22

February

Talking Wide Receivers: NFL Draft Possibilities That Fit the Packers

Packers Wide Receivers, NFL Draft

Packers Wide Receivers

With Donald Driver retiring and Greg Jennings putting his house up for sale, the Packers will be kicking the tires on Wide Receivers. The 2013 NFL draft has a talented group of prospects, so if you need one, it’s a good year to go shopping.

The Packers still have one the best WR groups in the NFL, with or without Jennings and Driver. Jennings leaving will make a hole in the group, but not as large are some think. Jennings has missed half of the regular season games with injuries the last two years. Driver was used very little this last year, where his smile and leadership will be missed, his production will not be.

Jones had his best year, lead the NFL in TD’s and reduced his dropped passes significantly. Nelson is still on the rise as a WR. Cobb when he was drafted, I called a steal, and he has shown that to be very true. His play and continued development is a huge plus for the Packers.

After those three, it’s unproven developmental players. Boykin could become a very nice procession type receiver or even more, he has good size at 6-2 and 217#. His testing numbers are almost identical to James Jones coming into the draft, not fast 4.57 40 time, Jones 4.58. Both have good quickness showed in there ten yard times and good agility. Boykin does have great hands and a excellent coach so I give him a 4th round type grade going into this next season.

Jeremy Ross is the other interesting WR to develop. He showed his ability with the ball in his hands returning punts and kick offs. Good size at 6-0 215#, 4.44 speed and a very nice 1.50 ten yard time.

I give extra credit to development players already on the team. The NFL training, coaching with the added experience of being a Pro gives these players a step up over most rookies. Regardless of those players the Packers are going to have to look at drafting a WR, and making it a priority to sign some UDFA’s for development on the practice squad. Wide Receiver might have the deepest talent in the 2013 draft, intriguing prospects can be found through the 4th round and even beyond.

10

May

Packers Undrafted Free Agents: Running Backs

Duane Bennett

Minnesota Gophers RB and Packers undrafted free agent Duane Bennett.

If you’re looking for a position group on the Packers roster that might be infiltrated by an undrafted free agent, running back is a strong possibility.

Ryan Grant is likely gone, James Starks can’t stay healthy, Alex Green is coming off a bad knee injury and Brandon Saine is unproven. Here’s a look at the Packers 2012 undrafted free agent running backs and why they might have a shot at making the team.

Duane Bennett, RB, Minnesota
Height: 5-9
Weight: 213 pounds
Pro Day Results: 40-yd. dash — 4.62; 20-yd dash — 2.70; 10-yd. dash — 1.56; 225-lb. bench reps — 28; Vertical jump — 35.5″; Broad jump — 10’00″; 20-yd shuttle — 4.16; 3-cone drill — 6.92.
Career Notes: Finished with 2,126 rushing yards, 13th in Gophers history. … 639 rushing yards on 166 carries (3.85 avg.) senior season. … 96-yard kickoff return for TD against Wisconsin week 10 of senior season. … Blocked a punt and returned it for TD senior season. … Earned freshman All-Big Ten honors. … Sophomore season ended after two games due to knee injury.

Overview
Because I live in Minnesota, I get a chance to see the Gophers play on a regular basis. The Gophers are usually a chore to watch, but they had a few intriguing teams under Glen Mason. Using offensive lineman that were a bit undersized but extremely mobile, Mason built the Gophers’ offense around a running game that featured guys like Marion Barber III, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Hamner and Gary Russell.

After Mason left, the Gophers went from being a mediocre team that was somewhat fun to watch to a terrible team that is painful to watch. Those impressive offensive lines and dynamic running backs now seem like a distant memory, especially the offensive lines. Just ask Duane Bennett.

Bennett was recruited by Mason and kept his committment to the Gophers after Mason was fired. Because Bennett was a Mason recruit, and because Minnesota’s offensive line has been abysmal in the post-Mason era, I have some hope that Bennett might be a better player than his college stats indicate.

Bennett is strong, his 28 bench press reps at Minnesota’s pro day would’ve tied for the most among running back at the NFL combine. He’s also overcome a serious knee injury and makes an impact on special teams. He looked indecisive at times in college, but it was hard to tell if he was actually indecisivie or if the Gophers line was so bad that he just didn’t know what to do with himself.

18

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Harrison Smith

Notre Dame S Harrison Smith

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Harrison Smith

Player information:

  • Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
  • 6-foot-2, 213lbs
  • Of the strong and free safeties given a top 125 grade by NFLDraftScout.com prior to the Combine, only Smith (4.57) recorded a time under 4.66.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.57 40yd dash
  • 4.12 20 yard shuttle
  • 6.63 3-cone drill
  • 10.02′ long jump
  • 34″ vertical jump
  • 19 bench press reps

News & Notes:

One of the highest rated safeties in a draft considered extremely weak at the position. …. Intercepted seven passes as a junior, zero as a senior. … Appears suited to play the run well, but struggle in pass coverage. Not a good sign in a league where tight ends are only getting better. … Only player in Notre Dame history to register more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass breakups.

What they’re saying about him:

Dane Brugler (CBS Sports)  ”Plays stiff. Needs to be a more technically-sound tackler, often going for the knockout hit or forced fumble instead of wrapping up. Hits too high and loses leverage, allowing ballcarriers to pick up extra yards.”

National Football Post:   “Isn’t a guy you want to trust to run with receivers down the field. However, because of his solid natural range and instincts, I can see him getting over the top and making plays in a center field type role as an NFL strong safety.”

NFL DraftSeason.com (Will Lomas): “As far as the safety class goes this one is relatively weak, but (Smith) provides good value on day two and can fill a need on a team that has good corners but needs to upgrade their run D.”

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Can definitely close. When he comes at you, look out
  • Looks comfortable blitzing, which should make Dom Capers happy
  • Tough to judge his pass coverage on this video since he’s off the screen on most pass plays, but I did notice a few instances where he didn’t get deep enough in zone coverage
  • Does show a nose for the ball, though, if he winds up near the ball
  • I could see his playmaking ability meshing well with the Packers defense. Worth a shot in round three, perhaps.
17

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Janoris Jenkins

North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Janoris Jenkins

Player information:

  • Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
  • 5-foot-10, 193 lbs
  • All sorts of red flags: Kicked off team at Florida (it’s really hard to get kicked off the Gators), kicked out of a game at North Alabama and still hangs around with bad people according to some scouts.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.46 40-yard dash
  • 4.13 20-yard shuttle
  • 6.95 3-cone drill
  • 10.01′ long jump
  • 33.5″ vertical jump
  • N/A bench press reps

News & Notes:

Probably would have been a no-doubt first-rounder if he didn’t get kicked out of Florida. … Has four kids, all under the age of three. … Stood out immediately as a true freshman in the SEC. … Completely dominated Division II competition. … Considered by some scouts to be the most gifted CB in the country. … Can play press, man and zone coverage. … Inconsistent tackler. … Missed only one game in his college career.

What they’re saying about him:

In Jenkins’s case, it’s probably best if we let him speak for himself:

  • On his marijuana use: “I’m done with it forever. I can’t do it, man.”
  • On talking to teams about his past: “I was honest, straightforward, told ‘em I did it. I admitted to everything, I take full responsibility, and I learned from it.”
  • On what teams see in him: “They see the talent, they just want to know the kind of kid I am. I just come in here and show them that I’m not a bad kid. I’m looking to put it in the past and move forward.”
  • Here’s what Mike Mayock of the NFL Network had to say about Jenkins: “What happens, whether you believe in it or not, is the more talented kids get more chances, and Jenkins is a pretty talented kid. Someone’s going to want to buy into that.”

Video:


Video Analysis:

  • He looks damn good against a couple of current NFL WRs in this video
  • Doesn’t shy away from sticking his nose in there on screens to the bigger and stronger Julio Jones
  • Seems to understand positioning when the ball is in the air (see the play where he undercuts A.J. Green)
  • Effort is there against run game, but doesn’t seem like much of a tackler
9

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Rueben Randle, WR LSU

NFL Draft Prospect: LSU WR Reuben Randle

LSU WR Reuben Randle

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Player information:

  • Rueben Randle, WR, Louisiana St.
  • 6-foot-3, 208 lbs
  • Was nearly drafted to play baseball.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.55 40yd dash
  • 4.36 20 yard shuttle
  • 6.99 3-cone drill
  • 121″ broad jump
  • 31.0″ vertical jump
  • 15 bench press reps

News & Notes:

Didn’t fare well in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but showed good hands. … Unimpressive college stats due to LSU’s focus on the running game. … Averaged 18.1 yards per catch in 2011. … Savvy route-runner, good size. … Strong work ethic, willing to put in the time to get better. … Might lack the speed necessary to get past top CBs in the NFL.

What they’re saying about him:

Mike Detillier (mikedetillier.com): “Fall in love with the football player. Don’t fall in love with the workout guy. That workout guy is going to get your a– fired. That football player is going to help you win a lot of games. Rueben Randle is a football player.”

Ian R. Rapport (Bostonhearld.com): “Rueben Randle certainly didn’t hurt his stock by his performance at the combine. He’s still considered one of the top five receivers in the draft, likely to be taken late in the first round.”

