In the coming weeks I will be breaking down the top players the Green Bay Packers will be watching in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. These are players I believe are clear targets of the Packers based on the buzz generated by scouts, schematic fits, potential locker room presence, and players who also seem to fit the Ted Thompson mold.
The entire list of players that interest the Green Bay Packers would be overwhelming, so let’s go round by round. Today I will highlight five first round prospects that Packer fans should keep a close eye on during the scouting combine.
Because you can bet that Green Bay Packers scouts will be.
C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
Mosley is an incredible talent at inside linebacker. In fact, he’s so talented that he should not be available when the Packers select at no. 21. However, a careful consideration of the biggest needs of other NFL teams leads me to think that Mosley is a prime candidate to slip in the first round. Inside backers are not drafted as highly as pass rushers and many teams have bigger needs than inside linebackers. Ted Thompson believes in taking the best player available. If Mosley is available, he is likely the best player as well.
Combine Watch: Mosley would greatly upgrade the athleticism of the Green Bay Packer linebackers. He is a sure tackler and also very good in coverage. It has been suggested that the play of A.J. Hawk would greatly increase with a dynamic athlete beside him. The biggest questions regarding Mosley could be concerning his durability. Look for Mosley to be checked for overall health and also to test well in speed and agility drills.
Hasean Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
Clinton-Dix has been a favorite selection in Packers mock drafts for months. There are a few reasons for this. Frankly, the Packers are really bad at the safety position. And frankly, Clinton-Dix is really good. It is definitely a possibility that he is selected long before Green Bay picks. Chicago, Pittsburg, and Dallas are all rumored landing spots for Clinton-Dix. If he is around, he is a natural selection to play free safety in Green Bay.
Combine Watch: Clinton-Dix was very productive at Alabama. He has incredible recovery speed. In fact, his speed is one of his best attributes. He should have a chance to impress when his name is called for the 40-yard dash. However, some wonder if he relies on his speed too much. Watch for him to try to demonstrate his well-rounded athleticism and secure himself as the top safety prospect in the draft.
Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville
This Louisville safety has been skyrocketing up draft charts and the reasons are clear. He simply stands out on tape. You can’t miss the obvious impact he has on games. He flies around the field and his hits are terrifying. He would add a great deal of aggressiveness and playmaking ability in the Packer’s secondary.
Combine Watch: Pryor has not been tested in coverage as much as other safeties in the draft. He is certainly an impact player against the run, but with the Packers needing so much help in coverage they will need to see his ability to cover. This could be hard to judge through the drills, but look for Pryor to try to prove that his lack of coverage experience only speaks to experience and not to his potential and natural ability. Teams could also be concerned that his aggression could need to be tamed in a league that penalizes violent hits.
Louis Nix, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Nix stands far above all other nose tackle prospects in this draft. It’s not even close. If the Packers are not able to re-sign B.J. Raji, Nix could easily become their most coveted prospect. He is a wild card right now. Some believe him to be a top-10 talent, while others have him falling into the second round. He is most valuable to teams running a 3-4 defense.
Combine Watch: Nix is a freak athlete. He is huge, but he is also very quick for a big man. Film shows that he runs like a much lighter player. Health is an issue. Any player weighing over 300 pounds and who has had knee issues raises red flags. He will be carefully examined from a health and durability standpoint. Expect him to run a good 40 time for a nose. A run stuffer with great athleticism? A lot of teams will want in on that.
Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Nobody wants to see it happen, but if Sam Shields does not return with a new contract the Packers will be forced to look for help at cornerback early in the draft. Gilbert was a dominant player for Oklahoma State. He shows great coverage ability, but also demonstrates big play-making skills. We all know that Dom Capers loves players who generate turnovers.
Combine Watch: The reason I mention Gilbert as a player to watch is because there seems to be confusion over whether or not he is the top corner in the draft. I believe he is. Michigan State’s Dennard is an incredible talent, but I think he could struggle at the pro level because so much of his game is based on physicality. If Dennard cements himself as the top corner with a respectable 40 time, look for Gilbert to potentially fall farther than some expect. Perhaps he falls right into the lap of a Green Bay team that needs to replace Sam Shields.
None of these players are in danger of going undrafted. They are participating at the combine to prove that they are deserving of a first round selection in May’s draft. How high they rise and how far they could slide will largely be based on their performance at the scouting combine.
Keep checking in here at Lombardiave.com as we will be keeping you in the loop on all Green Bay Packers draft news. Also, you can follow @kylerfellows on Twitter to get my updates on these 5 prospects and more the week of the scouting combine.
Stay tuned in to these players. They could be the next Green Bay Packers’ first round selection.