Monday, April 25, 2016

My Take -> Sublimely Crafted Mock Draft

Greetings, G-Force.

Welcome to the first blog of the 2016 Season. I'm stoked that Jared Cook is in Green Bay. He's going to be loads of fun to watch. It'll be great to have Jordy Nelson back. It's riveting to see Eddie Lacy fit. The Lerentee McCray signing is one of those under-the-radar Thompson moves that could pan out to reap dividends in 2016. McCray can play in space, he has decent pass rushing ability and he's a weapon on special teams. He brings intensity. The 2016 NFL Season has a chance to be really exciting.

Every year, Ted Thompson plays to win the NFL Draft and undrafted Free Agency. It's the weekend that he plans for every year. This year - the Draft seems littered with prospects. There's good depth. It'll be interesting to see how he builds out the rest of his roster. The Packers have crucial players entering the last year of their contracts. The roster needs to be replenished with youth, so that they have ballers on the first contract for the next couple of years as they resign their current stallions. This is an important weekend for Ted Thompson.

As I write, I sip a Trinity Menacing Kumquat. Great beer. Fruity flavor, but dry. Brewed with fresh Florida Kumquats and Citra Hops, this beer wins. Every sip. Currently, I listen to the Fela Kuti "Go Shout Plenty" Record Store Day release. I'm happy.

As is the norm, I'm light on OL takes. Haven't paid enough attention. And, really, the Packers are going into the year with an abundance of talent on OL. They bring back 10 players that all should push for a roster spot. The Packers do not need to draft an OL. With Tretter, we learned that he can step in and play a back-up role at OT. Plus, I'm really excited to see Matt Rotheram's development. I expect him to be a name to watch in camp. It'll be interesting to see if he gets snaps at Tackle or if he's solely used at Guard. I'm pulling for Rotheram. With Lane Taylor's contract, you have to think that the Packers expect him to be a starter at Guard in 2017. So, in essence, the Packers enter into the 2016 season with Bakhtiari, Bulaga, Linsley, Tretter, Lang, Sitton, and Taylor as locks to be on the roster. Barclay was resigned. Josh Walker is back. Again, the Packers do NOT need to draft an OL this year.

I'm an amateur at this. But, I enjoy it. So, my mock is mine only. It's not what I think Ted Thompson will do. It's what I'd do. If I haven't watched the player play, I won't comment. In preparation, I watched nearly every Bowl game. I watched the NFLPA Bowl game, the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. I flipped through the Combine with little interest. I DVR'd a number of college games during the season. I flew through those games over the last couple of months. Still, I feel like my grip on the Draft this year is less than what it's been in past years.

As it stands, Ted Thompson enters Draft weekend with 9 picks. But, the Packers have only 63 players on their roster. They have room to add 27 players over the weekend. Whether it's through Draft picks or through undrafted Free Agents, I expect Ted Thompson to be busy. The Packers have 6 of the top 137 picks. With those picks, if they stand pat, I hope they select 5 defenders and a RB.

There's only one way for me to start my 2016 NFL Draft thoughts. Throughout the last two years, I've felt that Jaylon Smith was the most NFL ready talent that I saw at the college game. Over the last two years, the only players that compared were Todd Gurley and Jalen Ramsey. Jaylon Smith was absolutely dominating. A physical specimen. A pure force. He can do it all. He dominates the run game. He can get to the QB off the edge or on the inside blitz. He can drop in coverage. He wins with speed. He wins with physicality. I truly believe that - when healthy - he has HOF traits. Yes, I wrote that. If he returns to full-strength and I realize that's a big if, but if so, Jaylon Smith could be a HOF player. But, Jaylon Smith might never be healthy. It's noteworthy that the Packers spent time with him at the Combine and the Packers staff were the ones holding the measuring tape at the ND Pro Day. The Packers have an interest in ND talent this year. I feel so strongly about Jaylon Smith's future that if you're absolutely certain Jaylon Smith will return to full-strength in 2017, I'd draft him. In round 1. As crazy as that sounds, I am that confident in the talents of Jaylon Smith. He's the best player in the Draft - when he's healthy. So, here's my hope: A team falls in love with Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook or Christian Hackenberg (yes, I know it's really early for Cook or Hackenberg, but with QB's you never know) and they want to trade up towards the end of the 1st round. The Packers then trade their 1st round pick for a 2nd round pick, a 4th round pick and a 5 round pick. Then, with their first pick of the 2nd round, it's Jaylon Smith. The Packers would still have 8 other picks in rounds 2-5 for Thompson to strike it rich.

My top 10 first round targets - Jaylon Smith excluded:

1.) Darron Lee, ILB, Ohio State. I was hyping him up before the season. If he's around when the Packers select, I want him to be the selection. He brings speed. He made game changing plays. He was a turnover threat. He plays with instincts. I really like his versatility. Ideally, he's my target in Round 1. And, if he's selected and Jaylon Smith is on the board in Round 2, it'd be a shame if the Packers didn't draft Smith.

2.) Reggie Ragland, ILB, AL. The Packers have done well with AL talent throughout their history. Ragland brings attitude. He brings beef. I'm not positive that he's a 3-down LB, but he reminds me of Desmond Bishop. Ragland would add a physical mentality to the Packers defense. He'd bring a pop to the interior of the defense. He's an intimidator.

3.) Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi. He's the most talented DL in the Draft. But, the kid parties. He needs to be reeled in. I don't have a problem with his issues as the dude liked to sip a beer. But, nonetheless, he'd need to be monitored. If motivated, I'd expect Nkemdiche to turn into a Pro Bowler. With Mike Daniels as his motivator, I'd look for maximum effort from Nkemdiche. He fits!

4.) Kevin Dodd, OLB/DE, Clemson. When the lights were on, Dodd played Saturday Nights like Bobby Weir sings "One More Saturday Night." He's emphatic. He's hitting you with in-your-face intensity. Dodd plays with conviction. And, great excitement. In the biggest games of the year, Dodd played his best. In fact, in the BCS games, no one was better than Dodd. Dodd would instantly bring a needed speed/power pass rush. Much in the mold of Julius Peppers.

5.) Andrew Billings, DL Baylor. While I'm becoming less certain that he'll be around at pick 27, if he's there, he should be the selection. The Packers weren't prepared for BJ Raji to go on a sabbatical. They fully expected Raji to be a man on the DL. He shocked the Packers. Enter Billings. He has great strength. He has a similar body to Raji. He can win with straight line quickness. He moves well. He gets a push. He wins the leverage battle. In a 1 v 1 contest with an OL, Billings can dominate. He brings a surprising pass rush as well. I see him as having the potential to bring similar value that Raji brought early in his career.

6.) Emmanuel Ogbah, OLB/DE, Oklahoma State. The Packers need a disruptive force in the front 7. One that can apply consistent pressure. A player who can get to the QB with aggression. Ogbah uses his arms to thwart away OL. He uses his strength to knock the ball out of the QB's hands as he notches sacks. Ogbah consistently brought pressure. He was a statistical machine. Additionally, even though he was uber productive, I get the feeling that he hasn't scratched the surface of his potential. He could greatly benefit from watching the professionalism of Julius Peppers and the constant intensity that is brought by Mike Daniels. If Ogbah is a willing student, he could be the perfect addition to the Packers defensive front. He runs a 4.63 40 yard dash with a 35.5 inch vertical. Stick him at the elephant end and let him with athleticism. With Mike Neal unlikely to come back and with Datone Jones and Julius Peppers in the final year of their contracts, this would be a logical selection.

7.) Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA. Love Kenny Clark's pizzazz. Get after you type DL. Great energy. A leader in the huddle. Plays with passion. Great excitement. Brings a solid pass rush. Would be a really fun addition to the DL. A positive addition to the locker room. A constant push from the interior. Great quickness off the snap. Shows up big in crucial moments.

8.) A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama. Three year performer. Brings great hustle. Can get up-and-down the line of scrimmage in the run game. Plays with great length. Uses his arms to disrupt pass lanes. Can get to the QB. Will chase down a RB with hustle. 3-down player.

9.) Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama. Arguably the best run stopper in the Draft. But, a 2-down player. Not going to offer much in pass rush. A little like Ryan Pickett. A plugger. Wins his point of attack. Tough to move. Out of all potential players to be available at #27, Reed might fill the most important need on the Packers roster. Without Pennel, this team is missing a run stuffer. Reed is that guy.

10.) Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky. Without his off-field troubles, he'd be a top 20 pick. Solid pass rush moves. Dips well around the edge. Extends well. Has burst. Can lean on an OL. Should add an instant pass rush. Has ability to drop in coverage. High potential pick for someone. Doesn't overwhelm with power, but has enough to be dangerous. A tactician.

Here is my Packers mock draft. It's not who I think Ted Thompson will pick. It's who I'd pick if I were Ted Thompson.

Round 1: Emmanuel Ogbah, OLB/DE, Oklahoma State. The Packers need a disruptive force in the front 7. One that can apply consistent pressure. A player who can get to the QB with aggression. Ogbah uses his arms to thwart away OL. He uses his strength to knock the ball out of the QB's hands as he notches sacks. Ogbah consistently brought pressure. He was a statistical machine. Additionally, even though he was uber productive, I get the feeling that he hasn't scratched the surface of his potential. He could greatly benefit from watching the professionalism of Julius Peppers and the constant intensity that is brought by Mike Daniels. If Ogbah is a willing student, he could be the perfect addition to the Packers defensive front. He runs a 4.63 40 yard dash with a 35.5 inch vertical. Stick him at the elephant end and let him with athleticism. With Mike Neal unlikely to come back and with Datone Jones and Julius Peppers in the final year of their contracts, this would be a logical selection.


If not...

I choose:

Artie Burns, CB, []_[]. I trust Joe Whitt more than any other position coach on the Packers. Burns wasn't necessarily consistent at the college level, but he did show glimpses of having big-time potential. Burns is an athletic freak. He's long. He's fast. He has elite burst. He's a sound tackler. If he puts it all together, he could be a shut down CB. In a league in which you can never have enough CB's. I trust Joe Whitt to get the most of Burns.

Round 3: CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame. Assuming Prosise continues to develop, he could end up being the third most productive back in this years Draft class, behind Elliott and Henry. I love his ability to catch out of the backfield. In the open field, he's a mismatch. A HR threat. He can run through the tackles. He can get the corner. He plays tougher than his size and fights through contact.

Round 4: Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State. I like his motor. Plays to the whistle. Originally, I thought of him as a potential early 2nd round pick. Didn't have as solid of a Senior season as I would have liked. Still he's performed on the big stage. He can rush the passer. He holds the point in the run game. He has good size and will be a solid mid-round selection for someone.

Round 4: Justin Simmons, S, Boston College. Simmons could be a gem for someone. He can do it all. He can play in the run game. He'll come on the blitz. He can play in coverage. He takes risks and will occasionally be beat, but he trusts his instincts and has big play potential.

Round 4: Joe Schobert, LB, WI. I believe that Schubert could play either ILB or OLB in the 3-4. I'd draft him as an ILB. He'd bring athleticism and versatility to the defense. He can drop in coverage. He moves well laterally. He'd be a weapon on the inside blitz. He'd stand up well in the run game. He's got the mind to play at a high level in the NFL as well. He'll be a steady pro.

