Pick #27 — Green Bay Packers
It only took about 13,000 words, but we finally got to the main reason most of you are probably here.
If you have been reading the other Lombardi Ave articles leading up to the draft, you will likely have an idea of where my thinking lies on this pick for the Packers…or, at least where it did sit.
If you have kept up with our community mock draft — or at least saw the first round installment — you know I’ve been leaning towards both hoping and expecting to see a defensive linemen come off the board for Green Bay at #27.
It makes sense on multiple levels. This draft has a deep assortment of talents on the defensive line — especially on the interior. The Packers have also needed some high-end help across the line outside of Mike Daniels for awhile now, and that’s before accounting for the retirement of B.J. Raji and suspension of Mike Pennel.
The defense was good last season, but they continued to struggle at times against the run (I feel we say this every year now), and the pass rush racked up numbers but did so in an inconsistent manner. Too often, we would see the defense do well and carry the day in 2015 but then end up allowing teams to make plays in key moments and on key downs to undo all that good and end up with a loss regardless.
A major part of that comes from the failings of the inside linebacker spot for sure — which despite popular opinion wasn’t even able to really be salvaged all that well by Clay Matthews (perceptions had him doing well, but further insights showed his best attributes muted while he struggled in run defense) — but part of it was exacerbated by inconsistency and ineffectiveness up front. With the players besides Daniels unable to keep up strong play and effort on every play, we saw the defense have to rely too highly on blitzing to boost both the run and pass defenses; blitzes aren’t bad if they are a choice, but when they are a necessity it mucks up the overall effectiveness of a unit and leaves too many openings for offenses to exploit (and with the aforementioned struggles in the heart of the defense, that unfortunately came to fruition all too often).
If the team improves up front, they lessen the stresses on the rest of the defense and can give themselves a more consistent ability to control the point of attack without the need to send extra bodies.
With this in mind, my initial thoughts focused on the massive body of Billings, who is young but could grow into a dominant force who eats up space and shrinks the pocket with regularity.
Leading into this mock, I was still pretty set on having him be the pick if he lasted this long, and he actually did end up here for the taking.
But, my mind has been changed along the way.
I still think Billings would be a great addition with potential to hold down the middle in a way we haven’t ever had since the switch to a 3-4 base, but I see someone who entices me enough now after further research that, should he be available, I would now lean towards having instead.
While Billings would potentially anchor the middle, Butler would be set on the end; really, the particular spot here doesn’t matter as much as adding the best player since guys like Letroy Guion can rotate to any spot on the line. What matters more is what the potential player may end up providing, I am have become convinced that Butler’s addition would go further in elevating the unit.
Butler is huge (6’4″, 323 lbs) and has a great-looking combination of strength, length and athleticism that a defense can really build upon. He looks to be someone that can eat up double teams and constantly hustle until the play is over. He can do well in using both power and speed to beat his man and attack gaps, and usually displayed good coordination in college that should translate well to the next level.
The most exciting thing for me though is a player comparison I keep coming across: Muhammed Wilkerson.
Wilkerson is no doubt one of the best DL players in the league, so this is high praise; if not for J.J. Watt being a cyborg, he would probably be considered the best in the game. Though he doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves, those who pay close attention to the intricacies of the game have long noticed the high-level impact he brings to the table.
Adding a player who could reach that sort of level in and of itself would be a coup, especially this late in the draft.
Pairing him with Daniels? That just isn’t fair.
I’ll gladly deal with the many groans from the opposition about it.