Friday, May 19, 2017

My Take -> Draft Weekend In Review

Greetings, G-Force.

I am more excited about the 2017 Green Bay Packers than I was about the 2015 & 2016 teams. I didn't like the vibe heading into 2015. I was more nervous than excited as the 2016 season approached. 2017 seems to bring a new energy, a rejuvenated feel. We felt magic towards the head of the 2016 season and the momentum is sure to carry over to the 2017 season. Additionally, Ted Thompson was aggressive. He's playing to win the Super Bowl this year. We haven't seen Ted act like this since 2014. I really like the make-up of this team.

As I marinate in Packers thought I sip a Brew Dr. Kombucha. The Clear Mind flavor. It's a concoction of green tea, peppermint, sage, rosemary and dandelion root. The peppermint speaks boldly. I listen to Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. 3. What a lyrical magician. Stimulates the writing mind.

Ted Thompson attacking Free Agency with a fierce mentality? Did that really happen? Yes, it did. In grandiose fashion. And, because of his approach towards the offseason, the Green Bay Packers should be both tougher and faster on both sides of the ball. May you stay Forever Young, TT!

For the first time since 1996, the Packers will have two lethal TE's. Martellus Bennett is a Green Bay Packer! The self-proclaimed Black Unicorn will be running down the seam creating mismatches for the Green Bay Packers! Bennett can split out wide, he can play in the slot and he can line up tight to the tackle. He'll be the best blocking TE the Packers have had since Mark Chmura. He'll be coupled with a WI product in Lance Kendricks. Kendricks will be a fun toy for Mike McCarthy. Kendricks can line up most places on the field. He moves really well. You can put him in motion to cause confusion. He can line up at FB. He, too, can line up on the outside and he can line up tight to the formation. He'll be a great addition.

Jahri Evans isn't TJ Lang, but he is a 4 time Pro Bowler who will bring attitude to the OL. If Evans can find his youth, the Packers OL won't miss a beat.

Ricky Jean Francois will add beef, toughness and quickness to the DL. He is familiar with the 3-4 defense. He'll be a welcomed veteran addition.

Davon House isn't a shut down CB, but I'm happy to see him back. He's an improvement over what we saw all of last year on the perimeter at CB. And, if he can find his 2015 form, he'll elevate the Packers defense to great levels.

I've never been more excited about a Packers draft. Ted Thompson absolutely crushed draft weekend. He filled needs with legitimate playmakers at the college level. Here's a quick overview on each pick along with a couple of tidbits on a few UDFA's that I am familiar with.

Round 2a. Kevin King. The Packers needed speed and length at CB. In King, they got both. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he was the best Red Zone CB in the draft. He uses the sideline as his teammate and he'll have the size/speed combination to compete with any WR in the NFL. He'll be a playmaker in Green Bay and if he can get more physical, he has the makings of becoming a shut down CB.

Round 2b. Josh Jones. I'm so stoked to see how the Packers utilize him. He's so versatile. Put him in the middle of the field and he's going to find the football. His speed will change the look of our defense. He has great agility. He's smart and he gets sideline to sideline with elite burst. I'm almost wondering if you could see Burnett and Jones at ILB, at times, with Brice and HaHa at safety. With that, the Packers defense would have heightened athleticism and would have more speed on the field than they've had in my lifetime. Jones could eventually become the type of player that offenses have to game plan around.

Round 3. Montravius Adams. Be excited. This dude is an athlete. True run stopper. He'll eat up blocks. He'll burst through the line of scrimmage. He's ultra quick off of the snap. His first step is elite. He flat-out destroys plays. Happy that he's wearing #90. Hoping he can be as much of a difference maker as Raji was in 2009 and 2010. I believe Adams will make an immediate impact on this defense. Adams dominated the line of scrimmage at the Senior Bowl. He was the quickest player off of the snap in the game. The concern around Adams is his effort. He often takes plays off. I cannot imagine Mike Daniels allowing Adams to rest. Daniels will push Adams to ensure

Round 4a. Vince Biegel. I love that Biegel is a Packer. He was such a stallion at WI. He instantly caught your eye as a Badger. He's a high effort performer with a great jump off of the ball. A blue collar performer who has above average athleticism. A great first step. He's terrific in the run game. He's an intense pass rusher. He'll be a great addition to Titletown, U.S.A. I'm worried about his injury. The Packers need him to be effective Week 1. He'll allow Capers to have versatility with using his players. I'd be thrilled to see Biegel and Perry on the edge with Matthews flying up the middle on passing downs. Biegel is a dynamic playmaker who will bring high intelligence to the defense and if he's healthy, Biegel will instantly add a pass rushing fire to the defense.

Round 4b. Jamaal Williams. He’s the back that the Packers really needed to add after losing Lacy. He has the toughness to handle 20+ carries a game for an extended stretch. He plays through pain. He’s a tough runner with excellent vision. He sees the hole and he explodes through the hole. He’s a really solid decision maker as a runner. One thing that really catches your eye is that regardless of the opponent, he seemed to produce the same way. He consistently pounded through the hole and he seemingly broke into the open field at least one time every game. He might not have HR speed, but he produced HR results each and every week. His game translates to the NFL. He’s not overly shifty and with the exception of his vision and decision making as a runner - not one thing stands out as though he does it exceptionally well – but he is capable of tackling every task necessary to be a successful NFL RB. The more you watch Williams, the more you love Williams. I'm expecting big things from Williams this year. Maybe not in September, but as the season grows and the weather turns, I envision Williams playing a more integral role in this offense.

Round 5a. Deangelo Yancey. First and foremost, don't be surprised if Yancey gets a significant look as a gunner on special teams and as a punt returner. He showed well as a gunner in the East-West shrine game. He also returned punts. He occasionally shows inconsistent hands and that might be a concern as a punt returner, but he'll get a look at winning the punt returner job. He has great feet, he plays quick and has explosion. He doesn't take plays off as he's a true hustler. He brings the ability to get deep. He's a hard working route runner, but he sometimes rounds off his cuts on the out route. We know Rodgers won't allow Yancey to round off his routes at the NFL level. When the ball is in his hands, he's not easy to bring down. Yancey will fight for extra yards. He's also a really talented blocking WR.

Round 5b. Aaron Jones. He is a really powerful back for being under 5-10. He lives on yards after contact to get himself to the open field. He has soft hands out of the backfield which creates the possibility of him being not just a situational back but a 3-down back. He sheds tackles in a variety of ways. He will run through you, he's quick enough to get to the corner, he'll drop the stiff arm and he has a little shake to him as well.

Round 6. Kofi Amichia. I love this pick. Terrific developmental prospect at Guard. He was a Tackle in college. He is an uber athletic player. He moves really well. He's powerful. A dynamite athlete. He moves really well laterally and if he is in a position to be a pulling guard, he'll be quick enough to get himself into space. He'll show really well in the screen game. He's an intimidating presence. The kind of guy you want leading your team off of the bus. He moved people with pure brutality at the college level. I expect him to have a good career in Green Bay.

Round 7a. Devante Mays. He's built differently than the other backs in camp. Physically, he's structured as a bigger, more powerful back. But, he carries his 230 lbs very well and plays with a little bit of juke to him. He has short spurts of acceleration like he has a turbo button on his remote control. He has good hands. He can shake defenders in the open field as well as run thru them. He has the athleticism to get to the corner. He's a disciplined runner who plays with patience with the ball in his hands.

Round 7b. Malachi Dupre. Be excited. He's incredibly talented. He's a long receiver with great concentration. He has the ability to line up in the slot as well as on the outside of the formation. He releases well off of the snap when he's put in motion. He's an underrated blocker who is willing to get physical in the run game. He can get deep. He's not afraid to work across the middle of the field. He wins jump balls. He's a reliable third down target. He seems to be a good teammate. He loves to celebrate his teammates successes. He often the first to congratulate his teammates after a big play, hustling down field for a moment of jubilation. In short, he has a legitimate chance to be a star.

I'm familiar with a couple of UDFA's that will be in camp. Again, if I haven't studied him, I won't comment.

Taysom Hill. I'm really animated to see Hill play at the NFL level. He has a great arm. Plays with field awareness. Terrific mobility. Smart QB. Can make all of the throws. Was somewhat surprised that he went undrafted. He fits the Packers scheme of a targeted QB. I'd think that he'll outperform Callahan in camp. Hill has all of the tools to be an NFL QB. He's tough. He has NFL size. Really like his pocket presence. Good accuracy on the deep ball. Not afraid to gun it into traffic. Throws receivers open. A true gamer at the college level. He could sneak onto the 53-man roster and if he doesn't make the roster, I'll be really surprised if he doesn't make the practice squad.

Geoff Gray. He's a finesse blocker. He'll compete at Guard, but he's not going to overpower anyone. He's quick to get to the LB and he has solid lateral movement. He needs to put on muscle. He has the potential to be a pulling guard who'd do well in space.

Adam Pankey. Really liked Pankey at Dub-V as a Tackle. Also plays Guard. Likely translates to Guard in the NFL. He bellies up with defenders and plays with an attitude. He looks to win the muscle war and plays with leverage. He'll need to move his feet better as he can get beat with quickness. He's a better run blocker than a pass blocker. He'll be a really nice developmental prospect in camp who'll compete for a roster spot on Day 1. At worst, I imagine that he'll be on the Practice Squad.

William Stanback. He’s the kind of player that I’m happy the Packers took a chance on. He appeared as though stardom was on his horizon early in his college career. Then, he had issues with the herb as a college kid and he lost his scholarship. Obviously, it’s a sign of immaturity, but he deserves a shot to see if he’s grown up and I’m happy to see he’s getting his chance in Titletown, USA. He’s a physical runner, with soft hands and runs with great patience. He has a good burst. He’s quicker than fast. He powers through arm tacklers. He really punishes tacklers. He could be a sleeper to make the 53 man roster and if he doesn’t make it, you’d have to think that he’s a prime candidate to be targeted for the practice squad.

Kalif Phillips. He is an interesting prospect for my eye because he plays different than he looks like he would. He looks like the type of back that you’d like to get in the open field. He has that sort of quickness, too. But, that’s not necessarily his game. He takes choppy, quick footed steps. He surges through the hole. He’s a patient runner. He seems to play with composure as he trusts his OL to open a lane for him. And, when he gets to the 2nd level he becomes a thick necked, broad shouldered bull of a runner as he uses his powerful body to seek contact. He’s a stout ball of muscle who has the makings of being a mudder that is equally as quick in December as he is in September. I'm excited that he's wearing #34, just like Edgar Bennett did.

Lenzy Pipkins. He's an excitable CB who was lost in the shuffle in a 3 man CB rotation at Oklahoma State. He played like a star in his bowl game against Colorado. He's not afraid to jam at the line. He isn't shy on contact. He has a powerful lower body. He's highly athletic. He prefers to open his hips to see the field as he covers deep routes. He prefers to see the field rather than keeping the WR to the outside and using the sideline as his friend. He has good make-up speed. He's gets in and out of his breaks. He jumps comeback routes, but he's conservative in his approach. He's not the type of CB who's going to get beaten on a double move. He's agile enough to play in the slot and has the athletic ability to play on the perimeter. He'll add to the competition at CB in a big way.

Johnathan Calvin. He's an elephant end with good size. He can also move to the inside as an interior pass rusher. At the NFLPA Bowl, he was exclusively used as a DT in the 4-3. Pro Football Focus listed him as the highest graded player in the NFLPA game. He has to learn to use his length to disrupt passing lanes when he's stood up as an interior pass rusher, but he's a high effort performer. On the outside, when he's attacking with space, he plays with good depth, but he needs to play with better leverage to drive the OL backwards and to collapse the pocket as an interior pass rusher. He extends his hands well to separate from the OL, but he doesn't get the push you'd desire. He has the athleticism to occasionally drop into space. He has experience standing up as well as playing with his paws in the dirt. Calvin's size and physique make him an intriguing UDFA. I'm curious to see if he could potentially compete for the role that was vacated by Datone Jones.

