mask could pop up and ruin your entire mock draft and favorite team’s plans.

 

2016 Mock Draft

1st pick Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff (California)

This is an obvious pick here. They traded away their lives for him, but it’s not a bad move if Goff becomes “The Man”. He is as good as any QB I’ve seen in the draft. He has a great arm and can make all the throws, and he has the kind of accuracy that can be potent over time. His footwork and poise in the pocket is incredible. The Rams are going to get the guy they’ve been looking for since Sam Bradford.

Pro comparison: Matt Ryan

2nd pick Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz (North Dakota State)

Prototypical quarterback is what immediately comes to mind when I think of Carson Wentz. First-year head coach Doug Pederson wants to develop a quarterback, and Roseman gave Pederson exactly what we wanted. Let’s just hope the risk of trading all the team’s picks bears some reward in the next few years.

Pro comparison: Blake Bortles

3rd pick San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss)

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Chargers have many needs but the biggest is keeping Phillip Rivers upright. Tunsil has the entire package when you look at him. His technique is great and his long arms will keep defenders away from Rivers for years to come. He was a top performer in most categories at the combine.

Pro comparison: Tyron Smith

4th pick Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)

The window is open as long as Tony Romo stays healthy. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones knows he needs to get the ball back to his quarterback and that starts with a great secondary. Ramsey is clearly the best corner you’ll find in the draft and the most athletic. As long as Jones is the owner and Romo is the quarterback, expect the Cowboys to choose the best player available.

Pro comparison: Patrick Peterson

5th pick Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack (UCLA)

The Jaguars need all the help they can get on defense, and their line appears to be a strength with the signing of Malik Jackson and getting a healthy Dante Fowler back. The best player available is the extremely athletic Jack.

Pro comparison: Patrick Willis

6th pick Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

The Ravens can only be so lucky having Bosa fall to them in the draft. Their pass rush is getting old and is often injured. Bosa has all the traits of a star defensive end, but if he can keep his head on straight (which won’t be tough playing with Suggs and Dumervil), he will have no problem playing in multiple Pro Bowls throughout his career.

Pro comparison: Chris Long

7th pick San Francisco 49ers: Deforest Buckner (Oregon)

He’s big, physical, and strong as an ox. Standing at 6-7 and 290 pounds, he’ll pair with Arik Armstead for one of the better defensive end tandems. Last year, he registered 17 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. Buckner clearly has everything you’re looking for in a bookend defensive lineman.

Pro comparison: Calais Campbell

8th pick Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State)

The last time the Browns picked a running back in the first round, it was a complete disaster, but this time it certainly will not be. Elliot has all the traits of a complete every down back.

Pro comparison: Demarco Murray

9th pick Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

They need to be able to get after the passer, and Shaq Lawson will be a guy to build the pass rush around. He complements well with the speed of Jacquies Smith. He has immense strength and power to control the line of scrimmage.

Pro comparison: Robert Ayers

10th pick New York Giants: Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss)

Treadwell ran a 4.63 40 at his pro day, and that’s OK because he plays to his strengths. He has great length, great confidence, and elite ball tracking ability. This kid will continue to prove scouts wrong and shine with Eli Manning. He’ll pair up great with Odell Beckham Jr. and a renowned Victor Cruz. Expect big things when they all get on that field together.

Pro comparison: Deandre Hopkins

11th pick Chicago Bears: Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

The Bears pass rush will get a lot better with this pick. Pernell McPhee was a great addition last year, but the Bears are still in need of another pass rusher and Dodd is a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense.

Pro comparison: Justin Tuck

12th pick New Orleans Saints: A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama)

The Saints have so many needs on defense, and he’s the best player available. He’s as mean as Hall of Famer Joe Greene and doesn’t seem to let any guard stop him in the game. Robinson can do it all, and he is arguably the best interior defensive lineman in this draft.

Pro comparison: Nick Fairley 

13th pick Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

They need to keep Ryan Tannehill healthy and in a clean pocket. Athletically, Stanley can do it all and shows no apparent weaknesses there. The only problem for Stanley is his technique, and that is common in left tackles at the collegiate level.

Pro comparison: Lane Johnson

14th pick Oakland Raiders: Eli Apple (Ohio State)

The Raiders have made a lot of noise this offseason which no one was surprised by. They have a top 15 corner in Sean Smith, and Apple certainly fits the bill if he is still on the board at this point. Apple is fiery competitor with endless confidence. His prototypical size and athleticism makes him a no-brainer if he’s still on the board.

