For some, April brings baseball season. For me, it's the start of NFL Draft month. The 2011 NFL Draft is less than a month away. Ted Thompson has 9 picks. If his guy falls in Round 1, he'll have the ammunition to trade up. Also, depending on what happens with the likes of Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett, the #32 pick might be coveted. The new draft format gives added value to the later picks on Day 1 & the earlier picks in Round 2. Remember that last year the Viqueens were able to swing a deal with the Lions at pick #30. The Broncos also traded up to pick #25 to grab Tebow. It wouldn't surprise me if Thompson were to receive a solid offer for pick #32 - depending on what happens with the QB position. Every year, I say that I like having 4 of the top 100. This year - Thompson has 5 of the top 131.
And now for Volume 2 of my Epic Mock Draft. Once again, I don't include OL. Time limits me & quite simply, I don't follow it closely enough to make an opinion. I wish I had more time to dig into the OL as it's a crucial component to the 2011 Draft, but unfortunately, I've been busy.
Round 1 (#32): Leonard Hankerson, WR, _. I've tried to convince myself to go another direction & to grab a DL or OLB at this spot. I've looked at options to potentially grab WR later and while I'm intrigued at the possibility of grabbing a gifted WR later in the draft, my focus is on giving Aaron Rodgers another weapon. Too many times we've seen this offense stall late in games. It was our defense that saved games. With the majority of our playmakers coming back on defense, it's vital to add more talent on offense. By now, we know that Ted Thompson places an emphasis on spending early picks on pass-catchers. See: Terrence Murphy, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, J-Mike. This year - the choice is Hankerson. He leaves THE _ having caught more TD's than any player in the rich history of Miami football. Hankerson not only has a knack for finding the end zone, but he's also had a pension for getting open on 3rd down. He's not afraid to go across the middle. He can play in the slot. He can also play on the outside. He's solid in traffic. He's a gifted WR. Occasionally, he'll drop a pass, but I believe he'd look great wearing either #86 or #84 next year.
Others to watch: Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple. Great talent. Impressive quickness for a big guy. Powerful. Don't think he'll make it to #32, but if he does, he'd be a solid 3-4 DE. Same applies to Cameron Heyward, DL, Ohio State. For the record, I don't want Brooks Reed, OLB, AZ with our 1st round pick. After watching him play 5 times this year, I don't see him as a 1st round talent. He has a great motor. He's a closer. He'll finish games with a sack, which intrigues me. But, he was strictly a DE in college. He didn't drop in coverage. His hand was in the dirt. Yes, he'd add variety to the Defense, but I've never considered him a 1st round talent. I viewed him as a 3rd rounder, at best. If he's our 1st pick, I hope we've traded down & accumulated extra draft choices. Also, earlier in the college season, I wrote that Akeem Ayers would fit the Packers better than anyone else at the college level. I viewed him as a perfect compliment to the Claymaker. He dominated Texas. But, this was prior to knowing that Texas was awful last year. Additionally, then I watched him play Oregon. Against Oregon, he looked slow. Granted, Oregon made most defenders look slow, however that's the type of speed that Ayers will face on a weekly basis in the NFL. Consistently, Ayers was beat to the corner. The Combine also showed that Ayers lacked speed. He wasn't overly physical. Still, I'd like Ayers, a lot as our 1st round pick. I've seen him dominate. He has the ability. I'm no longer juiced with the notion of Martez Wilson, LB, IL in the 1st round. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. Often times, in late-March/early-April, teams forget about the tape. They remember the pre-draft workouts. Players who consistently made plays at the college level drop in the draft. It's always confused me. For me, this applies to Williams. At one point, Williams was viewed as a 1st round pick. The draft advisory board listed him as a 1-2 round prospect. Now, while reading the draft "experts", they express concern rather than discussing his positive attributes. While at Texas, Williams did it all. He picked off passes (4), he got to the QB (3 sacks, 3 pressure), he made plays against the run (12 tackles for loss), he forced fumbles (6) and he blocked punts (5). At times, he even returned punts. In some ways, his style of play reminds me of Sir Charles. He's physical. He attacks the football. Additionally, as we know, the McCarthy/Thompson combination requires rookies to play special teams. Well, not only did Williams block kicks, but he also finished tied for the team lead with 9 tackles on special teams. Most speculate that his college teammate, Curtis Brown, will be selected before him. Williams stands 6-0, 200 lbs. He ran a 4.42 in the 40. Presently, it appears #32 will be too early for Aaron Williams. It's doubtful that he'll be around when the Packers select at #64.