Justin Vogel. Look for Vogel to give Jacob Schum all he can handle. Vogel is a great punter. He doesn't have an ultra strong leg, but he's accurate as can be. He's expert at pinning teams deep. He can flip field position quickly. While he doesn't boom punts, he'll almost always have high quality hang time. He's noted for limiting the oppositions return yardage. Additionally, Vogel is comfortable holding in the kicking game.

The position that will be most intensely watched heading into OTA's and Training Camp will be FA. The Packers enter OTA's with 5 new RB's on the roster. A lot of the backs have the same characteristics with patience and vision being at the core of their running philosophies. And what intrigues me the most is that the Packers RB situation isn't as rough as some make it out to be. Montgomery and RIP combine to make a decent situation at RB. All the Packers need is for one of these 5 backs to become a quality addition and the position will be in a good position to rotate players and keep everyone fresh. I'm confident that we will not only see 1 player, but likely 2 who will be able to make a solid impact this year.

Heading into this offseason, I was concerned. I thought the Packers window for winning a title was possibly going to close. I knew the Packers had FA's that were likely going to get more money than I wanted Ted Thompson to pay. The Packers were going to lose multiple valuable performers. Packers guys. Thompson guys. Traditionally, Thompson has re-upped these players, but not this time. TT held his ground. He managed the cap well. He's revitalized the roster. He's injected the team with a new personality. All the while, the Packers still have more than $18 million in cap room. They're in a position to potentially add an Elvis Dumervil or to trade for a Sheldon Richardson. Or TT could ante up Aaron Rodgers' money and pay it forward. He could also pay the likes of HaHa, Linsley or Davante Adams with that money as they are pending FA's. He can also save the money and head into 2018 FA with over $40 million in cap room. He's most likely accumulated 4 compensatory picks for next years draft. He'll go into the 2018 Draft with 11 picks and he'll likely have 4 of the top 107 picks at his disposal. It was a crucial offseason and Ted Thompson was victorious with a methodical, savvy approach. And, all the while, the future of the Packers remains healthy. The winning window remains wide open.

I'm fired up! Ready to go!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com











Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Take -> Sublimely Crafted Packers Mock Draft

Greetings, G-Force.

It's that time of year again. Where we make or break our off-season each year. Draft weekend. It's the heartbeat of the Packers personnel departments job.

The Packers enter into Draft weekend with 63 players on their roster. By the end of the weekend, they can have as many as 90. Once again, Ted Thompson will load up on un-drafted free agents. Last year, he scored mightily with UDFA's. Geronimo Allison had a great year for an UDFA, Kentrell Brice showed flashed brilliance in his rookie year, and Marwin Evans had a dominant preseason. Entering 2017, Ted Thompson will possibly be counting on 2016 UDFA's Joe Callahan, Don Jackson, Lucas Patrick, Josh Hawkins, Brian Price and Reggie Gilbert to fill out the depth of his roster. Further, it's likely that Ted Thompson will, once again, need to strike it rich with UDFA's in 2017 in order for the Packers to have the depth to compete for a Super Bowl title.

Don't sleep on Reggie Gilbert. I have high hopes for him. Yes, I just wrote that. And, yes, I just dedicated a paragraph to Reggie Gilbert. Such is life as a Green Bay Packers fan. At times, we have to tightly grip onto the prospects of an UDFA who was on the Practice Squad for his rookie season.

I've turned to Peter Tosh's Bush Doctor album to bring the positivity for this writing session. I'm sipping Alo Aloe Vera Juice. Haven't had a beer in nearly 2 months. Call it a mid-life crisis. Turned 40. Went insane. Instead of beer, I sip GT's Kombucha. The Grape Chia and the Raspberry Chia flavors are my favorite. I've also turned to Happy Leaf Kombucha, on occasion. And, I drink Aloe. Won't last forever, but I'm enjoying it today.

As always, I like the thought of 4 of the top 100 picks. The Packers might be in a position at the end of R1 that would allow them to trade out and to acquire an additional top 100 pick. The Packers need players who are going to make an impact in Year 1. There's immediate help needed at OLB, ILB, and CB. These positions require talent that can immediately provide playmaking abilities. With the exception of bringing back Nick Perry and adding both Davon House and Ricky Jean Francois, Ted Thompson ignored the defensive side of the ball this offseason. The last time we saw this defense, it gave up 44 points. Thompson has to strike gold on with defensive gems on Draft weekend. A 4th pick in the top 100 would help to get the added defensive talent.

This is not what I think will happen, but it's what I want to happen. It's what I would do if I were Ted Thompson. With that, here's my Mock Draft:

Round 1: TJ Watt, OLB, WI.
Round 2: Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA.
Round 3: Derek Rivers, OLB, Youngstown St.
Round 4: Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida.
Round 5a: Rasul Douglas, CB, WV.
Round 5b: Jordan Evans, ILB, Oklahoma.
Round 6: DJ Jones, DL, Ole Miss.
Round 7: Steven Taylor, ILB, Houston.

As always, I only comment on a player if I saw him play and if he jogged my mind in some way. If I didn't watch him, I don't comment. Here's my rankings for each positional group coupled with a quick overview of the present state of the Packers union at the position:

QB: The Packers presently have the 3 QB's on the team that will compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Rodgers and Hundley are locks. If Callahan plays as he did in the preseason last year, he, too, will make the team. Since I don't envision the Packers drafted a roster, I'll only list the late round and UDFA possibilities that caught my eye.

1.) Josh Dobbs, Tennessee. Round 6-7. Big, strong, athletic QB. Looks the part. Has the tools and played with big-time composure leading the Vols to multiple comeback wins late in games. Heavy upside. Big undisciplined. Would be a project. But, if Hundley is only around for another year, it might be wise to start fulfilling his back-up. Dobbs would benefit from sitting on the sideline and studying for a couple of years.

2.) CJ Beathard, Iowa. Round 6-7. Smart QB who generally makes good decisions. Underrated athlete. Has a shot to be a good back-up QB who could develop into a QB that can manage a game if pressed into action.

3.) Cooper Rush, Central Michigan. Round 7-UDFA. Lacks arm strength, but brings great command to the huddle. Never say die mentality. Gutty performer who plays with great moxie. Fearless. Smart. Coachable.

4.) Mitch Leidner, Minnesota. UDFA. Looks like an NFL player in his uniform. Moves really well. Tough QB who isn't afraid to take a hit. Presents challenges for defenses due to his athleticism.

5.) Greg Ward, Houston. UDFA. When he was on the field, he was always as athletically gifted as anyone else. Elusive. Likely translates as a WR, but played QB in college. He's dangerous with the ball in his hands.

6.) Phillip Walker, Temple. UDFA. Total athlete. Like Ward, he's possibly a slot WR. Every time he touches the ball, he's a threat. Tough to bring down. Unlikely a QB at the next level, but worth a camp body as a WR.

RB: The Packers enter Draft weekend with Montgomery, Michael, Jackson, Rip, and Kerridge on the team. Not lethal, but you can win with that combination. Especially if Rip is used as an occasional ball carrier. And, if Michael can learn the offense during the offseason. Nonetheless, the Packers have to add a couple of backs over the weekend. For the record, I don't see the Packers drafting a RB in the first round. If they do, Fournette, McCaffrey, and Cook will be off the board. Really, if the Packers are drafting RB in rounds 2-4, I want Mixon or Mack. Mixon is a short-term PR nightmare, but in the words of Bob Marley "The road of life is rocking. And you may stumble, too. So, while you talk about me, someone else is judging you. Judge not. Before you judge yourself." I don't like what Mixon did, but I'm not going to judge him for it. Guys like Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey, Matthew Dayes, TJ Logan, and Elijah McGuire do not interest me all that much.

1.) Alvin Kamara, Tennessee. Round 1-2. Kamara is electrifying. When the ball is in his hands, he's lethal. He's an uber dangerous punt returner as well. He's one cut and he's gone. Fully fits into the Packers scheme. Catches the ball out of the backfield. A match-up nightmare. Plays faster than everyone else on the field.

2.) Joe Mixon, Oklahoma. Round 2-3. Take out the off-field issues and he's a top-15 pick. I'd have him #2 on my list of RB's. Behind Fournette. But, the off-field issues make him a huge question mark. If you can stomach his issues and he's around in the 3rd round, you draft him. Think LeSean McCoy. A true weapon in the open field. Shakes defenders. Outruns them. Surprisingly powerful. He catches the ball like a WR. As a receiver, I'm not sure how you'd defend him. He can do it all.

3.) Marlon Mack, South Florida. Round 3-4. Great speed. Power runner. Terrific HR hitting RB. Good receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Plays as though he's the fastest player on the field.

4.) Brian Hill, Wyoming. Round 3-4. Runs with great patience. Feel like he plays faster than he timed. Good hands. Doesn't have the vision that other backs in this draft class have, but his patience allows him to find the hole.

5.) Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Round 3-4. Reminds me a little of Brandon Jackson, but more powerful. Smaller is height, but shifty. Has shake. Nose for the sticks. A bit of a burst.

6.) Wayne Gallman, Clemson. Round 3-4. Fits the Packers scheme as a one-cut runner. Confidently carries the ball and attacks defenders. Runs a little like a young Starks. Upright. Can occasionally win the corner. Can occasionally power through you. Competitive fighter with the ball.

7.) D'Onta Foreman, Texas. Round 3-4. Great size, but often plays as though he's smaller than he stands. High level athlete who plays with better speed than you'd think when looking at his physique. Can get into the secondary. Has great upside if he could learn to play with the physicality that his body would allow.

8.) Kareem Hunt, Toledo. Round 3-4. Love his vision. Not sure that he fits into the current mold of the Packers offense, which seems to focus more on spreading defenses out and playing with pace. Grabbing chunks of yards. But, Hunt would bring a toughness that only Rip offers in the back. Not going to grab big yards but he'll fight forward. Like Eddie Lacy, he'll hit you with a spin move that allows him to maneuver well for a big back. Vision should allow him to be a solid one-cut runner.

9.) James Conner, Pitt. Round 5-6. Physical runner. Falls forward upon contact. Cancer survivor. Tough minded runner who plows through would-be tacklers. If Ted Thompson is looking for an Eddie Lacy replacement, Conner is it. Except you won't have to ever wonder whether Conner is motivated. He's ready to run.

10.) Dare Ogunbowale, WI. Round 6-7. Outstanding athleticism. Like his footwork and his ability to get loose from LB's. Like his ability as a runner and felt like he was underutilized in college.

11.) Joe Williams, Utah. Round 6-7. Great fighter as a runner. Runs with good rhythm. Runs with purpose. Runs with intent. Can beat you with both power and quickness. Concerned that he has a flawed attitude as I don't understand why he quit football earlier in the year, but when he's between the stripes he pounds away with desire. Has a slashy way to him as well.

12.) I'Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee. Round 7. Showed durability and production as a Senior. Great hands out of the backfield. Fantastic athlete who brings confident footwork and agility to the second level. His ability to move laterally allowed him to defeat would-be tacklers in the open field. Finds the marker and moves sticks.

13.) Jarveon Williams, UTSA. Round 7-UDFA. Powerful for his height. Great lower body strength allows him to power through arm tackles. Like his footwork and his ability to catch the football. Finds himself in the open space and plays quicker than he timed.

14.) Jahad Thomas, Temple. Round 7-UDFA. An undersized back who has a big bodied mind. Elusive in the open field. Would be great in the screen game and bring return value. He can get North-South with a shifty approach. Great vision.

