2014 May : Packers Insider

Review of the Packers Class of 2014 Draft

May 11, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~List of the Packers’ 2014 Draft Picks:

1. – FS, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (6’1″ 210lbs)
2. – WR, Davante Adams, Fresno State (6’1″ 215lbs)
3. – DL, Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss (6’3″ 305lbs)
3. – TE, Richard Rodgers, Cal (6’4″ 270lbs)
4. – LB, Carl Bradford, Arizona State (6’1″ 245lbs)
5. – C, Corey Linsley, Ohio State (6’3″ 300lbs)
5. – WR, Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6’1″ 195lbs)
6. – CB, Demetri Goodson, Baylor (6’0″ 200lbs)
7. – WR, Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State (6’3″ 220lbs)

The grades are in from all over the web-o-sphere for all NFL team drafts, and some (Sports Illustrated) have the Packers’ class with an ‘A’. That sounds good.

But it takes time for the grades to play out.

We still don’t even know what Nick Perry, the 2012 first round pick, would get for a grade. But so far, it’s worthy production of a 6th round pick.

As for this class, who knows.

But what we do know is that the Packers once-deep receiving corps had been depleted with the losses of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, and quite possibly Jermichael Finley. All in the past two years.

Davante Edwards, in my opinion, was without question first-round worthy in this draft. Depending on how fast he can learn the Packers playbook inside-out, he can be a quick contributor even though there are already three proven studs at WR ahead of him in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin.

Despite not possessing that blazing 4.4 or better speed, Adams sure seems to have a knack for getting past DBs, or going above them.

I raved about Adams leading up to the draft. I believe had he played in the SEC, he would have certainly been a first round pick.

“His ability to catch the ball, first and foremost, is something we looked very closely at. He’s remarkable at that.” –Ted Thompson

Wisconsin senior WR Jared Abbrederis had 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State and their supposed first round CB Bradley Roby.

Abbrederis reminds me a lot of former Colt Austin Collie, good and bad.
Collie was an over-achiever who produced with a great QB, Peyton Manning. But he suffered a few concussions, which ended his Colts career.

Abbrederis has had a number of concussions and this is a concern going forward. He doesn’t have great speed, but neither do a lot of current and past wide receivers who have had good-to-great NFL success.

And Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State, physically is the best of the trio of rookies. He produced on the field, against lesser competition. But he also tested faster and more athletically than both Adams and Abbrederis.

They say he’s raw, but that remains to be seen. Let’s see how it all plays out this spring and summer.

Clinton-Dix is a perfect fit for the Packers, although scout’s opinions of him were a mixed bag. Some love him, some thing he’s just okay. Whichever it is, he’s a lot better than the Packers rolled out there the in 2013, 2012, and 2011 after Nick Collins had his career taken away from him in the second game of the season.

The other guys are bigger mysteries as they appeared to be classic Ted Thompson “reaches”, based on other scouts opinions.

However, Thornton and Bradford appear to have a skill-set that can improve the defense soon. Thornton might bump Jerel Worthy out of the rotation.

Thornton could give Capers' defense what he was expecting from 2012 2nd round pick. Jerel Worthy. Worthy's days could be numbered.

Thornton could give Capers’ defense what he was expecting from 2012 2nd round pick. Jerel Worthy. Worthy’s days could be numbered.

Bradford’s position is still not a certain thing. He could play outside linebacker as he has. But some feel his skills and size could make for a great insider linebacker, which is where the Packers are thinner, perhaps.

Here is a guarantee: Bradford is a good NFL player. What I still can’t figure out is where he’s going to make his money. He could be an effective outside backer, as he has that ability. But I can also see him becoming a key stud at inside linebacker. He also has that ability. I believe the Packers would be best served trying to have him upgrade the interior and Brad Jones spot.

Richard Rodgers is the pick I really question. I don’t think he’s anything better than a longshot to make a roster, a 7th round pick kind of guy. From Bob McGinn’s article today from various NFL scouts, about Rodgers: “He’s nothing at all.” “He’s in the 5th, 6th round range, nothing special at all.”

Why Thompson felt this player was so important, worthy, of a third round pick, well let’s all hope we find out why.

At center, Linsley is a lunch-bucket type of guy who some felt wasn’t NFL-worthy, but others think can turn into a starting NFL center. He or J.C. Tretter would appear to have a beat on that opening night start in Seattle. Neither guy has taken a single NFL snap.

Remember the pass rush the last time the Packers played against Seattle?
Rodgers got sacked seven times in the first half.

