The NFL Draft is fewer than 14 days away and you can bet that Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson is shuttered into the confines of Lambeau Field poring over his draft board with scouts and coaches – all the while keeping one eye on the contract negotiations with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Thompson understands a couple of things: Rodgers will be a Green Bay Packer probably well after the GM retires and if that’s to occur, Thompson has to build his team around Rodgers smartly and efficiently to ensure his legacy.
He does that in this draft by first targeting the offensive line, moving on to defensive line, adding a wide receiver and then addressing the running back situation before possibly circling back to the offensive line.
So, here’s a look at my first four-round mock draft for the Packers:
• First round: Menelik Watson, offensive tackle, Florida State
• Second round: Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist University
• Third round: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
• Fourth round: Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
For many, Watson is a reach, and project him falling to the early second round. However, for someone like Thompson and the Packers, they have got to draft an offensive lineman. Unless they know something we don’t about 2011 first round pick Derek Sherrod, they can’t afford to wait around any longer for him to heal up – not when we’re talking about protecting the blind side of the richest man in the league.
Watson would bring a mountain of a man to the line. Watson is raw, but with a huge upside. He is the type of player who will be coachable and an instant mix into the line.
Todd McShay is a big fan and also projects the Packers taking Watson with that first pick. Here is what he has to say:
This might seem a little high for a player with an early-second-round grade, but Watson could make sense for various reasons. The Packers might not be totally sold on Marshall Newhouse as their left tackle, and there is concern about RT Derek Sherrod coming off a broken leg suffered late in 2012…. at this point there is not a running back, safety or wide receiver worth reaching for to fill a need. The Packers can’t win unless they improve their ability to protect Aaron Rodgers, and Watson could help in that regard.
McShay is right: The Packers are not sold on Newhouse (or Sherrod, for that matter) and if they don’t draft another tackle, the only other option is to move Bryan Bulaga to the left side and allow undrafted free agent Don Barclay to remain where he ended last season – at right tackle. While Bulaga was a left tackle in college, he was inserted and stayed at right tackle for a reason.
Here is how the official website of the Senior Bowl projects Menelik:
Menelik played basketball at Marist before transferring to Saddleback Community College (CA) to try his hand at football. Now, after only one season of major college experience at Florida State, he enters the draft with 13 career starts as a right tackle. However, with his frame, arm length and natural feet, he is a projection to left tackle and after seeing him at the FSU Pro Day, there is little doubt that he will successfully make that move in the NFL. It will take a “need” and some “nerve” to pick him in the first round, but within two years, he should become a long-time fixture at the LT spot.
And nfl.com had good things to ay about the 6-5, 314-pound Watson:
Menelik Watson has rare athletic ability on a tremendous frame. He has an explosive first step, light feet, and a powerful punch. There are a lot of things in his game that need to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint, and he will be 25 years old in his rookie season. He can project to either tackle spot, or possibly even inside, at guard.
Here’s what Rant Sports had to say about Watson in this video:
In the second round, the Packers will probably have the choice of three decent defensive linemen – Margus Hunt, Kawann Short, or Johnathan Hankins. I think they would select Hunt over the other two because the Packers seem to be looking to fill that outside position with someone with length and strength.
Well, at 6-8 and a great work ethic, Hunt will fill the bill. He’s a world class athlete who would help the Packers bolster its defensive line, especially in light of the fact that second year lineman Jerel Worthy probably won’t make back onto the field until well into the regular season. The Packers need depth on the line, while adding a player adept at stopping the run and bringing pressure. Hunt has those skills.
Here’s a video of Hunt …
Moving on to the third round, you might be asking, wide receiver? Well, we all know how Thompson likes to keep his receiving corps fresh and with the losses of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, bringing in a player like Stedman Bailey might be what one would consider a coup.
Compared with the likes of Jennings, there are a lot of good things to say about Bailey.
In fact, I’ve written about him before … Here’s some of what I had to say in a previous post:
For the past two years, Bailey eclipsed the 1,200 yard mark, catching 72 passes for 1,279 yards (17.8 yard average), and 12 touchdowns. He burned by those statistics in 2012 by catching 114 passes for 1,622 yards (14.2 yard average) and an incredible 25 touchdowns. Clearly, the guy knows how to find the end zone.
Whether he’s still around for the Packers and their mid-round selection remains to be seen, but if GM Ted Thompson sees a need to improve the team’s receiving corps, Bailey is as good of a choice as any.
He’s a solid player who might slip to the Packers in this round.
Here’s a video of Bailey:
I expect that Thompson may go to a running back in the third round if a receiver like Stedman isn’t available, but if he gets his receiver in the third round, then look for TT to look to go running back with his next pick.
That pick for me is Christine Michael. Thompson is high on this guy and was said to be particularly interested in watching him at the practices for the East-West Shrine Game. Michael is an extremely talented running back with all the skills necessary to become an NFL player. However, his biggest downside seems to be reliability and maturity. If there’s one thing that can be addressed in Green Bay, it’s those two things. How many players have you heard say that their move to Green Bay has allowed them to focus on football and football only? The limited distractions in the NFL’s smallest venue have helped many players focus and this could be the case for Michael.
Because Michael overslept and missed a couple of meetings at the Combine, the question of reliability was raised. However, on the field he did everything he was asked. At the Combine, he was the top in the bench-press drill (27 reps), the vertical jump (43.0 inches), the broad jump (125.0 inches), the three-cone drill (6.69 seconds) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.02 seconds).
That’s why the Packers would get a steal with this guy, especially in the fourth round.
Here’s a video of Michael …