GREEN BAY - More than any one position, the Green Bay Packers focused on addressing specific athletic traits in their past two drafts.
It was speed the Packers particularly wanted to add one year ago. With their first two picks in the 2017 draft, the Packers selected cornerback Kevin King (4.43-second 40) and safety Josh Jones (4.40). They immediately became the Packers' two fastest players.
“Coming off the NFC Championship game (in Atlanta),” coach Mike McCarthy said, “we really needed to increase the speed on our football team. It was very evident throughout that season.”
The Packers adjusted slightly this spring. While speed was still important, as best seen in first-round cornerback Jaire Alexander’s blazing, team-best 4.38 40, general manager Brian Gutekunst clearly focused on adding size to his roster.
It started in the second round, when the Packers selected 6-foot, 3/8-inch cornerback Josh Jackson despite suspect speed. Oren Burks, the third-round inside linebacker from Vanderbilt, also has good height for his position at 6-3 1/8.
On Day 3, the Packers selected a trio of receivers with tremendous height: fourth-rounder J’Mon Moore (6-2 5/8), fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6-4) and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown (6-4 3/4).
Even Cole Madison, the fifth-round offensive lineman, has above-average height at 6-5, considering the Packers plan to play him plenty at guard. And fifth-round punter JK Scott is also 6-5. In all, Alexander is the only player the Packers drafted who stands under 6-foot. Nine of their 11 draftees are at least 6-2.
“One of the constant conversations with Brian and I,” McCarthy said, “is we needed to be a bigger football team, all the way through. Ideally, when their grade goes up on the board, their final grade is what kind of football player they are. It’s definitely something you look at. We’re not in the mindset of just throwing everybody else away and just looking at that body type, but it’s definitely a focus and it’s something that we looked at – particularly the speed and the size and particularly the length of some of our players.”
Hometown team: Among the players who visited the Packers during the pre-draft process was Wisconsin defensive end Conor Sheehy, a potential late-round draft pick or priority undrafted free agent. When Sheehy went undrafted, the Packers signed him to their 90-man roster.
This weekend, Sheehy was joined in the Don Hutson Center by teammate Joe Ferguson to give the Badgers a pair of players at the Packers' rookie orientation. Arizona (T/G Jacob Alsadek, OLB Reggie Gilbert), Eastern Illinois (CB Tray Mitchell, DE Mack Weaver), Notre Dame (WR Equanimeous St. Brown, LB Greer Martini) and South Florida (G Kofi Amichia, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling) also had multiple players in Green Bay.
Ferguson, a safety, started only a handful of games in his Wisconsin career and posted modest stats: 48 total tackles and four interceptions in four years. But this weekend's tryout is a chance for him to join Sheehy on the 90-man roster by impressing the coaches and scouts.
"I have great respect for the program and Barry Alvarez and Paul (Chryst) and the whole bunch down there," McCarthy said. "I’m glad they’re here. Because I know for a long time (former Packers general manager) Ted (Thompson) was scared to death to bring one into the building. It’s great to have some Badgers in our program.
"I thought they did some really nice things. You have to be thinking about it, but you know they’re well-coached. You know they have some growth just because they’re young. But, yeah, you always like to see the hometown guys do a little better."