Round 5: Eric Murray, CB Minnesota. While he stands 5-11, he plays as though he's 6-0+. He has tremendous leaping ability. He plays fearlessly. He'll get in the face of a WR and win with technique on the outside. He could instantly step in and play

Round 6: Alex McCalister, OLB, Florida. Without his off-field issues, McCalister would be a 1st or 2nd round pick. When it's all said and done, he could end up being the best pass rusher to come out of the Draft. He has length and fantastic speed. He gets the edge. He dips his shoulder with fantastic precision. He gets off the snap better than any other edge player in the Draft. He'll need to mature, but if he does, he'll be a sublime talent uncovered in the late rounds.

Round 7: Curt Maggitt, OLB, Tennessee. Marred by injuries, he lost most of the 2013 & 2015 seasons. When he was on the field, he was fully dominant. Were he healthy in 2015, we'd be talking about him as a 1st round pick today. Instead, he may not get drafted. In 2014, he had 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He's consistently found in the backfield. He's a man-eater. Aggressive. An endless pursuant of the ball carrier. Absolutely worth a 7th round pick.

Here's my rankings of players that I believe fit the Packers scheme and/or style of play. Again, if I haven't watched them to play, I won't comment.

QB: Really, the Packers don't need to Draft a QB. With Rodgers and Huntley, they're set for the next 3 years. It'd be worth adding a QB as an undrafted FA to stash on the practice squad.

1.) Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky. Round 7-UDFA. Has NFL size. Plays with confidence. Stands in the pocket well. Aware. Can throw on the run. Patient. Not elite arm strength, but offers enough intangibles to grow into a decent back-up QB.

2.) Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech. Round 7-UDFA. Tough QB. A leader in the huddle. Takes command at the line of scrimmage. Earns respect of his teammates. A gutty baller. Nose for moving sticks.

3.) Jake Coker, Alabama. Round 7-UDFA. Great game manager. Smart player. Protects the football. A leader. Mentally tough. Simply put, a winner.

4.) Jake Rudock, Michigan. UDFA. A solid developmental prospect who really grew as a player last year. Sees the field. Throws the ball downfield. Smart decision maker. Doesn't have prototypical arm strength, but he reads the line of scrimmage well. He plays with great awareness. Not afraid to attempt all of the throws.

RB: Eddie Lacy enters the final year of his rookie year. After his 2015 season, it's tough to trust him. James Starks' career is nearing the end. Sure, he was signed to a two year deal and is an insurance policy for the 2017 Season in case Lacy either demands too much money after this season or if Lacy reverts to his 2015 ways. Regardless, the Packers must draft a RB in the first 4 rounds. It wouldn't shock me to see the Packers draft a RB in Round 2.

1.) Derrick Henry, Alabama. Round 2. A Henry and Lacy combination would be absolutely beastly. It'd bring a powerful running combination that would pair well with the aerial assault that should return to Titletown, U.S.A. Henry abuses would-be tacklers. He's a punishing runner who plays faster than he times. He hits the hole and has a decent burst to the 2nd level. He can get the edge. He falls forward. And, the more he carries the ball, the better he gets.

2.) CJ Prosise, Notre Dame. Round 2-3. See above.

3.) Paul Perkins, UCLA. Round 2-3. Perkins is the 2nd best one-cut runner in the Draft, behind Elliott. He'll leave defenders in the dust with his ability to stop on a dime and to change directions. His style might fit in Green Bay better than any other runner in the Draft. He'd be an exceptional runner in a zone blocking scheme. He has great vision. Sound awareness. He sees the hole and he hits it. He makes good decisions as a runner. He's not powerful, but he picks up tough yards. The ideal runner for a blocking system designed around a one-cut RB. He drives the ball up the field.

4.) Devontae Booker, Utah. Round 2-3. Injuries are a concern, but he's a slashing style runner that can shine on all 3-downs. Extremely patient back. Focused runner. Good hands out of the backfield. Sometimes, it'll appear as he's waiting too long for a hole to open up, but then he escapes danger with quickness and an ability to get low to the ground to slide underneath tacklers. Has solid instincts.

5.) Kenyan Drake, Alabama. Round 3. Love the speed he plays with. A HR hitter. Always a threat to take it to the house. Great in the screen game. Takes the ball up-field with conviction. Runs hard. Will be a more productive NFL player than he was at the college level. Can also make an impact as a KR on special teams.

6.) Alex Collins, Arkansas. Round 3. Two things attract me to Collins: he has a nose for the end zone and he seems to rarely lose yardage. He hits the hole with a vengeance. He leans into tacklers. He drives his legs forward. He stayed healthy. He has great vision and he patiently waits for the hole to open up before attacking the hole like a bully. He'd fit the Packers system. Plus, he wears #3 and rocks dreads. What's not to like?

7.) Jordan Howard, Indiana. Round 3. Hard driving runner. Runs with authority, but has been beat up often in his career. Durability is a concern. But, when he's on the field he's productive. He grabs yards in chunks. Consistently. If he stays healthy, he could be an immediate threat. He has a nose for slicing through the line of scrimmage and getting to the second level.

8.) Jonathan Williams, Arkansas. Round 3-4. If it weren't for injuries, we might be talking about Williams as a potential early 2nd round pick. But, Williams has struggled to stay healthy. He's blessed with great instincts and a true feel for the game. When the balls in his hands, he moves chains. He has great vision and hits the hole with quickness. Might be best suited in a RB by rotation system as I'm not sure he'd ever be able to carry the load. With fresh legs, Williams would make an instant impact.

9.) Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech. Round 3-4. Reminds me of a Montee Ball style of player. Great production at the college level. Durable. Consistent. Good hands. Reliable receiving threat. Battle tested. Fighter.

10.) Tyler Ervin, San Jose St. Round 4. I heart Tyler Ervin. While he's undersized, he hits the hole fearlessly. On runs to the edge, he's blazing fast. He's a lethal weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. He runs a fantastic wheel route. A LB won't be able to cover him if you put him in the flat. More often than not, he'll make the first person miss. But, he's an absolute liability in pass protection. He gets run over. He lacks awareness as a blocker. It wouldn't shock me if he shows up well as a great Punt Returner.

11.) Josh Ferguson, Illinois. Round 5-6. He's a scat back who offers good versatility and would be a nice complimentary back for Lacy. Would add a little lightning to the thunder that Lacy brings. He's quick to hit the hole. He's good in the screen game. Has big play potential. Can get the corner and find himself in the secondary. Lacks physical ability to run through the tackles.

12.) Kelvin Taylor, Florida. Round 5-6. Has the genes. A pounder. Lacks speed, but is tough nosed. Well rounded, consistent back. Catches the ball well. Decent blocker. A grinder. Will aim to consistently grab positive yardage, but not going to be a back who grabs yards in big chunks.

13.) Brandon Wilds, South Carolina. Round 7-UDFA. Really enjoy the way he lowers his shoulder and drives for additional yardage upon contact. Gets yards that are in front of him without wasted steps. Purposeful runner. Lacks ideal speed, but a straight forward runner who confidently runs to the line of scrimmage.

14.) Jhurell Pressley, New Mexico. Round 7-UDFA. Would love to have a LOBO in GB. He's elusive. He runs with a purpose. He produced at a ridiculously high level. Every time he touched the ball, it seemed like he was picking up a first down. Gets outside and turns the corner with a possessive eye. Won't be able to be an every down back in the NFL as he lacks the size to run between the tackles on a consistent basis, but if given an opportunity, he'll be able to to make an immediate impact as a situational runner.

WR: The Packers enter the 2016 Season with Jordy, Cobb, Abby, Adams, Janis and Montgomery on the roster. None are entering the final year of their contract. It makes ZERO SENSE to draft a WR. Especially early. The Packer shave 6 WR's on their roster today who will be on an NFL in 2016. I also like Ed Williams as a developmental prospect. So, I'm not even going to write about the prospects that I project as being selected in Rounds 1-5. The Packers have other needs to address. Those needs are on the defensive side of the ball, at RB and at TE. Any way, here are a couple of late round players and potential UDFA's that have caught my eye.

1.) Nelson Spruce, Colorado. Round 6-7. A Ted Thompson style "football player" who lacks ideal speed. But, Spruce produces. Against the highest level of competition. Somehow, someway; Spruce is ALWAYS open. He's shifty. He can play in the slot. He's not afraid of going over the middle and taking on contact. He can get deep. He has great hands. He's savvy. He's the type of player that ends up in NE and has a 7-10 year career.

2.) Mitch Mathews, BYU. Round 6-7. Great NFL size. Top notch red zone threat. Wins jump balls. Reliable receiver in traffic. Needs work on his route running. Long strider who could come in and instantly be a receiving threat in goal-to-go situations. But, today, he's not ready to step in and be an every down impact player.

3.) Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri State. Round 7-UDFA. Love his size. Love the way he looks in his pads. Physical specimen. Great in traffic due to his length. Not afraid of contact. Doesn't play fast though and takes plays off. I got the feeling that he was lazy - at times - as the level of competition was beneath him. If he can find motivation, he'd be an intriguing training camp body. He has the tools to be on an NFL roster.

4.) Geronimo Allison, Illinois. Round 7-UDFA. Raw receiver. Has the mentality of most Packers receivers that Ted Thompson has drafted. Tough minded. Willing to mix it up in the run game. One of the better blocking WR's in the Draft. But, he's an underdeveloped route runner who has struggled to fight off defenders when the ball is in traffic. When the ball is in his hands, he's a tough runner.

5.) Jay Lee, Baylor. Round 7-UDFA. If he were focused play-in and play-out, Jay Lee would be a 3rd-4th round pick. He has great size. He has great speed. He has great length. I love the way he blocks. But, the guy drops way too many easy passes. And, his routes are often times lazy. Really lazy. Almost as if he's not paying attention. But, you can't teach size and you can't teach speed. So, Lee could be the ideal player to stash on the practice squad for a year. Let him get a taste of life in the NFL for a year and see if he can put it all together.

6.) Chris Brown, Notre Dame. Round 7-UDFA. Played in a crowded receiving group, so he didn't get to shine like he might have if he played at a lesser school with fewer weapons. Still, when he was called upon Brown made a number of big plays. If his hands were more consistent, he'd be a sure fire 5-6 round pick as he's a competent route runner and an intelligent player. But, his hands weren't always trusted. And, thus, he's solely a developmental prospect.

7.) Max McCaffrey, Duke. UDFA. Smart football player. Great football genes. Runs well. Solid hands. Same player every play. Consistent. Limited athleticism. Will have to out-smart players at the NFL. He's capable. Will be a nice training camp body who will fight for a roster spot.

TE: With Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers, Kennard Backman, Justin Perillo, and Mitchell Henry; it wouldn't appear as though TE is a position of need for 2016. After all, the Packers philosophy is to draft and develop. So, this should be a year that Backman DEVELOPS into a threat while he learns from Jared Cook who is only signed for one year. If Backman were to develop, the Packers would be in a position of power when they'd sit at the negotiating table with Cook next year -- assuming Cook has a good year in 2016. It'd also be nice to see Richard Rodgers develop into a better player in 2016. It's also noteworthy that Ted Thompson brought Perillo and Henry back into the mix. It's not unfair to presume that he thinks they're worthy of competing for a roster spot. So, how many roster spots do you eat up for TE's in training camp? More than 5? Possibly, I suppose.

