Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Building The 53 - First Look at the 2014 NFL Draft

Four months from today I will post my review of the 2014 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers. Odds are that Packers general manager Ted Thompson will add at least 10 new players in the 2014 NFL Draft given that he currently has seven draft picks even before being awarded any compensatory draft picks.  Plus we know that Thompson loves to trade down to acquire more draft picks so that could mean as many as 15 new players along with a number of undrafted rookie free agents fighting for spots on The 2013 to open 2014.

Advice for Ted Thompson
How to Handle Players on 8-Man Practice Squad
How to Handle Players on Injured Reserve
How to Handle 2014 RFA's on The 53
How to Handle 2014 UFA's on The 53
Potential Salary Cap Casualties on The 53
First Look at the 2014 NFL Draft
Locks for The 53 for 2014
Lot's of things can change in the next four months, especially for players currently projected to go later in the draft or undrafted.  In case you missed it, I ranked the Top 25 NFL prospects that currently play for the Wisconsin Badgers irrespective of the year they will be eligible for the draft.  There is no question that the biggest positional needs (greatest to least) for the Packers are safety, tight end, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, kicker, fullback, cornerback, wide receiver, running back, punter, and quarterback.  Given the Packers' current positional needs, there is a chance that Thompson actually drafts a Badger over the next few years.

Following their loss to the San Francisco 49ers, assuming Thompson doesn't trade up or down, the Packers are currently scheduled to draft 21st in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  We know that Thompson likes to draft the best player available but given that safety, tight end, linebacker, and defensive line are the biggest needs so I am going to focus on how Thompson could address those needs with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Right now it looks like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, or bust given the lack of quality safeties in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Ha Ha is a 21-year old junior from Alabama that at 6'1" and 208 lbs is not the biggest hitter but has the skills to start at safety as a rookie in the NFL in 2014.  Ha Ha reminds me a lot of Eric Reid, a standout rookie for the San Francisco 49ers.  Pryor has essentially the same build as Ha Ha but playing at Louisville as opposed to Alabama didn't prove he can do it on a big stage like Ha Ha did the last three years.  This feels a little bit like the the 2007 NFL Draft when the Packers desperately needed a running back so every mock draft had them taking Marshawn Lynch with the 16th pick.  Ultimately Lynch went 12th to the Buffalo Bills and the Packers took defensive lineman Justin Harrell, oh dang.  I obviously favor Ha Ha over Pryor at this point but we are still very early in the process so that might change by the 2014 NFL Draft.  Clearly Ha Ha or Pryor would fill a huge need for the Packers, which is why I would be shocked if the Packers actually drafted either unless they traded up in the first round.

The Packers could use a versatile linebacker in the mold of Brandon Chillar.  I know that seems like a weird comparison considering Chillar only had a couple good years in Green Bay but with how much trouble the Packers have covering running backs or tight ends with linebackers and considering all the nickel the Packers play on defense, a hybrid inside/outside linebacker is exactly what the Packers need.  I see Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, and C.J. Mosley all going in the Top 10.  A couple of guys that project to be a rich man's Chillar are Ryan Shazier (JR, Ohio State, 6'2", 225 lbs, and 21-years old) and Vic Beasley (JR, Clemson, 6'2", 235 lbs, and 21-year old).  Shazier already declared for the draft while Beasley is still undecided.  Assuming both declare for the draft, I favor Shazier slightly over Beasley despite sharing a birthday with Beasley.

Given that the Packers have four players set to become free agents along the defensive line, despite having a bunch of quality young guys, the Packers still might draft a defensive lineman in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Since the Packers drafted defensive end Datone Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, I would be shocked if they took another defensive end so I will focus on defensive tackles.  I see Timmy Jernigan going in the Top 10.  That leaves Louis Nix III (SR, Notre Dame, 6'3", 340 lbs, 22-years old) and Ra'Shede Hageman (SR, Minnesota, 6'6", 307 lbs, 23-years old) as options.  As long as the Packers can keep Nix motivated, I see him as a long term solution as a space eater along the defensive line in place of B.J. Raji or Ryan Pickett.  I got to see Hageman play in-person earlier this year.  Although I like Hageman's versatility to play any spot along the defensive line, I have some reservations about him being 24-years old before the start of the 2014 NFL season.  Despite Hageman's versatility, I would favor Nix ahead of Hageman.

Moving to the offensive side of the ball, even if Jermichael Finley returns to the Packers next year, you can never have too many athletic tight ends because NFL defenses continue to struggle with containing those types of players.  Add in that teams are splitting tight ends out as wide receivers and having multiple athletic tight ends is almost become a necessity as opposed to a luxury.  It looks like Eric Ebron will go in the Top 15.  That leaves Austin Seferian-Jenkins (JR, Washington, 6'6", 266 lbs, 21-years old) and Jace Amaro (JR, Texas Tech, 6'5", 255 lbs, 21-years old) as options for the Packers.  I see Seferian-Jenkins as a more athletic version of Andrew Quarless with the off-the-field issues being an unfortunate common thread between Seferian-Jenkins and Quarless.  Despite the off-the-field issues, Seferian-Jenkins's athleticism makes him slightly more appetizing than Amaro.

Assuming all the players I just discussed in-depth are available when the Packers are on the clock with the 21st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft I would obviously thank my lucky starts and draft Ha Ha without thinking twice.  If Ha Ha is off the board, here is the order (most to least) that I like the rest: Seferian-Jenkins, Shazier, Nix, Beasley, Pryor, Amaro, and Hageman.  Make sure to check back tomorrow for the final of my seven-part series of off-season advice for Thompson where I give the guys that are currently under contract for at least 2014 that if healthy should be locks for The 53 in 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment