Packers 2018 Draft: Five potential first-round targets


Five players the Green Bay Packers could select in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The buildup to the 2018 NFL Draft tends to surpass the payoff of the event since it takes years to assess if a pick will inspire satisfaction or regret.

As we know, in the case of first-rounders, results vary from Aaron Rodgers in 2005 to Tony Mandarich in 1989. So, like any other draft, the 2018 class presents more intrigue than certainty, but it’s much easier to nail down the Green Bay Packers‘ areas of need: Cornerbacks, pass rushers, and protecting their two-time MVP quarterback.

Green Bay’s secondary surrendered 30 touchdown passes last season, which tied for the second most in the league, and opposing passers torched them for a 102 QB rating, the NFL’s second-worst mark. Their pass rush fared better but was pretty much a middling force, tying for 17th with 37 sacks.

As for the offensive line, strengthening the group always lowers the chances that Rodgers will take a nasty hit, suffer an injury, miss games and derail a season. With the 14th pick, the Packers should either find value in a fairly deep pool of corners and pass rushers, or (as a long shot) in the highest touted offensive guard the draft has seen in many years.

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

There are a few certainties in the forecast of this All-American guard: He’s garnering universal acclaim from scouts, coaches and analysts. Widely projected as an immediate starter and a future Pro Bowler, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound blue-chip talent will also very likely be among the first 10 picks.

However, it is historically rare for a guard to be taken so early in the draft. Plus, new GM Brian Gutenkunst might elect to trade up a few spots to fortify the offensive attack. The odds of Nelson anchoring the interior line in Packers News next season are slim, but if he should fall, he’d be close-to-impossible to pass up for a team drafting in the early teens.

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

One of the most extolled pass rushers of the 2018 class, Davenport totaled 8.5 sacks in his senior year at San Antonio en route to earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in Conference USA.

With the Packers’ front seven shifting onus away from the declining Clay Matthews, it might be wise to add a quick, aggressive, lanky playmaker to compliment interior beasts like Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Davenport should be versatile enough to play either defensive end or outside linebacker. Some scouts have expressed doubt about his instincts and awareness, but his great athleticism can’t be denied.

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

By drafting a cornerback in the first round, Green Bay would be addressing its most dire vulnerability. While bringing back the 35-year-old Tramon Williams for a second stint could be a shrewd move from a value standpoint, Williams is far from a premier corner.

In much the same way that 11th overall pick Marshon Lattimore energized the Saints’ defense in the wake of last year’s draft, a cornerback of Denzel Ward’s caliber could do wonders for the Packers’ maligned secondary.

In high school, Ward also played wide receiver, which highlights his ball skills and athletic prowess. The 2017 All-American corner has been linked to Green Bay in rumors, but it’s looking more improbable that Ward will last until pick No. 14.

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

Another standout defensive back from the Big Ten, Jackson is more likely than Ward to endure into the middle of the first round, but that also means his stock is seemingly trending in the wrong direction.

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For starters, Jackson was lackluster at the combine; his 40-yard dash time of 4.56 was troubling. His tackling skills have been ostracized by his doubters, and while Jackson is another converted wide receiver who became a ball hawk on D, he is not what you’d call a physical corner.

Regardless, Jackson grabbed eight interceptions and broke up 26 passes in his final, outstanding season with the Hawkeyes.

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

While it may verge on a reach to take Hughes with pick No. 14, it can’t be overstated that the Packers still need to upgrade their corners to get back to contending for a Super Bowl.

Hughes intercepted four passes and approached 50 tackles on an undefeated Central Florida squad last season. And as a return man who scored three times on punts and kickoffs, Hughes has shown he’s multi-talented, too.

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At 5-foot-10, he’s a bit undersized, which is why he’s projected by many to last until the 23rd-ish selection, but the dynamic Hughes could deliver a huge reward as a slightly unconventional pick.