1.) Hunter Henry, Arkansas. Round 2. Undoubtedly, the best TE in the Draft. The most well-rounded TE. He can catch. He can block. He can play H-Back. He's a threat after the catch. He has legit NFL size. Had Jared Cook not signed with the Packers, he might've been a target.

2.) Austin Hooper, Stanford. Round 2-3. Really like his game. Can do it all. A solid blocker. A sit down TE who will be sure handed and reliable. He'll fall forward after contact. He fits the Packers system.

3.) Nick Vannett, Ohio State. Round 2-3. Vannett will have a solid career. He's the best blocking TE in the Draft. A good receiver who was under utilized in college. He's a capable receiver. I look for him to have a long 7-10 year career who will be an instant contributor.

4.) Jerell Adams, South Carolina. Round 3-4. Adams has more upside than any TE in the Draft. He can get down the seam. He's a big target who will go up and get jump balls. He has the potential to develop into a down field threat. If the Packers don't believe that Backman will evolve into a threat, then they might consider Adams as a mid round option.

5.) Henry Krieger-Coble, Iowa. Round 5-6. When Jake Duzey (see below) got hurt, it opened a door for Krieger-Coble. He took advantage. He's a big target who catches well. He can get down the seam. He is a commanding blocker. A drive blocker. A Red Zone threat. A really good athlete who will immediately earn playing time.

6.) Jake McGee, Florida. Round 6-7. He fits the Packers style of TE. He can play in the H-Back role. He can stand up in the slot as a receiver. He's a willing blocker tight in the formation. He's a solid Red Zone TE. He sits down in the zone of the defense. He plays with intelligence. He's deceptive quick and finds ways to get open. He's trustworthy on 3rd down. Great hands.

7.) Darion Griswold, Arkansas State. UDFA. Much in the mold of Backman. Needs to learn to be a blocker, but he flashes down field potential. He can take it up the seam. He runs a tight down and out. Catches the ball and turns up field. Was productive against lower level competition. Will take some developing and he'll have to show that he wants to block at the next level.

8.) Jake Duzey, Iowa. UDFA. Prior to the season, I had Duzey as a mid-round draft pick. Duzey is a great blocker. He's a threat over the middle. He's sure handed. He finds the soft spot. But, injuries derailed his Senior season. He'd be a great training camp body who you could likely tuck away on IR for the year.

OL: I wrote about the OL earlier. But, to reiterate, I don't pay an abundance of attention to potential OL prospects. And, I see no need for the Packers to Draft an OL. But, one guy who I watched play and I'm positive would be on the Packers radar is:

1.) Joe Haeg, North Dakota State. Round 6-7. He has great length. Decent footwork. The potential to play either LT or RT. Truly, a developmental prospect who has the length to play in this league. He looks like a Packers OL.

DL: The Packers need to add depth to the DL. Raji is on hiatus. Back is Guion. Pennel is suspended for the first 4 games. Boyd returns from injury, but he was an average player for the first couple years of his career. I'm excited about Christian Ringo's development, but I'm not going to expect him to start this year. Datone Jones is moving to a DE/OLB role. Julius Peppers will likely play more downs at DT as a pass rusher than he will anywhere else. Mike Daniels is the unquestioned leader of the group. He brings the intensity. He also signed the contract. He'll set the mentality. I expect a highly energized group on the DL this year. I also expect TT to add a couple of players to the DL in the first couple of rounds.

1.) Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss. Round 1. See above.

2.) Andrew Billings, Baylor. Round 1. See above.

3.) Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State. Round 1-2. See above.

4.) Kenny Clark, UCLA. Round 1. See above.

5.) A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama. Round 1. See above.

6.) Jarran Reed, Alabama. Round 1. See above.

7.) Austin Johnson, Penn State. Round 2. Admittedly, at times, I feared that he could turn out to be the next Jerel Worthy. But, in the end, his length and height combination make him a 3-down option in a 3-4 defense. He has a great motor, an endless intensity, and a physical punch that will knock most OL backwards. He's tenacious. He's an energetic leader who'd pair really nicely next to Mike Daniels. He's slippery as a pass rush. He can beat you with quickness. He can beat you with his hands. He can beat you with his bull rush.

8.) Chris Jones, Mississippi State. Round 2. 6-6, 310. Active. Pursuant. He has awesome power. Would immediately upgrade the Packers defensive front in a rotational role. Gets a push. Collapses pocket. Would provide an interior pass rush that has been lacking in recent years. He'd also offer a massive presence to the DL. Straight line player. Not the best motor, but he's coachable and has physical traits that can't be taught.

9.) Hassan Ridgeway, Texas. Round 2-3. He stacks and sheds blockers in the run game. He makes his presence felt in the pass game. He can play a variety of positions on the DL. He has solid quickness. Good burst off the snap. Uses his hands well. At times, his motor concerned me. If he can stay fit and his health doesn't deter him, he dominates.

10.) Jonathan Bullard, Florida. Round 2. High energy player. A leader. Might be best suited for a 4-3. But, he's a football player. Put the pads on Bullard and he's going to find the pigskin. His teammates will see him as a determined player who they can count on to make plays. If he were 10 pounds heavier, I'd be more intrigued in him as a 3-4 DL. But, he has to figure to put on the weight. If he can put on weight and keep his quickness, he's a viable target. He has great hands. He has quick feet. He adds a shake to the interior of the DL.

11.) Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech. Round 2. Possibly a boom or bust player. At the Senior Bowl, he was dominant. But, in his Bowl game, he was moved. Great length. When he's motivated, he's disruptive. But, he was inconsistent at LA Tech. Ideal for a 3-4 DE. Can hold his own in run game and will add a push in the pass game. 3-down player.

12.) Carl Nassib, Penn State. Round 2-3. The Packers need to add an Elephant to the defense in the Draft. Nassib can rush the passer. He turns the corner. He wins with perseverance. He wins with heart. He wins with activity. He possesses a tireless motor. He outworks the competition. And, because of it, he consistently puts up numbers.

13.) Bronson Kaufusi, BYU. Round 2-3. Kaufusi will willingly drop into coverage. He'll use his arms to win one-on-one battles in the run game to extend plays. He is an above average pass rusher. He's athletic. He's disruptive. But, he's not overly quick off the snap. He lacks speed. And, while he flashes at times, he also disappears for great lengths.

14.) Adolphus Washington, Ohio State. Round 3-4. See above.

15.) Sheldon Day, Notre Dame. Round 3-4. Good athlete. Quick off the snap. Uses hands well. Understands leverage battle. Not going to overpower, but he's active. Willing. Great motor. Won't win battles due to lack of effort, but he needs to get stronger. Made a number of plays for the Fighting Irish.

16.) Maliek Collins, Nebraska. Round 3-4. He's slippery as a pass rusher. He extends his arms and pushes OL to the side. Then, he slides by them with active pursuit of the ball carrier or QB. Extremely quick off of the ball. Lacks ideal length for the 3-4. But, he's quick as a cat and he's disruptive. Lacks strength to dominate in the run game.

17.) Jihad Ward, Illinois. Round 3-4. Great length. Like his versatility. Moved around the DL a lot. Played on both the left and right side. Played on the inside. Was a force on 3rd downs getting pressure, even though he didn't have the stats to show it. Like his quickness when he's in pursuit. Not as good in the run game, but a good rotational player who will offer upside if he's coached up.

18.) DJ Reader, Clemson. Round 4. Reader is one of the better run stoppers in the Draft. He is a 2-down player. He'll add little to no value as a pass rusher, but he will keep lineman off the 2nd level and he'll eat up blockers. He bring good energy. Solid mid-round pick.

19.) Willie Henry, Michigan. Round 4-5. I would love Willie Henry as a mid-round pick. Developmental. All of the tools. Young. Strong. Quick off the snap. Wins the leverage battle. Wins with his hands. Dips low and attacks like a bully. He's immature, but he has loads of potential. Not only can play the run, but he's also a presence as a pass rusher. He's persistent. He's hungry.

20.) Javon Hargrave, South Carolina State. Round 4-5. Really impressed as a pass rusher in the All-Star game. High activity. Great motor. Won with his hands. Slapped OL out of the way. Had quickness. Ate up lower level competition. But, his length scares me. Not sure how he fits in the Packers defense as we already have Ringo and Daniels that are near his size.

21.) Antwaun Woods, USC. Round 6-7. Slippery. Good NFL size. Can get pushed around, but he's quick off the snap. He has shake at the line of scrimmage and will fool OL to get into the offensive backfield. And when he hits a RB, he swallows them. He absolutely smothers ball carriers. But, he will get pushed around at the line of scrimmage.

OLB: Clay Matthews is back at OLB. Nick Perry is back for one year. Lerentee McCray is an intriguing signing, but it's only for 1 year. Julius Peppers is in the last year of his deal. Datone Jones is playing the Elephant Position and he's in the last year of his contract. I'd like to see more out of Jayrone Elliot, but nonetheless, the Packers have to draft at least two players who can play the edge.

1.) Kevin Dodd, Clemson. Round 1. See above.

2.) Leonard Floyd, Georgia. Round 1. Good speed off the snap. Quick around the edge on the rush. A pass rusher. Athletic. With the figure to add weight. But, he gets moved in the run game. He needs to get stronger. If he does, he could become a dominating presence. If not, he'll get dwarfed.

3.) Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky. Round 1. See above.

4.) Kamalei Correa, Boise State. Round 2-3. Correa has the prospects to be the best pure 3-4 OLB in the Draft. He can drop in coverage. He can get around the corner in pass rush. He can stand up in the run game. But, he lacks strength. While he had solid statistics over the last two years, he didn't overwhelm. He's talented, but he's still developing. With that said, he has the traits of fitting into the Packers way. He's a team-first, good guy. He attacks the football. Still a little raw. Has prospects of being a solid player.

5.) Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State. Round 2-3. Talented pass rusher with a pension for sealing games late. A dominating presence. An intimidator. 6-4, 251. Doesn't drop well in coverage, but he can hold his own at the point of attack. He consistently made his presence felt as a disruptor in pass pressure. He'd fit in Green Bay.

6.) Kyler Fackrell, Utah State. Round 3. Love his length, but plays too tall. Decent pass rushing skills, but he allows OL to get their hands on him and has trouble separating. Drops well into space, which might be one of his greatest traits. He moves well. Can get sideline to sideline. Pursues until the whistle. Ted Thompson would call him a "football player." During the season, I wrote his name down on three different occasions. When I watched him, he jumped out at me. He just didn't stick in my mind. Not going to be the player that wow's you, but he'll be productive and he'll show up every game.

7.) Jordan Jenkins, Georgia. Round 3-4. The type of guy that we've seen TT try to bring to GB before. Doesn't have great burst off the edge. But, he has the typical 3-4 OLB size. 6-3. Between 250-260. Not going to overwhelm in the pass rush with his speed nor his power. But, he'll be responsible. He'll be committed. Much like we've seen from Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden in the past.

8.) Alex McCalister, Florida. Round 6-7. See above.

9.) DJ Pettway, Alabama. Round 7. A forceful pass rusher. Plays with heartful desire. A punisher. Mean. Hits you with the intent to hurt you. Not overly quick off the ball. Nor is he overly strong. But, he gives effort. And, he wants to beat you up. Great motor. Gives everything he has on every down.