Everyone in Cheeseland, USA better hope whoever wins the gig at center is ready. Everyone learned last year what this team is like without Rodgers.

 

Davante Adams could be Thompson’s latest Round-2 WR gem

May 10, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~Let’s just forget about round three for the moment, and focus on the Packers second round selection.

Davante Adams is a great wide receiver, from Fresno State. He led the nation last year in catches with 131. He also led the nation in touchdown catches last year with 24. “When you watch him on tape, you love how he’s a competitor,” Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “He makes the tough catch, goes up and attacks the football. Extremely productive.”

Size-wise, he is almost identical to the #4 overall pick, Sammy Watkins in both height and weight. Adams is 6-1, 215 pounds.

Adams also tested faster than Watkins at the NFL combine in the 3-cone, 6.82 to 6.95, slightly better in the shuttle, and jumped 5 1/2 inches higher in the vertical test. He was slightly slower in the straight 40-yard time.

Those are combine test results. Production matters more, and you can’t do any better than Adams did. In just two seasons there at Fresno, he caught 233 passes for 3,030 yards and 38 TDs.

Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson were all second round picks. James Jones and Jermichael Finley were third round picks.

If Thompson has drafted any position well, it’s finding receivers. And it is.

Adams fits in nicely with this Packers team as there are three now-proven studs in Nelson, Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin. But behind them, nobody is proven. Adams will have a nice chance to learn this year while not being counted on to carry the load. Of course, this is barring injuries to the top three, and we all know some of them will get injured.

“I’ve always been confident in my abilities, all throughout my life,” he said. “I know I could rise to the occasion, whatever it took. I’ve put together some pretty good film in the two years I played, and I came to the conclusion that I’ve done all I can do to prove to teams I’m ready for the next step, and here we are.”

Adams has exceptional leaping ability, and knows how to go up and get the ball at it’s highest point.

Still, with Nelson and Cobb both being in the final year of their contracts, there’s a chance one of them is not able to be brought back next year, and Adams becomes more important in that scenario.

For now, this was a great pick in round two. Had Adams played on the East coast, or in the SEC, and done what he did, he would have been a lock to go in the first round.

“Growing up it was always second nature for me to go up and catch a rebound, to high point the ball,” Adams said. “That helps me in red zone when it comes to jump balls, things like that.”

“I have good speed. I’m not a 4.3 guy, but I definitely know how to use my speed, and I don’t get caught on the field from behind,” he said.

“I feel like I’m one of the best playmakers in this draft, being able to catch the ball deep or catch the short route and taking it the distance.”

With Aaron Rodgers throwing passes his way, this is going to be proven to be a very good pick at #53.

Ha-Ha, the Grades are in for the Packers first round selection

May 9, 2014 by  
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From Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~The Packers had some enormous holes last year in their defense.

Not only did none of the Packers safeties come up with a single interception last year, or force a fumble, they also gave up plenty of big plays, and tackled poorly.

Burnett has often been a step late, and has failed to make plays back there. This was a critical play he allowed in the playoff loss to the Niners. When drafted from Georgia Tech, Ted Thompson raved about Burnett’s ball skills. He has yet to prove Teddy right.

However, the addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has given fans and the team hope that things will change back there.

MD Jennings will not be allowing any more big plays for the Packers back there. He’s now a Bear.

What did the web experts think about the selection?

Pete Prisco, CBS sports senior writer: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/story/24544989/grades-2014-nfl-draft-round-1

21 A Packers select: Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

This is a great pick. They needed range in the secondary and they now have it. Love it.

Pete only gave five other ‘A’ grades, and one A+.

 

Chris Burke from Sports Illustrated was also impressed. http://nfl.si.com/2014/05/08/green-bay-packers-select-ha-ha-clinton-dix-2014-nfl-draft/

The Green Bay Packers were the last NFC North team to go on the clock in Round 1, and at least two of their divisional rivals — Detroit and Chicago — could have swiped Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before they got there.

But the chips fell into place for the Packers, who headed into Thursday with a need at safety, and left it with a prospect who had top-10 talent. Clinton-Dix should be a Day 1 starter for Green Bay.

