From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~It happens almost every year.
For weeks on end from February until late April, Packer fans around the world spend hours and hours looking over mock drafts, big boards, who’s rising, best fits, etc. for months leading up to the draft.
They fall in love with a few prospects, get their hopes up, and then….. the draft comes and you hear the name Justin Harrell, or Nick Perry, or Datone Jones, or Michael Neal, Damarious Randall (a “safety”?), James Jones, etc. Nobody had those guys mocked to the Packers in the first round, or second, third, etc.
I’ve tried to tell myself in the past years to totally ignore all the leadup to the draft, because Thompson will never take the guys I want him to take.
He didn’t take Dez Bryant in 2010 when he fell down, or Jerry Hughes whom I originally wanted before Bryant slid down.
He didn’t take Denzel Perryman or Stephone Anthony or Eric Kendricks last year to fill our inside linebacker hole.
But his team made the playoffs again, for a league-tying seventh straight year, despite missing the key weapon for the whole season. They also were one courageous two-point conversion away from stealing the NFC Divisional at Arizona and moving to Carolina for the NFC Championship game.
So what Teddy has done is working well. But that’s mostly do to taking Aaron Rodgers 11 years ago, and to his credit, trading up and taking Clay Matthews in the 2009 Draft.
Good or bad aside, I am not getting my hopes set on one guy. I’m spreading my love wide. Here is my top ten list of guys I hope to be named as our pick at #27. In order. All these guys have a decent chance of being available, although certainly a few of them won’t when it all breaks down on Thursday the 28th. But some will.
Click on the prospect to see CBS Sports Scouting Reports on the top two guys. The “Compares to” comes from CBS.
This is the guy the Packers need to plug up the middle of their defense. He’s gone by #27 in about 75% of mock drafts out there, but there are some new ones from Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, The Sporting News, and some of them have Ragland sliding and taken by the Packers at 27. So there’s some hope.
He didn’t test fast, so there’s a chance he will slide to the #27 pick. There remains some question whether he’s fast enough to be a 3-down backer and stay on the field in passing situations. But I believe the scouts who say he’s fine there. Some Alabama defensive prospects have not panned out recently.
But the Packers have had good recent luck with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide players. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has showed that he’s capable of multiple Pro Bowls. Eddie Lacy is a stud as well.
COMPARES TO: Vinny Curry, Philadelphia Eagles – Ogbah is a balanced athlete with the physicality and coachable mentality that can be molded in the NFL, similar to Curry when he entered the league.
Ogbah hasn’t been seen because of being on Oklahoma State. But his production dwarfs the higher=-rated guys from Clemson, Alabama, and other bigger name schools.
He’s got high character as a person off the field, and he leaves it all on the field. His best football is ahead of him as he got a late start in the sport. In my opinion, he’s what Ted Thompson hoped Nick Perry would turn into.
#3- DL Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
COMPARES TO: Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants – Both Hankins and Butler have the quickness and point of attack power to push the pocket to give blockers all they can handle.
I almost have Butler ahead of Ogbah, and actually I’ll be just as happy if he’s the guy that’s announced at #27 as I would Ogbah, because I believe the Packers need more immediate help along the defensive line than they do at outside linebacker. I believe Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott are a very good backup unit at outside linebacker.
Butler is a monster, and his quickness, agility for his size are rare. He’s about 15 pounds bigger than Jarran Reed from Alabama.
He would be a fantastic addition, and compliment to Mike Neal and Letroy Guion. Remember, B.J. Raji has called it a career. Don’t expect him back ever, but for certain this year.
#4- OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky, via Ohio State
From NFL.com: NFL Comparison- Whitney Mercilus
IN OUR VIEW (CBS): A true wild-card prospect, Spence has top 15 talent, there is no question about that. But the former Ohio State Buckeye has a history of drug abuse, although he has cleaned up his habits since being banned from the Big Ten.
Spence is a slippery rusher with the lateral quicks and low pad level to be an impact pass rusher in the NFL. How Spence interviews and carries himself in the pre-draft process will be an important step in his job interview for NFL teams.
–Dane Brugler and Rob Rang (2/1/16)
#5- DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
COMPARES TO: Michael Brockers, DT, Los Angeles Rams – Although he doesn’t have a sky-high ceiling, Robinson should start in the NFL for a long time as a three-down defender, fitting even and odd fronts, similar to Michael Brockers when he was a mid-first round pick out of LSU.
–Dane Brugler (2/10/16)
#6- DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
IN OUR VIEW: If the technique and discipline catch up to his natural brawling strength and mentality, Billings flashes dominant qualities. A scheme-versatile prospect, he will be valued as a nose tackle by odd fronts and a one-technique tackle by even fronts.
COMPARES TO: Bennie Logan, DT, Philadelphia Eagles – Similar to Logan, Billings isn’t the most physically impressive lineman, but he is built low to the ground with a powerful base that will fit both even and odd fronts.
–Dane Brugler (2/10/16)
#7- WR Josh Doctson, TCU
From CBS: STRENGTHS: Tall athlete with long arms and adequate muscle tone for the position. Outstanding leaping ability, body control and ball-skills to elevate with springs in his legs to out-jump defenders.