10.) Curt Maggitt, Tennessee. Round 7-UDFA. See above.

11.) Jimmy Bean, Oklahoma State. Round 7-UDFA. NFL body. Excellent performer. Looks like a monster in his uniform. Quick burst. Long arms that disrupt a QB's vision and make him tough to block. Knee injury is concerning. If he returns to form, he's definitely worth a late round pick. When healthy, he can play in the NFL.

12.) Silverberry Mouhon, Cincy. Round 7-UDFA. Mouhon flashes goodness. He was a force, at times, for Cincy. There would be times you'd watch him rush the passer and think that he deserved a mid-round grade. But, it happened all too inconsistently. He disappeared too much. He lacked the necessary motor to dominate play-in and play-out. But, Mouton has pass rushing gifts. He showed up on 3rd downs and got Cincy off the field will pure willpower. It was exciting to watch. I just wish it happened more often. Also, he's more of a hand in the dirt type player than a stand up 3-4 OLB.

13.) Christian French, Oregon. Round 7-UDFA. There are times that you watch French and you think he could dominate at the next level. And, then you watch him play two games and you go, "huh?" Where is he? He disappears. He reminds me of Adrian Hubbard. Long. OK quickness. OK speed. Will get pushed around. But, then he'll make a play or two and you'll think you have something there. He moves well. Drops in coverage. Extends his arms and disrupts well in zone coverage. But, he just hasn't been able to use athleticism to full strength and thus, he hasn't been able to put it all together.

14.) Antwione Williams, Georgia Southern. Round 7-UDFA. Plays with quickness. Has leadership traits. Played sideline-to-sideline. Very active. Drops well in coverage. Not going to dominate from a pass rushing perspective, but he'll give effort. Needs more burst off the snap. Worthwhile Training Camp body.

15.) Victor Ochi, Stony Brook. Round 7-UDFA. Great pass rush ability. Dips his shoulder and gets after the QB. Undersized. Lacks length. Relies on hustle and getting beneath the tackle as he comes around the edge. Not going to win in the run. Simply a situational pass rusher at this stage. Worth bringing into camp.

ILB: With Clay Matthews moving to OLB, the Packers are left with Sam Barrington, Jake Ryan Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas at ILB. Needless to say, the Packers need to improve at ILB. In my rankings, I've moved a number of players who played OLB at the college level to ILB at the NFL level as I see them fitting there in a 3-4 defense. I spent a lot of time focusing on potential ILB's that could be found as UDFA. While there's good talent in the middle rounds, I found a lot of the ILB's to be the same. A lot of heart, but there's a severe lack of speed. It's possible that you can get a similar talent in UDFA as you can in rounds 4-7 in this years Draft.

1.) Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame. Round 1-3. See above.

2.) Darron Lee, Ohio State. Round 1. See above.

3.) Reggie Ragland, Alabama. Round 1. See above.

4.) Joshua Perry, Ohio State. Round 2. Great versatility. Great athleticism. Needs to improve his ability to take on blockers, but love his closing speed. Love the way he takes ballcarriers to the floor. Has a nose for the football. Could be moved around the defense and be lined up at either OLB or ILB. He fits the Packers scheme.

5.) Su'a Cravens, USC. Round 2-3. True athlete. Fit as can be. Tireless motor. Nose for the ball. Active. Needs to add weight. Consistently in the picture.

6.) Deion Jones, LSU. Round 3. Love his speed. Gets sideline to sideline in sublime fashion. Great in pass coverage. Attacks the football. Creates turnovers. The more you watch him, the more you'll like him.

7.) Joe Schobert, WI. Round 3-4. See above.

8.) BJ Goodson, Clemson. Round 3-4. Have to love his game. Far from intimidated by anyone. Prideful player. True leader. Commander of the huddle. Forceful in the run game. Decent in the pass game. Can rush the passer from the inside. Might not be a 3-down backer, but definitely can step in on day 1 and play on 1st and 2nd down.

9.) Jatavis Brown, Akron. Round 3-4. I'm enamored with his game. Love his ability to read plays. Plays with great speed. Gets sideline to sideline. Does a good job using his DL to shield himself from blockers. A tackling machine. Great athlete, but size is a concern.

10.) Kentrell Brothers, Missouri. Round 3-4. Brothers is a tackling machine. Problem is that it's often downfield. He's instinctive. He's aware. He's smart. He weaves through traffic and finds the football. He was productive, but I don't know if it were a product of him being that good or Missouri's defense taking a big step backwards.

11.) Scooby Wright, Arizona. Round 3-4. Would be a classic Packers ILB selection. Not fleet of foot. But, smart. Hugely productive at the college level. Not going to win any foot races, but in 1 on 1 battles, he'll shine. Stacks and sheds, finds the ball carrier.

12.) Tyriq McCord, []_[]. Round 4. Here's where I go out on a limb. Most will have him as an UDFA prospect. Not me. I love his game. I'd be stoked if he ends up in Titletown, U.S.A. He has great tenacity. Love his ability to pursue up the middle. Attacks with aggression. Can cover ground quickly. Solid pass rusher on the inside blitz. Intense in the run game. Truly, an underrated prospect. He could be a gem for someone.

13.) Tyler Matakevich, Stanford. Round 4. Hard working, gritty defender. Tough. Sure tackler. Smart. Always around the ball. Seeks contact. Limited in coverage, but will excel in run defense. Speed is an issue.

14.) Nick Vigil, Utah State. Round 5. He's quicker than fast. Can get sideline to sideline. Hard worker. Confident tackling. Intelligent. Will be exposed in coverage due to a lack of speed. He won't be able to run with TE's or RB's out of the backfield, but he will understand angles and be sharp with all of the details of the game.

15.) Blake Martinez, Stanford. Round 5. Strong. Smart. Powerful. Plays with heart. Great emotional leader. Quick first couple of steps. Lacks long-line speed. A fighter who will make up for his lack of speed with great effort and desire. Will struggle in coverage.

16.) Nick Kwiatkoski, Dub-V. Round 5. Was heart and soul of Mountaineer defense. Tough minded. Witty. Fantastic tackler. Reads plays before they occur. Superb in the run game. Can cover the underneath route, but will struggle when he's covering with his back to the ball. Reminds me a bit of Jake Ryan.

17.) Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma. Round 5-6. Immensely athletic. Tremendous range. Solid in coverage. Lacks ideal size, but love the way he plays at the line of scrimmage in the run game. Could develop into a really nice prospect at the NFL level.

18.) Erik Striker, Oklahoma. Round 5-6. Striker has a tough transition in front of him. He was an elite pass rusher at the college level. But, he's way too small to be a pass rusher on the edge. So, he'll have to use his football instincts and move inside in order to have a career at the NFL level. He was a playmaker at the college level and my gut says that he'd be able to transition to the inside in a 3-4 and he'd simply find the football. He'd also be a lethal pass rusher from the inside. But, it won't happen over night.

19.) Travis Feeney, Washington. Round 5-6. Athletic LB who could slide outside as well. Versatile player who could add disguise to a defense. Would fit in a zone blitz system. Some will see him as a 4-3 OLB. While he fits that bill, I think he's best as a 3-4 ILB. Send him on the blitz. Drop him in coverage. He can do it. He needs to understand leverage though. Plays too tall.

20.) De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. Round 6. Inconsistent. But, man, at times you look at him and see a big time talent. Then, you wonder where he went. He goes ghost. When he's motivated and focused he has 2nd-3rd round talent, but he hasn't put it all together. Drops well in coverage. Has flashes of ability as a pass rusher. Better from the inside than on the outside. Occasionally, he gets lost, but if he puts it all out!

21.) Terrance Smith, Florida State. Round 6-7. Long. Lanky. Plays with speed. Wish he had more power. Could use more muscle. Plays too upright, but he can get sideline-to-sideline. His speed will transfer well to the NFL. Finds ways to slice through defenders, but on contact, he'll get stood up. Loses the leverage battle. As a tackler, he wraps up well.

22.) Antonio Morrison, Florida. Round 6-7. Great athlete. Active. Wants it. Finds a thrill in attacking the QB from the inside. When he hits you, he means it. Underrated prospect. A true talent. He could end up being a nice score for someone.

23.) Pete Robertson, Texas Tech. Round 7-UDFA. Largely played OLB at Texas Tech. Lacks the strength to play it in the NFL. But, might transition well to ILB in a 3-4 in the NFL. Can play laterally or straight ahead. He'd need OL to be kept off of him, but I really like Robertson's ability to use his first step to get around defenders. Doesn't stack and shed well. Has trouble releasing from blockers.

24.) Josh Forrest, Kentucky. Round 7-UDFA. NFL body. Looks like an All-Pro in his uniform. Someone should use a draft pick on him. Would fit as an intimidating figure in the middle of the GB defense. Moves well. Both straight ahead and laterally. He's an odd study. He looks like he'd be beefy and unable to move. Instead it's almost the opposite. He plays with quickness but he gets knocked around and misses tackles. Can't teach size. Forrest has that size. I'd take a chance.

25.) Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State. Round 7-UDFA. A Ted Thompson type "football player" as he's always around the football. Don't see as many flash plays out of Brown that you'd like, but he's a big time tackling producer. He was overshadowed for much of his career. Love his desire to find the pigskin. At one point, I had him as an equal to former 2nd round pick, Bernardick McKinney - his former teammate. Brown hustles. Never gives up. Feels like the type of guy that Thompson might take a shot on late.

26.) Raphael Kirby, []_[]. UDFA. Hate that he got injured. He's a leader. Someone teammates love to go to battle with. Not the athletic LB that you'd expect to see at the []_[]. Instead, he's a diligent worker. First one to arrive and the last to leave. Motivated. Focused. Knowledgeable football player. Prior to the torn ACL, I had him as a 4-5 round pick. Now, he'll be lucky to get drafted. Solid training camp body.

27.) Antonio Longino, Arizona State. UDFA. I watched Longing four times. Against UCLA, I thought he would be a potential late round steal for someone. I envisioned him in GB. He disengages from blockers well. He was moved to OLB pre-snap from an ILB spot to come on the blitz. He made game sealing plays. Ideal for a zone blitzing scheme. Stunts well. Can move around and swing around the outside on the blitz. But, consistency is his issue. Not due to a lack of effort, but at times, he was just too small. He'd get moved off the ball and thrown backwards.

28.) Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn. UDFA. Odd figure. Looks like a FB. Plays faster than he times. Sneaks his way through blockers as he gets skinny in tight spaces. Plays thinner than his figure suggests. Active tackler. Tough dude who plays the run well and can attack on the blitz. Don't expect him to cover anyone.

29.) Reggie Northrup, Florida State. UDFA. Has the mind, strength and ability to be a solid rotational 2-down LB. Can't play pass defense because he can't run, but he's a thumper. A heavy hitter who belongs in camp and will fight like hell to earn a spot.

30.) Kris Frost, Auburn. UDFA. Nasty demeanor. A gamer. Never was able to stay healthy. Has the traits of an NFL starter. Also has the heart. And the physicality. But, the guy can't stay healthy. Too bad.