WR: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis return. Nelson, Cobb, Adams and Allison are locks. Janis brings value as a gunner. Trevor Davis is one of the few guys on the team that has experience as a punt returner. I'd be surprised if the Packers drafted a WR in the first 4 rounds. But, Ted Thompson loves himself WR's, so you know we're going to bring in 3-4 WR's over the weekend via the Draft and UDFA.

1.) Jehu Chesson, Michigan. Round 4-5. Big. Fast. Sure handed. Makes big plays. Would love him in Green Bay. Ran a 4.47. Plays faster than that. Fits into the Packers mold of WR's as he's a great blocker as well as a smooth route runner. Has shake to him after the ball is in his hands. Threat to score from anywhere on the field. Reminds me a bit of Geronimo.

2.) KD Cannon, Baylor. Round 5-6. Love his speed and his athleticism. Fear his frame. He's thin. He's a deep threat that would stretch defenses.

3.) Noah Brown, Ohio State. Round 5-6. Tremendous physical attributes. Still raw. Would fit in Green Bay as a developmental prospect that wasn't forced to see playing time early in the year. Battles for the football and has the potential to be a lethal Red Zone target as he masters body control.

4.) Chad Williams, Grambling. Round 6-7. Simply stated, Williams dominated the competition. Great hands and body control. Physical receiver. Does a great job of separating from defenders when the ball is in the air. Wins jump balls. Off-field issues are a possible concern.

5.) Tim Patrick, Utah. Round 7. Great height. Great speed. At times, he flat out dominated. Looks like a difference maker in his uniform, but lacks body control. Huge project. Doesn't adjust well to the ball in air and struggles to make plays on inaccurate throws. Has all of the physical tools. Will need patience, but he can play if he chooses to focus on being a true pro.

6.) Stacy Coley, Miami. Round 7. Talented. When focused, he's a first-tier route runner. Gets in and out of his breaks. Not always focused, but when he's energized to win, he's dynamite. But, he's inconsistent. Disappeared often. Has had injury concerns as well.

7.) Robert Wheelwright, WI. Round 7-UDFA. Yes, I'm a WI homer. But, I truly feel that Wheelwright didn't get the attention he deserves due to subpar QB play. I love the way he runs the deep crossing route, which is a staple of the Packers offense. Sub-par hands, but the guy gets open. Didn't time well, but he plays with football speed. Love the way he fights for the ball and isn't shy running across the middle. Shields defenders from the ball with his body. High effort performer. A Ted Thompson football player kind of mentality.

8.) James Summers, East Carolina. UDFA. Just get him the ball. He'll make plays. He's tireless. He'll line up anywhere. He just wants the ball in his hands. With the Packers use of WR's at RB last year, Summers would fit. Summers often played RB. He'd take snaps and plow through the line. He's a solid pass catcher as well. He's the type of utility player that Ted Thompson would call a "Football Player."

9.) DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue. Round 7-UDFA. Brings deep threat abilities. Gets over the top and works hard in his routes. When he catches the ball, he's thinking about a big play. Inconsistent hands but seems to play with the right attitude.

10.) Artavis Scott, Clemson. Round 7-UDFA. Smooth underneath route runner. Gamer. Lacks ideal NFL speed. But could operate well in the slot as he's great getting in-and-out of his breaks in short spaces. Quicker than fast. Lacks deep speed and would have limitations as he couldn't play on the perimeter.

11.) Damore'ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss. Round 7-UDFA. Uses height really well to win 50/50 balls. Can get over the top for the deep ball. Needs work on the underneath routes, but has great upside due to his size. Showed good hands on contested throws.

12.) Quincy Adeboyejo, Ole Miss. Round 7-UDFA. Has all of the intangibles. 4-4 speed. 6-3. Lean frame with ability to put mass on. Showed a bunch of promise, but still raw. Still a developmental prospect as he didn't see large targets due to the large number of elite targets Ole Miss has had in his time there. Would benefit from a team like the Packers where he could learn under top-tier WR's and an elite QB.

13.) Jamari Staples, Louisville. Round 7-UDFA. I am a sucker for that 6-3 WR who can get deep. Even if he displays inconsistent hands. Big play target who smells on a big play on each snap.

14.) Michael Rector, Stanford. Round 7-UDFA. Reminds me of a young Antonio Freeman. He plays with speed. If he gets in the open field, he's going to make plays. Doesn't look 6-0 in his uniform, but he stands it. Occasionally, he drop passes, but you know what you're going to get and that's production. He seems to always get open whenever you need a big play. A gamer. Shows when the lights are on.

15.) Brandon Reilly, Nebraska. Round 7-UDFA. As the Packers target an added deep threat, Reilly will be considered. He gets over the top. He's a big-play threat on each snap. Outruns defenders and adjusts to the ball well when it's in the air.

16.) Rodney Adams, South Florida. Round 7-UDFA. If it weren't for his kick returning skills, I probably wouldn't be mentioning him. But, he's a lethal kickoff returner and the Packers need a return man. Stands 6-1, plays longer than that. Thin, lanky frame. Doesn't separate exceptionally well, but he's a fierce runner for his size when the ball is in his hands.

17.) Austin Carr, Northwestern. UDFA. Not going to outrun anyone, but if you watched him play the Badgers, he caught your attention. He was unstoppable. He almost single handedly carried Northwestern. Great route runner. Each stride seems calculated. Solid hands.

TE: Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers. You wouldn't think that the Packers would draft a TE. But, think again. The Packers WILL add two TE's this weekend. Even if they come in UDFA. And, as we know, Ted Thompson likes to prepare for the future. With Richard Rodgers becoming a Free Agent after this year, it wouldn't shock me if the Packers drafted a TE. Crazy as it sounds. Thompson won't get OJ Howard or David Njoku. Evan Engram will also likely be off the board before the Packers are ready to pick a TE. The same likely applies to Gerald Everett. Everyone else is a possibility.

1.) Jordan Leggett, Clemson. Round 3-4. I questioned his run blocking skills for most of the year. I questioned his desire to block and I wasn't interested in him because of it. But, the more I watched Leggett, the more I became interested. He's massive at 6-5, 250+. And, he uses his frame very well to fend off defenders. He plays with great speed. He uses his hands to catch the football. He can stretch the field. He's a go-to receiver in the clutch. He's a lethal 3rd down option. With the Packers growing infatuation with the TE, Leggett fits.

2.) Jake Butt, Michigan. Round 3-4. Without the knee injury, he was a top 60 pick. But, with the knee injury, you have to wonder how far he falls and when he'll be ready. Butt is a great blocker. He sits in the zone well and is the ultimate safety valve for the QB. He's smart. He falls forward. He's a natural leader. He's intelligent. If he makes it all the way back from injury, he'll have a great 10 year NFL career.

3.) George Kittle, Iowa. Round 3-4. Have to love Iowa TE's. Kittle is an ideal TE for the Packers offense. He does it all. He's a great route runner, he's a high effort blocker, and he has fantastic hands. He's an overachiever. Packers fans would love him. He can play tight to the line of scrimmage, but you can also shift him into the backfield as a blocking FB. Moves well. Good athleticism. Runs by defenders, too.

4.) Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas. Round 4-5. Really strong run-blocker. Loves to block. For the most part, he displayed reliable hands. Routes a sharp out route like a true pro. Physical football player. Adjusts well on the move. Tough football man.

5.) Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech. Round 4-5. Almost comes across as a WR. Although he's 257 lbs, his weight hides well on his 6-6 frame. Looks as though he could play similarly to Jared Cook. He can stretch the middle of the field or you can line him up outside and run vertical routes with his 4.57 speed. He presents mismatch problems all over the field. He's a limited blocker and at times, he flat-out appears unwilling to block. Will get pushed around at the line of scrimmage as a blocker in the NFL. But, has monstrous receiving abilities.

6.) Cole Hikutini, Louisville. Round 5-6. Willing blocker. Doesn't always win the blocking fight, but he's in the play to battle. Good underneath route runner. Uses his hands well both to get separation and to catch the ball. Lacks elite speed, but he's an athletic TE who should be able to make an immediate impact in the NFL as a situational TE.

7.) Wyatt Houston, Utah State. Round 7-UDFA. Great size. Solid hands. Fantastic blocker who almost acts as an extra OL. Also has solid hands. But, he's not fleet of foot. Won't stretch the field. Will rely on size, intelligence and using his frame to create separation.

8.) Michael Roberts, Toledo. Round 7-UDFA. Mammoth TE. Plays much softer than you'd think. Almost appears as though he'd prefer to play on the outside or standing up near the line than with his hand in the dirt. Looks uncomfortable with his hand in the dirt and doesn't release well. But, at 6-4, 270, he can't be ignored. And, what's wild is that he almost looks taller than 6-4 on the field.

9.) Pharaoh Brown, Oregon. Round 7-UDFA. At one point, Brown looked like a future NFL star. Then, he hurt his leg in ugly fashion. Couple the injury with QB issues for the Ducks and Brown never realized his potential as a collegiate. But, he's 6-6, 255. An immense target and a football mind and a tough, physical football presence. Hands are suspect though.

OL: Frankly, I don't study it at the college level as much as I'd like. So, I'll be shy with projections here. The Packers appear to have a hole at Guard. Call me crazy, but I think Kyle Murphy can fill that void. After the Packers drafted Murphy last year, I wrote: "Murphy might end up being best suited for G. He lacks quickness and might not have the footwork to play Tackle." I had penciled Murphy in as the starting Guard until the Jahri Evans signing. Evans' signing shows us that Ted Thompson is going for the title this year. He wants to enter the 2017 without holes. Evans' signing allows the Packers to focus on RB and the defense during the draft. Granted, the Packers will add competition this weekend, but the need isn't as pressing as it was prior to Evans' addition. Admittedly, I feel comfortable talking about 4 Guards: Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; Dan Feeney, Indiana; Danny Isidora, Miami; and Adam Pankey, WV. The Packers might consider Pankey as a late round selection. Pankey played both Guard and Tackle. Thompson likes the college tackle who can move to guard. Pankey is a strong straight-line blocker who'd do well standing up to physical DL. He has the talent to play Day 1.

DL: The Packers have bodies along the DL. But, due to Guion's suspension, it's possible that the Packers draft a DL depending on how Brian Price is viewed. Clark, Daniels, Lowry, and Jean Francois are locks, but the Packers need at least one more body while they wait for Guion to return. My problem is that most of the DL in this draft appear similar to me. Jaleel Johnson and Vincent Taylor look like 3-down players, but I'm not sure if there are any others. It appears to me that most players that sit between Round 3 and beyond have a lot of similarities. Their is a glaring pass rushing weakness.

1.) Malik McDowell, Michigan State. Round 1-2. The knock on McDowell is that he's inconsistent and that he gets lazy. He doesn't always show up. While that's true, if you line him up next to Mike Daniels, he won't be allowed to be lazy. He'll have to be a fighter. And, when McDowell plays with aggression, he's as good as it gets. He has Pro Bowl potential. Has great instincts. He's an outstanding athlete. But, he didn't produce as you'd expect at Michigan State.

2.) Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State. Round 2-3. What a beast! A physical specimen who is motivated to terrorize the OL. He punishes the line of scrimmage. I love his game. He can stop the rush. He can apply pressure. He's a fighter who'd look great in a rotation with Daniels and Clark for years to come.

3.) Jaleel Johnson, Iowa. Round 2-3. Johnson did it all at Iowa. He got to the QB. He played the run. He was a three down player. He'd provide an interior push at the NFL level as well. He's a high effort player who will make an immediate impact as a rookie. Plays with great recognition. Elevates in key moments.

