Thursday, April 25, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 NFL Draft Day 1 Preview for Ted Thompson

Happy NFL Draft Day! As I said in my preview of the first round for the Packers in the 2012 NFL Draft, the first round of the NFL Draft is one of my ten favorite days of the year.  At this point, Green Bay Packer general manager Ted Thompson is scheduled to make the 26th pick in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Much like I said in my preview of the first round for Packers in the 2011 NFL Draft, we know that Thompson likes to trade back in the draft to amass more picks so there is no guarantee that the Packers will hold onto the 26th pick.  If no quarterbacks are picked in the first half of the first round, there are a handful of teams that have quarterback needs with early picks in the second round that will want to jump back into the end of the first round so they can selected the player they deem to be the "quarterback of the future" for their franchise.

In case you missed it yesterday, I posted my 3rd annual first round mock draft of what I think every GM's should do in the first round if used their current pick (or picks).  I did not deem a single quarterback worthy of drafting in the first round but I still think a few teams will panic and reach for a quarterback in the first round this year anyhow.

The Packers have no glaring needs but they could still use an every down running back, a left tackle of the future, depth along the defensive line, another edge pass rusher, and a safety.  Before I preview the players that I am targeting for the Packers with the 26th pick, keep in mind these guys will most likely be off the board:

QB: Geno Smith (West Virginia) and Ryan Nassib (Syracuse)

WR: Tavon Austin (West Virginia) and Keenan Allen (California)

TE: Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame)

OT: Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M), Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), Lane Johnson (Oklahoma), and D.J. Fluker (Alabama)

OG: Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina) and Chance Warmack (Alabama)

DE: Ziggy Ansah (BYU) and Barkevious Mingo (LSU)

DT: Shariff Floyd (Florida), Star Lotulelei (Utah), Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), and Sylvester Williams (North Carolina)

MLB: Alec Ogletree (Georgia) and Manti Te'o (Notre Dame)

OLB: Dion Jordan (Oregon) and Jarvis Jones (OLB, Georgia)

CB: Dee Milliner (Alabama), Desmond Trufant (Washington), and D.J. Hayden (CB, Houston)

S: Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)

Some of my biggest draft crushes will most likely go in the Top 10 (Joeckel, Fischer, Johnson, Floyd, Lotulelei, and Jordan).  After the Top 10 rated players in the draft, most draft pundits think there is not much of a difference between having the 11th pick and the 41st pick.  Leaving aside almost sheer locks for being picked in the Top 10, my biggest draft crushes from above are: Richardson, Williams, and Vaccaro.  If any of those guys just mentioned fall to 26, I totally support the Packers drafting those guys and will explain my affection in more detail as I review the draft.

With all of that foreplay out of the way, here are some guys that I would realistically like to see Thompson draft with the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft:

John Jenkins (DT, Georgia, 6'4", 346 lbs): Some people have Jenkins rated as a second or third round prospect but I view Jenkins as a wider, taller version of B.J. Raji so suffice to say I absolutely love Jenkins.

Menelik Watson (OT, Florida State, 6'5", 310 lbs): Has a really interesting back story that is tailor made for TV pundits to gush about.  Although Watson played right tackle at Florida State, he projects as a left tackle in the NFL given his large hands (10 3/8") and long arms (34").  If the Packers picked Watson it would mark the second consecutive draft they've taken an offensive tackle from Florida State because last year they drafted Andrew Datko in the 7th round.  Given Datko's injury history, on Day 1 of training camp, Watson would have a better chance of playing meaningful snaps for the Packers than Datko.

Justin Pugh (OT/OG, Syracuse, 6'4", 307 lbs): Feels like the second coming of Marhsall Yanda, a guy I wanted the Packers to sign heading into the wacky 2011 NFL season courtesy of the labor unrest the previous off-season.  Pugh seems to project as more of a guard or right tackle in the NFL and the Packers are already set at guard (Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang) and right tackle (Bryan Bulaga and Don Barclay) so this would be more of a value than need pick.

Datone Jones (DE, UCLA, 6'4", 283 lbs): Put up big numbers last season at UCLA but that was his only real productive season in college because he missed the entire 2010 season with a foot injury and had a lackluster 2011 season.  His ceiling and floor are the highest of the players discussed so far but based on my study of Jones so far, there is much better chance Jones turns out to be the next Cullen Jenkins than the next Justin Harrell.

Kawann Short (DT, Purdue, 6'3", 299 lbs): Given how much of a headache defensive lineman Mike Neal has been for Packer fans since they drafted him out of Purdue in 2010, the Packers better think long and hard about taking another Purdue defensive lineman so soon.  That said, I see Short as a much better version of Neal so I totally support the Packers drafting Short with the 26th pick if he is still available.

Kyle Long (OL, Oregon, 6'6", 313 lbs): I am contractually obligated by the NFL to point out that Kyle is the son of Howie Long and brother of Chris Long before I can mention anything else about him.  With that out of the way, Long had some trouble early on in his college career at Florida State but got things back on track at Saddleback Junior College before going to Oregon.  Long's arms are a little short (33 3/8") for a left tackle but he makes up for that with his height and large hands (11").

Eddy Lacy (RB, Alabama, 5'11", 231 lbs): The Packers desperately need a three-down back, which is exactly what Lacy would be for the Packers.  This feels a little like the 2007 NFL Draft when all the signals pointed towards the Packers drafting Marshawn Lynch.  Unfortunately Lynch went 12th and the Packers took the aforementioned bust Justin Harrell 16th.  Despite the running back position being devalued in the NFL, Lacy is the best back in the draft, so I would not be surprised if he went in the late teens or early 20's.

Matt Elam (S, Florida, 5'10", 208 lbs): After the Packers were physically man-handled by the 49ers there was all of this talk of the Packers adding "tough guys" to their team and Elam fits that bill.  Although diminutive for a safety, Elam is a physical presence at safety that could do more of the dirty work to free up Morgan Burnett to be more of a ball hawk in the secondary in 2013.

Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International, 6'0", 217 lbs): Thompson likes small school guys and Cyprien might be the best small school prospect after offensive tackle Eric Fischer.  Although Cyprien is not the tallest or fastest guy, he is a physical presence in the mold of former Packers safety Atari Bigby.

Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama, 6'3", 323): It might be a reach to take Williams in the first round but his combination of size and strength is just what the Packers need along the defensive line.  That is even more of a need given that the Packers will be without the services of Jerel Worthy, one of their two second round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft for most if not all of 2013 as Worhty rehabs a serious knee injury suffered at the end of 2012.

Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State, 6'3", 320 lbs): Even though Hankins had a decorated college career, some thought he should have returned for his senior year to refine his pass rushing skills.  If Hankins can occupy defenders in the NFL like he did in college, I could care less how much he gets after the quarterback because he will open a ton of lanes for other defenders to make plays.

Whether or not Thompson actually makes a pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, check back for my quick thoughts as well as some guys that I hope Thompson targets in the second and third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

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