Keep up with all the picks from the second and third rounds of the 2017 NFL draft. USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey kept things close to the vest regarding his target for the No. 1 pick, which wound up being quarterback Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma. And then, three picks later, Dorsey pulled an even bigger stunner with the No. 4 overall pick.
By selecting cornerback Denzel Ward from Ohio State, the top corner in the draft, Dorsey may have snagged one of the most coveted players on the Green Bay Packers' draft board. We'll never know for sure how much Dorsey's selection of Ward threw general manager Brian Gutekunst into a tizzy — if at all — but at the very least it removed a terrific player at the Packers' biggest position of need.
The Packers ended up with Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander after first trading down to No. 27 with New Orleans and then back up with Seattle for the No. 18 pick.
2018 NFL DRAFT: Green Bay Packers picks
Cornerback, though, isn't the only weakness on a Packers team that missed the playoffs and limped across the finish line last season. Gutekunst needs offensive linemen, receivers, pass rushers and, of course, corners. So here's a look at several players who might tempt him on the second night of the NFL draft:
DJ Chark, WR, Louisiana State: New tight end Jimmy Graham affords coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin a ready-made candidate to usurp a portion of the snaps played by wide receiver Jordy Nelson on the perimeter. Graham’s combination of size, speed and athleticism makes him a very large receiver, in some respects.
But the Packers still need at least one more perimeter receiver to complement Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Chark, 21, is the type of height/weight/speed prospect that could catch Gutekunst’s attention.
While his production at LSU was fairly modest — 66 catches for 1,351 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons as a starter — Chark is a legitimate burner who is ready to take the top off an NFL defense right now. That he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds with a frame measuring 6-2⅞ and 199 pounds has certain scouts drooling over his long-term potential.
However, Chark is much more of a project than a plug-and-play starter. He needs major work on his route running but could offer instant value as a punt returner.
Joseph Noteboom, OT, Texas Christian: The Packers need both long- and short-term help on the right side of their offensive line, where the injury to tackle Bryan Bulaga (torn ACL) and expiring contract of veteran Jahri Evans (34 years old) leaves them down two starters ahead of training camp.
Noteboom, 22, spent five years at TCU after redshirting his freshman season in 2013. He started 40 straight games to finish his collegiate career, making 29 appearances at left tackle and 11 at right tackle. He played each of the last two seasons exclusively on the left side.
At 6 feet 5 inches tall, 309 pounds and with 34⅜-inch arms, Noteboom has the measurables to contribute at either tackle or guard at the next level. He moves well for a man his size and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds. His biggest chore will be improving pad level to take advantage of adequate strength (27 reps on the bench press).
Arden Key, OLB, Louisiana State: The major criticism surrounding both Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio and Harold Landry from Boston College is their massive boom-or-bust potential. Both players are talented enough to be taken in the first round, but to swing and miss with that high of a pick would be devastating for Gutekunst in his debut draft.
The longer the draft continues, though, the more acceptable it becomes to take risks, and that’s why Key could be an interesting name Friday night.
Key, 21, became one of the hottest names in the scouting world in 2016 after a tremendous sophomore season with 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games. He appeared to have the ideal blend of size (6-4⅞, 238 pounds) and production in a major conference to warrant consideration as a top-10 pick whenever his collegiate career ended.
But Key teetered from that point forward: He took a leave of absence in the spring of 2017 for “personal reasons” and was out of shape when he returned; he had shoulder surgery last May to repair a partially torn rotator cuff; there were massive fluctuations in his weight and, at one point, Key ballooned close to 280 pounds.
While there are probably teams who have taken Key off their board entirely, the raw talent receives nearly universal praise from personnel men around the league. One scout told BobMcGinnFootball.com that Key could have been the No. 1 pick in the draft were it not for all of his issues. Another said he’s as talented as any player in this year’s class.
Drafting Key would be a huge risk — one former general manager Ted Thompson certainly wouldn’t have taken — but perhaps Gutekunst will be tempted by the idea of a top-10 talent in the second or third round. The Packers are desperate for pass rushers.
Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana: With experienced veterans like Graham and Lance Kendricks already on the roster, the Packers can afford to draft a tight end who needs a bit of time to develop as a receiver, especially if that player is capable of blocking right away.
Thomas, 21, spent two years at Nassau Community College in New York before committing to Indiana. After learning the system in 2016, when he appeared in 13 games but started only one, Thomas emerged as a senior with 25 catches for 376 yards and five touchdowns as a full-time starter last season. He attended the Senior Bowl and tested fairly well at the combine: 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical leap and the second-fastest time in the short shuttle among tight ends (4.20 seconds).
More importantly, Thomas (6-3⅝, 259 pounds) is a willing blocker with enough strength in his lower body to hold up reasonably well — especially when juxtaposed with Graham and Kendricks, neither of whom are reliable in that area. With better technique, Thomas could be a solid blocking tight end as he continues to learn the offensive system.
Donte Jackson, CB, Louisiana State: If the Packers need speed, Jackson is the man to call.
While diminutive in stature — he measured just 5-10½ and 178 pounds — Jackson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds at this year’s combine and was a sprinter for LSU’s track and field team. He can run with any receiver in the league because of his instant acceleration.
Jackson, 22, was a two-year starter at LSU with experience at cornerback (20 starts), free safety (three starts) and nickel (one start). He is a vicious blitzer off the edge with the kind of swagger and confidence needed to play corner at the next level. He registered 24 pass deflections in 24 total starts and had four interceptions.
The downside, of course, is Jackson’s lack of size. He is both slender and short with the type of frame that lends itself to injuries at the next level. He struggles against bigger, taller receivers and can take a beating in the run game.
The Packers hosted Jackson for one of their top-30 visits.