The Green Bay Packers have needs all over their defense and need reinforcements at the offensive skill positions, but that shouldn’t discourage them from drafting Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson should the opportunity arise.
Despite only having Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Davon House, and Quinten Rollins on the depth chart, the Packers may very well decide to prioritize the pass rush instead of adding a defensive back in the first round of the draft next week.
The Packers are also in need of an offensive guard, and should take a good look at Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. Nelson is the first offensive lineman since Greg Robinson to have a realistic shot of being scooped up in the first five picks of the draft. It is unlikely that Nelson makes it all the way to number 14, but the Packers should be ready to pounce should that occur.
The Packers had several issues with their offensive line last year. Bryan Bulaga sustained his third season-ending injury, while Corey Linsley had an average season after inking an expensive contract extension. David Bakhtiari and Lane Taylor are keepers, but the team still has a hole at right guard. Re-signing Jahri Evans wouldn’t be ideal, as the Packers need to find a long-term answer instead of renting the aging Evans for another season.
Justin McCray showed some potential at both guard and tackle, but has a long way to go before he becomes a dependable starter at any position along the offensive line. Depth along the line has been a huge problem in recent years for the Packers, and penciling in McCray as a backup would help solve that issue.
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Nelson is a rare prospect. By far the best offensive lineman in this draft, he should be a star in the NFL for years to come. Rarely in the current NFL do teams prioritize interior offensive linemen as much as the tackles due to the increased demand for pass protectors. Nelson, however, is a special player in that he was undoubtedly the nation’s best run blocker and among its best pass protectors.
Green Bay could be in a precarious position at number 14. Four quarterbacks are likely to be taken within the first 12 picks, leaving the Packers with the opportunity to add one of the nation’s top defenders. The team would be thrilled to pick up Denzel Ward, Marcus Davenport, Derwin James, or even Josh Jackson, but Nelson might just make it to the Packers if a little luck comes through.
The first hurdle is the New York Giants at number two. The Giants have done a terrible job of protecting Eli Manning in recent years, and could use a top end guard to plug next to newly-signed Nate Solder. The Giants will likely take either Saquon Barkley or a quarterback as they try to find a franchise-changing talent that high in the draft.
The Indianapolis Colts at number six are the next obstacle. Andrew Luck‘s injury might compel the Colts to beef up the protection in front of him, but the team has so many holes defensively and at receiver which may sway them elsewhere. The Colts are also in a prime spot to trade down should one of the top four quarterbacks slip past the top five.
The Chicago Bears are the likeliest to pick Nelson. General manager Ryan Pace released Josh Sitton with the hopes of getting younger up front, and adding Nelson would start to complete a pretty promising offense. The Bears, however, could decide to add one of the nation’s top linebackers to replace the departed Jerrell Freeman, but Nelson figures to be the team’s top choice.
The Packers shouldn’t expect Nelson to be there for them at the 14th pick, but he should absolutely be on their shortlist should he fall. Nelson has Hall-of-Fame potential and could step in and become a superstar for years.
His skill set is especially attractive to the Packers considering Aaron Rodgers is now in his mid-30s and will soon begin to lose some of his athleticism that allows him to consistently get outside the pocket. Improved pass protection will be essential for the Packers in the coming years.