It’s NFL draft day. A way-too-over-hyped day which teams draft players who will be with their teams for four years until their rookie contracts run out and the go elsewhere for too much money. I can’t get enough of it. I love the building block aspect, making the pieces fit to create a winning team. Or if you’re the New York Jets, constantly messing it up. Like most years, I have some thoughts on the draft, both regarding my favorite team – the Green Bay Packers – and general NFL overview musing.
Five Packer thoughts:
- If he is available, the Packers should select Randy Gregory, OLB from Nebraska. Packers General Manager Ted Thompson claims he takes the best available player in the draft. Gregory is considered one of the top five players in the country talent-wise. However, some question his judgement after testing positive for marijuana during the NFL combine. Teams picking high in the first round have reason for concern. They are mostly bad teams that need an immediate contributor.
The Packers are neither. With a solid coach, a family atmosphere and a cast of veteran players, they can work with Gregory. If they can get someone like Julius Peppers to mentor Gregory both on and off the field, they’ll have a potential all-star for a decade. If Gregory does bust out of the league, it’s less significant with Thompson’s impeccable record of finding talent in the later rounds. At worst, Gregory will be better than some of Thompson’s other first round picks.
- If Gregory is gone, my choices in order are DT Malcom Brown (Texas), LB Shane Ray (Missouri), CB Byron Jones (UCon), CB Jalen Collins (LSU) or ILB Benardrick McKinney (Miss St.).
Brown is a thumper inside, and would fill a need, as B. J. Raji and Letroy Guion are in the last year of their contracts. Ray had a similar drop to Gregory after being caught with pot earlier this week. Jones fills a need with the departure of Davon House and Tramon Williams. Collins needs time to develop, but has high upside. McKinney would fill the Packers biggest need at inside linebacker. Which leads me to…
- Despite being their biggest need, the Packers can find their replacement at A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in the second round. The Packers cut both players, who were their starting inside linebackers in 2014. By midseason, they were replaced in the lineup by Sam Barrington and Clay Matthews, who moved inside from outside linebacker. There are a group of about six ILB that are similar in ability, and at most I think one will be drafted in the first round. If they covet one, they can always trade to a position in round two where they can draft one. Speaking of trades…
- The Packers WILL make a trade. The Packers were unusually quiet last year, not making any trades in the draft. Thompson likes to move in the draft, usually down to acquire more picks. If the players I mentioned are gone, you could see the Packers move out of the first round for a higher second round pick. Likewise, if they keep their first round pick, they could move up in the second round as mentioned earlier. This leads to my final point…
- In Ted We Trust. Early in his career as the Packers General Manager I was skeptical about Thompson’s moves. Why didn’t he sign any free agents? What’s with all the trades? Seriously it’s the offseason, just do SOMETHING! However, I am now on the Thompson bandwagon. While I’m still critical of his record on first round picks, he does a great job finding players throughout the draft that fit into his system. They might not always be the flashiest or top prospects, but they contribute and grow with the team. While I may occasionally curse his name (including likely during this draft), I know he’s good at his job and have faith in his moves.
Some non-Packer thought:
- My two favorite quarterbacks in the draft played in Oregon – Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Sean Mannion of Oregon State. Mariota us a player that will use his legs initially as he learns in the NFL, but he proved this year he can be a pass-first quarterback eventually. Mannion was a stud in a bad program at Oregon St, and owns 18 passing records to prove it.
- I’m not real high on Jameis Winston, but I think he’ll be better than Johnny Manziel. Not as good as Teddy Bridgewater. We’ll see if he can manage to stay out of trouble.
- While both will excel, Todd Gurley will be a better running back than Melvin Gordon. Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska is my third-favorite back.
- I have a feeling it’s going to be a trade-filled evening. Multiple teams have expressed interest in moving either up or down. It’s already been a crazy offseason for trades, and it could continue tonight.
- It’s a new era for the Jets. My other favorite team has a new general manager and coach. I’ll be excited to see what they do in their first draft. It can’t be as bad as last year.