Extends with magnet hands to pluck away from his body, displaying usually terrific focus and tracking ability. Uses his body well to box out and shield defenders from the ball. Immediately looks to turn catches upfield with deceiving run toughness and a strong stiff arm. Creates spacing in his routes and finds open zones to give his quarterback a clear target.
Unselfish, dependable and hungry worker – can’t find anyone who will say a negative word about him. Highly productive, leading TCU in receiving each of his three seasons with the program.
#8- DE Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
IN OUR VIEW: After starting his career outside as a defensive end, Nkemdiche filled out his frame and moved inside to defensive tackle where he is best-suited in the NFL. Although he isn’t one of the top-10 football players in this class, Nkemdiche is one of the top-10 talents because of his ability to get upfield in any scheme and penetrate gaps, but teams will view him as a high risk/high reward type of prospect.
COMPARES TO: Michael Bennett, DT, Seattle Seahawks – Statistics don’t reflect Nkemdiche’s impact, but, like Bennett, he has the versatility and athletic prowess in a big man’s body to be disruptive in different ways.
–Dane Brugler, Rob Rang (2/10/16)
#9- DL Jonathan Bullard, Florida
IN OUR VIEW: Bullard is a classic two-gap run-stuffer with size, physicality and a blue-collar playing style. Teams will appreciate his no-nonsense game along with his positional and schematic versatility to play outside or inside. Bullard will attract some first-round attention.
–Dane Brugler & Rob Rang
#10A- TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
From NFL.com: NFL Comparison: Jason Witten
By far, the premier tight end in the 2016 draft. Henry is a big body with the athleticism to get open, the hands to finish catches in traffic and the blocking ability to help give a running game the additional kick it might be missing on the edge. Henry should come in and become a very good NFL starter.
Also from NFL.com: “He’s the most complete tight end to come out in years. He’s a legitimate first-round pick,” an NFL scout told New Jersey Advance Media. “You have had so many tight ends who were nothing more than big wide receivers. This kid is a complete tight end. He can catch, he can run and he can block.”
Another scout suggested Henry falls short of Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert when it comes to receiving skills, but believes he can block more effectively than Eifert. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Henry’s played in a pro-style offense at Arkansas. That should help him transition to the NFL more easily than slot tight ends from college systems that employ the spread offense.
#10A- DL Kenny Clark, UCLA
COMPARES TO: Domata Peko, DT, Cincinnati Bengals – Similar to Peko, Clark is a power-packed run defender who should be a quality nose tackle for a long time, initially as a two-down defender with potential to be more.
IN OUR VIEW: Though he doesn’t possess great size, Clark is one of the country’s better run-stuffers, winning with strength, a naturally low center of gravity and hustle to plug rushing lanes. Overshadowed by flashier athletes throughout much of his career and still developing his pass rush skills, Clark flashes the violence, agility and motor to twist and drive blockers backward, projecting as a three-down interior player at the next level.
–Dane Brugler & Rob Rang (2/10/16)
By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Every year, it seems, Packers GM Ted Thompson throws a few curve balls at Packer Nation (and at ESPN & NFL Network draft experts) with some of his selections. Some work out, some don’t. And sometimes this includes his first pick.
One thing to keep in mind, which I have learned over following the last 30+ drafts closely, is that what we think leading up to the draft is often wrong.
You hear now about “guys sliding” or “moving up” the boards. This is hogwash. Yeah, maybe in Mock-World guys are moving up and down. But not in real NFL War rooms. What they’re doing is a secret. If anything is coming out from them, it’s smoke screens, not real spies getting into their rankings and evaluations.
Anyway, just because a guy is typically ranked between 20 and 30 in the Mock World doesn’t mean that’s where he will be selected. And it works both ways, up and down.
Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith all were guys that should have been top-5 picks even at the time. Need I remind you:
So rankings and projections now, all over the internet and TV channels, mean less than we think it does.
With that reminder, here’s my list of guys I don’t want to see us grab, and guys I’d be thrilled with if we got them at #28. I’m not putting guys in who are almost “sure-fire” top-ten picks, even though I just gave examples of stars who slid. Sitting at #28, that’s too for to dream of a Joey Bosa or Myles Jack to slide.
But there might be some players in some mock draft top-tens who are there for the Packers.
GUYS I DO NOT WANT TO SEE AS OUR FIRST ROUND PICK:
OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
To me, he’s Aaron Maybin or Barkevious Mingo. He’s too skinny, thin, wirey to beat NFL OT’s. Maybin, out of Penn State, was thought to be a sure thing as a pass rusher off the edge, and he totally busted. He was engulfed by larger NFL OT’s. I like Jayrone Elliott a lot more than Floyd. We’ve seen what Elliott can do in the NFL already. He needs more playing time. And he’s the Packers 4th on the depth chart at the position. Taking Floyd would give me an upset stomach. Fortunately, someone else will probably take him before we get that chance. I just hope he goes to a rival of ours like Chicago or Minnesota.
