After a free agency period that saw a large roster overhaul for the Packers, general manager Ted Thompson now turns his attention to the draft. After watching five starters leave for other teams, the Packers enter the 2017 season with several glaring roster weaknesses. With the 29th pick, Thompson will be seeking an immediate impact player, most likely on the defensive side of the ball. Here, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be diving into the top three needs for the Packers in the upcoming draft.
Green Bay Packers 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
The Packers cornerback depth was devastated by injuries throughout the 2016 season. After losing Sam Shields due to multiple concussion issues, Thompson signed Davon House away from the Jaguars in free agency. House makes for a nice patchwork solution with experience in Dom Capers‘ defense. He does not supply a long-term solution at the position, however. Damarious Randall, Ladarius Gunter, and Quinten Rollins still should see plenty of reps but the loss of Micah Hyde leaves room for more competition.
With the 29th pick, the Packers should have several intriguing options at the cornerback position. They have young bodies at the position but lack speed and playmaking ability. Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey or USC’s Adoree’ Jackson add athleticism and have high ceilings but also have inconsistencies in their games. With a deep class of defensive backs, Thompson might focus on the position group in the middle rounds. Cordrea Tankersley out of Clemson or Quincy Wilson from Florida have the length and athletic ability coveted by the Packers. Each would make an ideal target in the second round.
The Packers don’t need an every-down player at the outside linebacker position, but their depth on the roster is scarce. After an injury-riddled 2016 campaign, Clay Matthews will look to rebound as a playmaker off the edge. Nick Perry was the most consistent pass-rusher last season and got paid as such. Unproven youngsters Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell are all that remain in the wings. The Packers pass rush was nonexistent in the NFC Championship game against the Falcons. The need for an impact player to fill in behind Perry and Mathews as a situational pass-rusher is dire to make this a championship-caliber defense.
With cornerback and running back the deepest positions in the draft, linebacker may be the Packers target in the first round. Apart from top prospects Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas, it’s hard to predict which players will still be available at pick 29. Thompson might dip back into the fountain at UCLA and go with the quick and relentless Takkarist McKinley, the rising hybrid from Temple, Haason Reddick, or the hometown hero T.J. Watt out of Wisconsin. Both Reddick and Watt provide the flexibility to play inside or outside linebacker and bring coverage ability the Packers desperately need.
The running back position will look very different for the Green Bay Packers in 2017. After Eddie Lacy joined the Seahawks in free agency and Ted Thompson re-signed former Seahawk Christine Michael, the Packers head into the draft with Ty Montgomery and Michael as the team’s only experienced backs. Many think the Packers will take a running back in the first three rounds. Montgomery and Michael should be a stable backfield but definitely need at least one young prospect added to the committee.
At pick 29, the only prospects that could tempt the Packers are Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey from Stanford. Both could easily be gone at this point in the draft, so defense should be the focus in round one. D’onta Foreman has been a popular pick by many analysts in the second. He has a similar skill set to the departed Lacy as a powerful back with a low center of gravity. Wayne Gallman and Corey Clement make for other late-round targets with consistent college careers. One player to keep an eye on is Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon whom the Packers met with on a pre-draft visit. Typically Thompson avoids players with character concerns but Mixon’s rare ability as a three-down back may be too tempting to pass on if he slips in the draft.