Packers in prime position to trade down in draft
GREEN BAY - Just once in Ted Thompson’s 12 drafts for the Green Bay Packers has the general manager traded out of the first round.
It worked out so well that one of his peers in the league suggested the Packers should try to do it again Thursday in Round 1 of the NFL draft.
In 2008, the Packers were set to draft cornerback Antoine Cason of Arizona with the 30th selection. Then Cason went to San Diego at No. 27, creating a feeling of uneasiness in the room.
Thompson was in the process of deciding whether to take Purdue tight end Dustin Keller or Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Then the decision was made to trade the 30th pick to the New York Jets for No. 36 and a fourth-round selection (No. 113).
The Jets took Keller, who caught 241 passes in five seasons before his career was ended by a knee injury. Cason was an effective starter for most of his five seasons with the Chargers before his career ended in 2014.
Nelson, the Packers’ pick at No. 36, and DeSean Jackson (No. 49) were two of 10 wide receivers drafted in the second round. Remarkably, seven of the other eight were busts.
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The executive in personnel who agreed to examine the Packers’ roster said some teams might be salivating to trade up into the first round this year if one or more of the top six quarterbacks lasts until Green Bay’s choice at No. 29.
“With their needs and the depth of this draft, at 29 I would be trying to move back like a bandit,” the personnel man said. “Quarterbacks are going to drive this draft.”
First-round draft choices automatically receive five-year contracts. Players in the last six rounds sign four-year deals.
“I think there’s going to be some action there at the end of the first round,” the scout said. “With these quarterbacks, they need a five-year contract because they’re not ready. I think there will be a lot of movement coming up (into the first round).
“With the depth of this draft at defensive end and safety and corner and tight end, I would be looking to trade down.”
The Packers’ list of critical needs appears to run four deep. “That’s quite a few for as far as Green Bay got last year,” he said.
In no particular order, he listed a No. 1 guard, a No. 1 running back, a No. 1 inside linebacker and a No. 1 cornerback as primary areas of need.
“You have to have an answer to be a championship-caliber team,” the personnel man said. “They have to attack some areas. Or you can just bank on (Aaron) Rodgers pulling (expletive) out of his (expletive). At some point that’s going to fail, right?”
Green Bay should also be looking for front-seven help on defense, the scout said.
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The scout agreed to assess the status and degree of need at each of the Packers’ positions:
Wide receiver: “Obviously, they have depth. They have three guys who started. Jordy Nelson, with another year back from the knee injury, should be full speed and rarin’ to go. (Randall) Cobb’s still a productive slot. Davante Adams showed he could be a good third. I think they still could get somebody to compete with Adams and give you ability to move on from him after next year.”
Tight end: “(Martellus) Bennett, with his head on straight and fitting in, is a quality starter. (Lance) Kendricks is a very good No. 2. I think (Richard) Rodgers is a solid No. 2. Most teams would love to have that depth. They don’t need one but if they could get one of the hybrid types that could be a slot receiver … they’re good there but I wouldn’t not take a guy.”
Tackle: “I like (David) Bakhtiari. (Bryan) Bulaga’s solid. I’m not real jacked up about the other guys. If they got an injury there I’d be worried. I would think they need a third. I know they drafted (Jason) Spriggs. He’s athletic but he plays light and is going to struggle to anchor. I worry about him inside and outside against bull rush. In his limited playing time last year I didn’t see a guy that could hold up with a lot of playing time. I did (Kyle) Murphy coming out. I just thought he was kind of a guy. Maybe a ninth lineman. Not a solution.”
Guard: “(Lane) Taylor’s a borderline starter-quality backup. He and (Don) Barclay are both in that vein. You feel great about them as thirds but I kind of think that’s what they are. It’s a far cry from what they had a few years ago where it was the strength of that offensive line and, really, offensively. Now I think there will be a drop-off in protection. I don’t see any answers.”
Center: “I like (Corey) Linsley. I think he’s solid. Is Jacob Flores the backup? I don’t know who the backup guard-center is.”
Quarterback: “I like (Brett) Hundley. (Joe) Callahan was kind of the preseason wonder. I guess he’s OK as a third. Obviously, (Aaron) Rodgers is elite. Feel pretty good there.”