4.) Chris Wormley, Michigan. Round 2-3. Aggressive, mean defender. Highly intense. When he uses his arms to get separation and to extend, he's elite, but he occasionally gets sucked in and then he gets moved. Doesn't play with the quickness that you'd like, but he makes up with it via effort and intensity.

5.) Montravius Adams, Auburn. Round 2-3. He's an athletic run stopper who is best used eating up blocks. Not an overwhelming pass rusher, but he's ultra quick off of the snap. When he wins with his first step, watch out because he's going to destroy the play, but he isn't as high of an effort player as Vincent Taylor.

6.) Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte. Round 2-3. He's an anchor on the DL. He's tough to move. He stacks, sheds and moves OL out of the way. He also plays with great quickness. But, he's raw since he played lesser talent. Might be a bit more developmental than you'd like out of a Day 2 pick.

7.) Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA. Round 3-4. Dude does more than hold his ground. He moves ground. He overpowers OL. Like most of the DL in this draft, he's not going to be a pass rusher. He's going to win run downs. But, he's strictly a situational player.

8.) Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama. Round 3-4. Another great run stopping defender. He eats blockers and clears the way for the ILB's behind him. Not going to show up well in the stat box, but he does all of the dirty work. A true team player. Hard worker who perseveres on nearly every play.

9.) Davon Godchaux, LSU. Round 3-4. Has all of the gifts to be a star. I worry about his desire. Disappears at times. Great explosion off the snap, when he's motivated. Had a great statistical year and didn't even seem to care half of the time. A lot of untapped potential.

10.) Carlos Watkins, Clemson. Round 4. True leader. Great heart. Plays with instincts. Recognizes plays quickly. Reads and reacts really well. Will outperform his ability with sheer desire.

11.) Ryan Glasgow, Michigan. Round 4-5. He'll produce on effort alone. Great locker room guy. Doesn't seem to want attention, just wants to go about his business and make plays. Will make a great rotational DL who won't allow an OL to take a play off. He's playing at 110% each and every play. Would fit in well along the Packers DL.

12.) Elijah Qualls, Washington. Round 4-5. Wish Qualls had a little more height because I love his game. A magnificent athlete with a team-first mentality. Showed a surprising amount of pass rush skills at the college level, which probably won't translate to the NFL game. Nonetheless, he has great burst off the ball, but at 6-1, he'll have to be a run-stopper to start. I fear he might get eaten up - at times - at the next level.

13.) DJ Jones, Ole Miss. Round 6-7. Great lateral movement in the run game. Tough to move. Wish he was an inch taller, but he's stocky enough to where he's tough to move and would eat up blocks in run down situations. He's a stout run defender.

14.) Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, USC. Round 6-7. Guy just gobbles up OL. True definition of a run defender. Slow off the ball, but just stacks upon contact. He's physical and he stands his territory with an armored protection. On passing downs, he's non-existent.

15.) Joey Ivey, Florida. Round 7-UDFA. He has moments of brilliance and then he disappears. But, when he's displaying his greatness he'll be a disruptive force that dominates plays. The struggle will be to ensure that he's consistently motivated.

16.) Ondre Pipkins, Texas Tech. Round 7-UDFA. Pipkins is a run stopper. He's disruptive with his hands. He's a muscular big bodied defender who will compete in run down situations.

OLB: The Packers might appear to have some depth at OLB with Perry, Matthews, Fackrell, Elliott and Gilbert. However, Perry and Matthews have major injury histories. Fackrell has left a lot to be desired in limited playing time - with the exception of a couple of splash plays. Elliott has never seen his game translate into a high performer during the regular season. As mentioned, I have really high hopes for Gilbert, but I have to be realistic about whether I'd bank my season on him becoming a legitimate rotational player this year. I'm hopeful. I really am. But, I'm not going to lay money on the line over it.

1.) TJ Watt, WI. Round 1. He makes so much sense. Imagine growing up in WI. Having a natural affection for the Packers. And, then, you're running out of Lambeau Field every Sunday? Think you'd be motivated? He has ideal size. He's still learning the position. His upside is tremendous. He's a great athlete. He'a high effort player. He has fantastic length. Never gives up on a play. It'd be a perfect selection for Ted Thompson, if Watt is available.

2.) Jordan Willis, Kansas State. Round 1-2. Dude can flat-out rush the passer. He gets off the snap in elite fashion and he turns the corner with brilliance. He dominates the line of scrimmage and has burst that cannot be coached.

3.) Charles Harris, Missouri. Round 1-2. Pass rushing specialist. Wide array of moves to get to the QB. But, he disappears at times and at crucial moments. Other times, he owned the line of scrimmage as a pass rusher. Intriguing first step. Looks like a natural 3-4 OLB prospect.

4.) Takkarist McKinley, UCLA. Round 1-2. Unbelievable burst off of the line. Has a top of the line energy and offers consistency as a pure pass rusher. Makes plays in the run game, too. Offers a nice mix of pass rushing options, but he's best when he turns the corner. He has a sharp cut move off the edge that tackles can't compete with.

5.) Tyus Bowser, Houston. Round 2. High powered motor. Excellent pass rushing skills. Fantastic athlete. Should be able to develop skills that allow him to drop into coverage as well. Can get swallowed at times by the OL, but when he wins off of the ball, Bowser makes big things happen.

6.) Derek Rivers, Youngstown State. Round 2-3. Caution: Sleeper alert. Ascending player. Runs well. Dominated low-level competition. If the Packers go CB in Round 1, Rivers could be a target in Round 2. He has the optimal size and exemplary length. Gets around the corner well and he extends his hands in the run game.

7.) Tim Williams, Alabama. Round 2-3. Needs to add weight, but when Williams' speed game is on point, he's unstoppable as a pass rusher. In the short-term, I think he's strictly a pass rushing specialist. Has to get stronger before he can be counted on to stop the run. Due to his need to add weight, he might be a bit of a project in his rookie year. But, he has unlimited upside.

8.) Carl Lawson, Auburn. Round 2-3. Injury prone, but when he's been on the field, he's been dynamite. True trouble maker for opposing offenses. He has to be game planned for. His production along the line of scrimmage was consistent as he played with a purpose. But, can he stay healthy??

9.) Ryan Anderson, Alabama. Round 3. Underrated talent because he was surrounded with so many stars. All Anderson did was make plays consistent. Fierce pursuit on every down. Wish he was a little bit taller, but he understands leverage and does a really good job getting underneath bigger blockers. Good quickness off of the edge.

10.) Vince Biegel, WI. Round 3-4. A quick twitch, maximum effort performer. He can play on my team any day. He is a blue collar performer who showed well at the combine. He's often first off the ball. He never gives up on a play. Drops in coverage well. He extends his hands in the run game and sheds blockers to find the ball carrier. Like Watt, he'd be an exciting addition to Titletown, U.S.A.

11.) DeMarcus Walker, FSU. Round 3-4. If the Packers are going to stick with the elephant end, then Walker has to be considered. Walker could lose a couple of lbs and add to his quickness off of the ball. The guy has a knack for making game changing plays. He thrives on the big stage. He's an energized motivator. A fun teammate. Brings a great push. Can win with power and speed off the edge. Could also be an interior pass rusher on 3rd down. I like his fit in GB.

12.) Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M. Round 3-4. Oft overlooked, but Hall has an intimidating presence. He might be best as an interior pass rusher on 3rd downs, but he can stand up to Tackles on the outside and win the war by using his long arms. Could add more muscle and be an elephant end as well.

13.) Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic. Round 4. Great length. An intimidating figure who muscles his way through Tackles. His long arm are disruptive as he is well-schooled and gets his arms in the arm when he's stymied as a pass rusher. Plays the run game well. Again, he's another potential Elephant End. Heavy upside.

14.) Deatrich Wise, Jr. Arkansas. Round 4-5. At times, Wise flashed 2nd round pass rushing skills. He really translates as either a 3-4 Elephant end or a 4-3 DE. I'm not sure that he could translate to an interior pass rusher, but he definitely feels more comfortable with his hand in the dirt. He lacks elite burst off the ball, but he wins because he never gives up on plays and his consistent pursuit pays off for him.

15.) Dawuane Smoot, Illinois. Round 4-5. Emotional leader who brings maximum intensity. Didn't have overwhelming statistical production, but he was in position to make plays. He just didn't finish them. Quicker than fast. I like that he attacked from both a 2-point and a 3-point stance.

16.) Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington. Round 5-6. Highly motivated OLB who is ultra quick off of the line of scrimmage. Really drives his shoulder into the ballcarrier. Sure tackler. Intense pursuer of the football. Plays with great drive. Uses his quickness to get himself into the backfield. Savvy player. Has a future. Has the figure to add weight. Immense potential.

17.) Avery Moss, Youngstown State. Round 5-6. Tremendous athlete who dominated lower level competition. Dips his shoulder like a true pro. Can drop in coverage. His lateral movement and quickness grabs your attention. His size and athleticism are tough to find. Might take a year to develop, but he's worth the investment.

18.) Hunter Dimick, Utah, Round 5-6. High intensity performer. Blue collar hard hat kind of player. Going to out work the competition. Surprises with his athleticism. Has the frame that would allow him to trim weight and keep muscle mass. Could translate well to a 3-4 OLB as he has the ability to both stand and play in the three-point stance. Feels most natural for him when he is in the 3-point stance though. Would be a developmental prospect.

19.) Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado. Round 6-7. Love the way he pursues the QB. Long OLB talent. Way too skinny to be an every down player, but he has a natural flexibility that allows him to get around the edge and his long arms allowed him to make plays on the QB. When he's making a tackle, he's thinking about forcing a turnover. His forced fumbles became a buzz for the Buffs in 2016.

20.) Keion Adams, Western Michigan. Round 6-7. Really like Adams' game. Can do it all in the 3-4, but needs to add weight. And with added muscle, he has to be able to keep his top-shelf lateral quickness. Looks good in his back pedal and feels comfortable playing in space. Also won 1 on 1 battles as a pass rusher. Intriguing prospect.

21.) Corey Vereen, Tennessee. Round 6-7. Vereen was consistently making plays behind the line of scrimmage for the Vols. Has good burst off of the ball. He attacks OL with a vicious passion and might be able to add immediate value as a pass rusher.

22.) Joe Mathis, Washington. Round 6-7. Wish he could've stayed healthy. Liked how he played in a variety of stances. He'd line up at ILB, at OLB and at DE. He attacked from a variety of stances. He played with quickness and came across as a team-first player. Would bring versatility to a defense as he can be moved around. Smart player who reads plays well. Interesting prospect as he might be rated significantly higher had he stayed healthy.

23.) Josh Carraway, TCU. Round 7-UDFA. Ideal height for a 3-4 OLB. A little light but has the upper body to add strength. Lower body looks like a legit NFL OLB. Has a good burst off of the line of scrimmage, but gives up too easily. Hasn't shown the ability to drop in coverage.

24.) Garrett Sickels, Penn State. Round 7-UDFA. High tension, developmental player. Has the frame to add muscle. Has the tools and athleticism to drop into coverage. Plays with great intelligence. Has a lot of the Ted Thompson "Football Player" qualities, but needs to continue to mature as a football player.

25.) Devonte Fields, Louisville. Round 7-UDFA. Field dips his shoulder and really goes after the edge. He's a fluid in his movements as a pass rusher, but he needs to understand leverage better because when an OL gets his hands on him, Field has a tough time separating.

26.) Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern. Round 7-UDFA. Has the right height/weight combination to play 3-4 OLB. Flashed pass rushing skills including a nice spin move. Currently, his weakness is in the run game. Gets eaten when bigger tackles get their hands on him. But, he shows well in stunts and would be worth getting into camp to see if he can continue to develop his pass rushing skills.