 

Strengths: Clinton-Dix has the two things every NFL free safety needs — great feet and impressive quickness. He backpedals and redirects smoothly and with little trouble, which allows him to stick and stay on all kinds of routes. And he’s remarkably quick when it comes to driving down in run support, as well as moving to either sideline. Keeps the action in front of him, and does his best to avoid getting shaken on any kind of misdirection, despite his generally aggressive playing style. Has the size (6-1, 208) and speed to square up on running backs and receivers and bring them down. Understands how to deal with blockers — will rarely take a hit straight on and bounces off to make a play. Tackles with excellent form; looks to wrap more than he goes for the kill shot, and he does a terrific job of extending his body to catch quicker opponents. Gives tremendous effort at all times; he’s never really eliminated from a possible tackle as long as the play is still going. Can play well everywhere from true center field to the slot.

Weaknesses: Though he’s a generally disciplined player, there are inevitable aftereffects of Clinton-Dix’s style that show up on tape. He will flat-out miss tackles at times because he’s trying so hard to get where he needs to be, and better play-fake quarterbacks might have a field day with him at the NFL level. Will occasionally lose track of his target on quick angle routes unless he’s in position to redirect.

Grade: A.

The Packers are as proficient as any team in the league at building through the draft, and gifts like this one will help them stay on that path. Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor were neck-and-neck as the top safety in the 2014 class, and Clinton-Dix probably is a better fit for the Green Bay defense anyway (Pryor was selected at No. 18).

Alabama prospects have drawn a bit of a stigma recently, with several of them struggling to make the transition to the NFL after taking on heavy workloads in college. Clinton-Dix should help put an end to that opinion. He gives Green Bay a rangy, smart defender on the back end of its defense, in a division filled with passing offenses and talented tight ends.

 

 

Ignoring safety would’ve been a mistake

May 9, 2014 by  
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From Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — Ted Thompson ignored the safety position last year.

He did not make the same mistake again.

A year after the Green Bay Packers general manager watched 22 safeties come off the board in the draft without making a move at the position, Thompson let only one go by before he pounced on Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 21 in Thursday’s first round.

In all, there were four safeties taken in the first round and Thompson had his choice of all but Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, who went three picks earlier to the New York Jets.

In taking Clinton-Dix, the 6-foot-1 3/8 junior entrant, Thompson passed on Washington State’s Deone Bucannon (who went 27th to the Arizona Cardinals) and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward (who went 30th to the San Francisco 49ers).

Both safeties, Clinton-Dix and Burnett, possess similar size at 6-1. Which one is the better free safety and which one the better strong safety?

Both safeties, Clinton-Dix and Burnett, possess similar size at 6-1. Which one is the better free safety and which one the better strong safety?

After watching three of their likely defensive targets — Pryor and inside linebackers Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley — get snatched up, nerves had to be high in the Packers’ draft room. Had Clinton-Dix not been there, perhaps Thompson would have gone in a different direction — another position or a trade down. Or maybe he would have taken one of the other safeties.

Instead, he did not have to change his strategy or make a reach pick.

He handed defensive coordinator Dom Capers and safeties coach Darren Perry the chance to make up for the ills of last season, when the Packers were the only NFL team that did not get a single interception from the safety position.

“We have to be better,” Perry said shortly after the Packers made their pick. “We weren’t good enough, and that starts right here with me. That starts with our coaching staff, and we recognize that. We don’t shy away from that. It’s going to be a great challenge, and we will be better, no question in my mind. I’m looking forward to it.”

Clinton-Dix should make Perry’s job easier. He combined to intercept seven passes in his final two seasons at Alabama, including five as a sophomore when he played more free safety. As a junior, he played a more versatile role that included some strong safety.

“I think he’s a real all-purpose kind of safety,” Thompson said. “He’s shown an ability to cover down in the slot. He’s good in [run] support, a physical player. Also can play well in the back end.”

The Packers now can move Morgan Burnett, who played mostly strong safety last year, to free safety if they were so inclined. When the Packers drafted Burnett in the third round of the 2010 draft, they raved about his ball skills, having picked off 14 passes in three seasons at Georgia Tech…. rest of story HERE

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fills Packers’ need at safety

May 9, 2014 by  
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From Weston Hodkiewicz, Press-Gazette Media

~The Green Bay Packers finally got their safety.

A year after neglecting the position entirely, the Packers wasted no time addressing the back end with selection of Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL draft. ha-ha-clinton-dixpackers4

 

 
It’s the first time the Packers have taken safety in the first round since Alabama’s George Teague in 1993 and for good reason. Not one of the Packers’ safeties managed to generate a turnover in 2013.

The Packers feel they have their answer in Clinton-Dix, a 6-foot-1 3⁄8, 208-pound safety who had 100 tackles and seven interceptions during his three-year collegiate career with the Crimson Tide.