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
I like this player, but he’s too slow. He’s never going to get separation against NFL cornerbacks. I think his ceiling is Michael Floyd of the Arizona Cardinals. He reminds me of former Packer and current Viking Charles Johnson. Again, Treadwell is expected to be selected before the Packers pick, and it’s extremely unlikely the Packers would select a WR that high anyway. But I’d like to see this WR be the one the Vikings take with their first pick.
Any Offensive Tackle
The Packers do need another backup OT, as J.C. Tretter is the only backup who is capable of playing left tackle on this team and not getting turned into a turn-style as we saw Donny Barclay last December in Arizona. But using a first rounder on any of the guys available at that point would put a real sour taste in my mouth as it doesn’t improve our team right now. We need an impact player who can come in and start and make the team better. Bakhtiari and Bulaga are good as starters, and Tretter is a fine backup. Unless they are planning on letting Bakh leave next off-season, then spending a number-one on a tackle is a waste, especially with all the talent in this draft on the defensive line.
Whether it’s Eli Apple, William Jackson III, or Macensie Alexander, the Packers do not need another cornerback, especially that high. With Shields, Randall, Rollins, Hyde, and Gunter, I challenge anyone to find me an NFL team with five better corners than that. That’s the Packers best and deepest position. And none of them are old. Besides a sour taste in my mouth, things will fly across my home office war room if I hear a cornerback announced with our pick at #28.
GUYS WHO I WOULD BE HAPPY or THRILLED TO SEE AS OUR FIRST PICK
ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
I don’t like when teams run right through the Packers middle of their defense, and I think Ragland will stop that. He’s not a track-speed ILB like some others are. But he’s strong, and has good size. He’s not a 5-11″ short guy easy to throw over the top of. We see Ragland gone well before the Packers pick in about 80% of mocks, but there are some from paid “experts” who have him sliding to us. Would he be worth trading up to make sure we got him? I believe he is. I’d trade Davante Adams and our #28 pick to move up and make sure we got him.
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
He’s a difference-maker on the field, a clear-cut top-ten talent. But he’s an idiot off the field at times. Or at least he has been. Can he change? Has he grown up? Does he love football? Questions like that are red flags and will push his stock down. On the down side, he’s Justin Harrell with a bad attitude. On the positive, he could have impact like few other defensive linemen. Kiper mentioned J.J. Watt. It doesn’t get any better than that. If Thompson and his research guys clear Robert, I’ll be on board with adding this talent to the defense alongside Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, and company. But if we pass, I won’t throw things because that means Thompson decided that this guy’s character flaws is not worth it.
WR Josh Doctson, TCU
Again, I love our WR core, except Adams. But that still is five-deep with Nelson, Cobb, Janis, Montgomery, and Abbrederis, plus Adams who is coming back.
So there’s really no room for another since usually only four get game action. But a few things: First, How long will it take Jordy to round into form? Hopefully he stays healthy, but even if he does, I expect his snaps count to start low, and gradually work up by mid-season or later. While fans, and I, love Janis, it still seems like there’s something there that Rodgers doesn’t like. So who knows about opportunities there. But I do believe this: Doctson is the best WR in this draft. I’ve seen him play a lot down here in Dallas for TCU. This guy goes up and contests for the football like few others. Think Dez Bryant up high, or Larry Fitzgerald. On the flip side, remember all those chances Davante Adams had to make big catches in the end zones that went off his fingers?
OLB Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
I love this big man’s potential, and character. He’s got high character that Thompson has historically valued. The big guy reminds me of a more talented Mike Neal or Nick Perry, being that he’s large (opposite of Leonard Floyd), but also has tremendous intensity as well as speed, athleticism. He’s not Von Miller. But I can see a big impact from this guy. While I think OLB is low on the Packers “needs” chart, this guy can be an NFL superstar. Peppers might be done after this year, Perry is on a one-year deal. And next season will be Matthews’ ninth year already. If you can get a guy who makes Clay our second best OLB, that’s making the team better. Ogbah has that ability, with no character risks.
From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Football season is officially underway. Schedules have come out, and tickets are already changing hands. Airfare is being purchased, and hotel rooms booked.
Packer Nation has already started to make vacation plans to Florida, Nashville, Georgia, Washington, DC, and the city of Brotherly Love. This is in addition to the normal games in Motown, the Windy City, and the Twin Cities, as well as Green Bay. Don’t be afraid to book Houston though.
A year ago, I thought the Packers were set to make history, or at least a run at it. I thought 16-0 was a realistic goal. But then Jordy Nelson‘s ACL changed everything.
Now? He should be back. He could be. But how much will he resemble the same #87 we were used to seeing? Most players aren’t the same ever again, and those who are close, aren’t usually over 30 years old, and it usually takes them a “practice” season to get the rust off and the feeling back, physically and mentally. Adrian Peterson was basically the exception a few years ago, but he was still about 26.
And we of course don’t yet know who Ted Thompson will draft. Last year, adding Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins helped the team immediately. Ty Montgomery helped a little bit too, until he also got hurt.
Most likely, Thompson will find one difference-maker in the draft, hopefully at inside linebacker or on the defensive line. He already added an upgrade at tight end with the under-achieving, but talented, Jared Cook.
