The Wildcard edition of the 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 playoffs to worry about, it’s 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 30th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Barrett Jones, Center, Alabama
Analysis: The Packers picked up Jeff Saturday in the offseason, but it was Saturday that approached Mike McCarthy this season and painfully admitted that he just can’t hack it like he used to anymore. As a result, Green Bay has been rolling with Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and it’s been a wild ride. Green Bay’s offensive line has allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL and anyone could be replaced. Jonathan Cooper is an option here, but If he continues to fall, Green Bay could trade up and get him in round two.
Let me start by saying I love this selection for the Packers. I love it so much that I pined for it three weeks ago when I broke down Fansided’s week 15 mock. At that time, Jeff Saturday was still the starter, and an upgrade at the position during the offseason seemed like a necessity.
Back to the present, Evan Dietrich-Smith is now the starting center. He’s had moments where he’s obviously outperformed Saturday. However, he hasn’t yet proven he can play at that level consistently. He has up to three more games this season to prove he can hold down the position, so his grade as of the moment is incomplete.
That said, even if he earns next year’s starting center job, I still like the selection of Barrett Jones. Jones can and has played all positions on the offensive line. Not only that, but Jones has played those positions well. His massive 6-5 frame allows him to bring power to any position he lines up in. He’s dominating in pass protection, and rarely requires a second blocker to help on elite defensive linemen.
In addition to the positive effect Jones could have on the pass protection, he could also be the clincher for the Packers’ run game. It’s been awhile since Green Bay had a truly dominate run game, 2003 to be precise. That was the year Ahman Green set all the meaningful Packers’ single season running records. What gets lost in the shuffle is just how good that offensive line was in the interior. From left guard to right guard, that year’s Packers featured Mike Wahle, Mike Flanagan, and Marco Rivera. Having that kind of a run mauling interior line makes picking up 3rd and shorts a cinch, and completely changes the way defenses approach you in the redzone.
Not only could Jones pick up the torch left by Flanagan, but there is no better player comp available for Jones. It’s extraordinarily rare for any offensive lineman to have Jones’ versatility, let alone being able to play all the positions the way Flanagan did. Even if this wasn’t a Packers site, this is the comparison I’d draw.
Because it’s customary, there are alternatives the Packers should at least consider. Fansided suggests Jonathan Cooper. From a talent standpoint, Cooper would be a tremendous value at pick 30. Despite this, he doesn’t make a ton of sense for Green Bay. Cooper’s best position is left guard where they’ve just invested long term in T.J. Lang. Cooper does have the ability to play center, but if that’s why you’re drafting him you’re just better off with Barrett Jones.
Sticking with the offensive line, the Packers could also take a look at the tackle position. The projected starter at right tackle, Bryan Bulaga, is expected to make a full recovery, but hip injuries are always tricky and nothing’s for certain. On the other side, Marshall Newhouse has steadily improved in his second year starting, but he continues to struggle with elite pass rushers and often requires a tight end or running back to chip. The best remaining tackle on the board in this mock draft was Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews. As you might know, Matthews is the son of Hall of Fame tackle Bruce Matthews, which would also make Clay Matthews III his cousin. Bloodlines aside, Jake Matthews is a ferocious blocker who could anchor either side of an offensive line.
As I’ve suggested previously, the Packers could also look at wide receivers. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are unlikely to return to Green Bay in 2013, and James Jones is a free agent after next season. Packers GM Ted Thompson has a track record of drafting wide receivers a year or two ahead of when they’ll be needed. There are many fantastic options that may still be available at this point, USC’s Robert Woods being chief among them. He has good but not great speed to go along with his similarly good but not great height. What he does have are fantastic hands and is far ahead of most draft prospects in terms of route running. He should be able to contribute early, and can take on a big role as early as 2014.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn. Also Like Lombardiave.com on Facebook and follow Lombardiave on Twitter.