Depth, pass-rush help are priorities for Packers' defensive line in draft
Sixth in a 10-part Packers draft position-preview series: Defensive line.
GREEN BAY - Season-ending injuries to veterans Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson tested the depth of the Green Bay Packers' defensive line last season.
But it also allowed Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster and Fadol Brown snaps to prove they can be valuable rotation players. Meanwhile, Kenny Clark emerged as a star capable of playing all three downs.
While extending Clark's contract should be a priority, the rest of the defensive line can use depth and pass-rush help, especially because the team will have to make a decision on Daniels’ long-term future after age 30.
Priority level: Medium.
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
The good: Comes from a winning program and was a captain. High character. Can play on the edge, but also move inside. Knocked down 15 pass attempts. Productive all four years on the field (16 sacks, 40.5 tackles for loss).
The bad: Will need to work on strength in three areas: Start-to-finish durability in a game, consistency in run defense and beating double teams.
Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
The good: A big body who can move and can get off single blocks with ease. Also can occupy double teams for teammates to fill. Strong.
The bad: Missed the last two games of his college career after testing positive for a banned substance. Pass-rush production waned each year with Clemson.
Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
The good: Flexible player in that he can move across different positions, can get good leverage on offensive linemen and has impressive power.
The bad: Not invited to work out at the combine due to an altercation in which he punched a woman in 2016, before entering college. Tore his anterior cruciate ligament in mid-February while training for pre-draft workouts. On the field, needs to remain disciplined in his assignments and refinement of pass-rush techniques.
Trysten Hill, University of Central Florida
The good: Increased sack and tackle-for-loss production each year and can be a problem on the interior. Can get off the ball quickly and on-field hustle is there.
The bad: Didn’t mesh well with new coaching staff at UCF in 2018, starting one game. So, some football maturity questions do exist. Needs technical work with engaging NFL blockers and maintaining run gap discipline.
The Packers have not been shy at using high draft picks on defensive linemen — remember Nick Perry (No. 28, 2012) and Datone Jones (No. 26, 2013) were considered defensive ends coming out of college. Since then, however, the club has focused its draft efforts on interior linemen. The last time the Packers did not draft at least one defensive lineman was in 2014.
Recent draft history
Year, Round, Overall: Player, School
2018, 7a, 232 overall: James Looney, California
2017, 3, 93 overall: Montravius Adams, Auburn
2016, 1, 27 overall: Kenny Clark, UCLA
2016, 4b, 137 overall: Dean Lowry, Northwestern
A glance at what year the Packers players at the position are signed through and their age on opening day:
Mike Daniels (30)
Kenny Clark (23)
Dean Lowry (25)
Dean Simon (29)
James Looney (24)
Tyler Lancaster (24)
Fadol Brown (26)
Eric Cotton (24)
Montravius Adams (24)