31.) James Burgess, Louisville. UDFA. Undersized, but the dude simply makes plays. He's always around the ball. Makes you think he has a lifeline on special teams due to his willingness to take on blockers and his ability to knife his way towards the football. Great quickness. But, too small to take on blockers. Gets swallowed in head to head contact.

32.) Desmond Morgan, Michigan. UDFA. Consummate professional. Great locker room guy. Lacks athleticism. Loaded with heart. Gives everything he has on every play. Has potential to be a special teams player.

CB: Ted Thompson chose well last year. Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins look like fixtures in the heart of the Packers secondary for years to come - if they can stay healthy. Both battled injuries all year. Couple them with Sammy Swagga and the Packers look to have 3 solid CB's. I'm also bullish on the futures of LaDarius Gunter and Robertson Daniel. Both have the tools to become solid nickel and/or dime CB's. Still, you can't have enough CB's and the Packers need to look to add a CB or two in the Draft.

1.) Eli Apple, Ohio State. Round 1-2. Ideal NFL size. True gamer. Shows up when the lights are on. Turns and runs. Plays the ball. A winner.

2.) Artie Burns, []_[]. Round 2. See above.

3.) William Jackson III, Houston. Round 2-3. I watched him 6 times this year. I was enamored by his size. Loved his length. Looked the part. Played really raw in coverage. Was often beat on double moves, but wasn't exposed due to poor QB play. Still, I enjoy his ability to assist in the run game. He breaks on the ball well. I'm attracted to him as a 3rd round prospect and give him a Round 2-3 grade. But, I envision someone taking him in Round 1.

4.) Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech. Round 2-3. Has Round 1 athleticism and genes. Loaded with potential. But, injuries have hurt him. Gets nicked up and has recovered well from injuries. Tough minded player, but body has struggled to keep up with his mental toughness. Breaks on the ball well. Turns and runs well.

5.) Sean Davis, Maryland. Round 2-3. Love his size. Love his physicality. A little stiff. But, he has all of the traits to develop into a big-time CB. Give him to Joe Whitt and I'm not worried! Could also play Safety.

4.) Xavien Howard, Baylor. Round 2-3. As athletically gifted as any CB in the Draft. Has swagger. Has style. But, raw. Grabs all of the time. Takes chances and gets beat because of it. Nonetheless, has speed and ability. If trained properly, he could be a steal.

5.) KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame. Round 3. Some off-field issues. There were times when I watched ND play and I saw him as a 1st round talent. Breaks on the ball with elite form. Extends well. Turns and sees the ball. Better in off-coverage than in the your face. Can play man or zone, but might be best in zone coverage. Quick as a cat.

6.) Eric Murray, Minnesota. Round 4-5. See above.

7.) Juston Burris, NC State. Round 4-5. Fits GB. True press cover CB. Would fill void that was lost when Davon House left. Long. Good hands. Not elite speed, but good technique. Gets his head turned around. Nose for the football. Solid in run support. Hits you like a safety.

8.) Jalen Mills, LSU. Round 4-5. Battle tested. Great height. Plays lighter than his weight would suggest. Willing to step up and tackle, but he's sloppy. Might be best as a safety as he plays the ball in the air really well. Has the tools, but needs development.

9.) Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central. Round 5. When you watch a lot of football, you stumble across guys. This is one of them. I first saw him as I was feeding my baby and watching their game against Bethune-Cookman. I watched him drop in his stance. I fell in love. Granted, I've seen very little of him. Still, he moves gracefully. He was thin and will need weight in order to be effective as a tackler, but he can turn and run. He's fluid. Raw, but developmental.

10.) Will Redmond, Mississippi State. Round 5. If he puts on weight and can keep his ability to dance, he could have a good future. He turns, he runs and he sees the ball. He's agile. He's a natural on his toes. He can jump. But, he's a softy. And, he's recovering from an injury. He has all of the traits to be a perimeter CB if he can stay healthy.

11.) Harlan Miller, Southeastern Louisiana. Round 5. Love his quickness. Love how he turns and runs. Good footwork. Still raw. A grabber. Has NFL height. Might need a year to develop and to add weight, but would make a solid gunner on special teams in year 1.

12.) Maurice Canady, Virginia. Round 6. Great size and athleticism. Has desired height and he can run. In his uniform, he reminds me a bit of T-Mon. But, he's passive as a tackler. He's timid. Appears to be afraid of contact. He's a gambler. He tries to jump routes and will get burnt. But he'll also make that eye-popping play as he's quick as can be and will force bad decisions by opposing QB's. With his speed and height, there's a lot to work with.

13.) Daryl Worley, Dub-V. Round 6-7. Part of says that I'm putting him down as I'd love another Mountaineer in Green & Gold. He's stiff. He doesn't turn and well. He isn't going to intercept many passes. But, the other part of me sees a forceful tackler. A player that plays with precision when the ball is in front of him. A player that - if coached well - could continue to develop into a rotational perimeter CB.

14.) Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota. Round 6-7. Love him as a slot CB. Plays bigger than the program suggests he would. Tough. Fearless. Steps up in run support. Turns and runs. Wish he was two inches taller, but instead, he'll have to match up with quick WR's in the slot. If that's his sole responsibility, he has a life in the NFL.

15.) Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State. Round 7. As I watched Will Redmond, Calhoun often caught my eye. Looks like he could also play safety. Has NFL size. A contributor. Like the way he plays deep down the field. Plays well when the ball is in the air. Drops well. But, stiff. Needs to bend and turn his hips in order to become an effective perimeter CB.

16.) Duke Thomas, Texas. Round 7-UDFA. I'll take him on my team any day. Undersized, yes. Huge heart!! Love him on the blitz. Solely, a slot CB. But, send him on the blitz or get him jamming WR's at the line and he'll win. Not the fastest on the field, but he's a willing tackler and plays bigger than his size suggests.

17.) Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. Round 7-UDFA. Slot CB. Would be a decent replacement for Casey Hayward. Turns and runs. Willing tackler in the run game. Don't expect him to play on the perimeter, but if you keep him in the slot, he'll operate well in all facets of the position. He's shifty and he's quick in-and-out of his breaks.

18.) Trevor Williams, Penn State. Round 7-UDFA. Best suited for Zone Defense. Would fit into a classic Capers Zone scheme. Drops well. Opens hips. Sees field.

19.) Lloyd Carrington, Arizona State. UDFA. Really enjoyed his play on special teams. Looked like his tenacity on special teams didn't fully translate to the defensive side of the ball. Still raw. Good length. Good athleticism. But, doesn't turn and look. Developmental. Worth a year on the practice squad.

20.) Jimmy Pruitt, San Jose State. UDFA. A lot to like. Turns and runs. Plays the ball. Has NFL size. Needs to become a more willing tackler. Plays timid. Lacks NFL speed for the perimeter, but with technique, he could make up for his deficiency.

S: The Packers have done well with HaHa who is a fixture. Hyde enters a contract year. Burnett continues to underwhelm. Chris Banjo offers special teams talent, but not much else. The Packers need a Safety or two in the Draft and/or UDFA.

1.) Keanu Neal, Florida. Round 2. He's undoubtedly the most bone-crushing safety in the Draft. He seeks and destroys the ball carrier with no care for the pain that his body takes on. A beastly tackler. Dominant in the box. Don't expect him to make a bunch of plays in coverage, but stick him in the box and you have an athletic LB who can move well laterally. Shifts his hips and attacks the ball with a vengeance.

2.) Vonn Bell, Ohio State. Round 2. Always around the ball. Doesn't always finish the play. Great teammate. Always quick to greet teammates after big plays. But, he's undersized. Wish he was two inches taller as he gets dwarfed on jump balls.

3.) Justin Simmons, BC. Round 3-4. See above.

4.) Jeremy Cash, Duke. Round 3-4. Second most physical safety in the Draft, behind Keanu Neal. Put him in the box and he a big-time difference maker in the run game - as a rookie. He'll struggle in coverage - especially if he's found in space. But, he has the speed and quickness to cover an abundance of ground in getting sideline-to-sideline when he's within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. A punishing mentality. He seeks contact. He wants to destroy the ballcarrier.

5.) Darian Thompson, Boise State. Round 3-4. NFL figure. A beast in his uniform. He finds the football and had excellent production. If he finds consistency, he could step in and make a difference as a rookie. One game - he's all over the field. The next game - he's lost, he is out of position and he's giving up a big play. Plays well in run support. Not afraid of taking on blockers. Plays at the line of scrimmage with great desire.

6.) TJ Green, Clemson. Round 3-4. Athletic phenom. Kid can fly. Put him as a centerfielder on defense and nothing is getting behind him. Gets sideline to sideline. Sees the field well. Huge upside. Willing to step up in the box and help out in run support, but his tackling is a concern near the line of scrimmage.

7.) Karl Joseph, Dub-V. Round 3-4. For three years, he was the heart beat of the Mountaineer defense. Undersized, but he set the tone. He was around the football. He was a hard hitter. He played the ball in the air. Intimidated by no one. He brought attitude. Injury crushed him last year. He'll never be shy on confidence. Instant impact on special teams.

8.) Deiondre' Hall, Northern Iowa. Round 4-5. If Micah Hyde isn't going to stay in Green Bay past this year, then Hall is a good replacement. Excellent ball skills. Can play CB. Can play S. Finds the football and is a true playmaker. When the ball is in his hands, he knows what to do with it. Smart player. Great length. Takes solid angles to the football.

9.) KJ Dillon, Dub-V. Round 5. He can do it all. He can cover in the slot. He can play centerfield in the defense. He can return punts. He'll help out in run support. In coverage, he can turn and run. Think Micah Hyde.

10.) Deon Bush, []_[]. Round 5-6. There were times I looked at Bush as a 2-3 round pick. When he hits you, he means it. He forces turnovers. He tackles with intent. He punishes. He's not overly fast, but he has enough speed. He can turn and run with a TE. But, he doesn't always turn his head. Still, his physical nature is attractive.

11.) Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee. Round 6. An excellent playmaker who finds the football. Reads plays. Instinctive. Built awkwardly. Looks tiny in height and overly wide. Looks like he's treading water as he runs. But, the dude makes plays. Always. And, he is a sure tackler. Will instantly help on special teams. He finds the football. Seems to have good karma. Good things seem to follow him.

12.) Jayron Kearse, Clemson. Round 6-7. Big time player. But, oddly constructed. Built more like a Small Forward in basketball than a Safety. Might be best for ILB in a 3-4 defense. But, I've only seen him play Safety. Good agility. Solid in run support. Gets lost in coverage. Has trouble turning and running. But, Kearse is a football player. Get him some pads and tell him to find the football. So, maybe, just maybe he's best at 3-4 ILB.

13.) Elijah Shumate, ND. Round 7-UDFA. Acts as another LB. Put him in the box and he'll make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. Would fill the role that the Packers wanted Sean Richardson to step into. Will struggle in coverage, but he can punish in the run game and on the blitz. Only utilized in as an 8th man in the box. Will be a great special teams player.

14.) Michael Caputo, WI. Round 7-UDFA. Love his athleticism. Love the way he breaks on the ball. Love his intelligence level. Love his grit. But, man, where do you play him? Too slow for safety. Too small for LB. Plays too big. But, love the kid. Hope he gets a chance somewhere.