27.) Bryan Cox, Florida. Round 7-UDFA. Wish he performed better at the East-West game and at the Combine because I really liked the way he played at Florida. He was often in the mix. He played with discipline. But, his quickness off of the ball and his lack of speed will hinder him at the next level.

28.) Noble Nwachukwu, WV. Round 7-UDFA. A slippery pass rusher. A true over achiever. Would bring immediate value as a pass rusher. A little undersized for a true OLB in a 3-4, but his big play abilities at the college level warrant attention.

ILB: If Clay Matthews isn't playing ILB, the Packers must add depth at ILB. Blake Martinez is limited. Jake Ryan gives great effort, but he doesn't force turnovers nor does he intimidate. Joe Thomas is undersized and strictly a 3rd down ILB. Jordan Tripp is a great special teams player, but he cannot be counted on to make an impact on defense. I wish Haason Reddick would drop. He won't.

1.) Reuben Foster, Alabama. Round 1. If Foster somehow slides, the Packers will have a decision to make. Foster has a number of red flags attached to him, but he was also a top 5 player in college football last year. He dominated. He was an intimidating presence who was shining every week. He does it all.

2.) Jarrad Davis, Florida. Round 1-2. A physical beast. Great presence in the middle of the field. Stacks and sheds blockers. Finds the ball carrier. Can be a 3-down ILB. He's occasionally slow to read the angle and he gets beat to the sideline, which is why I'd prefer him in R2, but it's highly doubtful that he'd last to the end of R2, so if the Packers want to upgrade ILB with a full-capacity LB, they might need to do so in Round 1.

3.) Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt. Round 1-2. Sleeper pick for the Packers. Leader in the middle of the defense. He's always around the football. Remarkable instincts. Savvy football player. Terrific recognition. Sees the play develop at elite levels. Sometimes, he gets eaten up as he plays too tall.

4.) Alex Anzalone, Florida. Round 2-3. If this guy had stayed healthy, we'd be talking about him as a possible R1 option. He flies to the football. He punishes ball carriers and could be an ideal 3-4 ILB. Has the makings of being a 10-year starter if he's healthy. And, he can start Day 1. A true baller. Love his game.

5.) Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State. Round 2-3. High energy performer. Great pizzazz on the field. Diagnoses plays. Shoots the gap. Heady player. Quicker than fast. Great awareness.

6.) Duke Riley, LSU. Round 2-3. Offers solid speed. Can cover the TE. Fits nicely as a 3-4 ILB. Tough baller. Hungry to plug plays. Work-hard performer who has difference making speed.

7.) Jayon Brown, UCLA. Round 3-4. Love his speed. And his recognition. Fits into the new breed of 3-4 backer. A little undersized, but he sees the football and he can change the game with his speed and his ability to read the play.

8.) Kendell Beckwith, LSU. Round 3-4. Hard nosed ILB. Lacks football speed and plays a little upright, but this man takes on blockers with a fierce mentality. Solid 1st and 2nd down ILB who can slow down the run game by himself. Mean dude.

9.) Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern. Round 4. Love his ability to diagnose plays. Stallion in the run game. Bursts through the line of scrimmage. Trusts his ability to read and react. Wins plays because of it. Muscle man. Quicker than fast. Shoots the gap better than he moves to the sideline. 3-down ILB potential. Tackling machine.

10.) Jordan Evans, Oklahoma. Round 5. Ted Thompson "Football Player" alert. And, because of it, it shouldn't shock you that he was brought in for a pre-draft visit. He's assignment sure. A true ILB. A long LB who was a consistent playmaker. Plays with attitude. He's comfortable coming on the inside blitz. He stunts well. He loops around the line to track down the back in the run game. He's also a talented pass defender. Would make a really good mid-round selection.

11.) Ben Gedeon, Michigan. Round 5-6. Heady, try hard LB. Witty player who outsmarts the competition. Lacks top line speed, but makes up for it with toughness and heart. A legit Grade-A hustler. Two-down LB who will win in small spaces.

12.) Ben Boulware, Clemson. Round 6-7. The true definition of a leader. Straight up bad boy ILB who gives every ounce of sweat every week. He's a grinder. Limited athleticism, but a physical freak.

13.) Steven Taylor, Houston. Round 6-7. A touch undersized. Didn't show extremely well in pass coverage, but he is first-class as a run stopper and a pass rushing ILB. Love his ability to pursue. His instincts are phenomenal. So is his burst to the ball. Potential to be an absolute late-round steal. He'll also be a special teams gem.

13.) Eric Wilson, Cincinnati. Round 7-UDFA. Eye-popping coverage skills for a LB. Plays with speed. Always around the ball. Really undersized. Might be strictly a 3rd down ILB. Will struggle to get off of blocks, but he can do wonders dropping in coverage. Acts as another safety on the field.

14.) Brandon Bell, Penn State. Round 7-UDFA. Wish he never got injured. A gamer. A leader. A dictator of the defense. Keeps the troops organized and ready to attack. A playmaker who also is a team cheerleader on the field. Productive tackler. Makes plays when the lights are on. Emotional leader.

15.) Matt Milano, Boston College. Round 7-UDFA. He'll probably be drafted before this because he has tremendous instincts. He's sharp. But, he's really undersized. Aggressive, witty linebacker who will instantly make a difference on special teams.

16.) Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee. Round 7-UDFA. Total stud of an athlete. Struggled to stay on the field. Sideline to sideline hustler. Can play in coverage and he is quicker than most on the field. But, needs to add muscle. Often an arm tackler. Could be a late round gem.

16.) Jermaine Grace, Miami. UDFA. He's from the []_[] and the Packers brought him in for a pre-draft visit. He's an undersized third down ILB. He's really intense. Finds the ball. As quick as it gets. He'll dominate the sideline to sideline game, but he'll struggle taking on blockers. Plays to the whistle.

17.) Kenneth Olugbode, Colorado. UDFA. Plays with a fun fever to him. Animated player. Limited athleticism and plays too tall, but the football seems to find him. Tracks down the ball from behind. Really solid in coverage. Makes a lot of tackles, but rarely seems to make the play behind the line of scrimmage.

18.) Joseph Jones, Northwestern. In an era in which teams like to mimic one another, Jones warrants attention. Undersized at 6-0, but he ran a 4.5 40. He can jump in elite fashion and he has top-shelf athleticism. Didn't perform extraordinarily at Northwestern, but he was a workout warrior that is worth a look.

CB: The Packers must acquire multiple CB's this weekend. The Davon House signing helps, but it doesn't solve the problem. The Packers need CB's who can play on the perimeter.

1.) Marlon Humphrey, Alabama. Round 1. Turns and runs with the football. Slaps at the football when he's looking to make a tackle. Potential to be a turnover machine. Can play on the perimeter and in the slot. Also physical enough to help out at safety. Sure tackler. Would be a great addition.

2.) Kevin King, Washington. Round 1. Best Red Zone CB in the draft. Uses the sideline as his best friend. Has the size to match-up with any WR in the league. Additionally, he runs sub 4.5. He plays the ball well in the air. Often, on deep passes, it looks as though he's the WR on the play. Has the prospects to be a #1 CB.

3.) Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado. Round 1. Gun to my head and I'm picking Awuzie as the Packers selection. He's a Ted Thompson style of CB. He reminds of a young T-Mon. Can blitz out of the slot. Can play on the perimeter and in the slot. Plays with excitement. Forces turnovers in big ways. Fun loving teammate as well. Turns and runs really well. He's also really comfortable in zone coverage.

4.) Fabian Moreau, UCLA. Round 2. Prior to his injury, I had him as a potential Round 1 target for the Packers. Plays with as much speed as any CB in the draft. Breaks really well on the ball. Defends the comeback route at an elite level. As strong as any CB in the draft. Didn't have huge stats in college, but didn't seem to be targeted much either. Huge upside. I've dropped him over the last two weeks due to his injury.

5.) Gareon Conley, Ohio State. Round 2. Would've been an unquestioned first round pick before the rape allegations. I was considering him as a R1 target. Love the way he breaks on the ball. Can be a fire starter. Shows up in big games and makes big plays. Energizer. Good tackler.

6.) Adoree Jackson, USC. Round 2. Don't love his height. But, everything else about him is elite. Plays with toughness for his size. Has great swagger. Turns and sees the football. Plays as fast as anyone on the field. Great punt returner as well. Can be a game changing performer. Has a little T-Buck bounce to him, which I both love and hate. He can be beaten on the jump ball.

7.) Tre'Davious White, LSU. Round 2. Not a boom nor a bust prospect. You know what you're getting. Doesn't have elite size or top-end speed. But, White is a playmaking, steady CB. He's assignment sure. He's got playmaking ability. Won't be a mental case. Good locker room guy.

8.) Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado. Round 2-3. An underrated prospect who offers high-level perimeter CB skills. He sees the football. Got his hands on a lot of balls, but didn't always finish plays. Plays with great length. Jams wide receivers, turn and runs and then gets his eyes on the football.

9.) Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson. Round 2-3. Great speed. Great length. Plays better when the ball is in front of him and he can break on it. Can certainly turn and run, too. Not overly physical but he doesn't shy from contact.

10.) Quincy Wilson, Florida. Round 2-3. Ideal size. Didn't flash the speed that you'd hope and he doesn't offer great make-up speed either. He's confident. He's proud. He's a really solid tackler. He takes too many plays off in the run game for my liking though. Can be blocked too easily.

11.) Cameron Sutton, Tennessee. Round 2-3. Poised CB who can play on the perimeter or in the slot. Was tested often on the outside and often rose to the occasion. Playmaking CB who plays with a bounce to his step. Good length. Could use a little more weight if he could keep his speed.

12.) Teez Tabor, Florida. Round 2-3. Love his gifts. Bump and run corner who bumps with a light touch and plays with quickness. But, he has to get a bump or else he's grabbing. Lacks straight line speed, so he's better when the ball is in front of him. He'll battle and win with a finesse approach.

13.) Jourdan Lewis, Michigan. Round 2-3. Probably best as a slot CB, but might be able to turn and run on the outside against the less than elite speed WR's. Uses his body really well in coverage to shield the WR for position. He's a playmaker. Sees the football and plays it.

14.) Sidney Jones, Washington. Round 3-4. Wish he hadn't gotten injured. He was a fun one. Would've been a first round pick. He plays with a brash splash to him. A chest pounder. Feel for him.

15.) Jalen Myrick, Minnesota. Round 3-4. Wish he had another inch on him. Blazing fast speed. Tactically, he can play the outside. But, probably transitions better to the slot position. Plays off the WR. Not much of a jam CB. Likes to give space and see the ball in front of him. Really quick in and out of his breaks.

16.) Rasul Douglas, WV. Round 4. I had him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick until he ran his 40. Thought he played faster than he timed, but we've learned that a 4.6 40 simply doesn't cut it on the perimeter in the NFL. So, Douglas probably translates to a Nickel CB. He played very well on the outside at the college level. Showed make-up speed on crossing routes. He was a ball magnet. Love his length and his ability to jam at the line.

17.) Shaquill Griffin, UCF. Round 4. Ideal size/speed combo. He's fearless on the outside and he has the necessary length to play on the perimeter. He's a sub 4.4 corner who has the length to play on the outside. He helps in run support. Has the tools to be a solid mid-round pick.

18.) Howard Wilson, Houston. Round 4. Wilson was an interception maniac. When the ball was in his direction, he made the play. Didn't time well in the 40, but he brings a great burst as he gets in and out of his breaks. Additionally, he uses his size to get up and win jump balls on deep routes. Wish he were stronger. He's thin. Needs more muscle mass. Developmental talent.