Doug Farrar (The Shutdown Corner):  “Tends to disappear against stronger defenses, through this is due in part to LSU’s generally conservative game plans against such teams (19.9 passes per game for LSU in 2011, versus 42.2 rushing attempts per game). Doesn’t have elite speed, but his sense of the field should make up for that. Occasionally gets too acrobatic when an economy of motion would serve him well; NFL technique work should help a lot.”

Video

Video analysis

  • Reminds me of James Jones, good size, a little clumsy, talented
  • Goes up and gets the ball nicely
  • Most reports I read knocked his lack of speed, but defenders appear to play off of him, respecting his speed
  • Then again, this was a highlight video. Highlight videos don’t show WRs getting blanketed by CBs
  • The Packers will always need WRs, especially if Donald Driver is let go.
  • Fans might grumble if Ted Thompson takes this kid late in the first round, but if he’s the best player out there, I say go for it
1

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Whitney Mercilus

Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Whitney Mercilus.

Player information:

  • Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
  • 6-foot-4, 265 pounds
  • Graduated high school with a GPA over 3.0 and his parents are from Haiti.
NFL Combine:
  • 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.53 seconds
  • 3 Cone Drill: 7.17 seconds
  • 40 Yard Dash: 4.63 seconds
  • Bench Press: 27.0 reps
  • Broad Jump: 118.0″
  • Vertical Jump: 32.0″

News & Notes:
Stock is rising after the combine…Finished with a NCAA-best 16 sacks in 2011 as a first-time starter…Forced nine fumbles in 2011, second highest in NCAA history…Led the Big Ten with 22.5 tackles for loss…First-team All-American and Big Ten honors…Won the Ted Hendricks award as the nation’s top DE…Unpolished and still developing…high-effort player.

What they’re saying about him:

  • Dane Brugler (NFLDraftScout.com): “Attacks gaps and is a pesky rusher, finding ways to squirm into the backfield. Hard player to block cleanly.”
  • Mark Potash (Chicago Sun Times: Potash quotes an NFL scout: ‘‘Mercilus is a speed rusher with excellent athletic ability. The question [is], will he be a one-year wonder or an up-and-comer? He could be productive as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 edge guy.’
  • Matt Bowen (National Football Post): “Wasn’t perfect in positional drills, but displayed enough athletic ability to align as a 4-3 DE or drop into coverage as a 3-4 backer. Plenty of discussion that Mercilus is a one-year wonder…let the tape be the judge of that.”

Video

Video analysis:

  • Tries to blow past blockers on every play
  • If someone teaches this kid an inside move or two, look out
  • Lost outside containment only once in the above video
  • You have to get a body on this kid, even when you run away for him
  • Has one mission: Get upfield. Makes him susceptible to draws, but that’s coachable
  • If the Packers draft this kid, I can see him becoming a huge hit in training camp because of his athleticism. Lots of ooohs and ahhhs during speed drills
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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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26

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Sundays are rough without football, especially after how the Packers season ended.

I love Sundays, but I love Sundays more when football is on. Football makes you forget about your hangover from Saturday night and the fact that you have to go back to work on Monday. Football also makes you feel less guilty for lazing around on the couch all day, eating food that raises your cholesterol and swearing at your TV.

Now we’re stuck with the NBA, NHL, MLB and golf on Sunday for the foreseeable future. I like all of those sports, but none of them makes a Sunday like football. Those other sports are for the other six days of the week.

Sunday is for football.

To kill the time on these offseason Sundays, I’m going to publish Surviving Sunday: Packers New, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived.

It’ll be a regular notebook-style column that opens with a random thought or rant (like the one you’re reading now), followed by some quick opinions on a couple of key issues related to the Packers that I didn’t have a chance to cover with a full post during the week. From there, I’ll include links to must-read/must-see stories, videos and blog posts from the previous week and a preview of possible Packers storylines for the upcoming week. I’ll close each Surviving Sunday with a few words on a subject unrelated to the Packers.

I hope you enjoy reading Surviving Sunday as much as I enjoy putting it together. Anything to get in a little football on Sunday, right?

Scott Wells, Bryan Bulaga and the NFL Combine

  • Ted Thompson needs to sign Scott Wells. Unless Wells is asking for the moon because he wants his comeuppance after the Packers were mean to him early in his career, Thompson needs to make this one work. Wells is an upper-echelon center. If there’s one thing that occasionally rattles Aaron Rodgers (or any QB), it’s pressure up the middle. Wells does a good job of setting the Packers pass protection and keeping those interior pass rushers out of No. 12′s face. For what the Packers need him to do, he’s worth a 3-year deal in the $17-20 million range.