It's Draft time. It's time to TrusT the man that runs the Packers organization. He prepares all year for this weekend. He needs to strike it rich this year or the future of the Packers faces trouble. We're littered with talent that is approaching the end of their contracts. It'll be impossible to resign everyone. Thompson needs to replenish this roster with talent that brings added youthful exuberance. When your philosophy is to draft and develop you can't afford to miss on Draft day.

Give me Jaylon Smith. Please. I beg. Wholly.

In Ted, I trust.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Take -> To conclude 2015

Greetings, G-Force.

Another year. Another crushing playoff loss. Every year – it seems like we tell the same story. Super Bowl hopes amongst heavy adversity. A playoff game in our grasp. A devastating defeat. Since 1995, the losses have been painful. I take you back through time: in 1995, the Packers lead Dallas in the NFC Championship. 4th Quarter. The Packers have Dallas pinned deep. Aikman drops to pass. He hits Sean Jones in the hands. Jones can’t hang on. Aikman, Irvin and Smith go HOF on the Packers and dominate the 4th Quarter. We had the game in our grasp. We couldn’t hold on. In 1997, we were heavy Super Bowl favorites. We didn’t show up. In 1998, Jerry Rice clearly fumbled. It should’ve been the Packers ball. The ref blew the call. TO makes a miracle catch in the waning seconds after Steve Young slipped in his drop back. Heart breaking. In 2001, Favre threw 6 interceptions in a playoff defeat. In 2002, the Packers lost at Lambeau for the first time in a playoff game. In 2003, it was 4th & 26. In 2004, Randy Moss mooned the Lambeau Faithful. In 2007, we lost the NFC Championship at home. In 2009, we had the ball and a chance to win, but a missed face mask call lead to a fumble and an Arizona touchdown. Instead of 1st and 10 from beyond the 30, the Packers walked off in an unfair defeat. In 2011, the defending champions lost at home after a 15-1 season. In 2012, Kaepernick danced all over us in convincing fashion. We had to watch Kaep’s performance all off-season. In 2013, the Packers had the game in our hands, but Micah Hyde couldn’t hold onto the ball. In 2014, the Super Bowl was in our sights. It was ours and then Bostick dropped the onside kick. Bring us to 2015, why didn’t we go for 2? It seemed so logical. Still, we had two chances to take down Carson Palmer. We failed to do so. And a short pass to Larry Fitzgerald turned into a 75-yard crushing play. Man, I can’t handle it. These losses are rough.

To recover, I’m thankful that it’s Stout Month. The February beer scene in Denver is phenomenal. Pliny the Younger makes multiple appearances. Comrade releases HopChop. Crooked Stave has multiple onsite rare tappings. And, Mountain Sun has Stout Month. For me, today, it’s the Girl Scout Stout. A growler of it to relieve the Packer pain. It tastes like a Thin Mint Cookie in a glass. YUM! Musically, I’m mellow. It’s John Denver’s greatest hits that wax tracks its way into my ears.

Here are my mental wandering vibes since the season ended:

* Mike McCarthy. An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy had his Packers two yards from victory. He went for the tie instead. On the road. With a beat up roster. Against a team that had destroyed his ball club a couple of weeks earlier. Horrible decision by McCarthy. He should have played for the victory. He went conservative and he got burned. After being given another life line after the back-to-back Hail Mary’s, he should’ve put all of his chips to the middle of the table and placed them in the hands of Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t and because of it, the season ended prematurely. Disappointing.

* The Packers secondary is an encouraging piece in the future of the organization. Sammy Swagga playing at a high level – consistently. A first-class CB. Damarious Randall continued to progress and make plays throughout the season. Quinten Rollins showed great promise. HaHa has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential. Micah Hyde showed enhanced versatility. Morgan Burnett played well in run support. I also think that Robertson Daniel can play on the perimeter in the NFL. I’d imagine that Casey Hayward has played his last down in GB.

* I’m happy that Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels have already been re-signed. If Guion plays as he did in 2014, his deal will be a bargain for the Packers. I’m expecting Mike Pennel to get more action in 2016 and I’m looking for him to do great things. With Guion coming back and likely playing the same role that Raji took over this year, I don’t anticipate Raji coming back. I see Christian Ringo playing snaps next year.

* TT will have to make sure that he’s managing the finances for next year. Tretter, Sitton, Lang, and Bakhtiari are all going to be FA’s. It seems like it’ll be impossible for TT to lock all of them down. With that, this is an absolutely vital offseason for the Packers. The OL has been our greatest strength outside of Aaron Rodgers. Thus, our window of dominance might be down to one-year unless it’s a fairy tale offseason from TT. TT has to be aggressive this offseason. He has to play for the win. He has JP for one more year, likely. He has his OL in tact. He gets Jordy back. His team is positioned to win a title, but TT has to be aggressive in adding a pass rushing OLB via FA. I’m attracted to Olivier Vernon. I’d PAY HIM to ensure that he’s a book-end OLB opposite Clay, who’ll likely move back to OLB. TT also has to add a TE who can both block and catch. TT has to add speed to the ILB position. TT has to add depth at the DL. TT needs to add a RB that’ll compliment a motivated EDDIE. A RB that can catch the ball. A RB that can spread out wide. A RB that will allow McCarthy to be creative in his offensive decision. These five things will determine TT’s off season. If he misses on any of these additions, the Packers will have a huge hole in the roster.

* On February 13, 2016, I believe that the Packers will win Super Bowl 51. I fully envision TT taking a different approach to the offseason than he’s taken in past years.

* The last three years, Aaron Rodgers has not been healthy during the stretch run. We need to ensure that Rodgers is protected in 2016. I liked seeing Tretter as a back-up OT. I also think that Matt Rotheram is going to make an impact as a back-up OL in 2016.

* I have a hard time imagining Davante Adams being as bad in 2016 as he was in 2015.

* Book it. 2015 was the most frustrating season in my fandom of the Green Bay Packers. But, it was also a healthy reminder. It’s important to keep the faith. As I attended the Broncos Super Bowl parade, I thought about how the Bronco fans reacted when their team was playing but still living at 6-0. And, I reflected on the way Packer nation was complaining about our 6-0 record and the brand of football that we were playing. Keep the faith, G-Force. Imagination creates reality. And, to paraphrase Yoda, "If you don't believe, it's why you fail."

* I really like Mike Neal and Nick Perry. But, if the Packers overpay either of them, I’ll be very disappointed. We need a 10-sack performer at OLB opposite Clay. I don’t see Perry or Neal as ever being able to get there. Additionally, I envision Datone Jones playing enhanced snaps at the same position as Neal and Perry have played.

* I'm really excited to see Ty Montgomery in 2016. Montgomery, Janis, Cobb, Adams, Abby, and Nelson. The possibilities are endless.

* The Packers unrestricted FA’s are Don Barclay, Mason Crosby, Brett Goode, Casey Hayward, James Jones, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, AQ81, Raji, Sean Richardson, James Starks and Scott Tolzien. I’d be aggressive in signing Crosby and I’d bring back Goode. I’d let the rest of the players test the waters to see how the market deems their value. It is possible that the Packers will get four compensatory picks next year and next year, teams will be able to trade those compensatory picks. In addition, I hope that the Packers target a couple of early-to-mid 30 year olds like Mercedes Lewis, Matt Forte and Derrick Johnson. I’d consider giving each of them a 3 year deal in the range of 3 million per year. If they want more than that, I’d pass as the bulk of the FA money that I’d be focused on would be at OLB. Again, I’d target Olivier Vernon.

* Jeff Janis. What a performance. Would have been one for the ages if McCarthy had gone for 2.

* The time is NOW. The core of our roster is back for ONE MORE year. We need to be aggressive in creating a bolstered roster with a couple of more veterans. I fancy that TT is nearing retirement. I’d like to think that he’d like to go out a winner. If not this year, I can't imagine it ever occurring. Ron Wolf has talked about regretting that he didn't surround Favre with better WR's. It's time for TT to not live with regrets. He needs to act aggressively this offseason. If not, you have to wonder if he might be replaced the following year with a more aggressive strategic mind. Hope all these changes happen with you, TT. In Ted, I TrusT.

I’m going to sign off for a bit. I enjoyed writing this year. I’m thankful that you read.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Take -> NFC Divisional Round

Greetings, G-Force.

I write with confidence. For those that have followed this blog long enough, you know my theory is to write with an optimistic, yet realistic approach. I envision the Packers winning. Weekly. I believe in the Green Bay Packers organization. It's been tough to keep the faith in the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers. Frankly, from a rooting perspective, it's been one of the difficult versions of the Green Bay Packers to love. It's been a frustrating season. But, when their backs were against the wall. In the Wild Card round. Down 11-0. On the road. Facing a 3rd & 4. The Packers offense found life. They never looked back. Suddenly, once again, there was rejuvenated hope within the hearts, minds and souls of the Packers community. And, with this organization, communal belief goes a long way.

As I write, I calmly listen to the Bob Marley "Confrontation" album. It's Marley's last album. Released 2 years after his death. A compilation of largely unreleased tunes. It offers a great vision of how much beautiful music was left in his creative life prior to his departure. Give Thanks and Praises is a gorgeous, but underrated Marley tune. The consistently of the album runs smoothly. Elegantly. It'll carry the mood. Throughout.

I sip a Renegade Depravity. A milk stout that is littered with Peanut Butter. Most Peanut Butter Stouts will leave you requiring a toothbrush due to the residue of the powder that lingers post consumption. Not this one. A true treat. When it's around, I buy it by the growler. Often. 11% ABV. It's beautiful. It doesn't overpower you with syrup. Instead, it's a legit pour. That leaves the mouth watering for more. I love this beer. I look forward to it annually.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* I love Mike McCarthy. Prior to this year, he's always seemed to rally the team when they were in a time of need. In the first truly desperate moment of the season, his offense came together. To the tune of 32 points over a crucial 5 consecutive possessions. The offense was creative. It was cerebral. It had variety. It was productive. Even in makeshift form, the results were splendid. Props to you, Mike McCarthy.

* While the team scored points, it didn't play exceptionally well. There were flaws. But, for the first time in a long while, there was camaraderie. A bit of the "One mind. One purpose. One heart. One goal." type mentality seemed to exist. You know, XLV-style. There was togetherness. There was teamship. From the eye test, the team appeared to be having fun. That was entertainment to my amateur eye.

* Aaron Rodgers completed 58% of his passes. He threw for 210 yards. He averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. And, that, my fellow Packer friends, is exactly why I don't live and die by the box score anymore. While Rodgers wasn't overly dominant, he was efficient. He wasn't a precise as we've seen him in years past, but he was in control. He commanded the line of scrimmage. He connected on important third down plays. He led TD drives of 80, 60, 80 and 76 yards. He wasn't the surgeon. Instead he was the engineer. And, the results offered hope for the future.

* It was great to see the ball in a number of different players hands. In the past, it was the norm for 7 different receivers to catch passes. But, that disappeared over the 2nd half of the season. Against Washington, 4 players carried the ball and 7 players caught passes. We used our weapons. We moved the ball effectively. We saw the results that we've been yearning to taste. It's important to spread the pig skin wealth.