Despite all that uncertainty, the main part of the team, and all other teams, is pretty established. So let’s take a look at each game and what we can expect.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 at Jacksonville Jaguars, 12 p.m.
This is a tricky opener for the Packers as they rarely play games in weather this hot. Well, at least since being in the NFL. The Alabama, USC, UCLA and ASU guys like Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Damarious Randall, Carl Bradford and others had plenty of hot weather games in college.
The average high temperature in Jacksonville on September 11th is 88 degrees. The Packers withstand the heat and the fine passing attack led by Blake Bortles, to win 31-23.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18 at Minnesota Vikings, 7:30 p.m.
The Packers will be the guest for the first regular-season game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Packers prove to be rude guests, as they were last year in the Gophers stadium when the Packers put a thumping on the favored Vikings.
Packers smother the Vikings anemic offense of Checkdown Teddy, 27-6. Viking fans start to wonder if Bridgewater really is a QB who can lead them to a Super Bowl. Of course not, nobody can, since Fran Tarkenton left.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 vs. Detroit Lions, 12 p.m.
The Lions ended a 24-year victory drought in Wisconsin by beating the Packers at Lambeau Field last year. Of course, the Bears and Vikings also shockingly won at Lambeau last year. That was with Calvin Johnson, who will be watching this one from his couch at home as he’s wisely called it a career.
This year, things return to normal at home. Packers whip the Lions, 41-10, as the offense starts to roll and the defense continues to punish opponents.
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.
Former Packers assistant coach Ben McAdoo returns to Green Bay as a first-year head coach for the Giants. He spent eight years working for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay before leaving in 2013 to become the Giants’ offensive coordinator.
Eli and the Giants have had the upper hand on the Packers and Rodgers recently. But not this Giants team, or Packers team. But the game will be close, on prime time for the second time in three weeks. Packers win 27-23 behind two big returns from rookie Jakeem Grant, including one for a touchdown following a Giants field goal. Coach McCarthy completes a perfect “first quarter” to his season.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 3:25 p.m.
This is the sixth game against the Cowboys in the past eight years, including playoffs, and the Packers have won the last five. Bitterness still persists from Dez Bryant and Cowboy fans alike over the playoff loss in January 2015.
Last year, both Romo and Bryant were shut down by week five, as was Nelson of course. Let’s hope all the key guys on both teams are healthy, so that this game will be a good one. If so, I see the Packers winning 34-24.
Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 20 vs. Chicago Bears, 7:25 p.m.
Get ready for the color-rush game. Like all teams in the Thursday night games, the Packers will wear alternate uniforms with one dominant color scheme. Fans of both teams remember the game last year on Thanksgiving night when the Packers retired Favre’s jersey, in the rain, then went out and lost a game to the Bears, which is rare.
Rodgers had four shots into the end zone inside the 10-yard line over the last few seconds, and Jones, Cobb, and Adams were unable to beat linebackers and get open for a game-winning catch. That all changes this year with Nelson back and Janis inserted. Packers roll as we used to expect in Lambeau against the Bears. 35-10 Packers.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 at Atlanta Falcons, 12 p.m.
The Packers have won four straight, including playoffs, against the Falcons. Remember 2008, when both Matty Ice and Aaron Rodgers were just starting their careers? Atlanta would have the edge, until 2010 when Rodgers elevated into a Superstar. The Superstar. The man.
This is the kind of trap game the Packers have lost a few of in the past, including at a bad Saints team two years ago, and at Buffalo two years ago. I don’t like to forecast losses. And Rodgers doesn’t like to lose in Atlanta. Packers win a good game, 27-24.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 3:25 p.m.
Andrew Luck threw for 362 yards in his only game against the Packers, a 30-27 win in 2012 in Indy. This was a game the Packers had control of, but the zebras helped Indy back in the game when they took away a strip-sack of Luck by Nick Perry.
Then Reggie Wayne went nuts on the Packers. I expect a close game again here, but no help from the zebra this time, and Rodgers evens his head-to-head record versus the Stanford rival. Packers 34-27. Luck throws for 450 yards, as Phil Rivers did last year. But like then, Packers prevail in a thriller at Lambeau and complete quarter number two with another perfect clip.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13 at Tennessee Titans, 12 p.m.
The Packers will be seeking their first victory at the Titans since they moved to Tennessee in 1997. Marcus Mariota and Demarco Murray lead a ground-oriented Titans offense. They have (had) the number-one overall pick for a reason: they’re still not a very good football team. But with all the picks they got from the Rams in the trade for the top pick, plus the addition of Murray, this should be an improved team.
Mariota might run for 100 yards on the Packers, as the young Colin Kaepernick did. But it won’t be enough for Tennessee as they don’t have the 2012 San Francisco defense. Packers win their ninth straight game to remain perfect, 30-17. On the East Coast, the Patriots are also undefeated, and ESPN is now devoting 14 hours a day hyping the upcoming Super Bowl of the Packers versus the Patriots, as we all expected in 2007, 2011, and 2014.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at Washington Redskins, 7:30 p.m.
This is a revenge game for the Redskins as the Packers blew out the Redskins 35-18 after falling behind 11-0 to start the game. The Redskins record last year was inflated as they beat all losing teams, none with a winning record all year.
I see them falling back to normal this year, somewhere around 7-9, and this is one of the nine losses for them. Packers win in front of a lot of DC Cheeseheads in the crowd, 34-17. Record: 10-0
Week 12: Monday, Nov. 28 at Philadelphia Eagles, 7:30 p.m.
Like Ben McAdoo in New York, here’s another new head coach who has long ties to the Packers. First-year Eagles coach Doug Pederson was Brett Favre’s long-time backup. Who knows who the Eagles quarterback will be for this one, perhaps Sam Bradford. But he’s due to be injured this season, and they may take a QB high in this particular draft.
We know it won’t be Mark Sanchez as he’s in Denver now. Philly still has some talent on defense, and Darren Sproles can still hurt the Packers on special teams. Nonetheless, Packers roll on prime time yet again, 37-9. Undefeated season remains…..
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 vs. Houston Texans, 12 p.m.
Wisconsin native J.J. Watt gets to play in Lambeau Field for the first time in his career. It’s too bad this hasn’t been his home field for his career.
Fatigue might catch up with the Packers on a short week after three straight on the road. But I don’t believe in Brock Osweiler and I think Houston will be no better than a .500 team once again. Packers trail at the half, but open it up in the third quarter and pull away 27-17.
Record: 12-0 after another perfect “quarter”
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 3:25 p.m.
Last week it was former Badger J.J. Watt. This week, it’s former Badger quarterback Russell Wilson. But this isn’t Wilson’s first trip to Lambeau as the Packers beat him last year in week two on prime time. This one might be flexed (almost for sure it will, unless it’s able to be protected by Fox) to prime time as well, which would be the Packers sixth under the lights.
If the Packers are going to lose at home, this will be the game and team. Because I do not want to jinx the Packers as I did last year, I’m penciling in a loss in this game on a missed Mason Crosby 47-yard field goal as time expires.
I believe a loss here could help in the long run as the Packers will have gotten too confident, as they were in 2011 when they were 13-0 thinking it was going to be a waltz to a Super Bowl repeat. Sad loss though for now, 24-23.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 at Chicago Bears, 12 p.m.
Coming off their first loss of the year, and ruining a chance at history, the Packers re-focus, both on offense, defense, and special teams.
I expect Jay Cutler to be going through the motions by mid-December, as the Bears will stumble to about a 7-9 season. Their defense is going to be improved with the additions of some key guys via free agency, especially at inside linebacker.
The Packers have won the last five regular-season games in Chicago, with their last loss being in that Super Bowl season of 2010 when the refs handed the game to the Bears by calling 18 ridiculous penalties on the Packers, including two that denied Packer defense a turnover and another where they swallowed the flag on a Hester punt return for a touchdown in which two Packers were shoved in the back.
Bears defense puts up a fight, but the Packers prevail 23-16.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 12 p.m.
Last year, the Vikings stole the NFC North from the Packers with their 20-13 win in the regular-season finale in which the Packers were reeling from being hammered in Arizona the week before, and with injuries along the offensive line. This year, depending on health, the Packers should return the favor here with normalcy, beating Minnesota 26-13 behind four Crosby field goals and two Rodgers-to-Janis touchdown passes.
Packers clinch the #1-seed in the NFC, and questions again linger about who to play, who to rest, how much effort to give in a meaningless season-finale versus the Motor City Kitties, just like in 2011 when the Packers were also 14-1. That year, as you recall, Matt Flynn got the start and broke all the Packers records with six touchdown passes. This time…..
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 at Detroit Lions, 12 p.m.
….This time, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get de-activated and get rusty. He starts, but only plays the first half, propelling the Packers to a 17-7 halftime lead. Then second-year quarterback Brett Hundley finally gets some action. He struggles a bit, but also makes a few good plays.
Rookie Jakeem Grant takes his second punt back for a touchdown on the season, to go along with one kick return touchdown. It earns him a Pro Bowl nod. And it helps the Packers get their 15th win and end the regular season on a high note.
The Lions will be in hibernation mode by November. Don’t be surprised to see some new faces in Lions’ uniforms for this game, even perhaps at QB. Final score in Detroit is Packers 31, Lions 17.
For the record, I see the January/February schedule as:
Victim #1- Arizona (who defeated Dallas in NFC Wildcard Rd) 31-0 shutout for Capers’ defense.
Victim #2- Seattle (who defeated Carolina in NFC Divisional) 20-14 thriller.
Victim #3- New England (20-year anniversary since Super Bowl XXXI when Packers beat Patriots) by a 31-24 score. Super Bowl #5 for the Packers. Brady makes his 7th Super Bowl, dropping to 4-3, which is still sensational.
By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Opening in hot Jacksonville is bad. That game would have been a great winter getaway for Packers Nation, but the NFL stopped that.
Having the bye just after three games is another bad break.
Opening with two straight road games is not nice. It’s been since 1924 that the Packers opened with two straight road games.
And three straight road games in November also is an unkind gesture from the NFL.
I do like Seattle coming to visit in December. Here’s the full slate.