Round 2 (#64): Kendrick Ellis, DT, Hampton. 6-5. 345. Massive. He'd be a great addition to our DL. He'd fit our Big Beefy package. I've often wrote that Ted Thompson will occasionally draft for next year (meaning 2012) rather than this year. Well, Ryan Pickett is aging. Howard Green has one more year on his contract. Couple that with the assumption that Cullen Jenkins will be gone via FA & the Packers must draft a DL in the early portions of the 2011 NFL Draft. Thankfully, DL is largely considered the most talented position in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Others to watch: Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy. Elusive with the ball in his hands. He'll make you miss & he's a highlight film in the making. But, the big question mark is his size. Is he physical enough to withstand the punishment of the NFL game. Truly, I believe that Mike McCarthy would love to design plays to get Jernigan in the open field. Randall Cobb, KR/WR, Kentucky. The Packers love versatile performers. Cobb played both QB & WR for Kentucky in his career. He was also a dangerous KR. I envision Ted Thompson calling him a "football player." Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa. I've seen his name attached to the Packers at the end of Round 1. I don't see him as a 1st round pick rather I see him as a mid-to-late 2nd rounder. If he's around, he'd be a solid pick as he'd be able to rotate with Mike Neal/CJ Wilson at DE. He'd also be able to pressure the QB in the 2-4-5 defense that the Packers often use. While I believe the Packers are in good hands with the Grant/Starks/Kuhn combination, there might be good talent available when the Packers pick at #64. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech. Williams is a game changer. He gets better with more carries. He's a home run threat. Mikel LeShoure, RB, IL. LeShoure is a nifty runner who was extremely productive at the college level. For his collegiate career, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia. If he'd have stayed healthy, he'd be a top-20 draft pick. Great frame. Sees the field. Plays the ball. As I've said before, when healthy, he outplayed his college teammate, Chris Cook who was an early 2nd round pick for the 'queen in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Round 3 (#96): Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon. Totally wishful. There looks to be good value in the 3rd round at ILB with the likes of Colin McCarthy, _ and Greg Jones, Michigan State, as other options. I know that it's unlikely that Matthews will be a Packer, but man, it's attractive to consider. He'd fit the 3-4. He has the long hair that we require to play LB. He's instinctive. He has the bloodlines. Plus, we have a true requirement to add an ILB. If Matthews is on the board at pick #96, I want him!
Others to watch: I'm enamored with Austin Pettis, WR, Boise St. The guy will have a career in the NFL. He runs solid routes. Great size. Solid hands. A gamer.
Round 4 (#129): Jordan Todman, RB, UCONN. Every time I watched UCONN play over the last two years, Todman was making plays. He has a nose for the end zone, he gets tough yards and for his size, he falls forward. Would be a solid addition to our backfield. Again, Thompson will draft for 2012 over 2011 - at some point - in this draft. Todman might be that pick if he doesn't expect to resign Ryan Grant after this year.
Round 4 (#131): Terrell McClain, Super athletic big man. Fits the 3-4 DE spot. Holds the point of attack. Uber quick for his size. Played both the run & the pass very well. He'd add pressure and can hold the point of attack - though not overly powerful.
Others to watch: Charles Clay, RB, Tulsa. He has terrific hands. He's got a unique build. He's not a fierce blocker, but he's a constant mismatch problem for opposing defenses. Every year - it seems that the Thompson/McCarthy regime makes a head-scratching decision at either FB or TE. This year, it's in the form of Charles Clay who can carry the ball, but he could also be viewed as a guy that could play FB or potentially, TE. I know I previously said that I'd undoubtedly have him as my pick at #129, but surprisingly (even to myself), I've changed my mind. Virgil Green, TE, Nevada. A physical specimen. A threat that has the size & speed to create headaches for defensive coordinators. If utilized properly, he could turn into a true gem. Alex Green, RB, Hawaii. Out of a spread offense, he led the nation in yards per carry. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards. Solid 3rd down back.
Round 5 (#163): Antareis Bryan, CB, Baylor. He's 6-1, 200. He ran a 4.37 at his Pro Day. He's had injury issues. As a sophomore he had 9 passes defensed. He's a Texas kid. He didn't get a combine invite. It's widely known that the Packers have interest. He's a classic Ted Thompson pick.
Others to watch: Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State. I'll be ultra-interested to see where Thomas is selected. A tremendous athlete. Former TE. Sound hands. Great confidence. Anthony Sherman, FB, UCONN. A bruising FB who the ability to catch the ball. Looks for contact. Similar player to Kuhn. He could also be used as the occasional runner. Solid blocker.
Round 6 (#197): Marc Scheichl, OLB, Colorado School of the Mines. I continue to read on the Internet & hear on the radio that the Packers are showing interest in Scheichl. The DII prospect has the size and physical attributes to play at the next level. Not only were the Packers 1 of 3 teams to be in attendance at his Pro Day, but they have now scheduled a private workout with him. It might be in hopes of him being signed as a UFA, but with the CBA restrictions I'm guessing the Packers use a draft pick on him.
Others to watch: Bruce Miller, OLB, Central Florida. Every time I watched him, he was around the football. Especially late in games. To me, he's almost every bit the prospect as Brooks Reed. Nic Grigsby, RB, Arizona. Has the speed & tools to be a big-play threat. Was limited in college, but he would be a good compliment to the running styles of Grant/Starks.
Round 7 (#204): Scott Tolzien, QB, WI. He's a great prospect. A heady football player. Can make the throws. Great moxie. Intelligent QB. Developmental player. McCarthy could use a new toy. Tolzien fits the bill.
Round 7 (#233): Dwayne Harris, WR, ECU. Last year, Thompson drafted CJ Wilson from ECU and he scored well. This year it's Dwayne Harris, the highly productive college performer. Harris scored 10 TD's as a Senior after scoring 7 as a sophomore.
Others to watch: I'm confident that Thompson will look at WR in the later rounds. Names the Packers have spent time with: Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian; Jamel Hamler, Fresno State; Lester Jean, FAU; and Stephen Burton, West Texas.
Tick-tock to the draft. It's the time when Ted Thompson generally plays like "Pop Tarts!"
Wishing you an XLV-like April!