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Mike Vandermause column: Mock drafts say Packers will take LB at No. 21

May 6, 2014
 
Green Bay Packers 2014 draft preview: Linebackers
Green Bay Packers 2014 draft preview: Linebackers: Pete Dougherty and Weston Hodkiewicz look at the linebacker prospects for the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft. (May 1, 2014)
Many mock drafts have the Packers selecting Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley at No. 21 in the first round Thursday. / Getty Images

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Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn’t give a hoot about mock drafts.

“I know for a fact that they don’t have any inside information,” Thompson said last week, “because for the most part, sometimes I’m the only inside information, and I’m not telling anybody.”

He said he doesn’t instruct anyone on his staff to produce an official Packers mock draft to prepare for Thursday’s first round.

“That would drive me nuts,” he said.

RELATED: Complete coverage of the 2014 NFL Draft

So while Thompson engages in the real business of draft preparation, the pro football media is left to speculate about what might happen Thursday night.

Much like NCAA tournament brackets in March, NFL mock drafts have become a cottage industry at this time of year. They are educated guesses at best and more often than not prove to be woefully imprecise, but in attempting to marry team needs with college talent, they offer a glimmer of insight into the first round.

In a sampling of 14 mock drafts from around the country, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NFL.com and CBS Sports, some patterns emerge pertaining to the Packers.

Ten of the “mockers” believe the Packers will draft an inside linebacker with the No. 21 overall choice in the first round, with six predicting Alabama’s C.J. Mosley and four settling on Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier.

Thompson isn’t talking, but everyone knows the Packers are desperate for defensive playmakers, particularly at linebacker and safety. Yet only one mock draft polled had the Packers taking a safety, and that was Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.

The problem the Packers face, if you believe the mockers, is that many players they covet will be gone before they get around to drafting in the first round. That list prominently includes North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Pryor and Mosley likely will be gone as well, according to a majority of the mockers. Just one of the 14 mock drafts had Shazier drafted before No. 21, an indication he could be the Packers’ man.

So what will Thompson do if the top two inside linebackers, top two safeties and top tight end is off the board at No. 21?

He likely will stick to his tried-and-true convictions.

“If you stretch to try to fill a quote-unquote need somewhere, then you end up messing up a couple of spots, so we try to stick to the best player available,” Thompson said. “That helps for me because it keeps it simple.”

If the best player available isn’t a safety or linebacker, don’t be surprised if the Packers consider Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller. The Packers are well-stocked at that position, but there’s no telling how much longer Tramon Williams will last. Plus, Fuller is projected by some scouts as an NFL safety.

Some mock drafts say Fuller will be gone before No. 21, but the vast majority suggest he will be available.

The Packers, with four selections in the top 100, could potentially address needs in the second or third rounds at safety, receiver and possibly tight end, based on the overall depth of the talent pool. But if they don’t land an inside linebacker in the first round, there might not be another starting-caliber player available at that position later.

Thompson said he is prepared for just about anything Thursday and will adjust accordingly.

“I think when you’re picking in the 20s, you kind of just let it come to you,” he said. “You can think of different scenarios and you can read the Sporting News where they’ve got this team picking this (player), and none of those things are usually as accurate as you might think. So, I try to stay open to the possibility of anything happening.”

Not that Thompson knows or cares, but the Sporting News website predicts the Packers will take Shazier in the first round. Accurate or not, in the uncertain days leading up to the draft, that’s as good a guess as any.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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