Sun., Sept. 11, at Jacksonville Jaguars, 12 p.m., FOX
Sun., Sept. 18, at Minnesota Vikings, 7:30 p.m., NBC
Sun., Sept. 25, vs. DETROIT LIONS, 12 p.m., FOX
Sun., Oct. 2, BYE
Sun., Oct. 9, vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Gold Pkg.), *7:30 p.m., NBC
Sun., Oct. 16, vs. DALLAS COWBOYS, *3:25 p.m., FOX
Thu., Oct. 20, vs. CHICAGO BEARS, 7:25 p.m., CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sun., Oct. 30, at Atlanta Falcons, *12 p.m., FOX
Sun., Nov. 6, vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, *3:25 P.M., CBS
Sun., Nov. 13, at Tennessee Titans, *12 p.m., FOX
Sun., Nov. 20, at Washington Redskins, *7:30 p.m., NBC
Mon., Nov. 28, at Philadelphia Eagles, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Sun., Dec. 4, vs. HOUSTON TEXANS, *12 p.m., CBS
Sun., Dec. 11, vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, *3:25 p.m., FOX
Sun., Dec. 18, at Chicago Bears, *12 p.m., FOX
Sat., Dec. 24, vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS, 12 p.m., FOX
Sun, Jan. 1, at Detroit Lions, *12 p.m., FOX
All times Central
*”Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 10-15 and 17. Additionally, in Weeks 5-9, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-15, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible-scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to January 1. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot.
From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~The draft is approaching fast. We’re under four weeks away. It’s “Draft Month”.
Since our last mock, the Packers have been unusually busy in Free Agency. Ted Thompson added one guy.
By now, you’re well aware that the Packers filled one of their two biggest holes.
Jared Cook has been added and he’s immediately the best tight end on the team. That leaves inside linebacker as the biggest immediate need. Defensive line needs some help as B.J Raji has retired. At least for this year. I suspect he’s done for good, although that doesn’t matter because this year is what matters.
Last thing before the mock: I still hold out hope for Carl Bradford, the 2014 fourth round pick.
“He was an edge player in college, but I don’t think that’s what his future is in the NFL. I think he’s a middle linebacker,” said Eric Stoner of Draft Mecca. “The reason why I think he transitions well to middle linebacker is that his skills as a pass rusher translates well to a flowing, downhill-type of linebacker.”
At 6’1, 250 pounds, Bradford is much closer in size to most of the NFL’s starting inside linebackers than the pass rushers that populate the sack leaderboards. Teams have evidently taken notice of Bradford’s versatility as well and told him that there are a variety of spots on the field he could be used in the NFL.
But the team seems scared to play him. Last year, as horrific as we saw Nate Palmer and rookie Jake Ryan in pass coverage, at times, I thought they should have thrown Bradford out there. Throw him to the wolves and see what he can do. But they didn’t, and now who knows.
On to the mock. I don’t anticipate the head of scouting, Ted Thompson, to add anymore free agents. So it’s time to draft better than everyone else.
TRADE: With the guy Thompson coveted, ILB Reggie Ragland, snatched a few picks earlier, Ted Thompson works his magic and trades down. He obtains an extra early third round pick, by trading down 11 spots. He expects to get the guy he wants 11 spots later anyway, so gaining another nice pick early round three feels like a great value play. And it is.
Round 2 #38 -from trade with Jacksonville- OLB Noah Spence, 6-2, 251, Eastern Kentucky
A true wild-card prospect, Spence has top 15 talent, there is no question about that. But the former Ohio State Buckeye has a history of drug abuse, although he has cleaned up his habits since being banned from the Big Ten.
Spence is a slippery rusher with the lateral quicks and low pad level to be an impact pass rusher in the NFL. How Spence interviews and carries himself in the pre-draft process will be an important step in his job interview for NFL teams.
–Dane Brugler and Rob Rang (2/1/16)
From USA Today, March 29: Eastern Kentucky defensive end/outside linebacker Noah Spence has come under criticism after what some perceived to be a disappointing combine performance in Indianapolis last month, but NFL teams remain very interested in the young defender. Spence told me this afternoon that he has seven visits scheduled for next week, including stops in Arizona, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, New Orleans, and with the New York Jets.
Round 2 #55- TE Tyler Higbee, 6-6, 249, Western Kentucky
A pick that elicits many “oohs and ahhs” from both Packer fans and fans at the draft. Remember, Ted Thompson often selects guys a round or two, or three before most pundits project. Few had James Jones as anything higher than a late round pick. Ted took him in the third round. Michael Neal, Damarious Randall also went higher than any so-called experts projected.
Here’s another opinion on Higbee.
Despite many projections listing him closer to a Day-3 pick, Jon Ledyard of USA Today thinks Higbee’s talent is worthy of a second-round pick:
The senior’s hands are excellent, he can win at all levels of the field, he’s a dynamic red zone threat, and he’ll block all day if that is what is asked of him. Higbee can play flexed, in-line, or even line up in the backfield and be effective as a lead blocker.