Running back: “Yuck. I don’t like it. It sounds like they’re almost content with (Ty) Montgomery. They need a running back. You can’t keep relying on Rodgers. He bails them out and you think it’s a good model but, dang, it’s just not going to hold up over a season. Montgomery is solid. You like the versatility. A team, same coaching staff, total continuity that values an Eddie Lacy type enough to take him in the second round and, two years later, says, ‘We’re cool with a receiver playing running back.’ Is that odd to you? I don’t get it. I’m good with moving on from Lacy. You can still get a good running back in the third or fourth round. But you better address it. You’re going to tie your horse to that post (Christine Michael)? You come out of the saloon and you’ll be walking home. He’s not good enough. He’s camp emergency.”
Fullback: “I guess it’s fine. I stopped evaluating fullbacks about three years ago. They have good scheme players.”
Defensive end: “I think they need another. (Dean) Lowry is a nice backup but I don’t see him as an answer at defensive end. I’d like to get better. You’re fine with (Mike) Daniels. (Ricky) Jean Francois is just kind of a situational starter-good backup. I don’t think he’s winning football. But I think Jean Francois will end up playing over Lowry.”
Nose tackle: “They have (Letroy) Guion. How many chances is that guy getting? It’s not like he’s the winning edge, a Reggie White. … Obviously, they drafted Kenny Clark to be that guy. He’s not your prototype for the defense at his height. He plays with leverage, has some strength, did some good things. He needs to make a jump, but it looked like he was capable of that.”
Outside linebacker: “You got (Clay) Matthews and (Nick) Perry. Good there. I know (Kyler) Fackrell is supposed to be that guy but I’d like to get another guy in the mix to develop because Clay’s 30. Not a strong need but in that defense, they’re always trying to get the next guy. (Jayrone) Elliott could make a jump. He flashes a little bit on tape. He needs more consistency. I don’t see Perry in that (elite) light but that’s what he produced at. Is he a guy who could go the other way now that he’s paid?”
Inside linebacker: “I think they need help there. It’s a primary need. Maybe you could get by with one of those guys. Joe Thomas? I like (Jake) Ryan. He’s a borderline starter. You could live with him. (Blake) Martinez, not so much. He’s just a backup. They need a guy with some size. Kenny Clark is a smaller, shorter guy and they’ve got two smaller inside backers. In the 3-4 you’ve got to have some size inside there to take on guards.”
Cornerback: “They need some help. They’ve got to get a starter. (Davon) House was a smart pickup as kind of insurance and they know him. They need a No. 1. They’re all third or fourth (corners). After last year’s debacle, they’re probably going to carry six. They could probably be OK as long as you get one legit starter. It’s good to talk about a practice-squad guy like (Herb) Waters in the offseason but usually those guys don’t pan out. If he’s a fifth and a special-teamer, that’s awesome. I don’t think either one of them (Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins) are starters. That kind of played out last year.”
Safety: “I like the two starters. (Kentrell) Brice is OK. More of a special-teamer. I probably see him more as a fourth.”
Kicker: “Who’s their kicker? That’s OK.”
Punter: “He (Jacob Schum) was solid. Kind of a middle-of-the-road punter. Doesn’t help you, doesn’t hurt you.”
Return specialist: “You like Cobb but he’s such an integral part of (the offense). You don’t want him taking too many hits. He’s not a big guy. You also don’t want your kick returner to be your starting running back. Some of those other cats are going to have to jump up.”
Long snapper: “That position, I don’t mess with. If you have someone like (unsigned Brett) Goode, even the high-priced guys, it’s still minimal at $1 million, $1.1, $1.2, whatever. Just get your guy that you can trust. You try someone new and they screw up, I cannot live with that. ‘Why was I such an idiot? Why mess up a good thing?’ It’s a skill that’s acquired. You go young and you save $400,000, right? For what? What’s that going to get you? Nothing. Special teams coaches always say, ‘The guy can’t run.’ Well, it doesn’t matter if he can’t snap. If he messes up one snap in the whole year, it can cost your season. And you’re going to be the guy that wants to be the genius? Let’s not be stupid. Just keep the guy that can snap the ball and not lose the game.”