The 2016 NFL Draft (otherwise known as Christmas to Ted Thompson) came and went this past weekend (and I’m still not sure I like this Thursday through Saturday format). So, will the Packers 2016 draft class be a success…only time will tell. But what is certain, this draft class was like no other under Thompson…a blend of brains and brawn.
Here are Thompson’s past draft classes and a deeper look at this year’s class.
Kenny Clark (DT) – UCLA (Round 1, Pick 27). A classic Thompson selection. NO ONE had the Packers taking Clark in any of the mock drafts that I read. While there were definitely other “names” available at this pick, Clark does fill a need created by the abrupt “retirement” of B.J. Raji. Hopefully Clark can step in and play from day one…something some of Thompson’s past 1st round selections have struggled to do.
Via Bleacher Report…Clark is a film junkie who anticipates the snap count, diagnoses blocking schemes and out-thinks his blockers. Those skills don’t translate as well to the NFL as you might expect: Pro blockers are less predictable and more likely to grind a lot of film themselves than guys in the Pac-12. Still, Clark should excel at the smaller tasks of defensive line play: sniffing out screens, cleaning up sacks after the quarterback is flushed from the pocket, and so on. You can tell why the Packers like Clark: He’s like a giant Ted Thompson. That said, there are other defensive tackles on the board with higher upside than Clark. Grade: C+
Jason Spriggs (T) – Indiana (Round 2, Pick 48) trade with Colts. I really liked this pick. Last season, due to injuries, the offensive line was a complete disaster (I mean, the Packers played Josh Sitton at left tackle for a game). Green Bay rectified that problem for the short-term with this selection, and for the long-term, if Bryan Bulaga fails to stay healthy (again) or if they lose David Bakhtiari to free agency after the season.
Bleacher Report…If you compare all left tackles to Walter Jones or Orlando Pace, Spriggs is not the ideal prototype for the position. There are also zero ideal prototypes playing in the NFL right now according to that standard (which seems to be the one scouting reports have used for at least a decade). Spriggs has the athleticism, technique and attitude to start and be effective. If Spriggs develops quickly, we will never have to watch Don Barclay play tackle again in relief of a Packers starter. Everyone except Dwight Freeney can now rejoice. Grade: A-
Kyler Fackrell (LB) – Utah State (Round 3, Pick 88). While not an inside linebacker, Fackrell does fill a position of need in the linebacker corps. Let’s see if this Gary Andersen recruit has what it takes to play at the next level. Bye-bye Mike Neal?
Bleacher Report…A multidimensional edge defender who had some dominant games against quality opponents (he set up his own picnic area in the Boise State backfield last year) while also dropping into coverage effectively. Fackrell tore an ACL in 2014, and like many of this year’s outside linebacker prospects, he has a limited power game. Fackrell could move inside in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme. He’s suited to a multidimensional role. Fackrell has a higher upside than teammate Vigil, taken a selection ago by the Bengals. Grade: B+
*Did you know…Of the 53 players on the Packers 2015 opening roster, 19 were drafted in the 4th round or later…including four of five starting offensive linemen.
Blake Martinez (LB) – Stanford (Round 4, Pick 131). An inside linebacker! Martinez has to be better than Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan, right? Well, he can’t be worse. Seems like a real solid addition.
Bleacher Report…Martinez is smart, rangy and productive, having registered 240 tackles and four interceptions in two seasons as a starter for the Cardinal. He’s a Cover 2 type best suited to play behind two thick slabs of defensive tackle, diagnose the play and flow to the ball. The Packers don’t play a Cover 2, of course, but they are looking for inside linebackers who excel in coverage. Martinez and third-round pick Kyler Fackrell are two different types of inside linebackers, which may be precisely the point. Grade: B
Todd McShay’s “best pick”…This is more about the big picture. The Packers have made it clear they’re going to move pass-rusher Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker, where he’s far more valuable. So they needed to find a guy like Martinez, who could compete for the starting job at inside linebacker. A highly productive two-year starter at Stanford, Martinez is laterally quick and a very solid tackler.
