As we near the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Green Bay Packers fans know that the draft is bigger and deeper than the first round. Standout players are found in the middle and late rounds each year.
So, assuming the Packers stay put at the 53rd pick, let’s focus our attention on five intriguing prospects who likely will be available for the Packers when they pick in the second round.
Jimmie Ward, Safety, Northern Illinois
Ward might be my favorite prospect in this entire group. Many consider him a third round pick, but I think a good showing at the combine could guarantee him a place in the second. The Packers clearly need to upgrade their safeties and Ward looks like he could be an option in the second round.
Don’t be deceived by his sub 6-foot, 190-pound frame.
Ward is a physical player who is not afraid to hit receivers. The most attractive thing about Ward might be that he combines his physicality with very good range in coverage. I am convinced that Ward could play either safety position.
Combine Watch: Coming from Northern Illinois, Ward was not tested every week the way that some prospects would be. However, he has played exceptionally well against top talent such as Florida State (2012). In addition, Ward is not the biggest or tallest prospect. He will need to impress on the bench and in the 40-yard dash. Teams will also be looking to see if there is room to add weight to his frame.
Deone Bucannon (Washington State) and Dion Bailey (USC) have been discussed by some as round two prospects for the Packers, but I fail to see them as great Green Bay prospects. Both players are better against the run and could struggle to cover tight ends and receivers in the slot. I expect Green Bay to select a safety like Ward, who demonstrates better natural ability in coverage.
Pierre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood University
The rumor is that Packers scouts have been sent to watch Desir play on multiple occasions. This corner plays for a smaller program, but he has great potential. Some have suggested that Green bay might be targeting him as a safety prospect. I have no reason to think that Desir wants to play safety, but it would seem odd for the Packers to use an early pick on a cornerback, considering their other needs. It is possible that Green Bay is attracted to putting his size, ability in coverage, and playmaking ability deep in their secondary.
Combine Watch: Desir is receiving a lot of hype from scouts and draft experts right now. If he lives up to expectations in drills and interviews he could ensure his selection in the second round. A few things to watch are Desir’s 40 time and change of direction ability. Some have noted that he might have stiff hips and struggle changing direction. At 6-1, he is a big-bodied defensive back. Teams could fall in love if he shows great athleticism and fluidity.
Troy Niklas, Tight End, Notre Dame
Everyone is talking about this year’s crop of tight ends. But have you heard of Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas? It’s OK if you have not. Honestly, many are wondering why he decided to declare for the draft. He has immense talent, but probably could have used another year to master his trade. Regardless, whoever drafts him will be getting tons of upside and a real physical specimen. At 6-6 and 270 pounds, Niklas is a mountain bring down and often requires a gang tackle. The potential loss of Jermichael Finley could put the Packers in the market for their next playmaking tight end.
Combine Watch: Niklas is raw, but his upside is very real. Scouts will be watching everything he does closely. It will be interesting to see how fast he runs and how strong he is. He has had some trouble with drops, so showing consistency with his hands would be a huge boost. A team that drafts Niklas knows that they will need to coach him (especially in his blocking technique), but the upside should be worth it. The first round could be too early for the Packers to address the tight end position. However, taking Niklas in the second round could be a great way to get a playmaker at the position.
Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker, Wisconsin
Chris Borland could be a fan favorite pick. This Wisconsin linebacker has been nothing but productive for the Badgers. He is thought to be a third round prospect by many, but mostly because of his lack of ideal height. At just under 6 feet, some scouts say that he would be graded completely differently if he were just an inch taller. As one might expect, he’s getting Zach Thomas comparisons. He showcased well at the Senior Bowl and his stock continues to climb. Packers could stand to improve on their inside linebackers and Borland’s consistency and sure tackling would be a great help in making this unit better.
Combine Watch: Most are not expecting Borland to run a great 40 time. In addition, some are concerned that his frame is maxed out and that a team is drafting consistent production without a lot of upside. The combine will be helpful to Borland in other ways, however. He is smart and he will likely impress in an interview. His character, work ethic, and love for the game will be evident. He is probably the best inside linebacker not named Mosley in the draft. If he turns in a decent combine, then I would expect he is someone the Packers could like in the middle of their defense.
Trent Murphy, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Stanford
I had not watched much tape on Stanford’s Murphy until today. My mistake. One word kept coming to mind while I was watching him. Murphy is simply relentless. He is constantly being disruptive. He has a great motor and could easily fit into the Packers outside linebacker spot opposite of Matthews. In fact, he looked best when he started his pass rush from a stand up position.
Combine Watch: Murphy is not a speedy athlete. Scouts know this. He will do wonders for his draft stock if he can turn in respectable speed and agility drills. He doesn’t have to be spectacular, just respectable. He will also need to show compensation for his speed with strength. He is also not going to be great in coverage. You see what you get in Murphy. He is really good at one thing – rushing the passer. This is definitely an area where the Packers could use an upgrade and a solid showing at the combine could warrant the use of a second round pick on a talent such as Murphy.
Stay tuned in to Lombardiave.com as we will continue to keep you up-to-date on all Green Bay Packers draft news and rumblings. Also, you can follow @kylerfellows on twitter to get my updates on these five prospects and more the week of the scouting combine. An analysis of third round prospects to watch at the combine is coming next week.
I would not ignore these five talented prospects. They could very well be the next Green Bay Packers second round selection.
What about your thoughts? Who is missing from the list? Who else might Green bay target in the second round of May’s draft?