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Green Bay Packers April Scouting Report
Mike Hankes

This is the NFL pre-draft report for the Packers. The Packers have 11 draft picks – 7 picks of their own, 2 as compensation picks, and 2 via trade. This is an exercise in looking at what the roster says they need, guessing what the Packers might think of the players they own, and/or how they might want to add capability to the team. I will look at it by position. I know I said that I wasn’t going to write about the Packers this year, but I disagree with some of what the media is saying. I am trying to be retired J .

Quarterback – QB Aaron Rodgers has a new contract and I think it really is a two year deal – not the advertized 4 years. So I think the Packers keep QB Jordan Love for now. And I don’t think they draft one this year. The thing being overlooked is the return of Tom Clements as the QB coach.

Wide Receiver – The following are gone from last year’s team; WR Davante Adams, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS), and WR Equanimeous St. Brown (EQ). Returning from last year are; WR Allen Lazard, WR Malik Taylor, WR Randall Cobb, WR Amari Rodgers, WR Juwann Wilfree. Added to the current year roster from last year’s practice squad are; WR Chris Blair, and WR Rico Gafford. On the surface, this group of receivers fails the name recognition test – excluding Lazard and Cobb perhaps – and with just that in the eyes of the national media the Packers have nothing to compete with. So enter newly signed WR Sammy Watkins. He at least has name recognition. I know everyone will get excited about him. But Watkins has had injury trouble in recent years (started 9 games in 3 of the last 4 years) which have limited his production – and on the verge of being out of the league, the Packers sign him to a one year "prove-it" contract. The guaranteed money is only $350,000 –this is a very, very cut-able contract. If it doesn’t work out the Packers are in the same place they would be (just before the draft) without him. Let’s dig deeper. First, if memory serves me correctly, the Packers are undefeated when Adams was out of the lineup over the last three (MLF) years – 7-0 I believe. The offense on an average was gaining more yards without Adams in the lineup than when he was there – so much for the national "Rodgers is in trouble" narrative. Why was that the case? He was spreading the ball around more rather than just overtly favoring one receiver. Another factor was that RB Aaron Jones was used in the slot more as a receiver. In one of those games Lazard was the receiving leader. And Tonyan also figured into those wins. And all three guys are still on the Packer roster. This year we can dream about RB AJ Dillion in the backfield with Jones in the slot. That would be very hard to defend. We know about Lazard and Cobb. WR Malik Taylor gets rave reviews for his ability to separate and his speed in practices, in which, the beat writers are restricted on what they can report. But some information gets out. Taylor has shown well in the brief times he has played in real games. WR Amari Rodgers is determined to take a huge step forward this year. He certainly hasn’t hidden what he is doing and how he intends to improve. Winfree got some game action last year. He certainly lit up training camp before an injury caused him miss a good chunk of the season. Blair was a receiving star on his college team. Blair comes from the same school as former Packer WR Donald Driver – Alcorn State. He is a bigger receiver who can catch with good, but not great speed. Gafford has 4.26 speed, appeared to play more cornerback in college than anything on offense. He is 5-10 and 184lbs. But, when he was playing with the Panthers in a pre-season game, he caught a 53 yard touchdown pass – and made the defensive backs look like they were standing still in the process. And with Oakland during the regular season he caught a short pass, eluded 3 would-be tacklers, and outran everyone else for a 30 yard touchdown. Consistency will be a thing he will have to demonstrate. In spite of all that, I think they will draft about 3 receivers, one who comes ready to go, one with punt return ability, one who is good but might not be able to play this year. If you matrix that with the capability the Packer GM is desiring, you would have an idea of what they are going thru in the Packer draft room.

Running Back – RB Aaron Jones and RB AJ Dillion are the 1-2 punch, and could be on the field together. RB Kylin Hill was drafted last year, won the #3 backup role, then got a knee injury. He will come back ready to go for training camp. RB Patrick Taylor was healthy and moved into the #3 backup role after Hill went out and did well enough. I don’t think the Packers will take a RB in this draft.

Tight End – The Packers have re-signed TE Robert Tonyan and TE Mercedes Lewis. TE Josiah Deguara, TE Dominique Dafney, TE Tyler Davis, TE Bronson Kaufusi, and TE Alize Mack are also on the roster. Let’s just say that after Tonyan went down and was lost for the season, no one really stood out. They need a guy who can run a route, get open, catch, and block. My preferred guy would be TE Jelani Woods, Virginia, or TE Trey McBride, Colorado State if need be.

