Every year the draft community tries to highlight at least a handful of prospects that could slip in the middle rounds but later become major contributors for their teams.
For the 2016 linebackers class, I see a lot of these type of players. This year’s class is so deep at the second level that a lot of really good linebackers coming out of college will fall in the draft and get scooped up by teams looking to reinforce the position in rounds 3-5.
Maybe the Packers could take a look at a solid player like Cassanova McKinzy out of Auburn or Blake Martinez from Stanford, draft him in the fourth round, and plug him into their lineup?
Both McKinzy and Martinez are hard-nosed, physical players with good instincts and football IQ. Measuring in at 6-2, 253 pounds and 6-2, 245 pounds respectively, they also offer good size and strength at the position, which is definitely something the Packers need at inside linebacker if Clay Matthews moves back outside next season.
Utah State’s Nick Vigil and Temple’s Tyler Matakevitch are also mid-round sleepers that could be really good role players for an NFL team. They both play with their heart on their sleeves, and although limited athletically and undersized, there’s something admirable about what they bring to the field each and every game.
They could be viable options for the Packers on day three of the draft, and in the very least, compete with Ryan and Barrington for playing time.
Two other guys I think Packers fans should pay attention to during the pre-draft evaluation process are Luke Rhodes out of William & Mary and former Auburn linebacker Kris Frost.
Rhodes is a small-school prospect who could be a really good player at the next level with some time to develop. He moves well in space, makes plays against the run, and is an all-around solid prospect for the position.
Following his junior season, Frost was highly regarded by many scouts and draft analysts going into the 2015 Draft. Many talked about him as a potential day two pick in the spring. However, Frost decided to return to Auburn for his senior season, and now he seems to be a forgotten man.
His play did slip a little in 2015. However, in my opinion, he still flashes the same traits and abilities that led many to discuss him as a potential early-round pick last spring. With good workout numbers, he could jump up draft boards in the next couple of months.
As of now, however, many project him as a late-round pick.
Good Players, Bad Fits
There’s a large group of linebackers in the 2016 class worth mentioning, but in all honesty, I feel are poor fits in the Packers 3-4 defense.
This year’s linebacking group is full of undersized, yet athletic prospects that should find a role as weakside backers in a 4-3. Florida’s Antonio Morrison (6-1, 225) and Oklahoma’s Dominique Alexander (6-0, 224) immediately come to mind.
I would also put former Florida State linebacker Terrence Smith (6-3, 220) and Oklahoma edge rusher Eric Striker (6-0, 22) in this group.
Maybe the Packers take one of these players with a specific role on their defense in mind, but right now, it’s hard to imagine them fitting anywhere in the Packers scheme. As of now, I’m taking them off my board for Green Bay.
Next: Most Difficult to Project?