With the draft finally coming to a close on Saturday, the Green Bay Packers finished up with a haul of 11 picks. They collected a smattering of talent from different positions, conferences, and regions. However, they did have some concrete plans going into the draft which can be clearly seen by the trends that emerged from it. If we group their picks together we a couple of important themes that bind them together in a few matching groups. Let’s have a look.
Shore up the defense and increase athleticism
Picks: CB Jaire Alexander, CB Josh Jackson, LB Oren Burks, DE James Looney, LB Kendall Donnerson
Back in 2012 when the Packers lost to the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs one thing was very apparent. Green Bay’s defense lacked lateral quickness and overall athleticism. They were absolutely thrashed by Colin Kaepernick’s legs when he rushed for an NFL record 181 yards. Since then it seems that the front office has tried to draft players with athleticism and range on the field. With five defensive picks in this year’s draft, I think it’s safe to say that that trend is still alive and well.
All of these defensive players, with maybe the exception of Josh Jackson, bring athleticism as their primary talent coming into the league. Jaire Alexander ran a 4.38 40 which made him one of the fastest corners in the draft. Burks is hybrid linebacker and safety that combines speed, agility, and strength which makes him a rare combination of balanced athleticism. Meanwhile, NFL television commentators joked that the only thing they knew about linebacker Kendall Donnerson was that he weighed 250lbs, could jump 40 inches vertically, and ran a 4.48 40 yard dash and those physical traits in and of themselves were enough reason to draft him.
Go big or go home with the wideouts
Picks: WR J’mon Woore, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Equanimeous St. Brown
For years the Packers have enjoyed drafting big and talented wide receivers that give them a vertical threat down the field. The best example of that was Jordy Nelson who is now departed from the team. GM Brian Gutekunst made no delay in trying to find his replacement. They were near the bottom of the league in 20+ yard completions last year and they definitely want to make sure that does not happen again. Big plays blow open games and strike fear into opposing teams. Without them, your offense becomes tame. Enter these three rookies.
Remarkably all of these players stand at least 6’3” or taller making them the prototypical “throw it far and high and let them make a play” type of guys. Aaron Rodgers loved throwing those types of balls to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers averaged 14.3 yards per catch in his career with the Packers, numbers which are lowered by having played with backups for stretches when Rodgers was injured. Still, that average for his entire career would have put him in the top 30 individually for yards per reception this season and his career high (18.6 YPR) would have beaten this year’s highest (Marvin Jones 18.0 YPR). Which is to say that Rodgers likes to have a guy he can trust for the big plays. The Packers drafted three that all look like they have a shot of doing that. What are the chances that at least one of them does?
Specialty players are important too
Picks: P JK Scott, LS Hunter Bradley
In football, there are just certain positions that get more attention and focus. It’s just the way it is and punters and long snappers pretty much fall last in that list. However, this year the Packers prioritized them selecting punter JK Scott in the fifth round and long snapper Hunter Bradley in the seventh. While neither of them have the glitz of the quarterback position, locking them down with talented players in the long run is very important.
Long snapper Hunter Bradley fills a positional need for the Packers who struggled to get a consistent player at the position after going through three different players at the position last year. One of them was a free agent with no team who they simply had to bring in out of desperation. With Bradley, they should have a solid back up for Brett Goode and someone they can rely upon in case of injury. Even if Goode stays healthy, it’s always good to have competition at every position, in case players get complacent or lose their touch. Having someone behind you can give you the appropriate motivation.
Meanwhile, JK Scott will also provide a competitive boost at the punter position. While returning punter Justin Vogel performed fairly well last year, and he is still young, JK Scott certainly proved he was one of if not the top performer at the position in college football. He placed at least 25 punts within the 20 yard line every single year at Alabama. Plus, he has experience as a placeholder and a kickoff specialist. So even if he does not start for the Pack immediately as a punter, he will have value to add in different places around the field.