Green Bay Packers Draft: Pre-Combine Rankings for Positions of Need
By Dan Dahlke
Need #3 – Defensive Line
- DeForest Buckner, Oregon (6-7, 290)
- Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (6-3, 296)
- Andrew Billings, Baylor (6-1, 310)
- Jarran Reed, Alabama (6-3, 311)
- A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama (6-3, 312)
- Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (6-2, 304)
- Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (6-4, 325)
- Kenny Clark, UCLA (6-2, 310)
- Austin Johnson, Penn St (6-4, 323)
- Adolphus Washington, Ohio St (6-4, 297)
The Breakdown: Defensive line is clearly the deepest position in the 2016 class. My top eight guys all have first-round grades, meaning there will be some good defensive line talent falling into day two of the draft.
Buckner is one of the top prospects this year, regardless of position. Nkemdiche is perhaps the most athletically gifted of the group and could go early in the first round, but character concerns could cause him to slide.
Billings, Reed, and Robinson are all great fits in a 3-4 front and can play either nose tackle or five-technique defensive end. There’s a good chance one of them will be available for Green Bay by the end of the first round.
Rankins is explosive off the snap and brings a lot of juice as an interior pass rusher, but he can also be undisciplined against the run, which hurts his overall draft grade.
Any other year Butler and Clark would probably be locks for the first round, but given the depth of this group, they may slip well into the second round, which would provide tremendous value for a team looking for a versatile nose tackle with good pass rush ability.
The top-end talent goes well beyond the first ten players at the position. Maliek Collins, Chris Jones, Jihad Ward, and Willie Henry are all possible day two picks, who could play a significant role immediately as rookies.
Most Overrated: Chris Jones
After studying several of his games, I like what Jones brings to the field. He’s a natural interior pass rusher and gets good push off the line. However, he is getting a lot of first-round hype, which is surprising because his game has some major holes in it. The most egregious is he tends to play with poor leverage, undermining his ability to hold the point of attack or be effective in pass rush after his first move fails to break through the line.
He’s also inconsistent as a run defender and typically guesses which gap to play instead of showing an ability to two-gap and read the appropriate run progression.
Overall, Jones possesses enough upside to be a good value pick in the third or fourth round, but in my opinion, he’s not a first-round talent. When Pro Football Focus ranks Jones as their eighth overall prospect in the draft, it just shows that football analytics shouldn’t be the only lens to evaluate and scout players.
Most Underrated: Kenny Clark
Clark isn’t getting the respect he deserves as one of the top nose tackle prospects in this class. He was a consistent force on the Bruins defense throughout the 2015 season–a team that lost several of its top defensive players, including Myles Jack.
Clark needs to work on being more consistent on the field, but there were times last year he looked like the best defensive lineman in college football. 75 tackles, 6 sacks, and 11 tackles for loss are impressive numbers for a nose tackle taking on double teams nearly every snap.
Next: Need #4 - Edge