19.) Desmond King, Iowa. Round 4. Love his heart. Love his intensity. A self-assured CB who really carried Iowa's defense in the past. Likely a slot CB or a safety in the mold of Micah Hyde. Tough nosed. Uses his hands really well. A little undersized and much quicker than he is fast.

20.) Channing Stribling, Michigan. Round 5-6. If he were a touch faster, he'd be a 3rd round pick. But, he didn't time well. Still, he's worth a mid-to-late round selection. He plays the ball well. He's a reliable corner on the perimeter who doesn't mind being left on an island. Uses his body really well to force WR's towards the sideline. His speed is a concern, but he can play both man and corner. Assignment sure.

21.) Marquez White, FSU. Round 6-7. Ideal length. Uses sideline as his friend on deep route. Doesn't get his head turned to see the ball though. Plays with better speed than he timed. Needs to get stronger. Has the frame to add muscle.

22.) Jack Tocho, NC State. Round 7-UDFA. Won't be a smarter CB in the draft. He won't make a mental mistake. Not afraid of getting in a WR's face at the line of scrimmage. Out thinks the WR as he directs him off of his route. Lacks speed and high-level playmaking ability, but worth a look as a training camp body as you know he'll pick up the system.

23.) Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma State. Round 7-UDFA. Soft cornerback who needs to get tougher in run support, but he has the ability to play in both man and zone coverage. He can turn and run. 4.5 speed. 6-0. Can't coach those things. He faired well on the deep ball and isn't afraid to get up and jam a WR.

S: With HaHa, Burnett, Evans and Brice; I wouldn't think that the Packers would draft a Safety. In fact, I feel like Safety and QB are likely the two deepest positions that the Packers have entering this weekend. Additionally, I thought Jermaine Whitehead offered some decent intangibles during the preseason last year. But, since Morgan Burnett is in the last year of his contract, the Packers will likely add a safety or two this weekend.

1.) Eddie Jackson, Alabama. Round 3-4. Yes, he's recovering from a scary injury. But, when he was healthy, he'd have been the perfect replacement for Micah Hyde. He's lethal with the ball in his hands. He could be a punt returner. He can cover in the slot. He's savvy. If he's healthy, he'd be a classic Ted Thompson pick.

2.) Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech. Round 3-4. He's a punishing, fearless safety with great range. Offers good speed and the ability to slide into the slot on passing downs. Wish he was a little bigger, but his athleticism makes up for him being a little smaller than you'd ideally draw up.

3.) Justin Evans, Texas A&M. Round 3-4. Great football speed. Gets sideline to sideline and plays the football in the air. True playmaker with natural cover skills. Lacks muscle, but plays with heavy physicality. Looks to lower the boom rather than wrapping up. Likes the splash play and gets burnt because of it.

4.) John Johnson, Boston College. Round 4. Really intelligent football player. Likes to mix it up in the box. Has speed to get the angle, but struggles to catch players from behind. I worry about his make up speed. Leader. Likable. Will contribute right away.

5.) Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami. Round 5. Physically, he's intimidating. He looks like he should dominate. Plays the ball in the air really well. Isn't afraid of contact. What's odd is that he doesn't play as fast as he times. Doesn't play football fast and thus, he's a developmental project. Would be a good special teams player Day 1.

6.) Tedric Thompson, Colorado. Round 5. A trusted leader in the heart of the secondary. Does a good job keeping things organized. He finds the football in the air. He's aggressive in attacking the football and his production followed. Extraordinary football knowledge positioned him to be successful. An anchor in the secondary.

7.) Jadar Johnson, Clemson. Round 6. Great instincts. Elite athlete. Looks the part. Plays with great speed. Has the size to dominate. Still needs seasoning. Heavy upside. Finds the football. Breaks well. He can lower the boom and he'll let you know about it.

8.) Nathan Gerry, Nebraska. Round 6-7. CAUTION: Ted Thompson Football Player alert. He's always around the ball. Not the greatest athlete, but he finds the football and he's a playmaker. Classic team leader. He's going to show up when the lights are on and he's the heartbeat of a defense. No one plays with more heart.

9.) Adrian Colbert, Miami. Round 7-UDFA. If he goes Undrafted, I really hope he gets a tryout in Green Bay. He was oft-injured, but he has all of the skills. He flies around the field. Tremendous athlete. When he's on the field, he has difference maker potential. But, he needs to find a way to stay healthy. Has ideal size/speed combination. He's not afraid of stepping into the box. And, as a safety, he has the speed to get to any spot on the field. Could be an eventual steal.

10.) Leon McQuay, USC. Round 7-UDFA. Love McQuay's swagger. Plays with great confidence. Has the height that you target and he uses it well. He's around the football and when the ball is in the air, McQuay is going to make a play on it. But, he struggles as a tackler. A lot of grabbing. If he toughens up, he could have a really good career.

11.) Orion Stewart, Baylor. Round 7-UDFA. One of those guys that seemed like he was in college forever. A hard hitting safety who is certain to bring down ball carriers when he makes contact. Additionally, he's got the smarts to read the QB's eyes, which puts him position to make plays. Stewart doesn't have the burst that you'd love to get to the deep ball and he occasionally get beat over the top.

12.) Damarius Travis, Minnesota. Round 7-UDFA. Physical safety who isn't going to drop into the slot and cover a WR, but he'll feel coverage sliding out to cover a back in space and he'll man-up and belly himself against a TE. He'll hit you. Quicker than fast. Has the size to play in the league.

13.) Dante Barnett, Kansas State. UDFA. Likely just a training camp body, but he's worth a shot. A true leader in the middle of the defense. He won't make mistakes in assignment and he diagnoses plays really well. He's extremely aggressive, but his speed is a true concern.

14.) Jamal Carter, Miami. UDFA. Adrian Colbert's injuries presented an opportunity for Carter. Carter never fully blossomed. He's a muscular monster, but he's too slow to play deep. He does have the physique to be an undersized ILB on passing downs and he doesn't shy away from contact.

15.) Drico Johnson, UCF. UDFA. Really like his football presence. Needs to toughen up, but he has the size that translates at the next level. Not overly football fast, but he's worth a camp look as he brings smarts that are tough to teach.

In Ted I Trust.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com
https://twitter.com/buzzboy3


Friday, January 20, 2017

My Take -> NFC Championship

Greetings, G-Force.

Super Bowl or Bust. At 4-6 that seemed like a farfetched notion. A 10-game table stood in front of us. 8 of those games are behind us. All victories. Now, we're 60 minutes away from achieving what seemed impossible 8 weeks ago. The #1 mission: Put the emotion of Dallas behind you. The sole focus is Atlanta. A Dome that has been good to us. Until then, we enjoy the journey and the sensational buzz that was the Divisional Game in Dallas. Mason. Freakin'. Crosby. Two kicks of 50+ yards in under 100 seconds. In the Fortress that Jerry Jones built. Building a Fortress in My Mind.

My excitement for this weekend needs to be calmed. So, I put on my favorite musician, Michael Franti, in a mellow manner with his Songs from the Front Porch album. I marinate to the soft beats and a chilled out version of his emphatic voice. I poured not one - but two - flavorful beers. A 2015 Evil Twin Lil' B and a Russian River Sanctification from 01/28/14. The Evil Twin Lil' B ages magically. 11.50%. An immaculate Porter that pours like chocolate syrup into a glass. The head on this gem remains perfectly carbonated after 13 months in my beer bunker. Think chocolate, caramel, raisins and brown sugar. Yes, that good. I've coupled it with the classic Sour Blonde from Russian River. Full on Brett. 6.75% ABV. Tastes like a funky, wild, apple glass of wine. Carbonation is still healthy, but slimmed down a bit. Tart. Well balanced. Grandiose!

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Aggressive. Victorious. He's coaching with heightened senses that are singularly focused on utilizing the near super-human powers of his 2-time MVP QB. Giving his season to his XLV MVP QB. Trusting him to be decisive at the line. And, when faced with severe peril, he even gives his brilliant QB the opportunity to utilize his sensational abilities to draft a play in the huddle.

* Aaron Rodgers. Fully concentrated. Focused on a Super Bowl title. He realizes how precious this year resides in the annals of his career. Rodgers needs a title. A 2nd title would do wonders for his legacy. He needs it to solidify his place in the NFL's History. Right now, he's flat out dominating opponents. He's in the zone. He needs to stay there for 120 more minutes. If so, the Packers will be the team to beat. Anything less than Aaron Rodgers' best and the Packers will likely be on the outside looking in.

* Mason Crosby. Man. Just thinking about it makes me tap my head while looking at the computer screen. Tell me that you weren't standing in front of the TV with the same lean that Julius Peppers was offering on the final kick. And, the way Letroy Guion runs away may or not have been a reaction similar to mine.

* I cried after the win. Pure joy. Seriously.

* Ty Montgomery. 17 touches. 81 yards. That's 4.76 yards per touch. He added two TD's. He was fantastic. He has a nose for the first-down marker. He trusts his blocking. He's seeing the field well. I wish he'd hold onto the football a little more carefully as he's punching it up the gut between the tackles.

* RIP! Loved seeing him pound his way for 20 yards. Wish he'd have stuck a stiff arm into the chest of the DB and walked into the end zone. Was really looking forward to that exclamation point as he broke into the open field.

* David Bakhtiari. He might be the 2nd best player on the team this year.

* Jared Cook! What a difference he's making. A match-up nightmare. Utilized in multiple different positions in the formation. Loved seeing him lined up tight in the 3-point stance. He was often looking to get down the seam, but didn't have the explosion to get loose. When utilized in the slot and/or on the perimeter, he was able to get off the line of scrimmage and then utilize his big frame to get separation. 6 catches. 103 yards. 1 TD. He seems to pick up a 1st down every time he catches the ball. And, man, if this season ends in Super fashion, we'll be watching video of his footwork for the rest of our lives.

* Davante Adams. Emerging. Really hope he's healthy to go this weekend. He's matured so much over the last 12 months. He's confident. He's comfortable. He's playing with inimitably jerky movements. He was free off of the line of scrimmage on nearly every play. He was also playing tougher than he has in the past. Really impressive performance.

* Randall Cobb. Lost in the beauty of Cook's end of game sideline footwork was the magnificence of Cobb's footwork when Rodgers was rifling it down the sidelines for a Packers first down. Rodgers leaned on Cobb throughout. On each of the TD drives, Cobb had significant plays.

* GERONIMO! 3 catches. 46 yards. Love watching him work when plays break down. He's always moving. He's elusive on broken plays. Rodgers seems to look for him when scrambling like he used to seek out Cobb. Rodgers trusts Allison over the middle of the field. Also, fantastic to see Allison working in the run game. A willing blocker. Fun to witness the rookie grinding.

* COME ON, JORDY! Be healthy!

* Richard Rodgers. Fantastic concentration. Not an easy catch. Got the Packers off to the quick start that was needed.

* MASON CROSBY! Unbelievable. Amazingly ridiculous.

* Thought McCarthy called a perfect game. Except for 1 call. 2nd & 8. Ball on the 33. 1:48 to play. One more first down and the Packers could have essentially run the ball down to the last 10-15 seconds for a game winning FG. McCarthy should've stuck with Rodgers. Instead, he went conservative. He went jumbo. He brought in Spriggs. He tried to run Montgomery. Spriggs was slow off the ball. Linsley got blown off of the ball. The play lost 5 yards and nearly knocked the Packers out of FG range. I saw the formation. I yelled, "WHY?!?!" at the TV screen. I said, "PLEASE BE PLAY ACTION." The results were so predictable. Totally bummed me out. Thankfully, Crosby was true from 56 yards out.

* TJ Lang. What a gamer. Really hope he stays in GB. Hope he's cap-friendly. Doubt he is.

