Green Bay Packers NFL Draft: Who will be available for Ted Thompson’s picks?

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Dec 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Sam Barrington (58) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 30-20. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Looking at inside linebacker and nose tackle

Starting inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were released and picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.

Jamari Lattimore, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the defene-minded New York Jets.

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  • That leaves us with young, former seventh round pick, Sam Barrington, who earlier this spring declared the Packers as “my defense”; Carl Bradford drafted in the fourth round out of Arizona State as an outside linebacker; Joe Thomas, a CFA in 2014 out of South Carolina State; and Josh Francis, a free agent from West Virginia.

    From the outside it seems that ILB is a critical weakness.

    Then that leaves us with the conundrum that is Clay Matthews.

    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    In 2014, Matthews stepped in to shore up the middle of the defense after the Packers looked befuddled in a bad 44-23 loss at the New OrleansSaints in week 8.

    Does Matthews return to the middle again in 2015?

    Do the Packers turn to a guy like Adrian Hubbard?

    There is one free agent of interest still available … Brandon Spikes.

    He’s only 27, and has good size at 6-3, 250 pounds. He was drafted in second round by the New England Patriots in 2010 and played on a good Bills defense last year. Spikes especially helped in run defense that improved from 28th in 2013 to 11th last year.

    I still think he may be a good fit, but we will see if TT moves in that direction after the draft.

    Nose tackle also has lots of question marks.

    Sure B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion have been re-signed, but will they play?

    Raji is oft-injured and had zero sacks in 2012 and 2013. Even if Raji plays well in 2015, he will likely be gone in 2016.

    Guion’s run-in with the law means that he will face a likely 4-6 game suspension to start the 2015 season.

    He played well last season and picked up 3.5 sacks. That leaves us with Mike Pennel, a UFA that could be a space-eater if he builds upper body strength.

    So when you look at the Packers defensive holes that could/should be filled in the draft, if I were GM for a day (or three) I would choose nose tackle in rounds 1 or 2; cornerback (1 or more) in rounds 2-4; then ILB in the middle rounds.

    Let’s take a closer look at prospective Packers targets …

    Next: The nose tackle: End of the first and second rounds