Pro comparison: Xavier Rhodes 

15th pick Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin (Micigan State)

Protecting Marcus Mariota should be their No. 1 priority, and they traded the No. 1 overall pick in order to do so. Allowing the most sacks in the NFL is not the best way to start off the young signal caller’s career. This pick is a no-brainer and allows Tennessee to enlist one of the better young tandems at tackle.

Pro Comparison: Bryan Bulaga

16th pick Detroit Lions: Vernon Hargreaves (Florida)

In a division with Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater and a rejuvenated Jay Cutler, you better be able to stop the pass. The Lions understand that, and they know who the best player available is at this point in the draft at cornerback.

Pro Comparison: Brent Grimes

 17th pick Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee (Ohio State)

Dan Quinn wants his Bobby Wagner-like linebacker and certainly can find it in Lee. He will run from sideline to sideline making all sorts of big plays. He has enough athleticism to cover receivers on the outside, yet he is listed at 232 pounds. This guy is the best player available and expect him to take over the Falcon defense day one.

 Pro Comparison: Ryan Shazier

 18th pick Indianapolis Colts: Cody Whitehair (Kansas State)

The next goal for the Colts is to build the offense line and give Luck a fighting chance. This is an easy pick and expect the Colts to draft with an offensive line mentality.

 Pro Comparison: Zach Martin

19th pick Buffalo Bills: Leonard Floyd (Georgia)

With the departure of defensive Mario Willams, head coach Rex Ryan needs a tall long pass rusher, and they will be gushing if Floyd is still on the board at this point in the draft.

 Pro Comparison: Randy Gregory 

20th pick New York Jets: Corey Coleman (Baylor)

Coleman can do a little bit of everything, and playing in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread system will certainly help him flourish as a rookie.

Pro Comparison: Kendall Wright

21st pick Washington Redskins: Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

The Redskins need all the help they can get on defense, and that starts with becoming strong up the middle. Ragland is as good of a run stopper as they come in football. He can still use a little work on his coverage skills, but in his rookie season that will not be his primary job.

Pro Comparison: C.J Mosley

22nd pick Houston Texans: Josh Doctson (TCU)

Doctson is as solid as they come at wide receiver. Ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and posted a huge 41 inch vertical. He has great hands and am obvious ability to go up and get the ball. He is a perfect fit with the Texans and makes for a dangerous combination with Deandre Hopkins.

Pro Comparison: Devante Parker

23rd pick Minnesota Vikings: Will Fuller (Notre Dame)

Bridgewater needs some help around him. They lost Mike Wallace and have a budding star in Stefon Diggs. Fuller is a speed demon as evident in his 4.3 40. Every opponent is going to fear him going vertical on them which is exactly what offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants to do. This is as good of a fit as you can hope for if you are the Vikings.

Pro Comparison: Desean Jackson

24th pick Cincinnati Bengals: Su’A Cravens (USC)

The Bengals love USC linebackers, and they happen to need some help on defense. Cravens is a hybrid linebacker/safety and is a perfect fit with this defense that just lost safety Reggie Nelson and appears to be getting older at linebacker. He’ll play in the box, cover tight ends or play as the single high safety. Cravens is a complete football player and will excel playing in this scheme and learning from Vontaze Burfict.  

Pro Comparison: Lavonte David 

25th pick Pittsburgh Steelers: Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

Tenacious immediately comes to mind when I watch him play. Alexander is a fiery competitor with a nonstop motor. The Steelers need help on defense and he certainly will help their secondary. Look for the Steelers to draft heavily on the defensive side of the ball in this year’s draft.

Pro Comparison: Kyle Fuller

26th pick Seattle Seahawks: Taylor Decker (Ohio State)

The Seahawks have to realize that you need your first round picks. Not having one the last two years will not help the team much. That’s why they finally stay at their pick this year and draft Decker, who can protect Russell Wilson’s blindside for years to come. Decker has all the traits of a Pro Bowl left tackle and has shown that he can hold his own against the best of them.

