The Green Bay Packers miraculously finished one game short of the Super Bowl after an awful 4-6 start to the 2016-2017 season. Now they sit at number 29 in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with many wondering what area of need they will address first.
Green Bay really needs to focus on upgrading their defense. The only strong point of their defense right now is the secondary. Cornerbacks, Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall along with safeties HaHa Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett if healthy can really dominate opposing receivers. However, as last season proved – it’s not a deep group of CBS.
The area that the Packers need to address especially with the loss of Julius Peppers is the pass rush. Clay Matthews Jr., and company need some help.
Here are five players that I feel could be drafted by the Packers at number 29.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee – long shot
Derek Barnett while in his final season with the Tennessee Volunteers broke the school record for most career sacks last season that was ironically held by late great Hall of Fame Packer defensive end, Reggie White. White’s record was 32 while Barnett finished with 33. His speed and ability to disrupt the offensive line in the manner in which he does, is incredible. He’ll be a great asset and a defensive leader to any team and definitely could go in the top 10. If the Packers could find the means to do so, they should try and trade up to snag him, but I doubt they will. Barnett would be a fantastic replacement for the departed Julius Peppers who went back to presumably finish his career where it started in Carolina. Green Bay would be lucky if Barnett lasted until the 29th pick.
T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
This choice makes a ton of sense for the Packers as well as for T.J. considering he’s already played in Wisconsin. Coming off his only year as a starter, Watt collected 11.5 sacks as a senior. He redshirted as a freshman and sat out his sophomore season with a knee injury. His transition from Tight End to defense however has been a smooth one considering his numbers as a starter and should prove extremely crucial for him come Thursday night when the Packers could come a calling. He’s projected to go in the second half of the first round or the beginning of the second round, so with Green Bay sitting sturdy with the 29th pick, it could be the perfect time to grab J.J.’s younger brother.
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
Although Green Bay already has youngsters Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall manning the top cornerback positions in the team’s secondary, there is definitely room for improvement and this stud would definitely be an upgrade for them. He was one of the best players in all of college football for the USC Trojans as he played on Offense, Defense and Special teams during his tenure with the team. His freshman year, he was a Freshman All-American and a Defensive Rookie of the Year. He shows great pattern recognition and has no issues maintaining coverage around the field. Something Quinten Rollins had issues with last year while Damarious Randall had problems staying healthy. They are both still young and adding an athletic stud like Jackson would make the core of cornerbacks even better.
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA – long shot
Takkarist McKinley is projected almost middle of the first round in some mock drafts and it could quite possibly happen. If he falls all the way to number 29 and in the laps of the Packers it would be great and definitely a steal for them. Just like if Barnett, as I stated earlier, McKinley as well would be a great pass rusher and Green Bay are in desperate need of one since Julius Peppers departed in the offseason. He’s ruthless on the field and doesn’t give people much of a chance to turn up field once they have the ball in hand. He’s a great stop and start change of direction talent as well. Fans saw 36 percent of his tackles go for 2 yards or less behind the line of scrimmage. The Packers and UCLA are also very familiar with each other as they’ve done business with each other in the past few drafts with players such as Datone Jones who has now moved on from Green Bay, as well as current backup quarterback Brett Hundley. Could we see the two exchange phone calls again come Thursday night if the pieces fall into place?
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Being a fan of the Michigan Wolverines, I saw this guy shine on defense for the maize and blue. His career started as part of special teams in 2013 and he shined throughout his career. Everything came together however in his senior year last season as he was given First-team All-Big Ten honors as he led the team with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. His crazy speed off the edge combined with his size and length (6’6″, 34 and 1/4 arm length, 277 pounds and 9 and 3/4 hands) aren’t found often in a player. If he can become more consistent, then he’ll be an elite defensive end. As seen in the Orange Bowl, he’s got great agility and burst to retreat backwards quickly and use those huge hands of his to intercept passes out of thin air when not expected as well. If available at number 29, he’d be a great pick up for Green Bay.