* It was great to see the Packers defensive line riding high and applying pressure. Mike Neal with the vital strip-sack and recovery that turned the tide and gave the Packers the ball back as the Redskins threatened to extend their lead. Nick Perry was active with 2.5 sacks. Clay was a dictator with 1.5 sacks and multiple pressures. He was dangerous on the stunt. Peppers looked youthful with his 2 QB hits. On multiple occasions, Peppers was forcing Cousins to move off of his spot as Peppers got a push from the DT spot. Mike Daniels may not have been in an authority in the box score, he was a pursuant on the field. He consistently won the leverage battle and collapsed the pocket. BJ Raji displayed great quickness. His excitement along the line caused all kinds of issues for the interior of the Redskins OL.

* Another game in which YELLOW JAKE showed he can play in the NFL. Especially in the run game. He's showing first-class run stopping skills.

* Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward played their best football of the season. In fact, Hayward earned himself a pay check. Someone will watch Hayward's ball skills and tackling from the win over the Redskins and they'll overpay him. I doubt it'll be Green Bay that offers him the money, so he's likely gone. But, Hayward was straight-up balling on Sunday!

* Q-Rollins can tackle. In fact, he might be the best text book tackler on the team.

* Jeff Janis continues to shine on special teams.

* HaHa Clinton-Dix's high effort play to force DeSean Jackson out of bounds just shy of the goal line was an important play of the game. It slowed the Redskins momentum, while the Packers offense figured out how to attack the Redskins defense.

* It was nice to see Letroy Guion getting a push into the offensive backfield. That hasn't happened much in the 2015 season.

* JC Tretter might've saved the Packers season. It's been a struggle to find replacements at Tackle on the OL. After a rough first quarter, Tretter was up for the challenge. He wasn't forceful, but he was impressive over the last three quarters. Highly versatile player.

* Liked seeing Abby in the slot and Cobb on the outside. With Abby on the field, McCarthy has options as a play caller in the no-huddle. He can shift Cobb to the outside or move him to the backfield. He can create confusion for the defense. Abby's presence also gives Rodgers the ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage. It seems as though the Packers can play faster at the line of scrimmage - due to their versatility and options - when Abby is on the field. I'd like to see Abby roll into the backfield and to see him on a swing pass. Much like we saw Ty Montgomery earlier in the year. I'd imagine that's the next dimension of those packages.

* We saw Jeff Janis line up in the slot. Nothing came of it. But, I have to wonder if there's a deep ball coming to Janis out of the slot. Maybe on a wheel route. One in which he's lined up against a 2nd tier DB who lacks the speed that Janis offers. Might be a big play coming out of that formation. McCarthy has been known to hide formations for key situations. Look for a play in which Janis runs a wheel route out of the slot. I'd think he'd be in man-coverage. With little emphasis. I picture Janis lined up in the slot to the right. Jones to the outside of him. Jones runs a quick slant that acts as a mini pick. Janis wheels around him up the sideline. And, then he uses his speed. If I were McCarthy, I'd design the play.

* Sad to see AQ81 out for the year. Hoping Perillo gets a shot to move chains. Sitting down just across the first-down stick on little curl routes. Have to play the chains this week.

* I've wondered if Kennard Backman would make a play down the seam this year. Maybe on play-action. No one would be prepared for it. It could be a wrinkle to throw in this week. And, it would not take genius creativity to design it. A simple go route. Backman lined up tight to Bakhtiari on the left side of the line. He's on the short side of the field. Fake the draw to Lacy to the strong side of the field. Look for Backman streaking. Could find a nice gain.

* Randall Cobb touched the ball 8 times. That's a winning formula.

* Just when Davante Adams looked to be ready to make an impact on the 2015 Season, he goes down with a fluke injury. Bummer.

* Aaron Rodgers and James Jones were in lock-step with one another. Fun to watch.

* We saw Aaron Rodgers smile. Yes, it happened. I DVR'd the game. I watched the game a 2nd time. It really occurred. It was pretty cool.

* The Packers were struggling. Looking poorly. Down 11-0. I opened a Boulevard Love Child #4. There needed to be more love. Additionally, we all gave Family Hugs. An offensive onslaught ensued. Believe in the Family Hugs. When in doubt, hug a family member. Forever.

* There was a Green 'n Yellow Bumblebee and Green 'n Yellow Hornet connection for the first time in what seems like a season. Both Starks and Lacy were impactful. Both were found in the end zone. Both were determined. Both were consistently grabbing plus yardage.

* I'm happy Robertson Daniel is on the Packers roster. He's a long, active DB. He can run. But, I hope he's not needed this weekend. Really hoping Sammy Swagga and Q-Rollins are fit to go. The fact that he's activated has me concerned about the availability of both Sammy and Rollins.

This week - it's the Cardinals. In Arizona. The same place in which the Packers were absolutely destroyed in Week 16. In the last match-up, the Packers were fully dominated. They were banged up on the OL. They had no answer for Freeney or Calais Campbell. Campbell and Freeney punished the Packers. Early and often. It became a blood bath. The Packers were demolished. The same won't apply in the playoffs.

The Cardinals took advantage of a depleted Packers OL in the previous meeting. But, this week, it appears as though the Packers OL will be healthier than it's been since mid-season. It sounds as if the entire OL has at least had limited participation most of the week. I'm hoping this leads to a better rhythm. A unit that is in-sync. I'm envisioning an OL that wins the point of attack. An OL with continuity. And togetherness. An OL that dominates the Cardinals secondary. While the Cardinals defensive front is talented, they aren't nearly as good as they were in our previous match-up.

Expect the Packers to establish the run early. Expect the Packers to pound away at the Cardinals DL. An abundance of Lacy. The Packers will move the Cardinals DL backwards. Lacy will cut forward and grab yards. In chunks. He'll keep the chains moving. If the Packers try to run the ball laterally, it won't work. Instead, they attack the Cardinals right between the tackles.

Defensively, it's beyond important for the Packers to win the line of scrimmage. They have to get Carson Palmer off his spot. Palmer can't move. They need to see Palmer move. They need to hit Palmer. Let Palmer know that we came to play. The Packers have to be more physical than the Cardinals on the interior of the line. I love seeing Peppers and Clay lined up next to each other. With Clay stunting to the inside. If Capers designs the same again this week, Clay will intimidate Palmer. He'll force a mistake. On the backside, it's Neal or Perry coming on speed rushes with Daniels collapsing. The Packers have to live in Carson Palmer's face.

The Cardinals have a number of offensive weapons. I'd argue that they have more talent at the skill positions than any offense in the league. David Johnson exposed YELLOW JAKE in the first match-up. YELLOW JAKE is going to have play tougher and quicker than he did the last time we matched up. Larry Fitzgerald is a match-up nightmare for the Packers in the slot. If Sammy Swagga can't play, the Packers don't have anyone that can match the speed of John Brown. The Packers had no answer for Michael Floyd in the first contest.

In order for the Packers to slow down the Cardinals offense, they're going to have to play two-deep safety to prevent the 15-20 yard routes. They need to congest the secondary past the marker. Force Carson Palmer to be patient. They need to make Palmer stick to the underneath routes. I doubt Palmer will stay disciplined. And, eventually, while rushing 4, the Packers will get pressure on Palmer. They'll force the mistake. But, the Packers have to prevent the big plays deep down the field. Make the Cardinals be methodical in their approach. Trust that we can get pressure with 4 rotating DL. And, an occasional 5th man coming on the blitz. If the Cardinals are attacking deep down the field with even moderate success, it could be a long day for the Packers defense.

Mike McCarthy is going to have to be aggressive. The Packers are going to need to create two additional possessions in order to win. They can come via turnovers, fake punts, fake FG's, or onside kicks. Somehow, someway, the Packers have to generate two possessions in this game. Ideally, they'll come through Carson Palmer mistakes. But, if not, McCarthy has to be aggressive in taking chances.

The Packers play no-huddle offense. They try to keep the Cardinals personnel on the field in an attempt to wear the down. They strive to find a free play or two. Rodgers succeeds and finds a big play down the sideline to Jones, who, once again, is rockin' a hoodie. Ever the fashion warrior, Jones shows that he's eager to continue his playing career in Green Bay. Jones tops 80 yards and scores a TD.

Rodgers is in control. He moves the offense with intent. He's on point.

Whoever gets the ball last, wins. Thankfully, the Good Lord is shining his Light on the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers delivers. He gets the Packers into FG range. Crosby connects.

Packers 34
Cardinals 31

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Take -> NFC Wild Card

Greetings, G-Force.

I often say that we are all a product of our roots. We apply those roots to today. In my youth, I had a Mother that loved more than anyone I've ever met. I had a Father that smiled and enjoyed life more than anyone I've ever met. On Sunday's in the fall, we watched Packers football. Come playoff time, we watched football with great intent. Though I was at the 1982 Packers 41-16 victory over the Cardinals, I was only 4 years old. The game is vividly etched in my mind. I loved the fire throughout Lambeau on that great day. It had been 10 years since the Packers had been in the playoffs. Post that year, as I watched the playoffs, I yearned for that Packers playoff feeling. The Packers never tasted a playoff game again in the 80's. Still, I never lost my love for the team that hails from Titletown, U.S.A. I always viewed the team with a healthy perspective - painful as it may have been. The Packers are a soulmate of mine.

As I write, I sip a Crooked Stave Silly Cybies. It's a Belgian Style Dark Ale. Aged in Oak Barrels. With raspberries. Measuring in at 9.0% ABV. A tremendous treat. Perfectly sour. With a heavy raspberry flavor throughout. True perfection. Pumping through the speakers is the Phish White Tape. Felt that it had a couple of lyrics that brought comedic approach when absorbing them with the current state of the Packers fans I communicate with.

Trey opens the vinyl with these lyrics: "Woke up this morning and I had those walking blues. I wasn't walking nowhere cause I didn't have no floor." Reminded me of how buzzed out Packers fans have been throughout the 2nd half of the season. And, the views that there was no bottom. Well, after losing 6 of the last 10 games, it's possible that the fans were right. But, in my opinion, that's no way to live. Why choose the doldrums of life? This team has playoff exposure. It's tasted playoff success. Keep the spirits up!

I love the ACDC bag lyrics when Trey belts out: "Time to put your money where your mouth is. Put 'em in a field and let 'em fight it out. I'm running so fast my feet don't touch the ground. I'm a stranger here I'm going down. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Let's get this show on the road!" It's playoff time! Time to see what this team is really made of. The Redskins are the strangers to that playoff feeling. The Packers have the experience. Let's play!

Here are my quick thoughts over the last week:

* The ghosts of Lambeau's past were showing their faces as Teddy Bridgewater threw the ball left handed. They smiled down on 1265 Lombardi Ave as Mason Crosby forced a fumble. They flexed their muscles as Teddy Bridgewater mysteriously dropped a handoff to AP. The crowd was animated. The team wasn't good enough. In the Regular Season, the Packers didn't have the pension to seize victory. And, thus, we finished 10-6. We lost the NFC North crown to the 'queens. At the most hallowed of American theaters. That's an awful buzz. But, as a community, we must bounce back. As now, it's for real. Keep those vibes -- kind.