Dean Lowry (DE) – Northwestern (Round 4, Pick 137). All I know is that Lowry is a true 5-technique end and Green Bay hasn’t had one of those in awhile.
Bleacher Report…A high-energy-system fit in the Packers’ 3-4 defense. May be a little reach-y here. Pick: C-
Trevor Davis (WR) – California (Round 5, Pick 163). This pick was a head scratcher for me…I didn’t think the Packers needed a wideout. If Davis can produce in camp, it likely means Jared Abbrederis or the People’s Champion, Jeff Janis’ days are numbered.
Bleacher Report…Fast, skinny return man and deep threat, Davis returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2014. With a lot of work, he could be a productive boundary receiver. Grade: C
Kyle Murphy (T) – Stanford (Round 6, Pick 200). More offensive line depth…not a bad value pick in the 6th round. Bye-bye Don Barclay?
Bleacher Report…Murphy is your standard-issue Stanford lineman. He’s bright, reasonably quick and effective on pull-and-trap blocks. His technique is OK, but top-notch defenders will either overpower or slip past him. Murphy can succeed in a zone-stretch system as a guard or right tackle or in an offense full of pull-and-trap concepts. But he may max out as a multiposition sub like Cameron Fleming, the former Cardinal lineman the Patriots keep inserting all over the line with marginal success. He’s a good value in this slot, and as mentioned earlier, every Packers lineman drafted decreases the likelihood of future Don Barclay misadventures. Grade: B
All in all, I felt the Packers had a pretty solid draft. Nothing flashy, just your typical best available player that fills a need…so basically, Ted Thompson’s perfect draft. Also, not picking in the 7th round, allowed Thompson to start working the phones for undrafted free agents…don’t be surprised if one of these undrafted players (Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois; Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State; Kentrell Brice, DB, Louisiana Tech; Brandon Burks, RB, Troy; Joe Callahan, QB, Wesley College; Makinton Dorleant, CB, Northern Iowa; Brandon Gatewood, CB, Alcorn State; Reggie Gilbert, DL, Arizona; David Grinnage, TE, NC State; Josh Hawkins, CB, East Carolina; Don Jackson, RB, Nevada; Josh James, OT, Carroll (MT) College; Randall Jette, CB, UMass; Tyler Kuder, DL, Idaho State; Peter Mortell, P, Minnesota; Manoa Pikula, LB, BYU; Brian Price, DT, UTSA; Devonte Robinson, WR Utah State; Herb Waters, WR, Miami) grabs a roster spot.
Bleacher Report…A ho-hum draft in Green Bay. Right need, wrong player, as Kenny Clark seemed more like a second-round value. Jason Spriggs in the second round was a silly steal. The rest of picks were for depth purposes. Overall grade: B
Mel Kiper…When B.J. Raji said he wouldn’t be playing in 2016, getting an interior presence on the defensive line became a big priority, and Kenny Clark is a good player. Clark offers some of what they lost because he can anchor and be an effective run-stuffer. He can also play in any system and is a good option for a creative coordinator. The Packers don’t have a hole, per se, on the O-line, but the unit was all over the place last season, and Jason Spriggs is an impressive athlete at the tackle position. He needs seasoning, but the value is fine. The next two picks are all about making sure Clay Matthews doesn’t have to be Superman. Kyler Fackrell is a useful edge defender with some pass-rush ability, and Blake Martinez is an inside linebacker who has a good feel for coverage. Dean Lowry can crack the rotation on the D-line, and Kyle Murphy is a decent bet to make late because he could jump into either tackle spot in a pinch. I think this was a solid draft, with needs clearly targeted. Overall grade: B
Again, only time will tell if this draft class rises above those expectations or becomes a complete dud like the 2011 class. So, let’s file this one away and review it a year or two from now…that should be guaranteed fun.
Update…I almost forgot to include Bob McGinn’s assessment (a must if we are talking about discussing this draft at a later date).