General manager Ted Thompson wouldn’t concede the secondary’s struggles last season necessitated the move, but he felt Clinton-Dix was the best option when their pick came up.

ha-ha-clinton-dix8
There wasn’t much talk between the two sides during the draft process, but Clinton-Dix recalled a relaxing conversation with the Packers at February’s scouting combine.

And he actually called his own shot recently when he posted a photo of himself on Instagram wearing a Packers’ T-shirt.

Now, he’s headed to Green Bay just like former Alabama teammate Eddie Lacy, the Packers’ second-round draft choice a year ago.

“I posted that picture on Instagram and I got 300, 400 comments and posts on Twitter,” said Clinton-Dix, who will wear No. 21. “I kind of went back and looked at Green Bay and they could use some help on the defensive side of the ball period with the great offense they already have. It wasn’t really ‘til then where I was like, ‘Eddie might be right. I might end up in Green Bay seriously.’

“Everything happens for reason. I put that picture of me with the Green Bay shirt up there two weeks before the draft and here I am a Packer.” ha-ha-clinton-dixpackers2

The Packers hope Clinton-Dix can remedy what’s been an eroding hole in their secondary since Nick Collins suffered a career-ending neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season.

They’ve tried to plug the safety spot next to Morgan Burnett unsuccessfully with Charlie Peprah, an aging Charles Woodson, undrafted M.D. Jennings and 2012 fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian before finally committing a first-round pick to filling the void.

Clinton-Dix played both the strong and free safety spots at Alabama and wowed scouts with his combination of size, speed, instinctiveness and tackling ability. He started nine of his 11 games at free safety in 2013, and won Darren Perry and defensive coordinator Dom Capers over with how he made calls in the Crimson Tide’s defense.

“You get a chance to talk some football with the guys before they work out and just getting a feel for where he was mentally,” Perry said. “What he was asked to do in terms of being a communicator and making the calls back there, we felt really good about that, and you expect from the guys that come out of the University of Alabama. (Nick) Saban, he’s got his hand on that secondary and they play a lot of variation of coverages back there, and he’s been exposed to a lot.” ha-ha-clinton-dix1

He wasn’t the first safety off the board — Louisville’s Calvin Pryor went to the New York Jets three spots earlier — but set off a run of safeties with Washington State’s Deone Bucannon (Arizona) and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward (San Francisco) going 27th and 30th, respectively.

There’s some thought Clinton-Dix still could stand to add more size to his 6-foot-1 frame, but he presents a tall complement to the 6-foot-1 Burnett against a slew of tall, physical NFC North receivers like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s one-two threat of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Clinton-Dix isn’t as heavy of a hitter as Pryor, but his ball-hawking ability should help improve a secondary that saw its interceptions drop consistently over the past three years. His size and ability is also an immediate upgrade over Jennings, whose limitations couldn’t be hidden next to Burnett.

“I’m very good in the post and covering, double-teaming, whatever the case may be, I’m good at doing it,” Clinton-Dix said. “When I get into that playbook and get comfortable and relaxed and get to know the system, I think I’ll be fine helping the Green Bay Packers win.”

Thompson said he felt there was a chance Clinton-Dix would be available when the Packers picked at No. 21 and joked he felt like Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome in how he’s been drafting Alabama players over the past few years. ha-ha-clinton-dix2

If Clinton-Dix can make the kind of impact Lacy made in his offensive rookie of the year campaign in 2013, the Packers might have finally solved their recurring issue in the secondary. At the very least, they have more options with cornerback Micah Hyde also a candidate to spend more time in the safety room this upcoming season.

“I think he’s a real all-purpose kind of safety,” Thompson said. “He’s shown an ability to cover down in the slot, he’s good in support, physical player. Also can play well in the back end. I think like Coach Saban said at the start of the broadcast, we think he’s got very, very good ball skills, and all three of those things are things that we look for in a safety.”

Full story here

Packers NFL Draft 2014: Jimmie Ward could be what the doctor orders next week

May 1, 2014 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~The play of the Packers safeties last year was perhaps the worst in the history of the National Football League.

Combined, all of them, they came up with a total of zero interceptions.
Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bagel. Donut.

They also forced a total of zero fumbles.

Not only that, but their tackling was shaky.

So out went Jerron McMillian, Ted Thompson’s 2012 fourth round draft pick.
Out went MD Jennings.

There are some plans to try Micah Hyde at the position, but he didn’t fare as well at Iowa at safety as he did as cornerback.

