RD 1: Kenny Clark, NT, UCLA
Why they picked Clark
Clark is exactly the kind of defensive lineman the Packers need on their roster. With plenty of defensive talent available when Green Bay was on the clock with the 27th overall pick, they could have gone any number of ways with this selection.
They could have landed either Reggie Ragland or Myles Jack, but the two linebackers came with medical red flags, which may have been too risky in the first round. It’s also debatable whether or not inside linebacker was really a greater need than defensive line.
If the Packers wanted to address the need on defensive line, however, top prospects Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, Andrew Billings, and Vernon Butler were also on the board.
Instead, Green Bay went with Clark because of his ability to be a three-down player and his upside as a potential interior pass rusher, something he has an edge on over run stuffers like Billings, Reed, and Robinson. Clark stayed on the field on third downs for the Bruins defense, pushing the pocket and recording six sacks in 2015.
Butler also possesses tremendous potential to create interior pressure, but the athletic defensive lineman from Louisiana Tech is a better fit as a five-technique defensive end and struggles to maintain proper leverage and be a consistent presence against the run as a nose tackle.
In short, of the top interior defensive linemen, Clark boasts the most well-rounded game and the best fit at nose, and at the age of 20, he still has plenty of room to grow at the next level. His extensive experience in a 3-4 front and the Packers’ need at nose tackle also make this match a great situation for Green Bay.
Clark’s role in 2016
Clark should be one of the few rookies this season expected to start immediately. Green Bay has a glaring hole at nose tackle with B.J. Raji’s departure and veteran Letroy Guion fits better at defensive end than nose in a 3-4 base.
Clark is an outstanding run defender. He recorded 75 tackles, 11 of which were for a loss, in 2015, while consistently taking on double teams and being the primary focus of opposing offenses in UCLA’s front.
As a rookie, Clark should in the very least be a two-down defender for the Packers. His motor never stops, even drawing comparisons to current Packer Mike Daniels from various scouts in this regard. His smooth lateral movement also allows him to move up and down the line and make stops against the run.
Even if he doesn’t make the play, Clark should eat up blocks and draw the attention of opposing offenses to free up the Packers linebackers, so they can swarm to the ball and make plays.
As Clark establishes himself as a run defender in Green Bay’s scheme, he should even work into the rotation as one of the two down-lineman in the Packers nickel look and contribute as an interior pass rusher on third downs.
Next: Jason Spriggs' fit?