* Lane Taylor. Really solid game. Even when he was beat near the goal line, Ty's speed allowed him to burst thru. Overall, thought that Taylor played very well. TT made a risky call at the beginning of the year when he released Sitton. Taylor has made TT look wise.

* Bulaga. Bookend. Another terrific game from Bulaga.

* The Packers have to clean up their awareness of blitzes coming from the slot. They were vulnerable. Montgomery was slow to recognize it. It was almost really costly.

* Christine Michael has to catch the kickoff cleanly. Was almost a huge momentum swinging play.

* MICAH HYDE!! Gotta lock him up. On two of the first three possessions, Hyde was present on the third down play that got the defense off of the field. He also had a great sack on the blitz when he beat Witten to the inside. And, oh, that interception. Glorious!

* Kentrell Brice. Really solid game from the rookie. He has such a bright future. Really wish he'd have grabbed the pick. Would've been a nice game changing, confidence building play for him. Luckily, Hyde bailed him out. Still, would really like to see him come through and make the most of his opportunities. Still have an inkling that he could force a turnover with a vicious tackle. Much like the one he had in the open field against Dallas.

* Thought Joe Thomas had a strong game. Since Clay is strictly playing OLB, Thomas has been our best ILB.

* Kenny Clark. Great recognition. Great instincts. Liked to see him slapping at the ball as he made the tackle on the screen as well. He had a solid push most of the game.

* Dean Lowry is offering high-effort, productive snaps. Hasn't been getting box score results per se, but he's been a worthwhile player. He hasn't been offering wasted snaps.

* NICK PERRY! Another super game from Perry. Wish he had two hands. He's a difference maker. Hope he sticks around.

* On the final 3rd down play, it was Clay who got to Prescott to force the throw that Perry knocked down. Still, the Packers need Clay to be a difference maker from here on out. We need sacks. We need a turnover.

* Julius Peppers was quiet. I expect him to be a monster against ATL.

* On the final drive, I felt bad for Josh Hawkins. He was in perfect position on the first play. Had the ball been on target, Hawkins was in position to make a play. Instead, it was just behind Williams and Williams was able to shield Hawkins from being able to make a play.

* Datone Jones. YOU NEED TO MAKE A PLAY. Get to the QB on 3rd down. Burst through. You're on the field with Perry, Matthews and Peppers. We're counting on you. You need to show up, Datone. Be the hero. I believe in you.

* I have a weird attraction to Jordan Tripp. Really like his presence on the sidelines and on special teams. Really good late season signing. Brings natural leadership.

* Still holding onto the thought that Hyde makes a significant special teams play as a PR.

* Hope you are healthy, Morgan Burnett.

* Great punting, Jacob Schum.

* Bene Benwikere. Liked his signing to the Practice Squad. I really liked him coming out of college. In fact, prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, I had him projected as the Packers 6th round pick and I wrote: Round 6 (b) - Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose St. "Not an elite tackler, but he wants it. Plays the ball exceptionally well when it's in the air. Solid playmaking skills with the ball in his hands as well. Could develop into a REALLY good player." Benwikere has played in 27 games and started 14 of them. He has 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He hasn't developed into the player I thought. He was having a decent year in 2015 prior to breaking his leg. He started all 4 games that he played for Carolina this year. But, he struggled in those 4 games. Still, I like his addition to the Practice Squad. A lot.

* Ted Thompson. I'm grateful. You've been phenomenal. I'm curious about a couple of things that I read this week and it worries me that he's nearing the end of the line. This is from the Great Blue North Draft Report: "Let me mention the most shocking thing about this week in my world. For the first time in my 8 years covering the Shrine Game, since it’s move to Florida, PACKERS GM TED THOMPSON is conspicuous by his absence. It is clear that he has not and will not be attending the Shrine Venue this year. I fully expect to see him next week in Mobile. If I do not then I will be concerned about his health and/or status as the key football man in the PACKERS organization." And, this from football.realgm.com: "One of the yearly standards of Shrine Game practice is for Packer GM Ted Thompson to wander onto the field during live action, often to accost an unsuspecting punter or defensive back trying to make a play in the end zone. Alas, I have not seen Thompson at any of the practice sessions. It doesn’t mean he’s not here, but if he is he’s far less visible than normal." If it's true that Ted Thompson isn't prowling around the East-West Shrine Game practices, I'm worried about the upcoming NFL Draft. That's where he's done some of his best work.

* Mike McCarthy has coached the Packers for 11 years. 4 of them, the Packers have played in the NFC Championship Game. As a reminder, the year before McCarthy joined the Packers, we finished 4-12.

* Mason Crosby. MASON CROSBY!

This week - it's the Falcons. In Atlanta. The home of the greatest Quarter in my Packers lifetime. I take you back to the Divisional Playoff Game in the heart of the XLV run. If you haven't watched this is a while, do yourself a favor, turn it on. All of the Packers stars show up in vintage form. The Packers were trailing 7-0. But, driving to start the Quarter. Just under 3 minutes into the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers hits Nelson to equalize! A special teams blunder makes it 14-7 Atlanta on the ensuing kickoff return. Then, the nearly unparalleled excitement begins. Kuhn gets the Packers even after he bulls his way into the end zone from a yard out. On this play, the "Freezer" was born as BJ Raji leads the way! Atlanta looks to respond as they move the ball inside the 20. But, Sir Charles wills his way through the Atlanta protection for a big sack to force 3rd and long to slow the Falcons as they entered the Red Zone. The following play, T-Mon kills the drive by baiting Matt Ryan into a bad pass. T-Mon grabs the pick and the Packers get the ball back. The MVP goes back to work. 5 times in the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers connects with passes of at least 20 yards. Yes, 5 passes of at least 20-yard yards in a Quarter. Fancy that! Punctuated with a tremendous 20-yard TD pass to James Jones in the corner of the end zone. Then, on the final play of the Quarter, it's T-Mon to close the half. Ecstasy! I can't get enough of Joe Buck's call of that play. Seriously sensational! "He tried to bite off more yardage. And. He. Just. Got. Burned." Nintendo Nick makes an appearance as he brings the flair and escorts his good buddy, T-Mon, into the end zone. Pure happiness.

That win brought us to the NFC Championship. This one is for the NFC Championship. It's for all of the NFC's marbles. It's all real. And, the Packers need to bring 60 minutes of intensity.

While the Packers offense has been tremendous for the last 8 weeks, Atlanta's has been arguably the best in the NFL all season long. Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level and he's utilizing all of his weapons. Julio Jones is in the top 2 WR's in the NFL. Mohammed Sanu is a talented #2 WR who is a tough cover for the Packers with his size/speed combination. Taylor Gabriel, where did he come from? All he does is catch first downs and TD's. He can't get over the top with speed. He wins with speed out of the slot. He's shifty. He'll annoy. Justin Hardy is a really good 4th WR. He has the ability to get deep and he's also a talented possession receiver. Austin Hooper is a dependable receiving TE. A good blocker as well. Levine Toilolo is a Red Zone threat. Devonta Freeman is a do-it-all back who hits the hole as well as any back in the NFL. He's also a lethal pass catching RB. He's arguably a top 5 back in the NFL. Tevin Coleman does not get the credit that he deserves. He's one of the best pass catching RB's in football. He, too, hits the hole with a quick burst that is tough to stop. Freeman averaged 4.8 yards per carry this year. Coleman averaged 4.4 yards per carry. They're a dangerous RB duo. The Falcons OL has played better than advertised. Alex Mack is arguably the best Center in football. He's stabilized the line. Jake Matthews has been solid at LT. Andy Levitre, Chris Chester and Ryan Scharaeder have all over-achieved. If the Packers DL can't win the line of scrimmage, this could be a long, frustrating day for our defense. It should be noted that the Atlanta OL gave up 37 sacks on the year.

Defensively, the Falcons will be without Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn had 2 sacks, 2 QB Hits and 2 tackles for loss in the first meeting. In the first meeting, the Packers led 24-19 at the half. The Packers had two 3rd Quarter possessions. Both drives ended due to third down sacks by Clayborn. His loss can't be overstated. Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Babineax and Tyson Jackson will fill in. Babineaux has had a solid career for the Falcons. The veteran is a high intensity DL who offers push. Grady Jarrett plugs holes and offers a decent pass rush for a big guy. Tyson Jackson has all of the talent, but he's been an underachiever throughout his career. Vic Beasley has been a beast. He crushed the Packers in the first meeting. He finished with 15.5 sacks in the regular season. It is imperative that the Packers contain Beasley in the pass rush. If so, I feel really good about the Packers putting up points in abundance. Brooks Reed is a high effort pass rushing OLB. Deion Jones is an active, pursuing ILB who plays with fantastic speed. De'Vondre Campbell is a guy I was high on coming out of college. I thought he'd have fit into the Packers system. Atlanta selected him earlier than I thought he'd go, but he's filled in nicely and had a good season. With Jones and Campbell, the Falcons will have two rookies starting at LB. Hopefully, Rodgers' mind will outthink them. Robert Alford has emerged into a legit CB. Jalen Collins hasn't been the player I thought he'd become. He gets beat on double moves, but he's physical at the line of scrimmage. Keanu Neal is a beast of a safety. Ricardo Allen can be beat. The Falcons have little to no depth in the secondary.

Like most people, I envision a full-on shoot-out. But, I'm feeling good. I believe that the Packers will be able to spread out the Falcons defense. We'll force the Falcons to come on a variety of blitzes and I expect Rodgers to see the blitz. When he does, he'll pick the Falcons secondary apart. With the Packers OL winning the line of scrimmage, Rodgers is quick to release. Cobb gets loose underneath.

Much like the Dallas game, McCarthy calls a number of empty sets. He's looking for Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly. He's daring the Falcons to send extra blockers to force single coverage. If Rodgers recognizes the single coverage, he'll hit on big plays. If not, the Falcons will get home. I'm betting on Rodgers.

Defensively, we'll struggle to stop Atlanta, but hopefully, we can slow them down. I look for the Packers to rush 4. Often. We'll try to defend the 5 Atlanta receivers with 7 defenders. We'll bank on the front 4 to make plays.

I'm expect Clay Matthews to be motivated as he goes nose-to-nose with his younger cousin. I expect Clay to make two really big plays.

I expect Julius Peppers to have a forced fumble.

I expect Nick Perry to apply pressure.

I expect Mike Daniels to be present in the run game.

I expect Micah Hyde to make a 3rd down play.

We grab 4 sacks. We force a turnover. Atlanta has 2 sacks. They don't force a turnover. That's the difference.

Another big game for Cook. Another nice game from Allison.

Hyde with a big punt return.

Packers 38.
Falcons 34.

We are going to the Super Bowl!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com


Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Take -> NFC Divisional Playoffs

Greetings, G-Force.

It was emphatic. It was commanding. It was convincing. Over the last 25 years, when the Green Bay Packers weren't winning Super Bowls in the playoffs, they've dealt with playoff heartbreak. They've been losses that lingered painfully into the summer months. Twice, those losses have come at the hands of the New York Giants at Lambeau Field. This years Wild Card contest wasn't about to be the third time that Eli Manning walked into Lambeau and left victorious. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Wild Card Weekend in Titletown, U.S.A. appeared to be rowdy. It looked like a celebration that could propel the Packers onto another rival that destroyed playoff runs in 1993, 1994 and 1995. We found revenge against the G-Men. It's now time to do the same to the Cowboys in Dallas.

