Round 1: Kenny Clark, DL
There were a ton of defensive line prospects for the Packers to consider in this draft. Going in, you could have probably asked 25 people and gotten 25 different answers as to which one the Packers would or should select if they were there at #27.
The surprise retirement of longtime lineman B.J. Raji turned the position into more of a need, but even if that wasn’t the case he would have been a free agent, and even bringing him back would have this position in need of more impactful additions.
Clark may not have been the first name most people would have gone to, but he looks like he’ll prove to be just as much of a positive acquisition as anyone else they could have selected.
Clark hits a lot of different areas the Packers look for and need from their defensive linemen. He has the capability to get off blocks and make plays across the line of scrimmage. His prior experience as a wrestler helped him learn maneuvers which transfer onto the gridiron well; he keeps his hips low and combines the leverage that provides with his power to make it difficult for blockers to prevent him from impacting plays.
He defends the run with aplomb, which this defense could really use a boost in. Last season they ranked #19 in run defense DVOA, needing (instead of choosing) to send blitzes to help muddle up the middle of the line. In their scouting reports on him, Pro Football Focus gave him a +34.1 grade in 2014 (5th among college linemen) and +23.0 grade in 2015 (21st) for his contributions in run defense.
His strength is in his run defense, but he has ability in pass defense as well. His bull rush is strong (considered the best in the DL draft class by PFF), and allows him to power through linemen when he uses it. His other moves could use some work (bull rushing seems to be his only reliable source of consistent pressure right now), but with more time and coaching he should be able to expand his repertoire.
Possibly the most useful part of his game is how he can play multiple positions. He’s not a prototypical nose, but he can handle snaps there as part of a rotation, and his skills should definitely be able to be utilized in subpackages (Green Bay relies on using their nickel defense often).
With the addition of Clark, we have a pretty decent looking group to work with for 2016. Mike Daniels is a beast, Letroy Guion is an underrated contributor at multiple spots, and guys like Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, and (once he returns from a four-game suspension) Mike Pennel are there to fill in as needed. If he plays to the level his skill set would point towards, Clark could find himself immediately jumping in with the starters, and he has a good shot at being the best player of the group beyond Daniels.
He may not have been the guy people had their eyes on, but he should do a fine job growing into a key part of this defensive line for years.
Next: Jason Spriggs