Oct 13, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Tyler Eifert (80) makes a catch in the end zone for a touchdown against Stanford Cardinal cornerbacks Devon Carrington (5) and Terrence Brown (6) at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Stanford in overtime 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Mock Draft: The Green Bay Packers Select…

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Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; A general view of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The Week 15 FanSided 2013 NFL Mock Draft has been released.

The fine folks over at FanSided.com do a new mock draft every week right up until the actual draft in April, and while we at LombardiAve.com have the end of the regular season and playoffs to worry about, it’s just about the start of draft season for most teams. We Packer fans have our own opinions about what needs the Packers should try to fill using the 2013 draft. In this article we’ll explore some possibilities for the Packers first pick.

Draft positions will shuffle some the remainder of the season, so the Packers position in round 1 will probably move around a bit. Here’s hoping that it ends up being the 32nd pick in round 1!

According to FanSided, with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select:

“Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame”

Analysis: Reports came out this week that the Packers have decided it will be best to part ways with tight end Jermichael Finley after the season. Without Finley, the team will need to find a replacement and there is no better option than Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert. Eifert is an all-around tight end that can stay in to block, but his strength comes when he creates mismatches down the field.

Predicting the players that Ted Thompson will draft is an extremely difficult challenge. Thompson’s big board challenges conventional wisdom more than most any other general manager, and he never, ever deviates from it. It’s all about value, value, value.

And while Tyler Eifert is likely the first tight end selected if he forgoes his final year at Notre Dame, there is little to no chance the Packers select him in round one.

This selection is predicated on last week’s report that Jermichael Finley will depart following the season. While that very well may happen, Green Bay is one of the tightest lipped organizations in sports. The notion that such a major move would be leaked before the end of the season is pretty preposterous.

Furthermore, even if we take it as gospel that Finley will no longer be with the team after 2012, this draft pick makes little sense. Under Thompson, the Packers have drafted four tight ends, and all but one of them was taken in the 5th round or later. That lone exception was the aforementioned Finley who was considered a mid-second round talent that landed to the Packers at the very end of the third round. That history suggests it’ll take a tremendous value to make Thompson pull the trigger on a tight end before the late rounds, and Tyler Eifert does not represent that value in round one.

So who will the Packers select? As amazing as it seems, the Packers may have some vacancies at wide receiver. Greg Jennings will be a free agent, and given Thompson’s approach to veteran players over 30, most assume Jennings will not be in the green and gold in 2013. Donald Driver is even more likely playing his last year, as not only can he no longer get open, he has no special teams value. That leaves Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones as the only wideouts on the squad with any meaningful experience.

Now, Thompson has never drafted a receiver in the first round, but he has drafted them early and often. Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, and Terrence Murphy were all drafted in the second round, with Jones being a third round pick. Thompson has also shown that he’ll draft receiver when nobody expects it, as exemplified by Cobb’s and Nelson’s selections.

Based on who was still available in the week 15 FanSided mock draft, the Packers could target West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, or USC’s Robert Woods.

December 1, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) rushes the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks during the third quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. The West Virginia Mountaineers won 59-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Austin was ultra-productive for three years, averaging over 1,000 yards receiving over that span. He’s also been a great returner in both the kickoff and punt game, netting 2,765 total return yards and five touchdown returns in his collegiate career. However, he’s an undersized receiver and plays mostly from the slot. Given that Cobb will be handling slot duty for the foreseeable future, Austin’s productivity may be limited in Green Bay. That said, if Cobb is going to be the Packers number one receiver going forward, it makes sense to bring in another electric returner to take Cobb’s place on special teams.

Hunter is a much taller receiver at 6-4. He’s expected to run the 40 in the high 4.4 to 4.5 range, which is great speed for that size. His issue is that of consistent production, which is a nice way of saying he’s a one year wonder. In his first two years at Tennessee, he never put up more than 415 yards. Now in his third year, he’s caught more balls for more yards than the rest of his career combined. He also has as many touchdowns this year as he’s had in the rest of his time at Tennessee. Traditionally, this is not the kind of receiver Thompson targets.

October 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods (2) catches a touchdown in the first half of the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Woods is the most interesting of the bunch. He holds all the meaningful receiving records at USC, an accomplishment that cannot be overstated. At 6-1 with an estimated mid-to-high 4.4, 40 time, Woods has the ideal size and speed for McCarthy’s version of the West Coast offense. He also possesses great hands and has had unreal production during his college career, the latter being of little surprise given his plethora of USC records. I would be very surprised if he’s still available when the Packers pick, and even more surprised if Thompson were to pass on him should he be left on the board.

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones (75) in action with quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Another direction the Packers may go is center. Jeff Saturday has been shaky at times this year and he’ll be 38 at the start of the 2013 season. The Packers haven’t taken a center earlier than the third round under Thompson, but they’ve tried to do so before. Most recently, the Packers targeted Kevin Zeitler as their center of the future. Heading in the 2012 draft, it was widely rumored that Thompson would have taken Zeitler and moved him from guard to center had he not been selected one pick earlier by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Should the Packers lean this direction again, Alabama’s Barrett Jones would make a fine addition. He’s the reigning Outland Trophy winner, and has the versatility to play any position along the line. At 6-5, he provides much greater power than the Packers have had at center since the days of Mike Flanagan. Having a big center to place between T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton could make all the difference in the Packers’ running game.

Don’t forget to check out the entire mock at FanSided 2013 Mock Draft.

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