When you see as much live music as I do, you occasionally encounter nights where the music lives within you for an extended period of time. For me, seeing Railroad Earth on 1/17/14 was one of those nights. It was a magical night in Denver. They were on point. The crowd was on fire. The music was magic. Well, as I write, I'm reliving that night as I listen to the recording of the show. I sip a New Holland Dragon's Milk that was brewed on 8/31/15. Most Bourbon Barrel Stouts I'd prefer to have a little age on. They're often brewed too hot. This one measures in at 11% ABV. It's billed as having "roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath." I've always felt like it had a chocolate backbone to it. With the vanilla introduced heavily at the front. With the age, I'm having a hard time finding the chocolate. Seems like it's left. The bourbon still lives on. I'm fond.

Here are my quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy. Most will remember McCarthy's boneheaded decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from his own 42 with a 14-6 lead as his defining moment. Not me. Even though I firmly disagreed with the decision, I'll never complain when McCarthy is aggressive. An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Granted, there's a difference between being aggressive and being smart and the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 was flat-out stupid. Nonetheless, McCarthy rallied. He kept his team focused. As the dictator of the offense's design, he led 4 more drives. The results: 4 plays, 63 yards and a Packers TD; 5 plays, 23 yards and a Packers FG; 10 plays, 80 yards and a Packers TD; 9 plays, 55 yards and a Packers TD. Mike McCarthy is in a play calling rhythm.

* Quick asterisk: Last week, I had a major typo. I accidentally wrote this: "Want to see a stat that is bursting with goodness? Here's how hard it is to win in the NFL: there are 4 coaches in the HISTORY of the NFL who have guided their teams to 4 consecutive playoff berths. Tom Landry, Chuck Knoll, Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy. Packers fans, don't ignore Mike McCarthy's greatness. That's esteemed company. Hall of Fame company." It's not 4 consecutive playoff berths. McCarthy has been to 8 consecutive playoff berths. I'll make the change in my previous blog. But, to highlight, that's 8 consecutive playoff seasons with Mike McCarthy as Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers. That's good stuff.

* Aaron Rodgers. What a rebound! The Packers will only go as far as Aaron Rodgers will lead them. If he plays as he did for the first 26 minutes of the game, the Packers will be eliminated. But, if Rodgers plays as he did over the last 34 minutes, the Green Bay Packers will be tough to defeat. Rodgers has been patient, he's been precise, he's seeing the field well and he has his mobility. When those things are in play, the Packers are as good as any team in the NFL.

* Get well, Jordy. Hurry back. We need you.

* CHRISTINE MICHAEL! What a spark! Adding a burst. Bringing a bounce to the Packers offense at a time when it needed to be uplifted. He also added goodness to the Packers special teams units. Christine Michael needs to be a Packer next year as well.

* Ty Montgomery. 68 yards on 14 touches. 4.85 yards per touch. Guy is a weapon. Keep on feeding him.

* RIP! He's sure handed as a receiver. And, love seeing him punch it into the end zone near the goal line.

* Jared Cook. What a mismatch. Had Rodgers hit him in stride on the opening possession, it's possible that Cook might've had an 86-yard TD. Amazingly, I get the feeling that there are packages designed for Cook that we've yet to see. We haven't seen him streaking down the middle of the field a whole lot. Especially out of a three point stance. I wonder if that's coming up this week.

* Davante Adams! Another big week for the youngster. I'll never understand why CB's don't jam him at the line of scrimmage on every play. When he gets a free release, Adams has a shake to him that'll set him free against any CB in the NFL. But, when he's jammed off his spot, he can be quick to give up. When Adams got the free release on the opening play of the first TD drive, Aaron Rodgers found his rhythm. After that play, the Giants never had hope.

* Randall Cobb. He's back. With a vengeance! Grand to see the lil' guy come down with the magical HAIL MARY! The play of the weekend. The type of play that could live in Packers legend forever if the Packers can continue to walk away victorious. Cobb was matched against a back-up CB for most of the second half. When that's the case, Cobb will win that battle every time. Especially if he's given a free release off of the line of scrimmage.

* The Green Bay Packers OL has to be revved up for this weekends battle. They are outright dominant. They're a steady pass protecting wall. It's widely assumed that Dallas has the best OL in football. I hope the Packers OL proves otherwise this weekend. They were fantastic against the Giants.

* The Packers need more from Clay Matthews. Sure the sack, forced fumble, super hustle, fumble recovery play was glorious. It was vintage Clay. But, too often, he was dancing with the OT. He needs to be the aggressor. Play in and play out.

* Julius Peppers wants a ring. We have to get him one. He's fresh for the stretch run. And, he's playing with an edge. 1 sack. 1 tackle for loss. 2 QB knockdowns. 2 passes defensed.

* When Mike Daniels is constantly winning his 1 on 1 battle, no one is going to run on the Green Bay Packers. Daniels was fierce early in the game vs the Giants.

* Really solid game by Jake Ryan. He was active. He was a sure tackler. 3 passes defensed. Has to be a career high for him.

* Another really impressive game by Joe Thomas. He's really emerged as the season has progressed. He needs to continue to see playing time.

* Jordan Tripp has been a really nice special teams addition. He's smart. Has a chip to him. Have the feeling he could force a turnover on special teams before the year is over.

* Jeff Janis looked explosive as a KR.

* Huge kick by Mason Crosby to extend to a 2-score lead.

* Jacob Schum with a really strong day punting the football.

* I've been saying it weekly, but Micah Hyde is going to make a huge play as a PR.

* CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. Long time followers know my take on this. 14:33 left in the game. The Packers take over at their own 20. 80 yards from victory. 10 plays. 80 yards. 5:14 off of the clock. Play of the drive: 3rd & 10 from their own 30. McCarthy splits Montgomery wide right. Presumably, the Giants expected him to be in the backfield. Montgomery comes on an underneath route. Adams sets a "pick" on the CB covering Montgomery. Montgomery catches the pass in stride and jets up the field for 34 yards. Twice more on the drive, Rodgers connects on 3rd down, including the 3rd and 3 16-yard strike to Cobb for the dagger. Championship teams drive home that drive for the TD. The Packers did just that.

* As I've been saying for weeks, this Packers team doesn't need to win with defense. This defense can bend, but it can't break. We were fortunate over the first 23 minutes of the game. It could've easily been 21-0. But, the Giants didn't finish. And, the Packers defense kept a sputtering Packers offense in the game. In addition, this Packers defense needs to force a turnover or two a game and they need to get the occasional 3rd down sack. Against the Giants, they forced two turnovers and grabbed two sacks. If they can do that weekly, we'll be in position to win every game.

* 7 in a row! Ain't it sweet when everything comes together?

* The Lambeau crowd was terrific. If you were in attendance, pat yourself on the back. You made a difference!

* If you're like me, you've probably watched the HAIL MARY thirty times or more. But, the clip that is tear jerking for me is to see the little boys jubilation in the front row of the end zone. Who is that little guy? I want to send him a Packers gift. He was stoked. He literally almost brought a tear to my eye when I saw the replay during halftime with him in the background jumping for joy. That - to me - is the beauty of the purity of sports and why I revel in the life of being an ultimate fan.

This week - it's the Cowboys. In my life, the Packers and the Cowboys have played in the playoffs in 1982, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 2014. Every time the home team has won. Sounds bad - except we must remember that the Packers won the XLV trophy in Dallas. They have confidence walking into this Stadium. The Packers believe that they have command over Jerry's Dome. Now, we must prove it on Divisional Playoff weekend. The Divisional Playoffs are my favorite football weekend of the year. It's fitting that the cap to the weekend will be Green Bay at Dallas. Two of the most storied franchises in football getting ready to duke it out on Sunday afternoon. For a date in the NFC Championship. Let's party!

The Cowboys present match-up issues for the Packers. Dez Bryant is a head case, but he's also a phenomenal football player. Terrance Williams runs a slant route as well as anyone in the game and he's lethal after the catch. Cole Beasley is a star as a slot WR. Brice Butler gets no props, but he can run a go route and get off the line of scrimmage like a first-class WR. Jason Witten can't move very well anymore, but he still knows how to sit in the zone and he's a 6th OL as a blocker. Gavin Escobar can stretch the middle of the field. Zeke Elliott has masterful vision. He's the best one-cut RB in the game. He wants the ball. He gets better as the game goes on. Alfred Morris is a terrific back-up RB who knows how to get 1st downs in short yardage situations. Darren McFadden is fresh and ready to make an impact. He can still hit the hole with conviction. Lance Dunbar is an average 3rd down receiving RB. The Cowboys OL doesn't have a weakness. They wear you down. They beat you up. They beg for you to say mercy. They dominate games. And, often, the Cowboys win in the 4th Quarter as their OL has completely defeated the oppositions DL. LG, Ronald Leary is the worst of the 5-man wrecking crew. Dak Prescott. What a gamer. A rook who plays like a veteran. He handles play-action as well as anyone in the league. And, his mobility is tough to prepare for. He's tough, he's athletic. He wins. And, he takes care of the football. Annoying.

Defensively, the Cowboys get all of their players back. Tyrone Crawford returns. As does Morris Claiborne. They've been a defense that has given up yards, but they've been opportunistic. They battle you. They outwork you. They out hustle you. They rotate their defensive line extensively to try and keep their line fresh. I imagine that the Packers will be thinking that they can get a couple of free plays out of the Cowboys substitution patterns. Or, in a worst case scenario, the Packers should be able to force Dallas to burn a timeout or two by hurrying to the line of scrimmage. Tyrone Crawford isn't a superstar, but he gives maximum effort. Every time I watch David Irving, he's making a big play. Like every single game, Irving seems to make a game-altering play. Maliek Collins has all kinds of talent. When the effort is there, Collins wins. Demarcus Lawrence isn't overpowering nor overly quick, but he's savvy. And, he grinds to find his way to disrupt plays. Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson are athletic LB's who play very well in space. Sean Lee has been healthy. He's the glue to the Dallas defense. He is a machine. Dallas has good versatility in the secondary. Brandon Carr is a physical CB. He'll use his hands. If the game is called tightly, he'll be called for a penalty or two. If they let the CB's play, Carr will pester the Packers WR's. Morris Claiborne will have to knock off the rust, but when he's up for the task, he lives up to his 1st round billing. Byron Jones can play either CB or S. Orlando Scandoick can either play the slot CB or he can drop as a S. Barry Church is a S who can also cover in the slot. JJ Wilcox is a nice dime defender who is best when he's used as an in-the-box safety.

Dan Bailey is a fantastic kicker. Lucky Whitehead is an ok PR. Don't be surprised if the Packers force him to fumble this week. Just a gut feeling.

Look for the Cowboys defense to aggressively come after Rodgers. They'll blitz early. They'll blitz often. Expect Rodgers to utilize the check-down. 10 yards at a time. Montgomery has a big game catching the ball. Taking what the defense gives the Packers. Rodgers sticks with the underneath routes early. The Packers also go with the run game early to try and soften the pressuring Cowboys defense. The Dallas defense pesters the athletic Packers offense.

In theory, Dallas could run the ball 45 times. Keep Rodgers off the field. Beat up the Packers at the line of scrimmage. Make it tough for the Packers to slow them down. Even on 3rd & 7, Dallas could consider it a run down. They're that much more powerful than the Packers. But, Jason Garrett is too bullheaded. He'll want to show flair. He'll try to throw the football. And, oddly, I have a feeling that the Packers secondary will show up.

It's a low scoring first half that opens up in the second half. Dallas gets FG's. The Packers get TD's. Plainly stated - this game is won inside the 30 yard line. Not necessarily even in the Red Zone. But, inside the 30. Both teams move the football. Both teams offer bend, but don't break defenses. Unlike the regular season contest, this time, Rodgers is up to the chore.

Cook goes over 100 yards and scores 2 TD's. Allison has 4 big catches.

We're going to the NFC Championship.

Packers 31
Cowboys 26

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.
talkins-mac.blogspot.com