* I've been vocal about the relationship between Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Reading of their body languages - it hasn't seem healthy. There's appeared to be clear discontent. A true disgust that was lingering behind the scenes. It was frustrating to watch. McCarthy seemed infuriated by his inability to reach his 2x MVP QB. Rodgers appeared to be disgruntled. Unappreciative of his mastermind Head Coach. Neither had made a public comment to negate such thoughts. And, then Pete Dougherty wrote this article on Friday morning: - and if you haven't read it, buzz in. It's my favorite read of the year. They both admit to the conflict that has brought struggles, but they also both seem to have it behind it. Are they legit emotions? Possibly. Was it a PR stunt? Potentially. Either way - I embrace the article. It was a great way for both of them to put on their game faces. It offers hope that Clark Kent is walking into a phone booth. It's time to flip the proverbial light switch.

* If I could define the 2015 Regular Season in 3 plays, it'd be:

1.) 4th & 5. 2nd Quarter. Trailing 6-3. James Jones beats Xavier Rhodes on a double move. In past years, this would've been a TD. Jones had a step and a half. Instead, the reigning MVP was short on his pass and thus, the ball was knocked away. In 2015, Aaron Rodgers wasn't his MVP self.
2.) Trailing 13-3, but showing signs of life after a sublime Micah Hyde interception. It felt like a moment in which the Packers would cut the lead to a one-score game. 3rd & 12 after a questionable holding call on Corey Linsley negated a physical first-down run by Eddie Lacy. Josh Sitton playing LT for the first time in his NFL career. Playing it with less than a week of practice. A week in which there weren't even enough healthy DL for him to hone his skills, so he was practicing against a pass rushing OL. But, on this crucial 3rd down play, Sitton has to block a hard pursuing Everson Griffen. Sitton isn't up for the challenge as Griffen blows by him. Griffen hits Rodgers' arm just before the ball is released. The ball falls to the turf. The 'queens pick it up and return the ball 55 yards for a TD to make it 20-3. The 2015 team has suffered too many injuries to function. They gave a valiant effort. But, the results weren't good enough to claim the Division crown.
3.) Teddy Bridgewater fumbles the handoff to AP. The seems to bounce to YELLOW JAKE. But, YELLOW JAKE isn't able to win the fight for the ball. Instead, AP recovers. All year, the Packers have struggled to recover the loose football. They have won the 50/50 ball when it's been rolling on the turf. So close. Yet, so far away.

* Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising agin after you fall." The Packers have fallen. But, with the playoffs in the present, it's time RISE UP!

* Loving Jeff Janis as a gunner.

* Wake up, Kennard Backman.

* The 2015 Regular Season Green Bay Packers weren't good enough to overcome mistakes. They needed to be overly precise. Without perfect precision, the Packers didn't finish drives. On the opening drive, the Packers were dominating the line of scrimmage. Pounding the ball at the heart of the 'queens defense. Over the first 12 plays, the Packers drove the ball 69 yards. Mostly on the ground. And, then McCarthy calls a great roll-out to the left. AQ81 was open in the flat. Right in front of Rodgers. The reigning MVP didn't see him. Instead he threw the ball away. When the Packers haven't capitalized on those 2nd down plays, the drives have stalled. This was also evidenced prior to the 4th & 5 mis-throw by Rodgers. On 2nd & 4, Rodgers hit Cobb in the flat. Appeared like it'd definitely be a first-down and if he made one person miss, it could've been a TD. Instead Cobb dropped the ball. Eventually, the drive stalled.

* How do the Packers conduct a practice? If you have 53 players on the active roster and 18 are either not participating or limited participants, you're down to 35 players. Then, consider that 3 of those players are QB's and 3 are specialists. All of a sudden, you're down to 29 players who are taking part in practice. Further, consider that the top 6 OL on the roster are on the injury report. Not fully participating. Also, Raji, Guion, Elliott, Neal, Perry, Daniels, and Datone Jones have all been off and on the injury report over the last 2 weeks. With that said, how is Mike McCarthy expected to put together a game plan? McCarthy has often said that "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." So, without his team on the practice field, how is McCarthy supposed to prepare his team? Seems like an overwhelming challenge.

* I give heavy kudos to TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Josh Sitton, and David Bakhtiari. They are all warriors on the OL. A turn back the clock style of player. True fighters. 1960's type players. But, let's face it. When you don't practice all week and then you have to battle a beastly 300 pound man in 1 on 1 protection on Sunday, how do you expect them to consistently win? You'd have to imagine that they miss the mark on their ideal hand placement or that they miss the leverage battle on occasion - simply because they haven't been able to practice all week. You need repetition. It brings muscle memory. When you don't practice, how do you improve? How can you work on tendencies? You can't. And, thus, mistakes will occur.

* The Packers have run a timing offense. Based on precision. Oft mastered during the week and then put on display on Sundays. But, when you don't have your team on the practice field, how do you master your craft? You don't.

* I often wonder how much endurance is lost due to the team not practicing. Mike Daniels has come out as a ball of fire over the last couple of weeks. But, he wasn't able to sustain his energy throughout. He wore down. Can you blame him?

* Great to see Micah Hyde finding the football. Twice!

* Mason Crosby. WOW! Was almost a play for the ages.

* I'm seriously concerned about how long Sammy Swagga has been out with his injury. Didn't seem like a devastating blow when he hit the turf. Appeared to be mild contact. Clearly, it was more than what caught the eye. Vibes to Swagga! We miss him. Hope he's OK.

* I hope I never see another pass to Richard Rodgers in the flat again.

* The Packers need Justin Perillo moving sticks on short curl routes. A possession target. Who sits down in the middle of the defensive zone. Who finds the gaps. A guy that Rodgers can play pitch and catch with. Perillo has those talents.

* I'm afraid of seeing YELLOW JAKE in coverage on a RB again.

Sooner or later. It all gets real. Sunday is that day.

I remind myself that the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers weren't an impressive Regular Season team. The 2007 New York Giants were an average Regular Season team. The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers were not considered to be likely contenders. In 2010, the Packers found their way into the playoffs through the backdoor. In 2011, the Giants went 2011. In 2012, the Ravens stumbled into the playoffs. All won the Super Bowl.

In 2010, the Packers finished 10-6. They went to the NFC East Champions. Then, they went to the NFC South Champions. Then, they went to the NFC North Champions. History has a funny way of repeating itself. See you in Minnesota in a couple of weeks. Watch out, Pittsburgh. Pop Tarts comin' back again. Plus, Green Bay v Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 50 seems to make the most sense.

I kid, I kid. Kinda.

I'm not predicting a Packers Super Bowl. Not even close. But, the Packers have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play like he's the best player in the NFL. The Packers are built around Aaron Rodgers. It's time for him to put the cape on. It's time for him to carry the Packers. It's time for Rodgers to further his greatness. Aaron Rodgers has a chance to go down as one of the greatest QB's of all-time. But, in order to be considered, he has to shine in the playoffs. The lights are on. This is when careers are written. It's time for Rodgers to become untangled. It's time for Rodgers to etch his name into Legendary status. Without another Super Bowl, he'll never be considered amongst the likes of Montana and Brady. With one more, he enters the discussion. Prior to the year, I predicted 10-6 to 11-5. We finished 10-6. But, I also thought, let's get to the playoffs in see what happens. After all, we do have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play up to his standards.

In past years, the Packers have had a lot of pressure on themselves entering the playoffs. This year, there is none. Let's make a run!

The Redskins were 6-2 at home this year. They represent a dangerous opponent. Not unlike the Eagles in 2010. They're hot. Seemingly peaking. With DeSean Jackson as a lethal deep target.

Quick story. September 21, 2014. I turned to my brother-in-law. I tell him, "Someday, Kurt Cousins is going to be a starting QB in the Super Bowl." He has all of the tools. He sees the field. He makes quick decisions. He has enough mobility to move the ball with his legs. He needed to work on preventing mistakes. He was turnover prone. He seems to have fixed that part of his game.

Cousins has weapons. DeSean Jackson can still run. Without Sammy Swagga, I'm not sure that the Packers have anyone to cover him. I like our rookies, but neither of them can run with Jackson. Pierre Garcon is still a physical route runner who gets to the spot. Jamison Crowder is a solid slot receiver. Jordan Reed is arguably the 2nd most productive TE in football. He'll give the Packers fits. Matt Jones might be the best screen receiving RB in football. When Jones is on the field, the ball will be in his hands. Somehow. Some way. Either via the run or the pass. Alfred Morris isn't what he was a couple of years ago, but he's still a talented one-cut runner. But, the Washington OL can be bullied. It'll be up to Raji, Daniels, Neal, Peppers, Pennel, Perry and Guion to come out swinging.

Washington's defense gets after the QB. Chris Baker, Ryan Kerrigan, and Preston Smith can all flat-out rush the passer. Not fully one-dimensional players, but that's their best trait. If Bakhtiari isn't fit to go, I'm concerned. On the interior, Jason Hatcher will give Lang, Sitton and Linsley everything that they can handle. Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean-Francois rotate to add beef to the 'skins run stopping efforts. The Washington LB core can be exposed outside of Perry Riley. Riley is a baller. Trent Murphy is capable, but he's proven to be a hair too slow for the NFL. Will Compton doesn't scare anyone. The Redskins secondary can be beaten. DeAngelo Hall is still a fighter, but he can be beaten on double moves. Bashed Breeland is a high effort player, but he can be outmuscled. Both Breeland and Hall are gamblers. The Redskins signed Cary Williams this week. I presume that they expect him to play a role in the nickel. His best days are behind him. He's a grabber and is sure to get penalized if he sees the field. Dashon Goldson is a fierce intimidator in the middle of the field. I'm happy that Will Blackmon has had a nice career in the NFL. I've always liked Willie. He's a great athlete. But, he's an average Safety. At best.

Look for Rodgers to get the Redskins to jump offsides on a couple of plays with his hard count. The Redskins will be itching to get to the MVP. They'll be experiencing nerves in their first playoff game since 2012. They'll be jumpy. Rodgers takes advantage. He finds a big play.

The Redskins CB's get multiple penalties as they fight at the point of the Packers WR's routes.

The Packers struggle to cover Jordan Reed on comeback routes over the middle and in the flat on play-action roll-outs. He annoys the Packers. Garcon runs the 15 yard deep-in. He runs the 20 yard post. Jackson takes off on a fly route. Matt Jones gets 50 yards on screen plays. Alfred Morris pounds away between the tackles.

YELLOW JAKE plays strong in the run game.

The Packers line Peppers at DT on the right side of the defense on 3rd down. Clay is at OLB on the right side. Peppers collapses. Takes out the Guard and the Tackle. Clay stunts to the inside. He welcomes Cousins to playoff football.

At some point, Cousins gets knocked off his spot and throws off his back foot into the hands of a Packer. I'll predict that it's HaHa who makes the play.

Nick Perry grabs a sack. Dustin Hopkins misses a FG for the 'skins. Both teams score 5 times.

I've been waiting for weeks for Rodgers to have a vintage AARON RODGERS performance. It's gotta happen. He wings it all over the park. He finds his rhythm. He finds his California Surfer Smile. He plays with glee. He's on target. Almost amazingly, Davante Adams has a big day. So does Randall Cobb. Our Regular Season memories are erased. There's new belief in the steps of the good folk in Green Bay, WI. We live for another week. And, for a moment, all feels right in the world again.

Packers 27
Redskins 23

Call me the Jokerman. I still believe in the Green Bay Packers. I will until the season dies. Forgive me, I'm wired that way.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.