Pro Comparison: Nate Solder 

27th pick Green Bay Packers: Sheldon Rankins

The Packers have a glaring need at the defensive line with the departure of BJ Raji and four game suspension of Mike Pennel. Rankins allows the Packers to play multiple schemes. Pairing him with Mike Daniels will wreak havoc on opposing offensive lineman.

Pro Comparison: Mike Daniels 

28th pick Kansas City Chiefs: Connor Cook (Michigan State)

Kansas City has constructed one of the most solid rosters in the NFL, and now it’s time to upgrade at the quarterback position. Head coach Andy Reid has proven time and time again that he can coach a good offense despite his quarterback’s shortcomings. Cook can make all the throws needed and has first round talent written all over him.  I don’t see general manager John Dorsey passing him up if he is still on the board.  

Pro Comparison: Sam Bradford  

29th pick Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Billings (Baylor)

Power immediately comes to mind when you think of Billings. His size isn’t ideal for a one-technique, but the Cardinals will know exactly where to put him in order to give him the best chance to succeed. Good luck running on the Cardinals anytime soon.  

Pro Comparison: Brandon Mebane 

30th pick Carolina Panthers: William Jackson III (Houston)

Carolina lost Pro Football Focus’s third-ranked cornerback in Josh Norman so replacing him will not be easy. Look for Carolina to go secondary heavy in this draft starting with the ultra-athletic Jackson III.

Pro Comparison: Trae Waynes 

31st pick Dener Broncos: Paxton Lynch (Memphis)

Denver NEEDS a quarterback about as badly as Johnny Manziel needs to go to rehab. Lynch is a great prospect with a cannon for arm and mobility that allows him to escape from the pocket. He has all the potential in the world but a redshirt season is completely necessary.

Pro Comparison: Ryan Tannehill

By: Bradley Collins

Free agency be damned, all the Packers do is win

March 29, 2012.

This was the last day that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson signed an unrestricted free agent. Yet, the Packers have won three NFC North titles and have made the playoffs the past four years, winning three playoff games.

Defensive end Anthony Hargrove was that player signed on March 29, 2012. He was subsequently released on August 24 of that year, never playing a regular season snap with the franchise.

Year after year billions (yes billions with a “b”) of dollars are spent when the NFL’s moratorium on signing free agents is over, yet the Packers typically stay out of it. Thompson’s strategy is clearly defined: draft, develop, and repeat.

There were only four players on last year’s Packers team that had even spent time on another team’s roster (John Kuhn, Julius Peppers, Letroy Guion and James Jones), and the Packers drafted Jones but resigned him last year amid a rash of wide receiver injuries.

Every year Packers fans whine and complain that Thompson should go after a free agent to help put the team over the top. While it is fun to imagine a top free agent pushing the green and gold back to a Super Bowl title like they did in in the 2010 season, signing a major free agent is not in the cards for the Packers.

There are always free agency rumors swirling around the league, it is what makes the NFL relevant 365 days a year. When Thompson and the Packers target someone though, virtually no one sees it coming.

Two years ago, it was signing the 34-year-old veteran linebacker Peppers to a three year $25.5 million dollar contract after he was released by the division rival Chicago Bears (after being released, a player does not count as an unrestricted free agent).

Peppers has started every game the past two years for the Packers and has totaled 18 sacks and 81 tackles in that span.

Thompson also signed the defensive tackle Guion from the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings (notice a trend) two days later. He had a career high 32 tackles and three and a half sacks before having a smaller role last year.

The times that the Packers dip into free agency recently, they come out with players that help them lock up the NFC North crown and make it back to the playoffs.

That is why Thompson’s latest foray into free agency to sign former St. Louis Ram and Tennessee Titan, tight end Jared Cook, has Packers fans feeling giddy.

Other than now third year tight end Richard Rogers making one of the biggest plays in Packers history with a crazy Hail Mary touchdown catch to win against the Lions last season, he had a largely disappointing season.

This year, the Packers will have a two-headed monster at tight end with Cook and Rodgers to give two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers even more weapons to throw to (it is nearly impossible to go an entire article without mentioning Rodgers when you talk about the Packers).

The NFL Draft, otherwise known as Ted Thompson’s playground, is in a month where he will find the next players to follow his championship-winning model.

Packers fans, be warned. The Packers are not typically going to be big players in free agency, but that is ok. Those NFC North titles and playoff victories speak for themselves. The Packers way works under Ted Thompson.

By: Justin St. Peter