A former wide receiver who bulked up considerably to convert to tight end, Higbee can step into an offense early on and create mismatches for defenses in coverage. If Higbee were from a Power Five conference, I genuinely believe we’d be talking about him as a second round pick at worst.
Round 3 #69 -from trade with Jacksonville – OT, Kyle Murphy, 6-6, 306, Stanford
The Packers learned the hard way last year that Don Barclay is not worthy of being an NFL offensive tackle. That afternoon in week 16 in Arizona was more than a disaster, and it was a miracle Aaron Rodgers didn’t leave on a stretcher. Fortunately, the Packers also found out a week later that J.C. Tretter is capable of filling in at LT. But there isn’t anyone else, and that’s a recipe for disaster considering that Bryan Bulaga has been known to suffer injuries, and that underrated David Bakhtiari is in the last year of his very bargain-like rookie contract. He’ll be getting a gigantic pay raise soon, hopefully from the Packers.
The best offensive lineman on Stanford last year, which helped pave the way for Christian McCaffrey to almost win the Heisman Trophy, Murphy will be a nice addition, and is much more ready to keep Rodgers upright than Barclay is. He’s also a nice option going forward as Bulaga has many miles on his frame. He fits the profile Thompson and McCarthy like for their offensive linemen.
Murphy sports a prototypical build for an NFL tackle with broad shoulders, long arms and a relatively trim middle. He anticipates the snap, rather than waiting for it, often getting a slight advantage over defenders (but also risking a false-start penalty) and overall showing impressive initial quickness, including on cut-blocks.
Murphy’s quick start and length make him a formidable opponent in pass protection. He slides well laterally and is alert to stunts and blitzes, getting a strong shove on one defender before switching off to another. While quick enough to get to the second level as a run blocker, Murphy can get off-balance when attempting to change direction.
He is very effective, on the other hand, as a drive blocker, showing surprising flexibility to get under the pads of opponents and impressive leg drive to consistently move the pile.
Round 3 #88- ILB Antonio Morrison, 6-1, 232, Florida
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com acknowledged some of Morrison’s strengths back in November:
The unquestioned leader and tone-setter for the Gators’ suffocating defense.
He is a light athlete to quickly redirect and burst towards the play, bringing himself to balance on the move to finish in the open field.
Keeps his feet well to work off blocks and displays outstanding awareness to recognize things quickly and react to the play before the ballcarrier can make a move.
Ultra competitive with unmatched intensity. Alpha male in the locker room who teammates gravitate toward. Work ethic on full display as he recovered from a severe knee injury two to three months ahead of schedule and in time for start of the season. Plus lateral quickness. Has burst to beat offensive lineman to a spot. Not content to sit back and wait on a play. Always in attack mode. Uses explosive hips to launch into his tackles with as much force as he can. Can turn, swivel and close ground with good change of direction. Was one of the best tackle finishers in the game in 2014. Plays with extraordinary balance and is very rarely off his feet. Used as an effective spy vs. mobile quarterbacks. Could become interesting blitz option as a pro. Refuses to stop pursuing until he hears the whistle.
“Write him up however you want, but he’s a two-down MIKE linebacker who is tough as hell and a good football player. I worry much less about his ‘negatives’ than I do with what he can do.” — AFC general manager
NFL COMPARISON: Denzel Perryman
Dense, powerful lower half combined with burly upper body. Snap experience at multiple spots along the line. Explodes out of stance and into his downhill charge. Striking athletic ability for a big. Has some change of direction twitch. Sets hard edge with good punch and arm extension to deny blocker’s intentions. Grows roots against double teams and fights hard for his spot. Defeats most single blocks. Has play power to step through a blocker’s edges with little trouble. Plays with good recognition and quick discard capability to snap down on tackle opportunities. Talented interior pass rusher. Uses coordinated attack with violent active hands and nimble feet. Flashes power to push and quickness to disrupt.
NFL COMPARISON: Kawaan Short
Round 4 #131- ILB Blake Martinez, 6-2, 247, Stanford
TFY Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline reports that NFL scouts are still talking about Stanford ILB Blake Martinez’s showing at the Senior Bowl. Martinez is often lost in the shuffle. Though he played well in Mobile, he didn’t get much attention in the press for his work. The NFL, according to Pauline, noticed. “Teams were impressed with his athleticism and the way Martinez quickly moved sideline to sideline,” Pauline wrote. “The fact he recorded six tackles during the game didn’t hurt his cause either.” The 6-foot-2, 247-pounder is a tackling machine. Pauline previously reported that west coast scouts were saying Martinez “has traits of Luke Kuechly in his game.”
Per NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks, Stanford senior ILB Blake Martinez is “one of the unsung heroes on a rapidly improving Cardinal defense.” Wrote Brooks, “Martinez has a strong nose for the ball, displaying a knack for weaving through traffic to make solid shots on runners in the hole.” The 6-foot-2, 247-pound senior’s logged 129 tackles (six for loss) with a sack, an interception and five pass breakups. He was a whirlwind in Saturday’s 42-21 win over USC in the PAC-12 Championship Game, recording 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Brooks believes the most important takeaway from that performance was that “[Martinez] showed scouts he could control the tackle-to-tackle box against a physical offense.”