Sean Richardson came back last year after battling through back issues. He was an upgrade over Jennings and McMillian, but he didn’t appear to be the answer.

If Thompson ignores the safety position again in next week’s draft, as he did in 2013, 2012, and 2011, then perhaps they have more faith in Richardson, or Hyde, than the rest of us do. Chris Banjo is the other option, but as another undrafted guy, he’s not expected to be able to be a solid starting caliber safety for the team.

Who knows how Thompson ranks them. But it’s entirely possible that he could have Ward rated higher than Dix or Pryor.

Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois is a guy who will almost certainly be around at pick #21, and quite possibly be there at #53 when their second round pick is up. Ward was born in Wisconsin too, Racine to be precise.

At only 5′ 11″, 192, he’s a bit smaller than what you want. But so was Earl Thomas and Kenny Vacarro. And each of those guys made their defenses better right away as rookies. Thomas now is the anchor of that great Seahawks defense.

Jimmie Ward can hit too

Let’s take a look at some analysis of Ward.

NFL.com (Nolan Nawricki) says this about Ward, and he (Nawricki) seems to value family first apparently.

Overview

Has a child. Prepped in Alabama. As a true freshman in 2010, he logged 21 tackles, one pass breakup and zero interceptions with one forced fumble and a school-record three blocked punts. Returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a touchdown. Played in all 14 games, seeing extensive action as a backup free safety and on special teams. Registered 100-4-1 with 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one blocked punt (against Army) in 14 games (12 starts at cornerback) in ’11. Led the Huskies in tackles in ’12 after posting 104-11-3 with one tackle for loss and one forced fumble in 13 starts at free safety. Missed the UMass game with sprained A/C joint in his right shoulder. In ’13, logged 95-10-7 with 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 14 starts. Had a 62-yard touchdown return for a score against Purdue. Did not work out at the combine because of a foot injury (medical exclusion).

Sep 28, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Northern Illinois won 55-24.

Analysis

Strengths

Intense, active and energetic. Zooms around the field and stands out on tape. Aggressive run supporter — triggers quickly, flies downhill and chops down ball carriers. Breaks on throws and shows short-area burst to close. Has quick hands to snatch interceptions. Confident and energetic. Experienced and productive. Has a 38-inch vertical jump.

Weaknesses

Size is just adequate — lacks ideal bulk and is built more like a cornerback than a safety. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just nine times at the combine, second fewest among DBs. Gets snagged on blocks and struggles to disengage. Can be a tick late diagnosing pass, gaining depth and digesting route combos. Lacks elite top-end speed. Inconsistent downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw. Shows lower-body stiffness in space. Could rub some people the wrong way. Has some maturing to do and needs to learn what it means to prepare like a pro.

Draft Projection

Rounds 2-3

Bottom Line

Wiry, active, aggressive strong safety at his best playing downhill and reacting to plays in front him, yet possesses the cover skill to range over the top or lock down defenders in the slot. Ability to stay healthy in the future given lack of size and durability is the biggest concern. A very talented football player who could slide a round or two based on size, medical evaluations and attitude. Can contribute immediately at any safety position and positively affect the game if healthy and focused.

-Nolan Nawrocki

Ward could be just what the doctor ordered for Dom Capers’ defense.

Packers Draft 2014: Top 100 Consensus

May 1, 2014 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~With the Packers set to begin their draft next Thursday owning four picks in the top 100, here is the top 100 based on the average ratings of these so-called drafted experts.

The slots the Packers own are bolded.
Under Ted Thompson, they typically end up with a guy lower-rated than the slot they pick in.

Rodgers, Lacy, Matthews, Bulaga were exceptions.
Matthews, Harrell, Neal, Jones, Perry, Datone Jones, Jerron McMillian are more typical.

And the end result can be anything, so it’s not good or bad, necessarily, if Thompson picks a guy rated higher or lower than the draft slot.

But I find it interesting that if Teddy used the first three picks on those guys rated spots, it would be a nice start to the draft as far as filling needs. Who knows, maybe the BPA method might match the team needs.

Shazier is rated #21 overall per the batch of experts. Interestingly, he happens to be the most common player who is being mocked to the Packers there.

NFLdraft_sheetpackers3

 

Robinson would be another nice pick, nice fit, for the Packers. Doesn’t fill the hole at safety, and the guy right above him on the ratings might be the perfect guy there, but he is a nice addition and replacement for the departed James Jones.