Offensive Line – I know this is fantasy football and there are no points for having or not having a good group. That said, how an offensive line plays could affect fantasy value – in case you were wondering that is why I bring it up. The Packers have cut OG Billy Turner for cap reasons, and OC Lucas Patrick (Bears) and OL Ben Braden (Broncos) left in free agency. In addition, OT Dennis Kelley hasn’t decided if he will be back. While OT David Bakhtari will be back, the Packers will start the season without the very versatile OL Elgton Jenkins. Last year OG Jon Runyan, OT Yosh Nijam, newcomer OC Josh Meyers, and newcomer OG Royce Newman all played well. Also on the roster is OC Jake Hanson, OT Cole Van Lanen, and OG Michael Menet. I think because of loses and uncertainty, the Packers will take two. Some suggestions include; the OG Charles Cross (Miss. St.), OG Kenyon Green, OT Nicholas Petit-Frere (OSU), OT Tyler Smith (Tulsa), or OT Abraham Lucas (Wash. St.). This is a deep class.

Defensive Line – The line now consists of DL Kenny Clark, DL Dean Lowry, DL TJ Slaton, DL Jack Heflin, DL Abdullah Anderson, and DL RJ McIntosh. The Packers have signed free agent DL Jarran Reed as well, but he is 31 and on a 1 year deal. Undrafted free agent DL Tyler Lancaster remains unsigned by anyone. It isn’t clear if the Packers want him back. I think they will add one. Assuming the "Georgia Three" are out of reach, suggestions include; DL Logan Hall of Houston, DL Jeffrey Gunter of Costal Carolina, DL Zach Van Valkenburg of Iowa, or DL Matt Henningsen of Wisconsin.

Inside Linebacker – the starters are ILB Kyrs Barnes and ILB De’Vondre Campbell. The backups are ILB Ty Summers, ILB Ray Wilborn, and ILB Isaiah McDuffie. Campbell did a nice job last year and got a nice pay raise. The backups are replaceable. I would add at least one pick. Some possibilities include; ILB Devin Lloyd of Utah, ILB Christian Harris of Alabama, or ILB Leo Chenal of Wisconsin.

Outside Linebacker – OLB Za’Darius Smith is released as a cap casualty. OLB Whitney Mercilus decided to retire. OLB Preston Smith was extended. OLB Rashan Gary developed. OLB Jonathan Garvin, OLB Randy Ramsey, OLB Tipa Galeai, OLB La’Darius Hamilton, and OLB Peter Kalambayi are all on the roster. The new LB position coach says he wants four good ones – currently he has two. I think they take at least one. Some possibilities include; OLB Jermaine Johnson of FSU, OLB Boye Mafe of Minnesota, OLB Nik Bonitto of Oklahoma, or OLB DeAngelo Malone of Western Kentucky.

Cornerback – On the roster is CB Jaira Alexander, CB Eric Stokes, CB Rasul Douglas, CB Shemar Jean-Charles, CB Keisean Nixon, CB Kablon Ento, and CB Kiondre Thomas. CB Chandon Sullivan (Vikings) left via free agency. CB Kevin King is an unrestricted free agent and has not been signed by anyone. The Packer interest in him is not known. The Packers are good three deep, so they might wish to add one more via the draft. Suggestions include; CB Kair Elam of Florida, CB Andrew Booth of Clemson, CB Kyler Gordon of Washington, or CB Jermaine Walker of Virginia Tech.

Safety – On the roster now includes; S Adrian Amos, S Darnell Savage, S Vernon Scott, S Shawn Davis, and S Innis Gaines. All this is nice, but none are currently signed thru next year. They may want to draft two – but not in the first round. Some suggestions include; S Brandon Cook of Cincinnati, S Jaquan Brisker of Penn State, S Lewis Cine of Georgia, or S Nick Grant of Virginia.

Special Teams – This is the year of the special teams remake. K Mason Crosby (the incumbent), K JJ Molson (who did well in training camp last year), and K Dominik Eberle (the newcomer), will duke it out for the place kicking duties next year. There is a new punter in town – P Pat O’Donnell. If the Packers are going to stick with LS Steven Wirtel, he needs to get a lot stronger and add 50-60 pounds. I don’t think there will be picks at any of these positions.

Conclusion: If your fantasy draft were to happen soon, I would still take QB Aaron Rodgers – he will be fine. We just don’t know how and to whom the ball will be distributed yet – so I would wait and see how that might turn out. No matter how it all works out RB Aaron Jones will be a big part of it, so taking him should be good. The Packer Defense has found a formula this past year and the Packers have re-signed all the components that make it work. After mid season last year they were a top 10 defense. So I would recommend taking them. It is also too early to speculate on how special teams will play. I don’t know when or if I will write another article. In any case, get the munchies ready and take care.


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