We’re 30 days away from the 2016 NFL draft, and the departure of B.J. Raji has convinced many mock draft analysts the Green Bay Packers will select a defensive lineman with the 27th pick in the first round April 28.
Of the 14 mock drafts sampled below, 11 have the Packers taking a defensive lineman. In a similar survey of mock drafts conducted Feb. 23, only seven of the 14 predicted Green Bay would take a defensive lineman.
Here’s a look at some updated projections on which player (in alphabetical order) will be chosen by the Packers:
Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: B.J. Raji’s hiatus could lead GM Ted Thompson to add another big body to the front line to shore up the Packers’ leaky run defense.
Eric Edholm, Yahoo.com: The annual “What will Ted Thompson do?” guesses are amusing, as he has stuck to a pretty rigid best-available mantra for some time now and ignored fans’ requests to upgrade at certain positions (tight end, inside linebacker) very high in the draft for years now. That’s why projecting them to fill a need, which nose tackle is now, is a bit dangerous. But Billings is a bullishly strong nose who can penetrate, and the loss (hiatus?) of B.J. Raji means the Packers must do better than Letroy Guion for 600 snaps this season.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Billings would provide the Packers with a strong, steady presence in the middle of their defense.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: With B.J. Raji stepping away from the game, they need help inside. Billings is a strong 310-pounder who can anchor in against the run.
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
Todd McShay, ESPN.com: At 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds, Butler has good overall strength, explosive upper-body power and above-average mobility for his size. His tape has flashes of Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets), but he needs to improve his consistency as a pass rusher. With B.J. Raji taking a hiatus from football, the Packers need more depth along the D-line. The good news? There’s plenty of depth in this D-line class to find a good option here or in Round 2.
Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State
Mel Kiper, ESPN.com: The Packers need weapons in the passing game, but with the top three wide receivers gone and a middling tight end class, getting a pass rusher is never a bad option. Correa is an absolute blur off the edge.
Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Henry is a combination tight end with outstanding hands and the ability to help out as an in-line blocker or as a go-to target on third downs. There are very few true tight ends in this class and Green Bay grabs the top tight end.
Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
Dan Kadar, SB Nation: If he’s coached up the right way, Jones has the potential to be a superstar. He was miscast too much at Mississippi State as a nose tackle and often faced double teams. For a 3-4 defense like Green Bay’s, he has the length needed to excel as an end.
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
Charles Davis, NFL.com: The Packers want to get stronger down the middle of their defense, and Ragland provides the thump needed to compete with Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com: With B.J. Raji taking a hiatus this season, Reed is a plug-and-play nose tackle who offers versatility on the Packers’ defensive line.
Chris Burke, SI.com: Even with B.J. Raji opting for retirement, the Packers still have enough bodies up front to survive. That does not mean, however, that they would (or should) pass on Reed, an early-down wrecking ball. There may not be as many questions about the Packers’ inside linebackers if the defensive line can put up more resistance.
Nick Klopsis, Newsday: Reed was one of the key members of Alabama’s incredible run defense in 2015. Reed is a strong interior presence who can control gaps and move opposing offensive linemen at will. He can replace B.J. Raji at nose tackle, or he can shift outside and play five-technique end.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: B.J. Raji is taking a hiatus from football, so the Packers are in need of help in the interior. With his combination of strength, athleticism and foot quickness, Reed has a chance to be a long-term starter.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Eric Galko, Bleacher Report: Robinson played every defensive line spot in 2015 for the Crimson Tide, and his outstanding knee bend for a 6'4" defensive tackle displays his pass-rushing promise in time. Set to be just a 21-year-old rookie, Robinson would be a steal at 27th overall and offers some of the highest upside of any defensive player in the 2016 class.