Looking ahead: Needs remain at ILB, RB

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - By trading up in the second round to draft offensive tackle Jason Spriggs, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson addressed a major depth concern that was exposed in multiple games throughout the 2015 season.

With nose tackle, offensive tackle and edge rusher addressed by the end of Friday, the Packers certainly have targeted legitimate needs in the first half of the draft.

What’s left is Day 3, and there are still some holes at inside linebacker and running back. Here are a few prospects still available after the first two days who might figure into Thompson’s plans:

RelatedComplete Packers draft coverage

S Jeremy Cash: A three-time All-American pick from Duke, Cash is a rangy safety who could function as a linebacker hybrid. At 6-foot-0½ and 208 pounds he is a bit undersized even by hybrid standards, but his penchant for making plays behind the line of scrimmage (38 career tackles for loss, 8 career sacks) will give him a chance to play in the box at the next level. Three straight seasons with 100 or more tackles. Always wound up around the football, evidenced by his 15 career pass breakups and 6 career interceptions. “He’s not as good as Troy Polamalu but he reminds me a little bit of him,” a scout said. “The amount of plays he made behind the line is just awesome. But he’s more than just a box safety.” He posted a solid 40 time of 4.56. Likely a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Could fill a need for the Packers with very few quality inside linebackers remaining.

RB DeAndre Washington: A two-year starter and three-year contributor, Washington was massively productive in the spread offense at Texas Tech. He posted back-to-back seasons with 1,000 yards rushing, including 1,492 yards last season. But Washington’s appeal for the Packers would be as a dual-threat player. He caught at least 30 passes in each of the last three seasons and had as many receiving touchdowns as rushing touchdowns in 2014. As a senior, Washington caught 41 passes for 385 yards to raise his career average to 8.8 yards per catch. Ran a sneaky quick 40 time of 4.47 seconds. He’s undersized at 5-8½ and 207, but the skills are there. Very sound blocker for his size. “He’s not small, he’s short,” one scout said. “Dude is talented. He’s like Devonta Freeman. He can pass pro. There’s a difference between small and short.”

RB Tyler Ervin: Spent five years at San Jose State and left as one of the most versatile players in school history. Ervin played running back, slot receiver, return specialist, cornerback and special teams in his career. He functioned best as a dual-threat runner, evidenced by more than 1,600 rushing yards and 334 receiving yards last season. Slender build at 5-10 and 190, makes up for it with athleticism. He led running backs at the combine with a 39-inch vertical leap and tied for second in the broad jump (10-10). Could be a nice weapon coming out of the backfield for the Packers, who struggled to generate pass-catching production from the running back position on anything other than screen passes to James Starks. “He’s little but a real good athlete,” a scout said. “Got big speed. Quick. He can take it to the house. He can catch it well. Like most small backs, he’s not very good in protection.” Ran a blistering time of 4.39.

TE Beau Sandland: Born in California, Sandland followed a winding path from the time he graduated high school to the end of his collegiate career at Montana State. He was the top-rated junior college tight end in the country in 2012, then decided to enroll at the University of Miami. He caught just nine passes for 94 yards in 13 games with the Hurricanes before transferring to Montana State. That’s where Sandland began to shine. He caught 37 passes for 632 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015, earning All-American honors. Ran an average 40 time (4.74) at the combine, but he was among the best at his position in bench press (23 reps), vertical leap (35 inches) and broad jump (10-4). Sandland could hear his name called late in the day. “Solid receiving tight end first,” a scout said. “Not special. No. 3 tight end on an average team.”

ILB Tyler Matakevich: Growing up in the football-barren state of Connecticut, Matakevich managed just a single scholarship offer. He signed with Temple, the one school to give him a shot, and turned in one of the best statistical careers in recent memory. Matakevich was a four-year starter at Temple and recorded at least 100 tackles in all four seasons. He finished as the leading tackler in school history (493) and received both the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2015. His size (6-0, 236) and speed (4.79) are major drawbacks, but there is something to be said for the incredible production. Could work out as a 3-4 inside linebacker. He was the first All-American at Temple since 1986.

Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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