Round 4 #137- KR/PR/WR Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Yes I know this is higher than all your rating lists show. Many have Grant as a 5, 6, 7 round guy. He’s too small, like Trindon Holliday was.
I don’t buy that one bit. I’ve seen this guy play, and he can and will be a playmaker at any level. His size is actually an advantage on punt and kick returns. His speed and quickness are unquestioned. He also has good hands, which matter.
Jakeem the Dream is a mixture of Darren Sproles, Trindon Holliday, Devin Hester, and DeSean Jackson. He’s simply electric. He’ll make guys look ridiculous in the open field. He’ll break their ankles.
I’m not sure how to get him on the field for the Packers offense, but I envision Darren Sproles. Sproles doesn’t hurt defenses with his third down pass protection. He hurts defenses with his pass catching ability and his quickness mismatch on any linebacker or safety. Grant is faster, and has better hands.
Grant also will give the Packers big plays as a return man. Randall Cobb’s days as a punt returner will be over. Micah Hyde is a very good punt returner. Grant can be the Pro Bowl punt returner. He will supplant Ty Montgomery as kick returner and allow Ty to focus more on his job as a Packers wide receiver.
Lastly, Grant is a good person, which is important for the Green Bay Packers. You want more speed on this Packers roster, without adding a criminal or a possible suspension? Here’s your guy.
Round 5 #163- OLB Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
There’s always someone who comes along and just blows the top off the NFL. And usually leaves people saying where did he come from or how did he not get drafted sooner or at all even. That player could very well (will) be Ochi…
I’ll just throw this out there now, I can’t help but see Robert Quinn when watching this kid. His sped off the edge just can’t be taught. More impressively, his motor is everything you want in a defensive player regardless of position. He comes off the ball like a man on a mission. And no mission is complete until the target is eliminated. Ochi is rare in the sense that he moves so fluidly but can translate that speed into power. It’s something every defensive end wants to do, but can’t do. His best trait as a pass rusher is his ability to bend. At times it seems like he’s as close to parallel to the ground as possible, and then some…
Ochi has exceptional skills and of everyone listed here, he has the best chance to make an immediate impact. He’ll have to develop more pass rush moves for his arsenal and play lower more consistently, but make no mistake about it, Ochi is the real deal.
Round 6 #200 – WR Moritz Boehringer, 6-4, 227, Germany
The Packers are more than set at wide receiver. There’s no more space for guys to dress. Personally, I would trade Davante Adams to any team that offers a fourth round pick or higher. Remember, Adams was a second rounder just two drafts ago, and last off-season everyone was penciling him to blossom into a superstar. I think New England or Dallas might think he’s worthy of a third round pick since his only two good games were against them.
Boehringer is more raw than Jeff Janis is, by a mile. And his level of competition that he’s faced makes Janis’ level of competition look like playing against Bama and LSU every week. Boe looks like he was going against 1950 NFL cornerbacks, or current outstate high school defenders.
This guy is a developmental prospect if you’ve ever seen one. But you can’t teach size and speed combinations like this.
He’s 6-4, 222, and runs a 4.39 forty. It’s pretty rare.
Moritz Boehringer has played football for only four years. In Germany. On fields that rival the ones high-school teams play on in the United States.
Yet that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the biggest sleepers and best-kept secrets of the 2016 NFL Draft that some teams wish could be kept quiet a little longer.
“I’d be intrigued, that’s for sure,” said NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt, a former longtime front-office executive with the Dallas Cowboys who signed his share of players lacking big-time football experience. “He’s the kind of guy you rush out and see.”
It’s not certain how many or which teams will be present on Thursday at Florida Atlantic’s pro day, where Boehringer will work out with FAU prospects, including DT Trevon Coley and CB Cre’von LeBlanc. But the Cardinals, Packers, Broncos andVikings have all shown interest in him. Minnesota has a meeting with the German receiver scheduled for Wednesday night.
Round 7 #248- CB Michael Jordan, 6-1, 200. Missouri Western
Yes, his name is really Michael Jordan. And yes, he really wears number 23. That’s all you need to know for him, future stud guaranteed.
Ok, just kidding… There’s plenty more to know. Jordan brings to the table the size that the NFL has started to fall in love with. He’s a long rangy corner, with exceptional ball skills. He essentially eliminated one side of the field regularly throughout college finishing his career with 16 career interceptions and 60 passes broken up. He’s also a good tackler finishing with 196 tackles for his career.
Teams will be interested but will also have some worries as well. Questions may arise about recovery speed, hip flexibility and level of play. Although for the latter, it should be mentioned the conference that he played in has regularly delivered NFL talent, and one player Jordan shut down personally as a mere sophomore on a senior was former Pittsburg St, and current Arizona Cardinals WR, John Brown.
So to Recap:
#38- OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
#55- TE Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky
#69- OT Kyle Murphy, Stanford
#88- ILB Antonio Morrison, Florida
#125- DE/DT Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
#131- ILB Blake Martinez, Stanford
#137- KR/PR/WR-RB Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
#163-OLB Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
#200 -WR Moritz Boehringer, Germany
#248- CB Michael Jordan, Missouri Western