The draft is only a little more than one week away, and it’s time to look at some positions the Green Bay Packers could focus on in the draft.
With the loss of Erik Walden to the Indianapolis Colts and Frank Zombo to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, the Packers are looking mighty thin at outside linebacker. This only leaves the Packers with Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Dezman Moses. Green Bay needs to add more young talent to solidify the most important position in Dom Capers‘ 3-4 defense.
There may be a chance the Packers address this need early in the draft, but with more pressing needs at offensive line, defensive line, safety, and running back, and the potential of Perry returning as the starter, I see the Packers taking an outside linebacker in the mid-to-late rounds. Remember, they don’t necessarily need to find a starter here, but rather a player who will add depth and can rotate in with Matthews and Perry. Here are a few outside linebacker prospects Green Bay could select late in the draft that I believe would fit well with their team.
Corey Lemonier: Auburn, 6-3, 255 pounds, 4.60 40 time, 27 reps bench press
A bit too small to play defensive end in the NFL, Lemonier projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Lemonier shows good agility and speed for a player his size. He plays with a high motor and brings a physicality to the field the Packers could use (watch some of his college highlights). Lemonier had a great sophomore season in 2011, recording 13.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks, but his 2012 season wasn’t as promising, only recording 5.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, dropping his draft stock significantly. Mock drafts project Lemonier to go anywhere from the bottom of the second round to the top of the fifth. If the Packers could get Lemonier at the end of the third or fourth round, this would add another edge rusher to rotate in with Perry at left outside linebacker.
Jamie Collins: Southern Miss, 6-3’, 250 pounds, 4.64 40 time, 19 reps bench press
Collins converted from safety to linebacker in college and shows good short-area quickness and movement for an outside linebacker of his size. In his last two years at Southern Miss, Collins piled up 16.5 sacks and 39.5 tackles for a loss, proving he can be a very effective stand-up pass rusher. Mock drafts have Collins going anywhere from the top of the third round to the sixth round. Collins struggled against top tier tackles and lacks ideal upper-body strength, which leaves some scouts concerned about his ability to hold up against the run and be an every down player. Collins’ ability to get to the quarterback would make him a great third down pass rusher and situational player for Green Bay.
Chase Thomas: Stanford, 6-3’, 244 pounds, 4.91 40 time, 18 reps bench press
Chase Thomas looks like a Ted Thompson-type pick. Thomas is a high-hustle player who played outside linebacker in a 3-4 system at Stanford. Thomas proved to be productive as an edge rusher in the 3-4, posting 27.5 sacks in college, and wouldn’t need a lot of time to adjust playing outside linebacker in the Packers’ defense. Thomas lacks power and flat line speed, pushing him down draft boards despite his playmaking ability in college. Thomas could go as late as the fifth round, making him a great value pick for Green Bay if he falls to them at the bottom of the round.
Michael Buchanan: Illinois, 6-5, 255 pounds, 4.78 40 time, 22 reps bench press
Buchanan has ideal length and size for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but showed inconsistent effort as a senior. He had a great junior season in 2011, recording 13.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks, but after Whitney Mercilus left Illinois, Buchanan’s numbers dropped off his senior season – only recording 7 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Buchanan could drop as far as the fifth or sixth round and be a good fit for Green Bay late in the draft. A coach like Kevin Greene could turn a player like Buchanan into a productive player.
Any of these draft prospects would be great mid- to late-round finds for Ted Thompson and company. They would add some competition to the outside linebacker position and provide important depth needed to have success with a 3-4 system. Keep your eyes open on day three of the draft, and still expect Thompson to do what he does best – finding value late in the draft.